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.

A Gentle & Graceful Light

Located in the city of Miri in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia you will find this beautiful and quite interesting lighthouse. Because of its unique seahorse design I might as well add it to my list of unusual beacons.

Miri adopted the seahorse as its official mascot because of its distinctive figure and serene behavior. The seahorse is said to symbolize peace and tranquility, which are the qualities that the Mirians believe represent their city’s multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community. That is why you will find numerous seahorse sculptures and designs throughout the city.

In many civilizations, the seahorse has come to represent patience, contentment, and protection. And because of their sharp eyesight, they can also symbolize other things such as perception or awareness. The Bible uses a variety of animals as symbols to represent people, places, and character traits. And while it doesn’t mention the seahorse, I think this lighthouse perfectly symbolizes the attitude that we, as spiritual lighthouses, must have especially when dealing with difficult situations and/or people. 

Lighthouses come in a variety of shapes, designs, and sizes. Likewise, Christians come from different denominational and cultural backgrounds and as humans, they obviously possess different psychological traits. As followers of Christ, however, we are all called to be bold, strong, relentless, and unwavering, but we are also called to be humble, merciful, patient and forgiving. It’s not easy for those of us who are (by nature) strong-willed, audacious, and outspoken to immediately flip a switch and become flexible, docile and prudent. If you or someone you know struggles with a somewhat “short fuse” here are a few ways to…

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1. Pray constantly

The Bible tells us to pray unceasingly1. This doesn’t mean we ought to be careless with our secular responsibilities in order to take time to talk with God. We can keep our prayer line to heaven open at all times by simply acknowledging Him in all that we do and by being conscious of his omnipresence. This way, whenever we call upon Him, whether on bended knee or behind a steering wheel, we can rest assure that He is listening and ready to pour his peace upon us. 

2. Be discerning

The Bible tells us to be watchful and prudent2&3 . This doesn’t mean we need to be paranoid or suspicious about everything. Obviously, there are things we know are not right simply because of our moral convictions. But we must become sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit so that we can identify the plans of the devil when he tries to lure us into responding and reacting in a sinful and regrettable way. And we can accomplish this by gaining wisdom from God’s word and by hiding it in our hearts. 

3. Surrender your mind

The Bible tells us to subdue ungodly thoughts and submit them to the authority of Christ4. Some would argue that we cannot control what we think, but I beg to differ. The term, “garbage in, garbage out” accurately describes what happens to a mind that deviates from spiritual disciplines. That is why Paul urges us to constantly renew our minds so that it may be transformed5. He also gives us the formula to help us maintain a godly disposition6.

4. Watch your tongue

The Bible tells us to think before we speak7 . It is a well-known fact that our mouth can cause as much, if not more, damage than our actions. No wonder James wrote an entire chapter devoted to “Taming the tongue.” Solomon’s wise words regarding the tongue have personally helped me to think before I speak8. Of course, if we take care of practicing #3 regularly we would do much better with #4. 

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5. Never forget God’s grace

The Bible tells us that our hope and joy rests in the grace of God through Christ9 . This grace is the one that saved us, the one that keeps us, and the one that we ought to extend to others just as it has been extended unto us. So no matter the challenge, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, we can peacefully respond and remain poised if we regularly think about God’s amazing grace. 

We must be strong like lighthouse towers when confronting the storms of life, but we must also remain serene like seahorses and not lose our cool. In other words, we must learn to be Gentle and Graceful Lights! 

Prayer: Loving and gracious Father, I surrender my body and soul to you and ask that you strengthen my faith so that I may continue to shine and stand strong against all adversities. But I also ask you to grant me a gentle and quiet spirit so that I may respond with grace and give a good testimony in the midst of my trials. Use me to inspire peace, hope and joy even to those who persecute me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. 

Scripture References
  1. 1 Thess. 5:17 – Pray without ceasing.
  2. Matthew 26:41 – Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!
  3. Hebrews 5:14 – But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (NASB)
  4. 2 Corinthians 10:5 – 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.
  5. Romans 12:2 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
  6. Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
  7. Ecclesiastes 5:2 – Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
  8. Proverbs 10:19 – When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. (NASB)
  9. Romans 5:2 – through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED
Useful Link(s)
Symbolism of Animals in the Bible

 

The Light of Life

To mark this my 50th devotion I once again undertook the search for unusual lighthouses. This one resulted in an instant jaw dropper. Yes, that is a baby bottle! This unique 15 ft. lighthouse is the first and only in the world that was designed to resemble a “bah-bah.” It is known, obviously, as the Baby Bottle Lighthouse and it is located in Gijang-gun, Busan, Korea. It is appropriately decorated with tiles that are adorned with the hand and footprints of 144 babies and children. The lighthouse was built as part of a story telling project to encourage childbirth, and that is precisely what inspired me to write this devotion.

