Praying for All Saints

Each Sunday night we and the congregation of believers to which we belong confess with one heart the Apostles’ Creed. The ninth article of this creed reads “I believe an holy catholic church”. This is a truth we confess with sincerity and joy each Lord’s Day.

As we gather for worship tomorrow, we will probably be standing among people who look much like we do. They act, speak, and live very similarly to us. Even though this is true, we truly believe, as we confess, that God gathers His church from all nations, races, cultures, and languages.

Yet how real is this truth to us? How much thought do we give to our brothers and sisters in Christ as they are scattered throughout the world?

Ephesians 6:18 tells us what the Christian should always be doing: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”

We belong to the church militant on earth, as Ephesians plainly teaches when it describes the armor of God in the verses immediately preceding verse eighteen. Prayer follows the six pieces of armor, not as a seventh piece, but as the “means by which each piece is effectively employed.”[1] For this reason, prayer is vital to any soldier’s success, for without it all other efforts, all the other pieces of armor, are in vain. What is particularly striking about this calling to pray is that we are not commanded to pray first for ourselves in our own personal battle, but for all saints, for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for our fellow soldiers. We are not fighting this battle alone, and one of our greatest assets is that we have the catholic church praying for us that we might be faithful, that we might persevere in our warfare together, as the body of Christ. So let us, tomorrow and always, pray for the catholic church, that she be gathered, that Christ may come again, and that the church militant become the church triumphant.

How amazing to think that as we worship tomorrow there are saints all over the world lifting their voices with us in worship of God! That there are saints all over the world praying for us as we also pray for them! That one day we will all gather around the throne of the holy God, singing His praises into all eternity.

Revelation 7:9,10 “And after this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”

Emily Feenstra

[1] Borgman and Ventura, Spiritual Warfare, Reformation Heritage Books, 88.

The Parable of the Sower

Think for a moment of the parable of the sower and his seed.  This is a story which most (if not all) Christians are familiar with.  The seed falls in four different locations, and in three cases it does not produce fruit for various reasons.  Sunday school classes often teach this particular parable for its simple structure – it is easy to grasp, even at a young age.  It is interesting, then, that we so readily forget it.  If you are like me, you typically think of yourself as simply the “good ground” we read of in Matthew 13:8.  This is altogether too easy a mindset for us to slip into – I’m saved; it’s all meaningless now.  Nothing I do can merit my salvation, and it’s already been bought anyway.  I’m good.  Now I just have to find the best way to produce some fruit. 

If we adopt this thinking, there is nothing here for us – this parable is totally meaningless.  We would do well to consider ourselves in connection to the other kinds of soil.  By nature, of course, we are the hard ground that the seeds are incapable of penetrating; we know this and are often willing to acknowledge it.  But we are sometimes also the other soils as well.  How often do we not make our faith overtly obvious in the best of times but then become mysteriously quiet in the face of trials?  When we do so, we are the stony soil – there is precious little foundation there, and the sun blisters and withers anything that grows.  When the seeds of offensive doctrine are sown to us by God’s Word, how do we react?  Often, we are choked out from confessing them by the thorny old man.  When the command comes to us to lead a new and godly life, the old man closes our throat with his thorny earthly pleasures and prevents us from speaking up in obedience.  Instead, we continue to live lives of utter sinfulness, drinking, lusting, and lying as we did before.

Now acknowledging our shortcomings, we can consider our ultimate place – the soft soil.  Remembering that is only by the Spirit’s continual work of sanctification in us that our inner thorns are more and more uprooted, we ought to turn to God in utter dependence and thanksgiving!  However, now that the gospel is able to take root in our hearts, the work is not at an end.  The plant must continue to grow and to produce fruit.  What better way to cause this growth than the opportunity we have tomorrow morning?  Enter into God’s house and worship Him.  When you hear the Word preached, you will grow spiritually in the warmth that is the “Sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2).  Jesus Christ, the living water, will enter into the roots of your faith and heart and rejuvenate you from your thirst after a long, sinful week.  Only when we have the grace of God within us are we able to produce the fruit that He demands of us.  If we fool ourselves into thinking that we can produce fruit of our own accord, we will find that we fail; it will be tainted by our self-righteous pride, and it will be rotten.  This fruit is not pleasing to God – of such He says, “I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16)!  So, child of God, when you go to the house of God tomorrow, soak up the sunlight, and drink of His goodness!

Matthew Koerner

Active Worship

Obviously, worshiping requires action. We physically get into our car and go to church. We physically fold our hands and pray, we physically sing out loud, we physically put money into the offering, and we physically sit and listen to the sermon. But are our hearts and minds working as well?

When we enter the Lord’s house every Sunday the first words that come out of our Pastor’s mouth is the “call to worship.” We hear God calling us to come and worship Him! When we sit down in church the familiar Bible passage, it quite often reaches our ears and goes no further. Maybe because we haven’t quite settled down and gotten our minds focused yet. Or maybe it’s because we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s the same every Sunday… we’ve heard it once and don’t need to hear it again.  As our ears physically hear these words, so must our heart, mind, and soul.

“O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Ps. 95:6-7).

Active worshipers hear the call to worship and obey that call. They receive the votum and salutation, and they sing with their hearts the song of praise! They confess the Apostles Creed, instead of reciting it. They hear and understand the law, seeing how they have broken it the past week and are pricked in their hearts because of their sins. During the congregational prayer, they hear every word of their pastor. The words from his lips enter their mind, and they earnestly pray for the members of their congregation and the mission fields. As the Scripture is read and the sermon is preached, they eagerly hear the Word. They apply it to their heart, and use the knowledge to praise and serve the Lord throughout their life. They give their offerings with a purpose, and can sing the doxology and receive the benediction with a soul that has been fed!

A passive worshiper uses this time to think about the past or coming week. They tire at hearing the same law, and only sing joyful if it’s a “song they like.” They wonder why they never “get anything from the sermon,” and pine for another pastor who will grab their attention more quickly. The seeds that their pastor plants fall upon stony places, and then wither in the sun. They enter the sanctuary expecting to receive, but not interested in giving.

On this Saturday, take thought of the parable of the sower. Take the time to ask the Lord to prepare your heart, soul, and mind into good ground. Enter the house of the Lord, and actively praise and worship him!

“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirty fold. Who hath hears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13: 8-9).

Averly Kikkert