A Time of Extremes

As we sit “on ice” here in Indiana, I am drawn to the concept of extremes. As I sit in my house, a thin wall separates me from the deadly cold. I’m so glad I’m on this side of the wall. When we dwell in Christ he surrounds us in every storm…

adult beverage breakfast celebration
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We are in our third day of extreme cold here in Northern Indiana. This morning we woke to -19 degrees. This is record setting cold. Throughout these three days, I’ve been very aware of the contrast between being “inside” and “outside”.  Whenever things happen in threes I see significance. Jesus body was cold for three days in a tomb and then there was a turnaround, a resurrection. As we sit “on ice” here in Indiana, I’ve felt God stop me as well. He’s stopped me from doing things I would normally do. Not because I couldn’t do them, but I feel no need. God is making room for me to listen and giving me His permission to stop to receive something, possibly for you.

What is put on ice will be brought out when it is needed.

As I sat on my sofa yesterday morning, I heard the wind whipping with fury against the house, as if trying to get me, yet the walls of the house surrounded me like I was a baby in the womb. It’s important to note that. There are places of security that are meant for our protection. There are dividing lines we are not meant to cross. The wall between me and the biting cold was thin, but adequate. I could see through the glass, yet it could not come in.

God’s protection is like this. Psalm 91 reads: I’ll highlight selective portions for you.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in teh shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. … He will cover you with his feathers (pinions), and under his wings you will find refuge…it will not come near you. You will look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked… Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent…
Because he holds fast to me in love. I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

How mighty is God’s hand. How able he is to protect us from all harm. I want to dwell in his protection. I want to stay under his wing, so close that his shadow is over me. I will live in that place and not stray from it, will you? There are “ifs” and there are choices we make that compromise our position. God has been opening my eyes to the extremes.

In Matthew 25 Jesus explains the great divide in another way. There is a divide between those who get into the Kingdom and those who don’t. It is a matter of preparation and readiness. Ten virgins take their oil lamps and are lined up waiting for the bridegroom to come. Wherever they are, they are together, waiting for him. Just like this group of women, people will be together, seemingly all for the same purpose, to meet Jesus. Yet there were two groups of people. Five of these women were prepared; they invested ahead of time and thought about what might be required if there was a wait. The others took a risk and came with no thought of the future. They assumed that the little they had would be enough. Jesus parables are always symbolic. So what is the oil that kept the lamps burning? Lamps represent fire. The Holy Spirit came with fire in Acts. Jesus is the “light” of the world. We are like him in that we are light. Is you light burning bright? How do you sustain a spiritual fire?

We wait for a bridegroom. We must know that there will be extended times of waiting and we have to come prepared to wait upon Him. We have to have faith that he will come and prepare so we will be ready when the gate opens. One thing is certain here, five got in and five were left out.

I wonder if those five ladies filled their time with other busy things and were distracted so that they didn’t think ahead to what would be required.

I see in Jesus’s words that there is a time when we can be fill our lamps with oil so that when darkness comes, we will still be able to see.  I had a picture just now. Have you ever travelled and had to wait longer than expected? Weather delays cause missed flights and airports become crowded with people trying to sleep on the floor. The airline promises that you will get where you are going, but not when. Imagine traveling with small children. When my three boys were small, I thought ahead about what could happen if we were delayed somewhere. I packed snacks, books, and extra clothes in case they had accidents. I had Sippy cups filled with milk for when they were tired. I knew my kids and what they liked and packed those things so I would see happy faces full of joy when I pulled things out of my bag in challenging moments.  It was up to ME to prepare for those times.  If I didn’t, I could count on no one else to provide for my children when I didn’t have enough. I would just suffer their whininess. I could HOPE that someone would just give me whatever snacks they brought, but who KNOWs how long we would wait and it’s likely, that as the women with extra flasks of oil, they would save their provision for their own journey. Who knows when that plane will arrive to take us where we are going.

Jesus says to us, “Be prepared.” You can’t expect that what others have will get you in to heaven. You won’t get there because of what church you attend on Sunday. After all, these ladies all came together and seemed to be waiting for the same Bridegroom, just like we all come together to meet him.  Five were foolish. Five were wise.

When it comes times for life or death situations, we have to be prepared. How did we prepare for this crazy cold? In the short term, we made sure our chickens and ducks would be sheltered and that their water would not freeze and we cleaned the garage so the car could get inside. In the long term, many small steps of obedience in our lives prepared us for this moment so that we are not in a panic looking for shelter from the cold! We have a house and a working furnace and newer windows and food to eat. We have an emergency fund to replace the car battery that died (because I left the lights on). I am so thankful! I’m thankful that in relationship to God, he has led us to security. This is truly what the moral of this parable is. If we live in relationship all along, we will be ready when the bridegroom, Jesus, comes to invite us in.

The five who were unprepared came back after the door was shut. They begged. “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he answered, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.”

In the middle of this frigid, deadly weather I cannot leave my doors open, the deadly cold will come in and the heat I paid for would flood out. I would lose what I’d paid for. I am in a a protected box right now, like the shelter of God’s presence. I am keenly aware that I am surrounded by his protection as I notice the walls, the floors, the ceiling and even the windows that let me see out to what is cold and icy, but block it from coming in. This house wasn’t handed to us, we paid for it over the years. What will it cost to know your Master, Jesus? Invest in that. Build a house of faith and obedience that will shelter you from the extreme cold, from the darkness that is in the world.

God is our refuge, our ever present help in time of need.  Do you know him? Does he know you? We see in the parable that Jesus doesn’t automatically accept everyone who comes, but those who got ready.  The Bible says that we are his temple, his house.  We are being built up into a spiritual house. If you find the cold leaking into your house, physically or spiritually, consider where the drafts leak in. Are you opening doors to evil you should not be? Will it take time to shut them. Do it now! Don’t find yourself entangled in worldly things when others will be celebrating with Jesus.

Here is a prayer for you….

In Jesus name, I ask you God, to choose me. Draw me to you. Your word says many are called but few are chosen, so choose me. Get me out of everywhere I have entangled myself in the world and cleanse me. No darkness will be permitted in my soul any longer. I submit myself to you and know you will take me on a journey of obedience. I’m willing to go with you. I know you are a good Shepherd and you love me like no one else can. Thank you that you will be with me in this. I choose to let go of the world, the lust of the eyes and of the flesh. Heal my emotions and rid me of self-centeredness, anger, hatred, bitterness, shame and guilt. Make me new in every way and keep me humble. If I stumble I will repent. If I fail, you will help me up, but I will not give up. You are my fortress and I will dwell with you. I will stay close to you, Jesus, and you will satisfy me like nothing else can. I long to be in the center of your love. I repent of allowing the world to take over places in my heart where you should be dwelling. Come and redeemed every part of me. Save me to the uttermost. I am yours. Fill me up Lord. Let your Spirit overwhelm me. Here I am.”

Texts for further study:
Matthew 25 – The Parable of the Ten Virgins.
Psalm 91

A song for you…  ‘I want to know you, let your Spirit overwhelm me. Let your presence overtake my heart…”

“I Want to Know You”