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South Korea’s birth rate has declined drastically since the 1960s and as a result, it is the lowest in the developed world. The government has spent billions of dollars (yes, billions) to help reverse the decline. Incentives to boost family growth have included guaranteed unpaid leave for fertility treatment, increased paternity pay, and priority to public childcare for households with 3 or more children, among others. Can you imagine? While our government has been funding organizations to terminate pregnancies for years (hopefully that will change now with the new administration), here is a country that has been investing in ways to encourage them. They even built a lighthouse to spur human procreation for crying out loud!

Needless to say, I believe that life begins at conception. Just as the heavens declare the glory of God so does his earthly creation. It is by God’s will and power that the unborn are formed in the womb. Every human fetus carries the breath of life and is purposed to become a light in the world. Every child born is like a ray of light from heaven; a testimony of God’s creative power and the proclamation of His love for life.

Unfortunately, there will always be those who disparage life, whether born or unborn. The only thing that will convince them that “All Life Matters” is a direct revelation from the living God. Therefore, we who have become the light of the world need to continuously pray for and not attack or ignore them. We are to love and engage them in meaningful, not quarrelsome, conversations that will lead them to consider the value of human life at every stage.

So, let us celebrate life as we see God’s light shining through the miracle of every pregnancy. Let us support men and women who are struggling to raise their children alone. Let us encourage those who are pregnant and contemplating abortion to chose life. And let us help save lives by donating our time and funds to life promoting agencies. Here are some wonderful ways that you, your family and/or church can help promote the light of life.

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Prayer: Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, stir within me a greater appreciation for life and lead me to encourage those who deem it unimportant. Help me to truly value every human being born and unborn so that your life-giving light within me becomes a greater testimony of your love and purposeful plan for everyone. Thank you Lord, for my life. May it continue to shine for your glory. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” -Deuteronomy 30:19
“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works and that my soul knows well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” -Psalm 139:13-16 (NKJV)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” -Jeremiah 1:5
“Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself, and spreading out the earth all alone . . .'” -Isaiah 44:24 (NASV)
“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; the fruit of the womb is a reward” -Psalm 127:3 (NASV)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED

An Interceding Light

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Situated on a granite outcrop in Nova Scotia, you will find Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse. It is one of the most photographed and recognizable lighthouses in the world! This concrete and steel tower, which was built in 1915 and measures 49 feet tall, is still operational. It replaced the original wooden tower built in 1868. The lighthouse marks the eastern entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay at Peggy’s Cove, a small charming village with a narrow inlet that provides a safe haven for boats during the Atlantic’s inclement weather. The Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is definitely on my eastern seaboard lighthouse visiting list.

imag4534_1One very interesting feature about this lighthouse is what inspired me to write this devotion. Inside the tower itself, there is a small post office where visitors can send postcards and letters during the summer months. Each piece of mail receives a cancellation mark with the image of the lighthouse. How cool is that?

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse reminds me that as lighthouses for God we are more than just life-saving beacons, we are also spiritual mail carriers (intercessors). Not only should we light the way for those who are lost and guide them to the saving arms of Christ, but we should also be available to intercede for them whenever they face challenging times in life. We can, like a post office, accept their letters to God (prayer requests) and intercede on their behalf.

The ministry of intercession is not just for a specific group of people in the church. We are all called to intercede for one another in prayer. Sure, we may pray for our family and friends and hopefully do more than just agree when someone randomly asks us to pray for them. But to intercede for others goes beyond a simple, “…and God, please bless so and so.” A heartfelt and genuine prayer of intercession is one where you bear a sense of burden and responsibility for the one(s) you are praying for. It is one where your spirit actually moans for the condition of others. As interceding lights, you and I must be able to identify with our brethren’s needs and cry out to God with and for them. And not just for those of the household of faith, but especially for the wayward and for those who haven’t experienced the love and peace of God. 

