The Dangers of ‘Ear Candy’ Lighthouses

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. – The Apostle Paul to Timothy

Most likely you’ve heard of or seen a gingerbread house, but have you ever seen a gingerbread lighthouse!? You can imagine the smile on my face as I stumbled upon this magnificent confection. Gingerbread houses can be traced back to 1800’s Germany. Many food historians agree that they were made popular as a result of the famous Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel.  During the 19th-century mass waves of immigration, many gingerbread house-making Germans moved to the US.  Since then, these creative treats have become part of the Amercian Christmas tradition. 

Every year I look forward to making and savoring some of the most delectable traditional holiday dishes of my Carribean culture. And though I have lived in the US mainland for over 30 years, I honestly never thought of incorporating the popular gingerbread house to my Christmas menu. Up until now, that is. As a lighthouse aficionado, you can rest assure that I will be designing my very first gingerbread lighthouse this Holiday season. 

16903276_1353700408027689_3403734716958938229_o
fastnet rock lh by birgit seibert

Are you familiar with the term “eye candy”? It’s a term commonly used to describe that which is appealing to the sight, something that tempts us with its addictive visual. For example, glittering night lights, a seemingly endless buffet, colorful natural scenes, a bountiful display of sweets, and even titillating billboards can all be considered eye candy.

Main.pngadf50c88-b214-47f6-ab2c-acdf85bf73a7Original

words
pic.pptx
bm

How about the term “ear candy”? Well, that is what we call the all-inclusive, non-judgemental, non-offensive, “it’s all about you” messages coming from many pulpits today, especially in the West.  These are the messages that are meant to attract large audiences by pleasing their ears with motivational speeches loaded with self-reassurance, positive thinking, and “name it and claim it” theology. While their content is socially relevant, their effect is spiritually devastating. They ultimately weaken, rather than empower, God’s people by perpetuating instead of breaking spiritual bondages. 

Churches are like lighthouses. They are to emit the light of Christ by inviting and guiding lost souls with the unadulterated word of God. But many houses of worship are slowly becoming spiritual coffee parlors and narcissistic social centers that condone immoral behavior and encourage selfish entitlement. All in the name of love and unity. However, it’s not that difficult to conclude that the main reason is to increase and secure financial support. Instead of preparing fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, these ear candy gospel lighthouses are producing malnourished religious marionettes.

14141741_582601378531563_315631677198052479_n

Harsh isn’t it? This is definitely not the typical inspirational and encouraging devotion you are used to reading from me. But as a soul-loving minister and a protective father of three, I believe that encouragement also comes in the form of admonition and rebuke. I am greatly troubled by the growing number of churches that are leading souls deeper into darkness instead of guiding them to the saving light of Christ. It would be irresponsible of me to only write about the encouraging characteristics of effective lighthouses and not mention the detrimental effects of the ineffective ones.

1 LH

Just as gingerbread houses taste sweet to the lips, the gospel messages preached in many of today’s churches are sweet to the ears. They cause the hearers to feel good and want more but never challenge them or help them to grow stronger in their relationship with a holy God. Instead of well-cooked meat to strengthen the soul, ear candy messages have become the main course of spiritual diets. Very few preachers, especially those on TV, talk about repentance toward God because that presupposes sin and “sin” has become a politically incorrect word in our society.  The word “sin” makes people feel uncomfortable. It is judgemental and offensive, so “ministers” just exclude it from their inspirational speeches.

1 LH

They steer clear from teaching about faith in Christ alone because it is a much too narrow road to travel upon. They believe that people need a broader spiritual path to cruise comfortably without being hurt or offended. So, faith in the individual self or in some other ideal that promises a better, healthier, wealthier life is more inviting than faith in a character that warns of inevitable troubles as a result of following Him.  They certainly won’t talk about repentance because that suggests that people are not living right and need to change. And why change when God loves us just the way we are? This ear scratching gospel is what is leading people straight to hell while they sit in churches or in front of TV screens week after week being inspired instead of being transformed. 

Main.pngadf50c88-b214-47f6-ab2c-acdf85bf73a7Original (1)

Part of the body of Jesus Christ is anemic and slowly dying as a result of sugar-coated sermons. It’s time to do away with these poisonous sweets! Time to crumble the gingerbread lighthouses and build strong Holy Spirit reinforced beacons of hope. Time to do as the Apostle Paul said and “…demolish all arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The Gospel is more than a message of hope, peace, and love. It is also a call to repentance and transformation. A call to mature spiritually through godly disciplines and many faith-trying challenges. Jesus warned His followers of the imminent dangers they would have to face as a result of believing in Him. He said they would be hated, persecuted, imprisoned and even put to death. Many of them were and many still do!

