The Perfect Retirement

Pictured above is the Point Reyes Lighthouse. It was built in 1870 on the windiest and second foggiest place in North America, the Point Reyes headlands, which are located about 10 miles from the San Francisco Bay area in California.  This incredibly well-constructed lighthouse has endured many hardships, including an earthquake in 1906, which displaced it 18 feet from its original location in less than one minute! After fulfilling its life-saving duties for 105 years, and like most lighthouses still standing, this beacon was retired as a result of the advancements in navigation technology. Many retired lighthouses in the U.S. have been either sold or donated to local municipalities and private organizations who then renovate them and make them available for public touring. Unfortunately, some of them have been left unattended and are slowly rotting away.

Retirement (noun)
a. the period after you have permanently stopped your job or profession.
b. removal of something from service or use.

Are you retired already or are you looking forward to that big day? Perhaps you’ve practically just entered the workforce and have a very long way to go. Either way, retirement is a life event which you will have to plan for and the sooner you do it, the better.

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For most people, retirement is both a time of completion and a time of new beginnings. Not everyone who retires gets to fulfill their life-long dream(s), but they all get a chance to finally end one chapter in the storybook of life and begin a new one. They also get a chance to sit back and reminisce about the gratifying (and the regrettable) moments they experienced while employed. If you haven’t done this already then you and I will both have an opportunity to do so at some point in the future. That is if we haven’t been called into eternity before then.

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Some people say they don’t plan to retire at all. They want to be able to work until the very end. By that, I suppose they mean till death comes knocking at their door. Such attitude is both honorable and commendable, especially if it means working for an evangelistic or humanitarian cause. But perhaps staying laboriously active until your last breath is not an option you’ve considered. You are probably among those who are looking forward to the day when you no longer have to wake up to go to “work.” If so, then what would you consider to be the perfect retirement? For me, it would begin with a trip around the world visiting as many lighthouses as possible while taking detours to explore the beauty of God’s creation. I would eventually come back home to take my daily morning walks with my dog along the beautiful flower path that leads to my private oceanfront lighthouse. Here, I would be able to pray, meditate, and be inspired to keep writing my Lighthouse Devotions without interruptions, except for when my wife shows up with a hot cup of Chai Latte and a slice of cheesecake.

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Speaking of perfect retirement, here are some of the images that came up as a result of a Google search for “perfect” or “dream” retirements. [click to enlarge]

Maybe your idea of a perfect retirement is similar to one of the images above or perhaps it’s something even more fascinating. It may even be something that others would not consider to be a retirement at all. But regardless of what you and I may think a truly peaceful and fulfilling retirement is, NOTHING compares with the retirement that our Heavenly Father has prepared for those who love Him. For those who have accepted His Son as Savior and have finished their pilgrimage through the heavy-laden path of life. And while we may be able to reap some of the benefits of laboring for His kingdom here on earth, our ultimate recompense will be when we finally hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

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As I sit down to pen this devotion I can’t help but think of an old (Spanish) song I use to sing at church during my early teen years. “Mas allá del sol, mas allá del sol.  Yo tengo un hogar, bello hogar mas allá del sol. ” (Beyond the sun, beyond the sun. I have a home, a beautiful home beyond the sun.)

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Not only beyond the sun but beyond anything we could ever imagine is that place where the redeemed of the Lord will one day retire for all eternity. Forget about no more toiling, how about no more dying, no more crying, and no more pain? And it doesn’t matter whether or not you get to stroll along white sandy beaches that overlook turquoise waters, how about basking in the glory of God while walking tirelessly through a street made of gold so pure that it resembles a sea of clear glass? Just think, the world’s most beautiful and costliest structure cannot compare to the splendor of the golden city that is adorned with every precious stone imaginable. A city that has 12 breathtaking gates, each fashioned from a single pearl! Even the most luxuriant earthly landscapes are no match to the beauty of the river of the water of life which flows from the throne of God or the tree of life whose leaves will serve for the healing of the nations. This is the place where Paul and all of God’s children will finally receive their retirement crown. This is the place that Jesus said He would go to prepare for us so that we could be with Him. This, undoubtedly, is THE perfect retirement!

