Oil in my lamp

If we’re being honest with ourselves, I think we’re all intimately familiar with make-believe. AKA acting.


We also use sarcasm a lot, or at least I do, and that is the joke version of saying something we know to be the opposite of what is true, for humorous effect. When we use sarcasm, we’re winking at our audience, knowing they’re in on the gag.


I’m about to knock those fakes in Hollywood, but let me be the first to admit that I watch a lot of movies and I know it’s all acting and CGI wizardry, and yet I’m moved with emotion when various scenes are being played out. Most recently, watching ‘Patriots Day’ I was moved to tears repeatedly.


So, can Hollywood be filled by hypocritical fakes and I an audience member be moved by real authentic emotions? Yup, that’s what I’m saying. Who knows, in the moment, the actor may actually be moved by genuine emotion.


Recently enough that you may remember, Hollywood hosted a Golden Globes ceremony. To coin a phrase by an adroit politician, the ceremony could be described as an ‘orgy of mutual backslapping’. Additionally, it was filled with virtue-signalling, an odious, slimy act of pretending that your motives are pure as the driven snow while simultaneously ignoring decades of behavioural evidence to the contrary.


In other words, I’m righteous because I have the right motives in public, manners when everybody is looking.


The revelations of misconduct brought to public attention by Rose McGowan and Ronan Farrow regarding Harvey Weinstein must have sent a shiver through Hollywood, a town built on abuse and secrecy, but quick as a flash they co-opted the movement at the Golden Globes and all of a sudden, everyone was in lock-step, advancing in a self-righteous frenzy of self halo-buffing.


It was a monumental job of acting. However, once all the sizzle is done from the Twitter trending and testimonials, how much has really changed in Hollywood?










Without being hypocritical, I like to think that I stack up quite reasonably when compared to an industry whose bread and butter is fakery. The truth is however, that I don’t have the energy for too much pretence anymore, and moreover, honesty is something that God can work with.


After all, the first step in repentance is confession.


Quite without meaning to think about it, the other morning I woke to a song on repeat in my head, the simple, children’s song: ‘Give me oil in my lamp’.


Give me oil in my lamp,
Keep me burning,
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray,!
Give me oil in my lamp,
Keep me burning,
Keep me burning
Till the break of day.


The song is derived from Scripture where Christ is telling a parable about being ready for the bridegroom, ready for His return; all ten of the virgins in the wedding party seemed on the up and up, ready for the bridegroom (it is interesting that in our culture, the wedding party waits for the bride but in this case it is the groom that is expected).


5 of them were virtue-signalling. They had no oil in their lamps.


Right-standing with God doesn’t depend on our effort – although neither is there faith without striving – but by faith:


“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[b]”


Romans 1: 17 NIV


I am reminded of faith when I think about the commodity of oil in the parable


The 5 foolish virgins never really had any oil, whereas the 5 wise virgins did, and it was not possible for the 5 wise to bail out the 5 foolish. The readiness of waiting for Christ in faith was not transferrable to others for the virgins in the parable, nor is it transferrable from any Christian to any non-Christian.


It seems clear from Christ’s parable that the Second Coming will demonstrate very clearly who is prepared and who isn’t, eliminating any posturing or any insincerity by those who are good at pretending.


God is perfectly capable of distinguishing the difference between a trending hashtag on Twitter and our heart.


It’s not a matter of haughtiness for the Christian though; we have to be mindful and ask that He would give us oil in our lamp. It’s easy to become somnolent, dismissive of the idea that He could return at any moment.


I look at the eastern sky some mornings and am stirred by the idea that it could all be wrapped up before the day is done. And then 10 minutes later the business of the day has begun in earnest. The business of life is interesting when juxtaposed with the sleepiness of the virgins in the face of the bridegroom’s coming.


The parable doesn’t condemn them for that –  all of the virgins rested when they shouldn’t have been, but the 5 foolish didn’t have the oil. That’s the difference.

A preview

To my way of thinking, the ultimate in song-writing is being faithful to the original text and devising a melody around it, and this morning in church we sang ‘Salvation belongs to our God’.