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Our prayers are a direct line to heaven and we shouldn’t selfishly spend all the time talking to God about our needs alone. Remember, there will come a day when you will also need others to intercede for you. It is not only emotionally reassuring, but also spiritually reviving to know that someone sympathizes/empathizes with your circumstance and is ready to stand in the gap for you in prayer. So, let’s learn from the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse and always be ready to shine and send letters (pray to God) on behalf of those in need.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, just as you loved me and interceded for me on the cross help me to love and intercede for others, especially for those who do not know you. Make me sensitive to their needs, Oh Lord. And may your light in me and my intercessory prayer know no boundaries so that all who you place in my path will be shown love, mercy, and grace.  Amen. 

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men…” – 1 Timothy 2:1
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” -Luke 6:31
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” – Matthew 5:44
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:7
“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” – James 5:14-16

Candy Canes, Barber Poles, and Lighthouses. Oh my!

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Our church recently sponsored an Angel Tree event for some of the kids in our community. As part of the program, we included a special segment where a storytelling candy maker (yours truly) read ‘The Legend of the Candy Cane, by Lori Walburg. Here are some photos of that fun-filled afternoon.

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There are a couple of stories regarding the true origins of the candy cane. In the Christian version, the candy was given a crook shape to remind us of the shepherds who were the first to visit the newborn King of the Jews. When you turn the cane upside down it resembles the letter ‘J’, which stands for Jesus, the name of the promised King. The candy was given red stripes to remind us of Jesus’ suffering and the blood He shed for our sins. And the white stripes are a symbol of the washing away of our sin through His atoning sacrifice on the cross. While this inspirational version may not be verifiable, its message of hope actually can be. It is found in God’s word, the Holy Bible.

With that in mind, I suppose a red and white barber pole can also remind us of God’s salvation and so can the White Shoal Lighthouse (pictured above and below). Built in 1910, this 124 feet tower, which is still operational, is located on a shoal in the northeasterly end of Lake Michigan. Although there are two other ‘barber pole’ style lighthouses in the US, this is the only one that is red and white or ‘candy cane striped.

I must admit that the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season, while hectic and exhausting, does fill the atmosphere with a sense of gratitude and joy. However, as one who has personally experienced salvation as represented by the candy cane, I can attest that the joy of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior surpasses any pleasure available to man. Unfortunately, far too many people still can not relate to the life-changing act of love that started in a manger and ended at a cross.

Every lighthouse in the world is unique in design. Not all of them have the ‘candy cane stripes’, but they all have the same purpose; to emit a light beam that guides those who are lost at sea to safety. Likewise, we may not all look the same physically and spiritually, but we all have the same purpose; to shine God’s light and guide the spiritually lost to the saving arms of Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah foretold of Jesus’ sacrifice. He said that the Messiah would endure great pain and suffering and that by his wounds we would be saved. The scourging and other brutal punishments Jesus received resulted in the shedding of his precious blood (red stripes). The blood that still heals us by granting us forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life (white stripes). At Calvary’s cross, Jesus laid down His life as a ransom for all humanity. He did it to restore our broken relationship with God and allow us to experience true hope, peace, and joy. Not only during the holidays but throughout our lifetime.

15589535_1504424709586546_3071936329821047010_nPerhaps the next time you see anything with red and white stripes you will remember the story of the candy cane. Better yet, you will be reminded that it is a message that needs to be shared with everyone who is yet to know that Jesus died in order to save us!

I pray you had a wonderful Christmas. May the new year 2017 bring you closer to God and to your loved ones. Don’t forget to share the “red and white” story that is found in God’s story book (the Bible). It is verifiable not only because it is recorded therein, but because it has and continues to change millions of lives.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his stripes (wounds) we are healed (saved).” -Isaiah 53:5 (KJV)

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USEFUL LINKS

Candy Cane History

Legend of the Candy Cane (film)
The Candymaker’s Gift

How Candy Canes are made

Spiritual Winters

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A wintry phenomenon

Like a magical tower in the land of Narnia, this beacon beckons us to marvel at the wonders of creation. Underneath this fairy-tale like facade is one of two lighthouses located on a pier in the town of St. Joseph, Michigan. Built in 1907 this range light, which is still operational, is known as the St. Joseph North Pier Outer Lighthouse. Perhaps you have already come across this or similar images which, along with an amazing drone captured video clip, has been circulating the internet since December 19th. Extreme cold weather in Lake Michigan has caused ice accretions to cover the lighthouse and pier. But more amazing than this wintry phenomenon is the fact that although everything surrounding the lighthouse is frozen its light continues to shine!