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Until the day we get to retire for all eternity, we must count it a privilege and an honor to be (or have been) able to work.  And when/if the day of our earthly retirement does come, whether we choose to keep working or live a life of leisure, we should embrace it with a sense of fulfillment, gratitude, and joy. I surely wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my retired years visiting lighthouses and writing about them in my very own cozy beacon by the sea. Hopefully, one of these will be available for sale by then! [click on images to enlarge]

Prayer: Oh God, Maker of heaven and earth, I look forward to the day when I am retired to be with you. The day when I enter my eternal rest along with all the redeemed of the Lord. Until that day, help me to remain faithful and strong in my faith. Renew me physically, mentally, and spiritually, so that I may continue to shine your light until the day when your glory is the only light shining. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” -Revelations 14:13
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” – Matthew 25:21 (ESV)
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus…” Acts 20:24 (ESV)
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” -Hebrews 6:10
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” -John 14:2-4 (ESV)
“Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2down the middle of the main street of the city. On either side of the river stood a tree of life, producing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”-Revelation 22:1-2
“And the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory.” -Revelations 21:23-24 (BSB)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.
ADDITIONAL LINKS
A Vision of Heaven – Revelation 21
IMAGE CREDITS
© Point Reyes Lighthouse by Frank Schulenburg, April 2012
The Lighthouse Keeper, Dalmatian, by Donna Gelsinger

 

Be a Lightship For a Change

You’ve heard of lighthouses, but have you heard of or ever seen a lightship? If you have, then you are more of an aficionado than I am or you are just simply blessed. I didn’t even know such things existed. Pictured above is one of several lightships still in existence.

Lightships are vessels that were built to act as substitute lighthouse towers to assist other imag4534_1ships in navigation. They were stationed in areas where either the waters were too deep, weather conditions were volatile, and/or where the lack of solid grounds made it impossible to build an actual lighthouse. The first lightship to be put in operation was the Nore Sandbank. It was placed at the mouth of the Thames River in England back in 1734. Eventually, advancements in marine construction and architecture gave way to modern lighthouses which greatly limited the need for these lightvessels. About 15 lightships can still be found in different parts of the U.S. today.

In my search for inspiration, I have come across some pretty fascinating lighthouses. From the tallest to the smallest and from the oldest to the most modern-styled, I have been intrigued by the designs and the stories behind some of the most amazing sentinels of the sea. Up until now,  I always thought of a lighthouse as a stationary tower built upon an unmovable foundation. That is why my muse was immediately awakened when I stumbled upon these mobile beacons known as lightships.

As spiritual lighthouses, we were made to shine God’s light for all to see. Therefore, we shouldn’t limit its radiance to our immediate surroundings only. How about we intentionally navigate into the treacherous seas of humanity to bring His light to those who are in deep troubled waters? In other words, how about we go beyond our churches, homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods and venture into the ghettos, prisons, and unevangelized territories to be the saving light Jesus called us to be? We may not all be called to pack our bags and head to the jungles of Guatemala or the tribal plains of Africa, but we can all join or organize a group that will act as lightships to sail towards those who desperately need to hear the Gospel and witness the love of God through our acts of generosity and compassion.

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I’ve heard it say that our mission field is found right in our community, but I beg to differ. The term “convenience” can be applied not only to those local stores where one can readily find staples at any given time but also to places we frequently visit like medical clinics, schools, shopping centers, restaurants, parks, etc. Because of our familiarity with these places, we most likely trivialize our responsibility towards the Great Commission. I believe that when Jesus said, “Go into all the world…” He meant just that. To go into places that are unfamiliar, remote, places outside our convenience. And we can all fulfill that command by getting rid of our lame excuses, allowing God’s word to change our selfish attitudes, and step out in faith and obedience to go and make disciples. Paul encouraged us to tend not only to our own needs but also to the needs of others. But we won’t always know what the needs of others are unless we leave our comfortable shores and navigate towards the deep waters of this world where the destitute and those who are ignorant of the Gospel message are sailing aimlessly and without hope.

Jesus said that the poor will always be among us. And until this world is finally redeemed there will also be those who have yet to hear the Good News of salvation. So, how about asking God for the opportunity to be a lightship for a change? How about you continue to shine right where you are, but every once in a while step out and “go” take that light to places that others would purposely avoid?

