Friday November 28, 2014


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Shine the light

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While vacationing in Oregon a couple of years ago, my family visited the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

A tour guide told us that when this particular lighthouse started, it had a lantern that produced a light that could be seen approximately 21 miles from the shore. As time went by, the lantern was replaced by an electric light bulb that was twice as bright as the flame. When the bulb was installed, the light could also be seen 21 miles from shore.

Then the bulb was upgraded again, and once tested, the light could still be seen 21 miles from shore. Finally, a 1,000-watt bulb, which produced about ten times as much light as the original, was installed, and that light could be seen, you guessed it, about 21 miles out on the ocean.

How could that be? Why would a stronger light not be seen further away? Well, it has to do with the curvature of the earth. The light, no matter how bright it was, could only be seen 21 miles out because after that, the ships were too low on the horizon, and the beam would go over their heads.

Of course, the brighter lights were more easily seen on foggy days or in a storm, but on a clear day it made no difference. As long as the lighthouse had some sort of light, big or small, it was visible 21 miles away.

Sometimes in churches, we tend to focus on big contributions. We tend to value the spectacular over the ordinary and every day stuff, and sometimes that makes people think that they have very little to offer. However, as my lighthouse story suggests, as long as you shine the light, it is going to be effective.

In Matthew 25, during a series of teachings about the second coming, Jesus talks about two groups of people: one that is blessed and gets to spend eternity in God's kingdom, and the other that is separated from God for all eternity. What is it that makes the difference?

Jesus said, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me" (Matthew 25:35-36).

The simple lesson: if you can do the big things then do them, but do not neglect the small things just because they are small.

Lights, no matter what size, are equally visible.

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