Have you ever used an oil lamp?
Oil lamps consist of a fuel chamber filled with oil. A wick soaks in the oil, and the tip of the wick protrudes from the top of the lamp. The wick will burn for hours, as it is saturated with a highly combustible fluid. They were common before electric lights were in use.
In some ways, we are very much like oil lamps. Sometimes our hearts are like fuel chambers filled with oil - we feel like we are burning with passion and joy! Other days, we may feel like an 'empty lamp' - tired, lacking compassion or excitement.
Jesus frequently used oil lamps to share His insight into the human heart. In Matthew 25 He told a story about ten bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom to arrive at his wedding celebration. Now I have been to a few weddings that started late, but this is something else: not until midnight does the bridegroom arrive! Five of these bridesmaids have been wise enough to bring extra oil to refill their lamps so they could light his way. Maybe they knew a thing or two about his punctuality! The other five are in a panic because their lamps are dying out. How can they greet their friend with no lamps to light his way or celebrate his arrival? They ask to borrow some oil from the five wise ones, who reply 'No - there may not be enough...buy some for yourselves.' The end of the story is bittersweet: the five with the burning lamps light the way for their friend, and the party begins. The others return late with their new oil, but guess what? The dooor is shut, the party is in full swing, and the bridegroom is not interested in opening the door for the friends who could not be bothered to show up on time for the biggest day of his life.
Many of us will find this story a little disconcerting. Especially those five bridesmaid who thought to bring extra oil: 'buy some for yourselves.' Some friends they were! But what point was Jesus making?
Nobody else can give us a heart connection with Him! Each of us must take responsibility for the oil on our lamps: our personal, heart-to-heart relationship with God.
God has designed us to work together as family. Many beliveers - myself included - acknowledge the importance of impartation, that is the transferring of spiritual gifts through the laying on of hands. We grow as we worship together, pray together and do life together. But let's learn from those five bridesmaids who brought extra oil: in the excitement of life, let's remember to take time, step aside, and immerse ourselves in His presence. When we spend time with Him and open our hearts to Him, we are like lamps filled with oil. Our 'fuel chamber' is filled with the combustible fuel of Holy Spirit! When God shows up, I want to be ready, with a smile on my face, burning with joy.