Acts 1:8……you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In my mind’s eye I see the little cabin on the edge of the woods. I’m eager to enter, to meet with You. As I come in, I’m not disappointed. There are a couple of oil lamps burning on the table in the middle of the room. A loaf of bread, a big block of cheese, a knife, a bowl of dates and other dried fruits. Another of nuts. Two plates, two ceramic cups and a ceramic pitcher with something to drink.
There You are, calm, relaxed, smiling at me, your arms on the table. You motion for me to sit. I’d love to kiss the scars on your feet, but they’re under the table. You read my thoughts and grin and offer me Your hand. So I come to your side, take your hands palms up and kiss the scar. Then I go to my side of the table and sit down, my eyes locked on yours. You never stop grinning.
I know I can relax in Your presence. I’m full known by You. You see body, mind, soul, heart, dreams, fears, regrets, sins, longings- You know it all and it’s OK. I am accepted; I am free. You pull one of the lamps over so it’s between us. The flame flickers and dances and we just gaze at it for a minute or so.
Tell me what you see.
Well, a lamp burning, giving light to the room. You lit it, I assume, and it’ll keep burning as long as there’s oil or nobody snuffs it out. There seems to be plenty of oil at the moment.
So to keep it burning there needs to be…?
Plenty of oil, adequate oxygen and protection from wind or moisture. And thw wick needs to be adjusted occasionally so it doesn’t smoke too much or start burning itself up.
Remember the song about oil in your lamp that you sang as a kid in Sunday School?
Sure. I sang it with gusto, enthusiastically, without a clue as to its spiritual significance.
John 15 and all that. Unless I’m coming to You daily to get my oil replenished and my wick trimmed (i.e. refreshment, renewal and also discipline), I’m going to sputter and smoke, not put out much light, or- worse- burn out and not be of any use at all.
So the oil is My grace. My grace empowers, strengthens, encourages and enlightens you. It’s always available, always abundant, but you have to be intentional about accessing it. You can usually tell when your oil’s getting low or your wick needs trimming by taking a quick look at your fruit. I’m not talking about navel-gazing or morbid introspection, just self-awareness. Ask yourself: am I joyful? Am I at peace within myself? Am I open and engaging with people or am I becoming timid, withdrawn and self-absorbed? Am I patient or are minor irritations and disappointments really starting to get to me? Would I be comfortable having my current inner thoughts projected onto a big screen for the world to see?
These are quick ways of assessing the quality of your flame, as it were. If it’s burning bright and steady and the reservoir’s full of oil, great! If it’s flickering and smoking and sputtering, be quick to bring it to Me. We can fix that. Want some cheese?
Jesus slices off a wedge of the cheese and hands it to me. I take a bite. It tastes like rich, aged cheddar- not too sharp but full of flavor. Jesus grins and says,
Y’know, I could have told My disciples, ‘I am the cheese of life’, but it just wouldn’t have had the same ring to it, would it? Besides, in that culture bread was a much more fundamental staple, a necessity. Cheese was part of the diet but more of a luxury. I wanted to make clear the absolutely essential nature of the need to come to Me. Bread was sustenance. I could have said, ‘I am survival’, or ‘I am the strength of life’. David used that picture in the Psalms). Or, ‘I am the divine Energy that makes life really work’. But the bread metaphor was best, don’t you think? To use one of your current metaphors, I could have said, ‘apart from Me, you’re toast!’. My disciples might not have gotten that one.
We both laugh.
This is so good. I love this. The time with all the family over the holiday season was wonderful, but I was really struggling with hearing Your voice in this way. I fell like You’re really renewing me, restoring me.
Let’s think about one more aspect of the lamp. Recall I exhorted My disciples not to put their lamps under a bushel bt to put them on lampstands. The purpose of getting your oil topped off and your wick trimmed so you can go out and mix it up with your world and they can see see the Light and be drawn to It. I’ve given you a strategy there. You have friendships, connections, a number of groups of people you hang out with That’s your Jerusalem. Go let your light shine. Discipleship ain’t rocket science. KISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart). Maximize your exposure to Me, then maximize your exposure to people. Bring your lamp to Me daily for fresh oil and to get your wick trimmed, then go look for a lampstand.