We also go through seasons

Winter is one of the seasons God established for as long as the earth remains. In the northern parts of our planet winter is usually accompanied by moderate to severe cold and icy conditions. In some cases, deep freezes can actually bring a whole populated region to a standstill. While hot summer days usually encourage people to travel to places where they can cool off (beaches, pools, air-conditioned malls) extremely cold winters discourage people from venturing out. They are forced to brave the bone-chilling weather only to go to work, school, or acquire a few essentials. Many actually feel despondent during this time of the year. Hence, the winter blues.

Just as the earth goes through seasons so do we. Many people I know and have read about have experienced fluctuating spiritual periods;  times when they have felt close to God and times when they have felt distant from any relationship with Him and even other people. While many refer to the latter as dry spells or desert times, I rather think of them as spiritual winters. Times when the blazing fire of God in our hearts gives way to soft smoldering embers. Times when the enthusiasm of gathering with other believers to worship is replaced with uncaring apathy. And times when the desire to be intimate with God in prayer and Bible reading is overtaken by sighs of despair. All of these are usually accompanied by feelings of abandonment, half-heartedness, and/or confusion. Do you know what I am talking about? If you do, you have definitely been through a spiritual winter. You are probably experiencing one right now. But don’t resign yourself to remain in that condition. It’s just for a season. 

You’re not the only one

Biblical and modern-day patriarchs of the faith have all had to endure spiritual winters of their own. I have experienced them myself. Some of the most faith-freezing times have not been so much feeling rejected by God as feeling guilty and unworthy. These are the times that I have allowed the enemy to use the memory of my past and my shortcomings to condemn me. Times when I have focused more on my failures than in the victories God has given me. Times when I have allowed the consequences of a bad choice to paralyze me instead of relying on the grace of Christ to set me free. Yet I can honestly say that my frozen faith has always, always, been thawed out by the warmth of God’s embrace. The assurance of His steadfast love has set me ablaze for Him over and over again. However, to get back to that state is not always that easy. His word, His promises, and the memory of His faithfulness have to be rooted deep in your heart in order for the Holy Spirit to use them as embers to rekindle the fire.

You can shine in spite of the weather

Granted, no one undergoing a spiritual winter has the desire let alone the energy to shine. Yet, like the St. Joseph Lighthouse we can keep shining in spite of the cold spell because the light within us is not our own, it is God’s. In the midst of our winter, we must show the world that His power is greater than any trial we can ever face. I am not suggesting that we hypocritically smile all the time and act like nothing is wrong. What I am saying is that while we can and should allow others to see our humanness, they also need to see that our faith is more than just a vocal declaration. It must be evident in the way we respond to our challenges. It must attest that we are guided by God’s faithfulness and not by our circumstances. Like Paul, we should be able to be content (to shine) in every situation, whether having abundance or suffering need. In fact, it is very likely that in our times of trouble someone somewhere is experiencing the same thing we are or even worse. That is why we must be ready to shine in spite of the weather. It might encourage you to read my devotion titled When You Are Needed The Most.

Be prepared for the inevitable

As I mentioned earlier, earth’s seasons have been established by our Creator. Spring, summer, fall, and winter are inevitable. Those who are blessed with the opportunity to experience them all know that the key to enjoying them is to be prepared for them. Just like the passionate horticulturist stays busy during the winter preparing for the spring we too need to take care of our spiritual winters lest they become a year-long condition that will end up in spiritual hypothermia. Trials will come. Jesus forewarned us about them. But He also encouraged us to keep our light shining by being of good cheer. Because he overcame the world and its challenges we too can overcome by keeping our eyes fixed on Him and our faith anchored in His promises.

As a lighthouse for God, here are a few things you can do to help you prepare for spiritual winters:

  1. Don’t stop adding oil to your lamp
    Pray even if you don’t feel like it. Remember, prayer is just talking to God. It’s OK to tell Him exactly how you feel. Even it means telling Him you don’t feel like talking to Him. Doing so still proves that you have faith that He is there and listening. You’ll be surprised what a simple and honest prayer can do. And read the Bible. Yes, read even if you are too tired, lazy, or uncaring. The word of God has the power not only to save but to heal and restore.
  2. Take proper care of your tower
    Physical health is as important as spiritual health. An unhealthy vessel is limited in what it can do for the Lord and it lacks the energy needed to properly carry out spiritual disciplines. Be serious and intentional about your diet and exercise regimen.
  3. Seek lighthouse assistants
    The Bible says victory comes through counsel. Seek advice from spiritually mature friends and church leaders. This does not mean you should become dependent on them, but rather conscious that God has placed them in your path to encourage and guide when you face trials of different kinds.
  4. Learn to detect potential malfunctions
    Winter is always preceded by falling leaves, chilly winds, and dry air. Learn to discern when the enemy is using people and situations to discourage, aggravate, and even tempt you. The bible says we are to be constantly vigilant for the enemy of our soul is looking for the opportune moment to strike. Be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit whose job is to warn, convict, and quicken you to stay away from potential spiritual downfalls. 
  5. Remember, it’s only for a season
    Winter is inevitable, but it is not forever. Every dormant tree rebuds in the spring. Whatever challenge you are facing now or may have to face in the future is only temporary. Even if your spiritual winter seems to be unending remember that in the midst of it you can still shine for God and be a witness to his loving mercy and grace. Plus, you can rest in the promise that one day every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more sickness, death, crying or pain. 