Jesus himself had no qualms when addressing the issue of sin, especially religious hypocrisy. His zeal for proclaiming the truth of God’s kingdom drove him to say and do things that were considered blasphemous and even criminal. At his trial before Pilate, the main charge against Him was brought on by religious leaders. After actually trying the case, Pilate found no fault in Jesus. However, if tried today, He would most certainly be charged with hate crime, harassment, peace disturbance, and vandalism, among others.

cc1

Believers in Jesus Christ are called to obey God, but also to submit to earthly authority. However, our commitment to honor and respect man-made laws should not keep us from declaring and obeying the Spirit-inspired word of God. Nor should it cause us to compromise the truth therein. Regardless of the opposition we may face from a dissenting crowd, we should never alter the message of the Gospel in order to please people, gain their acceptance, or even avoid conflict. Remember, Jesus’ teachings were not popular in his times nor have they been ever since. They frequently rubbed some people the wrong way.  In fact, that is exactly why they had him crucified!  Yet, what He taught by word and by example is what has and will continue to change countless lives and guarantee them a place with Him in heaven forever. 

So church, let’s quit trying to attract men to Christ by becoming ear candy lights. Let us restore the law of God to its rightful place by being straight forward about what separates man from his Creator, namely sin. Then let us offer the solution to restore that relationship by preaching salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. But we must not stop there. We must also help believers grow spiritually by teaching sound biblical doctrines. And we must encourage them to pursue holiness by living according to God’s precepts and not their own. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I believe the Gospel of your Son is power unto Salvation. Help me Lord, to live by and share this truth to all who are lost without eternal hope. Don’t let me become or be a part of an ear candy lighthouse. Help me to remain a strong tower so that I may shine the life-changing light of the true Gospel wherever I go. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4:3
“But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!” -2 Timothy 3:1-5 (BSB)
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:5
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” -Romans 13:1
“Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.  You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.” -Psalm 119:1-4 (NLT)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

A Conforming Light

For unto those whom he knew beforehand, he also marked out beforehand the way that they might be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. – The Apostle Paul (Romans 8:29, JB2000)

Pictured above is the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse. It was constructed in 1899 on Fastnet Rock, a slate-granite islet in the southern coast of County Cork, Ireland. This granite tower which measures 177 feet (the tallest in Ireland) was built to replace the previous cast iron one erected in 1853. You can still see part of the original lighthouse’s base on the highest part of the rock. Fastnet Rock is also known as The Teardrop of Ireland because it was the last piece of land that Irish emigrants saw as they sailed away to the New World.

Due to its location, the topography of the islet, and the amount of granite needed for its construction, this lighthouse is considered one of the greatest feats of its time. It actually took 8 years to complete!

A quick glance at this lighthouse today and one would think that it is part of the islet itself. Not only are their colors and shades strikingly similar, but so is their texture. The natural rock formation was obviously there before the lighthouse. In fact, the area where the tower now sits had to be leveled prior to setting its foundation. During its early years, the unweathered lighthouse was completely white.  It was once compared to “a beautiful bride on her wedding day in a lovely lace dress.” Unfortunately, the same battering waves, inclement weather, and resilient marine algae that have stricken the very small island over the years have taken their toll on the towering beacon. They have caused its base to change color and now it resembles the rocks around it.

Scriptures declare that even before we were created, God had already planned to conform us to the image of His Son.¹ This process actually begins with our confession of Christ as Lord and Savior. And while it is entirely a work of the Holy Spirit (through sanctification),² our job is to submit to His leading and respond in obedience to God’s word. In other words, God imparts to us a new nature the moment we place our faith in Jesus. He then continues to cleanse, purify, and renew us through our commitment to spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, bible study, worship, fellowship, witnessing). The result is an ongoing inner transformation that allows us to conform (become similar in character) to the person of Jesus Christ. 

HNY17Persecution caused many of the early followers of Jesus to be scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria. Some of them traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus, but it was at Antioch that they were first called Christians because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ.3 Contrary to what some teach, the word Christian does not mean “little Christ.” That idea erroneously suggests that we are diminutive copies or duplicates of Christ. “Christian” actually derives from the Greek word Christianos,. which is a combination of Christos (anointed, messiah) and ianos, a suffix denoting adhering or belonging to and commonly applied to slaves.

1 LH

We are not called to morph into small Jesuses. We are called to be “like” Him. To be a Christian simply means to choose to believe in, submit to, and obey Jesus’ teachings, and strive to live as He did. It is important to understand, however, that living like Jesus does not save us. Amidst all the chaos, feuding, and acts of hate and evil, the world is filled with “good” people. But generosity, kindness, compassion and even religious traditions do not automatically grant anyone access to heaven. If it were so, then the entire Bible and the Christian theology would be false and useless. But the irrefutable, inerrant, and life-changing word of God declares that salvation is through faith in Christ and Him alone.4 That same faith allows God’s Spirit to work in us and compels us to follow in the footstep of our Savior. Good works are a result of salvation, not vice versa. Jesus is the Rock of our salvation. If we remain firmly anchored in Him we eventually begin to live, love, act, and react like He did while on earth. That is, we slowly conform to His likeness, pretty much like the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse has been conforming to the image of the rock upon which it stands.