Prayer: Oh Lord God, stir my heart with the desire to shine your light beyond my immediate surroundings. Allow me to navigate towards the deep waters where souls are lost and in dire need of your saving grace. May your love and compassion for the world be the motivation that encourages me to be a lighthouse and a lightship at the same time. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” – Romans 10:14
“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” -Isaiah 58:10 (ESV)
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” -James 1:27 (ESV)
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” -Philippians 2:4  (ESV)
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” -Romans 15:1 (ESV) 
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.
Photo Credits:
Calshot Spit Lightship Photo by Paul Dashwood 1997
Lightship LV86, stationed at The Nore, in Kent county, Eng., from 1931 to 1974. K.Krallis SV1XV

Our Volunteer Caretaker

This is the Point Iroquois Light. Built in 1870, it stands 65 ft. tall and is located in the upper peninsula of the state of Michigan overlooking Lake Superior. It was deactivated in 1962 after safely guiding ships between the open waters of Whitefish Bay and the St. Mary’s River for 93 years. This non-operational tower is currently maintained by the United States Forest Service.

Due to advances in lighting technology and navigational systems, very few lighthouses require the constant care of the once indispensable lighthouse keeper. However, in order to remain standing and accessible, most of these historical icons require some degree of maintenance. The U.S. Forest Service recently published an ad soliciting volunteer lighthouse caretakers for the Point Iroquois Light. Applicants must be willing to reside in the lighthouse and commit to one year of service. If I were a wealthy or retired bachelor I would most definitely be interested in the job. Are you? If you are, here is the link https://www.volunteer.gov/results.cfm?ID=15375.

According to the dictionary, a volunteer is a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. To volunteer is to offer oneself for some service or undertaking without expecting any form of compensation (payment). Jesus voluntarily gave up his life in order to grant us eternal life with Him in heaven. He willfully performed the greatest act of love imaginable. He offered himself as a payment to set us free from the penalty of sin (eternal damnation) and bring us back into a right relationship with God. 

We are God’s lighthouses and Jesus is our volunteer caretaker. Not only did He willingly lay down his life for us, but He continues to care for us by providing us with sustenance, protection, people who love us, and more importantly, access to His very throne of grace through prayer. Unlike the volunteers of the Point Iroquois Light, Jesus has promised to be with us always. His commitment is not just for a year but for all eternity! And while our outer body wastes away, he takes care of our inner being by renewing our faith through the power of His word and devotions like this one. 

I may not be able to volunteer as a Point Iroquois Lighthouse caretaker, but I sure am grateful to have Jesus as the volunteer caretaker of my lighthouse! Are you?

Prayer: Thank you Jesus, for willingly and willfully paying for my sins. Thank you for your promise to never leave me or forsake me. And thank you for faithfully taking care of all my needs. May my life reflect the gratitude for having you as the caretaker of my soul. Help me to care for others as you care for me. In your precious name I pray, amen. 

“…I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again..” – John 10:18
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” -Isaiah 40:11
“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20b
The Lord Takes Cares of His People – Psalm 16
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.
Photo Credit
Point Iroquois Lighthouse photo by Chad Kaiser, 2008

Landmarks of Peace

“As a new ‘House of Wisdom,’ the University shall be a beacon for peace, hope, and reconciliation…” -King Abdullah

 “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly. – Jesus, the King of kings

Lighthouses have come a long way. From torches and lanterns hanging on wooden and metal poles to solar powered bulbs shining from within concrete and granite towers. While many of the 19th-century style lighthouses are still standing, advances in technology and civil engineering have inspired quite a few modern versions of these sentinels of the sea. One simple Google search using the words “modern lighthouses” will return images of some pretty incredible and awe inspiring structures. Take the one pictured above for example. Though it retains the conical shape of typical lighthouses this 21st-century beacon is nothing short of a futuristic work of art.

Built in 2009, this 197 ft. honeycomb obelisk is made from pre-cast hexagonal concrete blocks.  It is known as the KAUST Breakwater Beacon and it overlooks the Safaa Harbor and the Red Sea, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Its architectural design is truly impressive. During the day, it serves as a natural-cooled space for communal events. At night, the entire tower lights up and serves as a guide to mariners, not to mention a focal point for an incredible nocturnal scenic view. 

