Smoke alarm
Pause for thought

No substitutes!

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Beep! (Please no!) Beep!

A smoke detector started beeping and woke me at 2 am. I am a “night owl” and had just gone to bed 30 mins previously.

I knew there wasn’t a fire because it was not producing the piercing shriek that wakes everyone in the neighborhood, but rather it was just a loud, obnoxious “beep” once every three minutes. Unfortunately, I’ve had experience with this before and once it got me awake I knew there was no sleep for me unless and until I got out of bed and did something about it. Arghh!

Our building codes and regulations require that we have smoke detectors, as well as carbon monoxide detectors at strategic points in our house. The CO detectors are easy to get to since they are installed at floor level, but the smoke detectors, all six of them, are on the ceilings and the highest is eighteen feet (5.5 meters for readers in Europe) above the floor! They all make exactly the same beep! I had to check them all.

So, after getting out of bed and retrieving my trusty step ladder, I was relieved to find the culprit was only ten feet (3.1 m) above my head. I removed it from its mount, opened it up and removed the batteries. Peace at last! Back to bed!

However in the morning when I went to replace the batteries I noticed the warning on the inside. It said to use only a specific make, brand and size of battery as they would not guarantee proper functioning otherwise.

A quick search on Amazon produced a three page listing of cheaper substitutes, but alas none of them would bring the guarantee that the required battery would entail.

I recount this narrative because at that moment it struck me that, especially at Christmas time, this world is insistently and persistently offering just about every substitute imaginable. We are awash in alternative products and philosophies. Satisfaction, peace, contentment and happiness is promised in all shapes and sizes, types and conditions, in any color you’d like to choose. “Joy!”, proclaims my neighbor’s Christmas decoration on his front lawn. “Happy Holidays!” is playing on Spotify and the radio. Santa Claus is making a list and checking it twice! Frosty the Snowman will delight us with his antics (before melting away when the sun shines). Rudolph still doesn’t need GPS to find his way to your rooftop (even if you no longer have a chimney!). Our houses are festively decorated with enough lights to be seen from outer space!

I think it’s because at the onset of winter we are desperate for relief from the darkness. We instinctively know we need hope and happiness. We need warmth and light. We want joy! But unfortunately all these substitutes can actually produce is dyspepsia, credit card bills and inordinate invoices from our utility providers. Any guarantees of satisfaction, joy and happiness are illusionary and empty. The substitutes won’t, can’t, and don’t fulfill their promises!

Shortly after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Peter and John were required to give a defense of proclaiming Jesus as Messiah before the Supreme Court in Israel. There had just been a spectacular demonstration of spiritual power in the healing of a man unable to walk for the forty years of his life. Ordinary people were ecstatic and praising God exuberantly — always worrying for these spiritual “leaders”. The Judges on the bench included Annas and Caiaphas who were responsible for handing Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion. Peter and John, undeterred and filled with the Holy Spirit, told the judges what they most definitely did NOT want to hear:

Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed…” [Acts 4:8-12 NIV]

And then Peter spells out the terms of the guarantee:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. [Acts 4:12 NIV]

The judges of the court desperately wanted a substitute Messiah, a cheaper Messiah, a less demanding Messiah, a Messiah who would conform to their cherished notions of what God should do for them and their plans. But Peter pointed out the truth: substitute messiahs are all inferior and doomed to fail — only Jesus offers a guarantee of salvation from the horrors of darkness, oppression and injustice in this world. Although the world will try to offer up substitutes, there is no viable alternative. We have to accept or reject the love offered by the Son of God. Only He is the Way, the Truth and the Life! No other Name guarantees salvation!

You too may be looking for a substitute Messiah. You may be enticed or seduced by the lies of this world for an easier life. But ultimately that is an exercise in futility. You are worth far too much to settle for inferior substitutes! Instead, power up your life with the real thing, the Holy Spirit is giving you a guarantee! Accept no substitutes!

Beep! That was your spiritual detector giving you a warning to check your power source! No sleep for you until you do something about it!

Blessings on you and yours! Jim Black

Sunday December 19th, 2021
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Sunday December 5th, 2021
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