According to Scripture, this is the song that is being sung in heaven by those who are faithful in the tribulation:






Writing a worship song using revelation from Scripture is absolutely rocking. In a moment, I could picture the scene and what I saw was heaven, and the presence of God, but also noteworthy was what was missing.


No fake news and breathless histrionics by biased media trying to sway public opinion. No lying by governments or leaders. Just the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth,


No state capture, as we have our treasure in heaven, “where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20, NIV) and the Guptas and JZ cannot lay their hands on it, and heaven’s economy is unavailable for corruption.


No cold hearts towards God. No more making up excuses and time spent wasted trying to avoid dealing with God and what he wants from us.


No sin and death. Can you imagine that? Not being able to truly conceptualise this, nevertheless it is true, a state of being that awaits His people. No more rebellion and doing things that are inexplicable and that we hate but that we do anyway.


This is a preview for His children. Whether 2018 or timelessness.

Alpha Rambo Zulu

And so 2018 has begun, with a no-nonsense rain on Old Year’s night and a viewing of the traditional ‘Dinner for one’…

Let it rain

“Same procedure as every year James”.


Winding down the week before school starts, my wife actually participated in a Rambo omnibus through all four movies in as many nights. I can watch Rambo before bed and sleep like a baby, strangely.


Rambo’s story, as with every story, as with all our days as with our lives has a beginning, middle and an end. Alpha and Zulu if we’re in the military, or Alpha and Omega if we’re Greek. ‘First Blood’, the opening movie released in 1982 was artistically the best and Sylvester Stallone’s favourite and by his reckoning, the final Rambo film comes in second.


It’s a fitting conclusion to the series; Rambo repeatedly tells the female protagonist Sarah to ‘go home’ as he believes she has no business in Burma and at the end of the movie, it is Rambo himself who goes home. The final crescendo of gore that ties off Rambo’s war-making is some of the most epic violence ever captured on film, perhaps with the exception of the opening scene of ‘Saving Private Ryan’.


To provide a few stats to flesh this out, according to Rambo wiki, in the final Rambo movie, 2008’s ‘John Rambo’, there is an average of 2.59 killings per minute, far in excess of the previous films. Most of a battalion of Burmese troops lie vanquished and in bloody heaps when the dust settles and the smoke clears. That’s typically around 300 soldiers.




The violence is not comfortable, however it is the nature of war and in every case, Rambo is reacting against an aggressor.


The protagonist is either reacting to abuse by police officers (First Blood, 1982), rescuing American POWs left behind in Vietnam (First Blood part II, 1985), rescuing his friend and local Afghans from the Soviet aggressor (Rambo III, 1988), or rescuing Christian missionaries and local Karen people from being abused by an aggressor (John Rambo, 2008).


In every instance, Rambo doesn’t seek out violence as a first resort, however once he is engaged, he finishes the battle. Injustice provokes a response.


Again according to Rambo wiki, apparently part of the inspiration for the final battle climax where Rambo wipes out most of a battalion with a .50 gun mounted on a jeep is the real-life account of Audie Murphy who performed a similar feat in WWII.


While watching this final scene, I considered what response might the massive and sustained injustice in the world provoke from God in all His holiness. It’s not as if He is ignoring it or is unaware of it.


As recorded in the book of Revelation:


“9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,[e] were killed just as they had been.” (Revelation 6: 9 – 11, NIV)


A bit morbid you say? Distasteful? I’m not suggesting that God has need of a .50 jeep-mounted gun or a heavenly howitzer, but what I am saying is that when Christ does intervene directly, it’s going to be epic.


His people are being murdered daily for no crime, only for being Christians, by people who loathe, hate and despise God. Obviously they cannot mount an offense on Him, so they take it out on His children.


As with the first murder when Cain killed Abel, the innocent blood calls out for justice.




That is what I took out of watching Rambo. We’re not typically comfortable thinking about the wrath of God, especially on global terms, however we have to consider what sinful people get away with every day, and that God’s patience – though extreme – is not without limit.


Also, we have to consider that we are indeed to have the discipline of soldiers without taking up arms against human beings. God will conduct His campaign and rescue His people and punish those who hate Him according to His prerogative.




We only need to see to it that we endure, walk daily with Him and testify to His gospel.


In this new year, Onward Christian Soldiers.