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Prayer: God of all creation, you who have set the seasons in place, grant me the strength to endure the spiritual winters in my life. Help me to keep your light shining brightly. Even in the midst of my challenging plight. Rekindle the fire of God in me, Oh Holy Spirt. And keep me from spiritual dormancy for the sake of those who depend on your light shining through me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. 

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” – Genesis 8:22
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” -Philippians 4:12
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33 (KJV)
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” -Romans 12:12
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” -Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)
“Be clear-minded and alert. Your opponent, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” -1 Peter 5:8 (ISV)
“you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” -1 Peter 5:10
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

Every Lighthouse Needs a Maria

Located on a small rock island off Cape Ann on the Massachusetts coast in the USA are these two lighthouses known as the Thacher Island Twin Lights. The original towers built in 1771 were made out of wood. These were replaced with the present 124-foot tall granite ones in 1861. The Thacher Island Lights are the tallest lighthouses in the state of Massachusetts.

An amazing story that dates back to 1864 is told about these two lighthouses. It involves Alexander Bray, a Civil War veteran who was appointed keeper of the newly constructed towers, and his wife Maria. Both lighthouses required routine maintenance on a daily basis. This was a very arduous task since it required climbing the 150 steps in each tower while carrying containers of oil to replenish the lamps in the lantern rooms. The lights needed to burn continuously and the window panes needed to be kept soot free.

aphot2Alexander had two assistant keepers. On December 21, 1864, one of them got very ill and needed to be taken to the mainland for medical attention. He and his second assistant sailed a mile across the bay with the ailing man in hopes to get him to a doctor and quickly make it back home that same day. Alexander had no choice but to leave Maria in charge of the lighthouses while he was aphot1away. Once the men got to the mainland they were able to get the necessary help in a short amount of time. But just as they were getting ready to head back to the island, a slow but steady moving snowstorm had caught up with them. Not wanting to put himself and his other worker at risk, Alexander decided to wait a couple of hours, but the storm only increased in intensity and they were unable to leave as planned. In fact, they were forced to stay on the mainland for another two days. Alexander’s heart grew weary knowing that Maria would have to take over the strenuous job of keeping both lights burning.

With the help of her 12-year-old nephew, Maria braved the wintery conditions to take care of the lighthouses. First, she would have to carry fuel up 150 stairs to the lantern room of the first tower, trim the lantern wick and clean the window panes. Then she would have to descend the same amount of stairs and battle through waist high snow drifts and bitter winds to reach the second tower which was 900 ft. away! In addition, she had to monitor the engine rooms which contained the fog signals. Oh, did I mention that she had to do this three times a day while her husband was away? But for Maria, it was more than just lending a helping hand. It was about saving the lives of mariners, including her husband’s, who depended on the lighthouses especially during stormy days like this one. 

Finally, three days later (Christmas Eve) the winds subsided and Alexander was able to set sail. Visibility was still not good, but he was able to use the glowing lights from the towers to guide him safely home. Maria’s resilience and genuine love for people allowed her to stand in the gap and help out when she was needed the most. Because of her commitment to keeping the lights burning during the storm, there were no marine casualties. 