This remarkable beacon was built as a landmark for the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which according to King Abdullah, “…shall be a beacon for peace, hope, and reconciliation [to the world]…” 

While this amazing structure and the university it represents may be of inspiration to many, the peace, hope, and reconciliation that the world so desperately needs will never be found in anything tangible, let alone in the promises of intellectual abilities. That’s because true peace is not of this world.¹

We are living in a time where “peace” has become synonymous with organizations and movements whose ideals are in constant conflict with the (true) peace that goes beyond human understanding; the peace of God.2   The increasing political, economic, social, and religious tensions we are witnessing, in spite of all the peace efforts, are a direct consequence of people putting their trust in anything and everything other than the Prince of Peace himself, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The peace that Jesus offers is an illogical concept to a world that considers peace to mean freedom from conflict. 

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Until God finally judges all mankind and the earth is physically redeemed, the forces of darkness will continue to operate in this world.That is why Jesus himself warned us of the inevitable conflicts/challenges we will face while we wait for that glorious day. But He also encouraged us by telling us to “take heart” (i.e. remain at peace) and trust Him to help us overcome the same way he overcame.4 We have to understand that to have peace doesn’t always mean you have to eliminate conflict or prevent it from occurring. We can experience the true peace of God even in the midst of adversity. That’s because His peace can supernaturally guard our hearts and minds5 so that we are not controlled by our circumstances, but rather control the way we react to them. However, in order to experience this kind of peace we need to intimately know Him whom we have believed in. We need to know who we truly are in Christ Jesus and not just say that we believe in Him but put that faith in action by living in obedience to His word.

As lighthouses for God, we can also become true Landmarks of Peace. Here are a few things the Bible says that can help us:

We are to be peacemakers.

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If we consider ourselves to be children of God then we are to be peacemakers. In other words, people who help restore peace and amity. We should not only proclaim the Gospel of peace but also live it, especially in these times where political differences are tearing our nations apart. We are to serve as arbitrators and not instigators. Perhaps this will require for some of us to think twice before we comment on hot topics, especially on social media. Ouch!

We are to strive to be a peaceful people.

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It may be difficult at times to avoid confrontations, but we must do whatever it takes to quench the flames of enmity. Even if it means to swallow our pride, keep our mouths shut and turn away. Taking this approach should not be considered as a sign of weakness, but rather of wisdom and mature spiritual character. Nothing testifies louder about the peace of God than when His children live in and at peace with everyone. Yes, even their enemies. 

We must surrender our hearts to the peace of God.

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It’s easier to respond with animosity, pride, and even apathy than with forgiveness, humbleness, and genuine concern. But as believers, we need to keep in mind that we are all part of one big family; the family of God. Therefore, we must allow His peace to reign in our hearts and learn to truly love one another in spite of our differences. Only then can the world witness the true power of God’s transforming grace.  

Living in peace brings great pleasure to the soul.

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Every now and then we all experience a difficult time in life. But even in the midst of our challenges we can reflect the light of Christ and serve as a model for overcoming strife and contention. In doing so, we take the focus off ourselves while encouraging and blessing others. The reward is a heart full of God’s joy; a joy which in turn becomes our strength.  

Trusting God guarantees us peace of mind.

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But can we actually live every single day of our lives in peace? Well, that depends on what you mean. If you mean stress-free, worry-free, and conflict-free, the answer is no (John 16:33). But if you mean at peace in the midst of life’s many challenges then the answer is yes! God has promised to guard us with His peace in every situation. However, the key to experiencing that peace is to keep our hearts and minds focused on Him and not on our circumstances. 

Prayer: Lord, make me a landmark of your peace. Don’t allow my heart to be hardened and much less become apathetic to the hostility in this world; a world that is just reacting to the emptiness in their soul. An emptiness that only you can fill. So, use me even in the midst of my own challenges so that I may be able to reflect your light. The light that this world needs to experience true peace. In Jesus precious and peaceful name I pray, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
1- “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.” – John 14:27 (GWT)
2- “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
3 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12
4 – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
5 – “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.