Friday, December 5, 2014


What is a Prepper? The word is just finding its way into modern dictionaries. In today's society with uncertainties of weather, natural or technological catastrophes, economic collapse, and other emergencies or unanticipated urgencies, a Prepper is one who chooses to be prepared for anything he may face. He is not a survivalist in a derogatory, fanatic sense, but a wise, responsible person who plans for the future. After all, “Be prepared!” is the Boy Scout motto and a major theme throughout Scripture. Who wouldn't want to be a Prepper? 

In the Matthew 25 story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, it was a case of bringing along enough lamp oil for the possible long haul. The wedding festivities might have depended on the lamplight of all ten of the bridesmaids' lamps. With only five lamps the illumination the host was counting on would have been considerably diminished. Since early history oil lamps together with candles were the only sources of lighting. That was also true in Jesus' day. On the occasion of Saint Paul preaching until after midnight in Acts 20:8, the writer Luke noted, “...and there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together.” Probably everyone there had brought his own lamp. No one even fantasized about what it might be like to flip a switch to bring light through electrical current, or about battery power, fluorescent lighting, or LED lighting. Diodes, semiconductors, voltage, electrons, and photons were far in the future.

In certain less modern societies oil lamp light is still used because it is safer and brighter than candle light. In our society the purchase of oil lamps is still brisk for emergency lighting in case of a power outage, to light up primitive situations, and for romantic ambiance and a cozy atmosphere. The shape of oil lamps has changed little—a clear glass or metal base for the oil and a wick connecting the oil with the flame which is covered by a glass chimney.
After Googling oil lamps for more information I became a bit wiser about their operation. The glass chimney can get cloudy with smoke and soot buildup which cuts back the light output and so must be kept clean. Trimming of the wick after burning and the shape of the wick affects the type of flame and the brightness. Any kind of oil may be burned; stale oil or even used cooking oil will work, but pure paraffin oil gives the brightest light and no stink. The Preppy girls likely used olive oil and carried extra in a flask. A temporary inconvenience but it gave them the entrance ticket when the Bridegroom's procession finally arrived.

As Christians we are reenacting in Advent our waiting for our Savior's first coming as a babe in the humility of a borrowed manger. At the same time we are awaiting our Bridegroom's appearance in glorious majesty at His second coming. He may seem to be delaying and dark night is settling in around us as the world seems to whirl in turmoil. Like the bridesmaids we get drowsy and even fall asleep. Our lamps clouds up with the smoke and soot of concern for the affairs of this life. We may even have a telltale oil leak like the spotting of oil on a garage floor or driveway from oil in our cars. But we must be wise. We can't afford to use stale oil or run out of oil and be caught short at the Bridegroom's sudden arrival. 

Oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures and Christian teaching. We receive our initial anointing of the Oil of the Holy Spirit at our baptism and it is normally meant to escalate into a brighter flame at Confirmation. From that point on I need to be constantly checking my oil, topping it off if it runs low, trimming my wick, and cleaning my chimney from the cares of this world.

My smart phone has a little feature that flashes a signal “Refresh.” I simply touch the screen to invite new email messages to come instantly and almost magically into my cell phone through cyberspace. In real life it takes intentionality, deliberate action, to keep spiritually refreshed. I am reminded to “keep being filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). I must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33) It takes habitual attention, an unhurried, contemplative slice of my time. I must be continually anointed with fresh oil which is the oil of joy. (Psalm 45:7a and 92:10b) My head must be anointed with oil. (Psalm 23:5b) My head, my intellect, needs the Oil as well as my heart, my emotions; my cluttered mind is troubled with many things of this material world and my own busyness against which Jesus' warned His friend Martha.

If I am so foolish as to let my lamp run out of Oil and stop shining God's Light, others will not be able to see in their darkness and are likely to stumble or lose their way. God has provided Oil so abundantly that I may not only be filled with His Holy Spirit but that I overflow. He is counting on me to be a Prepper and poke holes in the darkness of the culture around me by setting my lamp on a lampstand for the maximum dispersion of Jesus' Light wherever He has placed me in life.

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