In my devotion titled, Keeper of The Light, I explain how the Holy Spirit is the One who imag4887maintains our spiritual lighthouse. Nevertheless, it is also He who, from time to time, provides other keepers to help us when the storms of life are seemingly unbearable. These keepers are the people who stand in the gap for us when we are faint of heart. They are the ones who pray for, encourage, and help us in practical ways so that our light does not fade away. As lighthouses for God, we all need a Maria in our lives. Someone who will do whatever they can to see that we don’t lose hope when all seems hopeless. Someone who will not just say that they will pray for us, but who will make the time to pick up the phone or pay us a visit to actually pray with us. That someone would also do more than just pray. They would be a physical extension of Jesus’ hands and feet. 

cpt_1481422534059I have a Maria in my life. Her name is actually Amparo, which means protection in Spanish. She is my mom. Mom’s spiritual help has been crucial in my life, especially during a time when I left my lighthouse unattended. I met the Lord at the age of 13 and faithfully served Him through the ministry of my local church until I graduated from high school. I left home at the age of 17 to go to college and it wasn’t long before I slowly began to drift away from my faith. For the next 8 years that followed my lighthouse had ceased to shine. But my Maria wasted no time and ran to the rescue. Mom’s fervent and faithful prayers to God on my behalf are the reason why I am once again a shining lighthouse for the Lord and am sitting here writing this devotion. Her spiritual insight and words of wisdom have cleared the soot from the window panes of my heart many times. Her commitment to God and His church in spite of her many challenges have taught me to rise above my circumstances and truly live by faith and not by sight. Thank you mom, for being my Maria. 

Because we will all need a Maria in our lives we need to pursue, establish and maintain genuine and trusting relationships with other spiritually mature Christians. And we need to pray not only for God to send us a Maria but to become a Maria ourselves to other lighthouses (believers). 

Prayer: Thank you Holy Spirit for being the keeper of my light. And thank you for those who have been there for me when I have needed them the most. Help me to stand in the gap for those who may be facing storms in their lives so that together we may continue to shine your light in a dark and lost world. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” -James 5:16
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” -Galatians 6:2
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak and not to please ourselves.” -Romans 15:1 (BLB)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

 

 

 

The Hidden Lighthouse

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Nestled among two magnificent rocky mountain tops rising like gothic cathedrals out of the sea is this 40 ft. beacon known as the Skellig Michale Lighthouse. It is one of two lighthouses built in 1829 on Skellig Michale, an uninhabited steep rocky island lying off the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland. The first lighthouse, which is located at a higher elevation, has been out of commission since 1870. This one, however, has been renovated and still serves as a navigational aid to mariners.

Public visits to Skellig Michale are very limited and the lighthouse is not readily accessible as it is somewhat tucked away out of sight. The only way to reach it is by climbing a set of steep and dangerous steps that were originally constructed by 15th-century monks who once lived there. Because it is only visible from the north side of the rock island, this light has been referred to by one photographer as, “The Hidden Lighthouse.”

When I look at this inconspicuous tower hiding behind the weather battered scar-like rocks I can’t help but think of how we sometimes hide the light of Christ behind the scars of our past. While many of us wish we had never gone through some of the experiences we’ve had, some of us would be happy if we could just forget them all together. Unfortunately, we all bear the scar(s) of some undesirable past. Perhaps it was a broken relationship, a bad decision, an unexpected disappointment, a painful memory, or even an innocent mistake.

…scars are only a part of your life’s story not the end of it. 

As repentant sinners, we can rest assure that our past has been forgiven. But the truth is that sometimes it can come back to haunt us [Read Haunted Lighthouses]. Like scars, our past can leave memories that remind us of the pain and suffering we once endured. When we focus more on the reasons for our scars rather than on the fact that they are evidence of healed wounds, we can easily hide behind feelings of guilt, self-pity, and shame. These feelings cause us to hide the light of Christ within us. The same light that brought us out of darkness and into a bright, promising, and purposeful future. Don’t allow the scars of life to hide your light. Rise up to the mountain top where you can shine for all to see the NEW creation Christ has made of you. And let your scars serve only as a testimony of the healing power of His stripes. Remember, scars are only a part of your life’s story not the end of it. 

Have you or someone you know been hiding behind the scars of the past? I recommend that you not only read God’s word daily but commit it to memory and take God up on His promises. These promises include the assurance that we have been freed from the penalty of sin and no longer need to hide behind the walls of condemnation. Here is a link to a FREE 365 Promises E-Book. You can download it as PDF for your PC or as EPUB for your iPhone/Android. Enjoy! 

Prayer: Dear God, you are Jehova Rapha (The Lord who heals). Your sacrifice has healed the wounds of sin in my life. You are Jehova Or (The Lord of Light). Your salvation has rescued me from darkness and now shines upon me. Let the scars of my past only serve to remind me of your grace so that I may shine brightly and guide others to you. In the name of Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), amen! 

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. “By His stripes you are healed.” -1Peter2:24  (BSB)
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:18 (ESV)
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” -Isaiah 60:1
 -ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

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