Becoming like Christ may seem like an impossible task at times,  especially when we have to face difficult and unexpected challenges in our lives. But let us not lose heart and trust that if Jesus himself prayed that we would become one with Him as He is one with the Father,5 then God is most definitely involved in the process. Plus, we have been given all the tools necessary to help us. The change begins on the inside in our spirit being where we are made right with God the moment we accept Jesus in our hearts. Then, through obedience to God’s word, it slowly begins to shape our way of thinking making itself evident on the outside in the way we live day by day. In fact, it should even shape the way we treat our physical bodies for it becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit.6 So remember, spiritual re-birth is just the beginning. Remaining in Christ and His word is what helps us in the process of becoming A Conforming Light.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the Rock upon which I stand. Thank you for the sanctifying work you are doing in me. Help me to stay committed to your word so that I may continue to conform more and more to your likeness. I surrender to the leading of your Holy Spirt. For it is my desire to reflect you and the light you brought into the world every day of my life. This I pray in your precious name, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
1 “For unto those whom he knew beforehand, he also marked out beforehand the way that they might be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:29, (JB2000)
2 “[The elect who are] chosen by the foreknowledge of God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ…” -1 Peter 1:2 
3 “…and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26 (ESV)
4 ” Salvation is found in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
5 “I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You…” -John17:21
6 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (BSB)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

Escaping Not “From,” But “Into”

“And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray and when the evening was come he was there alone.” – Matthew 14:23

There are quite a number of lighthouses located offshore that were built upon either dangerous shoals, reefs, or submerged islands several miles away from land. But at 25 miles from the nearest shore, The Stannard Rock Light (pictured above) is the most distant lighthouse in the United States. Built in 1883, this 100 ft. tower was named after Captain Charles C. Stannard, who first discovered the underwater rock formation in 1835. Because of its remote location, it was designated a “stag light, ” which meant that only men (without families) could serve as light keepers. If someone got sick or there was an emergency of any kind at the light, it would take weeks before anyone could arrive with assistance! After warning mariners of the treacherous reefs for over 100 years, the tower was finally retired in 2008. It is now used for climate research purposes. 

 Have you ever wanted to just get away from it all – I mean, very far away? To escape to somewhere quiet and peaceful where you could take a walk, read a book, or just vegetate without being interrupted? 

 How about escaping to a place where you could pray, meditate, read God’s word, or just marvel at His creation? 

 We all need to take (not make) time to separate ourselves from the “world” and come closer to heaven. A time to not only lay our burdens down at the foot of the cross but to receive new strength from the very throne of God. A place to experience a truly intimate moment with our Heavenly Father. 

At times life can simply become too much. The cares, interactions, expectations and demands of our daily lives can drain us to the point of physical, emotional and even spiritual exhaustion. Stress can easily turn the peaceful, exciting and inspiring wonders around us into a war-like zone where everything is but beautiful. Life becomes more like a static TV Screen; a noise from which we desperately need to escape to alleviate the heaviness.

Jesus identified with every human emotion, including stress. After spending hours teaching, listening, touching, healing and comforting people he longed for a time to just relax. A time to recuperate both physically and emotionally. For Jesus, it was mostly about giving and meeting people’s needs. However, there was no one to give to him and meet his needs, no one except His Father in heaven that is. The difference with Jesus is that he had no problem in stepping away from the stresses of ministry and into a quiet place where all noise could be muffled. That quiet place was in the presence of God the Father.

iluminate

We may be able to temporarily separate ourselves from the world around us, but rarely, if at all possible, do we find a place to be absolutely and completely apart from the noise. Such a place is not to escape from something, but rather into Someone. It is a place where we can leave the world and its noise behind and meet with our Father, just as Jesus did; a time to truly PRAY. Do you know of such a place? A place where you can escape into God’s presence and spend uninterrupted time with Him? Perhaps for many of us, such a place may be a spare room in the house/apartment, a bench at the park, or at a church altar. Regardless, I believe God is calling his children to escape into Him more frequently. If you believe that calling is for you, then take the time to escape. I guarantee life will become a lot less stressful. 

Prayer: Lord, when all around me captures my soul and imprisons my time, my heart and my energies help me find and run to a place far away, where it’s just you and me. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” -Matthew 6:6
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35
“But he [Jesus] would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” -Luke 5:16 (ESV)
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” -Mark 6:31 (NASB)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

Photo Credit
Jesus at Gethsemane – The Passion of the Christ (movie scene)
Note:
This is a revised version of my  devotion, “Take Time to Pray“published on January 2013 by Patch.com