©Danny Hahlbohm. All rights reserved to the artist.
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105
Theyíve stood majestic on the cliffs and beaches of our seashores for centuries, forever the guardianís of the seas, lighting the way to safety through storms, tempest, fog and fear. Stately they stand through time, their stripes and bright colors making them uniquely individual so anyone who knows the seashores can know exactly where they are simply by the appearance of the lighthouse. Their lamps, so brilliantly bright, slice their way through the worst of conditions and eliminate fear for anyone who chooses to keep their eyes and navigation toward the light. The lighthouse has a way of drawing us to an admiration of awe and peace. Millions visit them year round to climb their majestic steps and see what they see. We decorate our homes and offices with their likeness and something about them brings us peace so deeply within. They represent hope and survival. Still, many mariners have perished in shipwrecks through the centuries and many excavations of these places tend to prove that they were so close to safety. Perhaps they didnít see the lamps of the sea. Perhaps they saw the lamps, but miscalculated their locations. Perhaps they saw the lamps but chose to ignore itís beacon believing they could make it on their own.
We read these stories with such sadness at the loss of life in these shipwrecks. These stories have always fascinated me because of the sheer mystery of them. I find myself wondering and trying to feel what the Captain, crew and passengers must have been feeling. The amazing "if onlyís".
In the bible we find many stories of shipwrecks. The disciples were fisherman and acutely acquainted with the perils of the sea. In fact, in the gospels are the stories of Jesus asleep on the ships while the storms were so bad around them that the disciples accused him of total indifference to their plight and fear of shipwreck. Jesus calms the seas in each story with "peace, be still" and completely amazes the disciples.
Paul knew what it was like to be shipwrecked (2 Cor 11:25) and used this experience allegorically when he said "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck". 1 Timothy 1:18,19.
John 1:1-5 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not."
Lighthouses have always been, to me, the most profound physical representation of Jesus. When I see one and experience itís grandeur and mystery, I know that there is no storm that could possibly come my way that, if I look for it, can always find him shining, lighting my way to safety. I believe the psalmist also had this knowledge and understanding of God when he wrote the title verse, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path". Psalm 119:105.
It makes me so deeply sad to look at the buildings we call churches and talk to the multitudes I have met along the way who attend meetings in these buildings, call themselves Christians, read and study their bibles, and still make shipwrecks of their faith. The Christian community is so sick these days, that many of them now have their own psychology counseling centers for the depressed. If the truth of the gospel was being preached in these places, there would be no need for these centers. I know, because Iíve been there......
The first time I can remember thinking about Jesus, I was about 9 years old. I remember looking out my bedroom window one night and looking at the stars and the moon. I remember they seemed exceptionally bright that night. I sat under my window and thought about God and the wonders of this sight. How many billions of points of light there were, shining so brightly that they could be seen from so many, many unfathomable miles away....and there were so many of them. I can remember so clearly singing in my head the song from Bible School we had sung that day, "This Little Light of Mine, Iím Gonna Let it Shine", and wondering what that really meant. And, if Jesus was the light of the world, then which one of those was he? The moon maybe? It was the brightest. Ever since then, I suppose I knew that my journey in life would be to find the answer to that question, who is Jesus and what does he want from me? What is the light thing all about?
When I was 15, like a good Baptist, I walked down an aisle one Wednesday night during "Just as I Am" and gave my "heart" to Jesus. With determination in my heart and a burning desire to reach the "lost" I set out with my little New Testament and went door to door in our town to witness to people. I can remember the "Roman Road" to salvation even today like it was yesterday. I was determined to snatch the human race from the fires of hell and have them experience this wonderful new life I had found. Oh, the innocence of youth...... No way would I have ever guessed the path God would take me down that led me to this place now. Unlike Paul, I have not been physically tortured or beaten, shipwrecked or left for dead, or thrown into prison. But I have experienced the depths of depression, disillusionment, grief, fear, and confusion that doctrines of men and doctrines of devils can create. I have stood so many times on the pinnacle of despair and hopelessness, not even finding comfort in the Bible or prayer. Iíve been through the "Christian Counseling" programs and the "Pastorís Study" more times that I can count. I know what it means and feels like to be totally and utterly rejected by everyone you ever loved, and finally the abandonment of the Spirit of God. Now I know why.......
The truth of Jesus, and who he is cannot be found in any book or any man. It can only be found within your own human heart, when one finally decides that all the counselors, counseling centers, pastors, teachers, churches, congregations, bibles, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, and children cannot now, nor ever will be able to give us what we need. It comes only in the total surrender and abandonment of self. When we choose to throw out anything and everything we ever knew to be true of God and look at it all fresh and new. In this place is absolute fear, and in this place we find that perfect love that casts out fear. Itís the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path.
Have you ever been in the woods at night? What about revisiting a childhood path that has become so overgrown youíve gotten lost? Or how about walking on a dark and lonely road in the middle of nowhere when you ran out of gas or your car broke down? Maybe walking along a lonely stretch of seashore at sunset looking for shells and look up to find that itís dark and you donít know where in the world you are or how to get back? When Iím lost and alone, my first instinct is to find some source of light and then look for something familiar.
Jesus said "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matt 7:14. The path of the truth of Jesus has become so completely hidden by the forests and briars of the doctrines of men and devils that only the few will be able to find it. The bibles we have today are polluted and corrupted by translations of men and religions. The only reliable source we should depend on is Jesus through the Holy Spirit. He told us that he is the Word and the Light of the world. He told us that when the Holy Spirit comes he would teach us and guide us into ALL truth. Iím not saying not to read the bible. I am saying that it is not infallible as I believed for so many years. Thatís one of the hardest truths to swallow. The Holy Spirit will quicken in us whatís true and what is manís words when we read it.
We must do the same thing Paul told Timothy, and fight a good war of faith. We must "earnestly contend for the faith which was ONCE delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). That "we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph 4:14) and therefore not shipwreck our faith. We must not take everything we read and hear to be truth, but must by prayer, with fear and trembling, work out our salvation and let the light of God keep us on the path, one step at a time. As a very good friend pointed out to me recently, when we shine a light on a path, the light only spreads out just far enough for us to move forward, but never illuminates too far ahead. He said God is like that with us, if he showed us too far ahead on the path, we would not need to trust him.
I have learned not to rebuild the ships that I wrecked along the way when I failed to follow the light of the path in the storms. For rebuilding the same ships only set me up for failure and future shipwrecks. Instead, I built a new ship on a new and living foundation, and Jesus is at the helm. Now, when I look at a lighthouse and remember the storms in my life, and the many shipwrecks of my faith because I failed to follow the light in the storms, I am thankful that my heavenly Father loves me so much that He never let me perish. As I continue to look for the truth on his path, sometimes I stumble and fall. Sometimes, I get scraped up pretty bad and sometimes I need some time for healing before I continue on. But I never take my eyes off the light. It ever remains in my hands and before my eyes, and I know that as long as I can see the light ahead and the lamp at my feet, then I can see where I am going - and I am not afraid. I now have perfect love.
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