How many light bulbs have you had to change in your lifetime? In today’s world, LED light bulbs will only have to be replaced, on average, every 20 years or so. Yet, until just recently, it was commonplace to have to replace the light bulbs in our lamps and fixtures every several months, depending on usage.
In sharp contrast, shining brightly beyond the expectations of any modern bulb, the Centennial Light Bulb has been faithfully casting light for the Livermore Fire Department for over 120 years without burning out.
A website dedicated to the Centennial Bulb reports,
[It was] first installed at the fire department hose cart house on L Street in 1901. Shortly after it moved to the main firehouse on Second. In 1903 it was moved to the new Station 1 on First and McLeod, and survived the renovation of the Firehouse in 1937, when it was off for about a week. During its first 75 years it was connected directly to the 110 Volt city power, (subject to the power outages), and not to the back-up generator for fear of a power surge. In 1976 it was moved with a full police and fire truck escort, under the watch of Captain Kirby Slate, to its present site at Fire Station 6, 4550 East Ave., Livermore, California. It was then hooked to a separate power source at 120V, and UPS according to Frank Maul, Retired City Electrician. There was one interruption in May, 2013, when the UPS failed and it was off for at least 9 1/2 hours.
People are drawn to the light. They come from far and wide to see it burning, and a “bulb cam” was even installed for online viewing.
It seems that light bulbs were invented, from the beginning, with he capacity for great longevity. And while Thomas Edison et al invented the rudimentary bulb, it was the work of Professor Adolphe A. Chaillet and the Shelby Electric Company who invented and developed the improved filament that allowed for seemingly perpetual illumination.
So why has this one bulb lasted decades beyond even our most efficient, modern fixtures? The answer is “Planned Obsolescence.” You see, providing a bulb with seemingly perpetual illumination is not necessarily a profitable venture.
According to various dictionaries, “Planned Obsolescence” can be defined as “a policy of producing consumer goods that rapidly become obsolete and so require replacing, achieved by frequent changes in design, termination of the supply of spare parts, and the use of nondurable materials.”
Enter the Phoebus Cartel.
The Phoebus Cartel was a cartel that existed to control the manufacture and sale of incandescent light bulbs by appropriating market territories and fixing the useful life of such bulbs. … The cartel included manufacturers Osram, General Electric, Associated Electrical Industries, and Philips, among others. … [By] 1924, the main bulb manufacturers in America and Europe secretly formed a cartel to limit the average life of lamps to 1,000 hours,” thus ensuring the re-marketability of the product (though it's no longer legal to do so, at least not here in the U.S.).
So while Edison’s original commercial lightbulb from 1881 lasted up to 1500 hours, others began marketing bulbs that lasted nearly double that. Then, by the turn of the new century, Challet’s bulb was lasting for … well … it continues to burn today. Where’s the profit in that?! You’d never need to buy another bulb in your lifetime!
But even with the introduction of LED bulbs, we’re still not seeing the mass production of bulbs with the durability and longevity of the Livermore Fire Department’s Centennial Bulb.
Light bulbs are ubiquitous. They’re an everyday necessity of life. So, why do people come from far and wide to see the Centennial Light Bulb? Why are people drawn to this light and not to others? Well, it hasn't failed in 120 years! By comparison, every other light bulb is inferior. This difference is remarkable enough to catch the world's attention.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV).
Christians aren't the only people who perform good works. However, there is a different quality to the love that Christians are called to share, one that causes it to stand out. The sacrificial nature of Jesus' love for the whole world sets the tone for the Christian calling. And because our love is a reflection of Jesus' love, it is not in pursuit of personal gain — so there's no "planned obsolescence" here!
Indeed, the light we bear is the light of God; it will never burn out. God intends our light to burn brightly from now into eternity.
People are drawn to the light. Be the light! Be the bulb that outshines all the others!
“That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
“For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:47, ESV).
You know, as I was thinking about the promised reward found in Matthew 5:12, it made me think of the work I am currently doing as a preschool teacher. Now, most days at work are pretty OK - the people are friendly, the kids are behaving well, and it’s just a normal day.
But then there are some days when it feels really difficult. Maybe it's that I’m not getting along well with one of my co-workers, or maybe the kids are being particularly naughty that day, or maybe it’s just one of those super busy days - and I find myself getting irritated, frustrated, tired, and grumpy.
Now, do you know what always helps to lift my mood? I just think about payday. I imagine that there is a day coming when I’m going to be paid for all of my trouble. Now maybe that doesn't make the problem go away - but it does a lot in changing my attitude toward the problem.
The kind of reward that Jesus promises in Matthew 5:12 is far greater than a temporary paycheck at the end of the month. Here, Jesus is talking about a heavenly reward. In fact, Jesus calls it a great reward. It is far, far better than any good thing you and I can think or imagine. And this blessing, this reward that Jesus is talking about, is forever!
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12, NIV).
Pastor and author, Mark Batterson, shares a story of unbelievable odds and determination:
On January 19, 1844, a man named John C. Fremont attempted something that had never been done before: crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the dead of winter. Irving Stone describes it as "the longest seventy miles in the history of exploration." Those who tried to cross the mountains suffered snow blindness, hypothermia and near starvation. In the end, three men, Kit Carson, Broken Hand Fitzpatrick, and John C. Fremont made it over those mountains, and when they did, the last barrier to westward expansion was breached. The mountains were no longer impassable or impossible. I love the phrase that Irving Stone used to describe these men and this moment. It became the title of his book. He said, "The men matched the mountains."
[Mark Batterson is an American pastor and author. Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.]
"Here's a thought," Batterson concludes, "the obstacle is not the enemy, the obstacle is the way!"
All of us face mountains, mountains of anxiety or addiction, mountains of depression or fear or shame. You can't let that mountain intimidate you. At some point, enough is enough. …
That mountain is going to make you a bigger person. You're going to have a testimony on the other side!
Indeed, the obstacle is not the enemy, The obstacle is the way!
The way to endurance! The way to spiritual growth and maturity! The way to completeness in Christ!
Be the man who matches the mountain. Conquer the obstacles to your own spiritual expansion. By the grace of God, the mountains you face are neither impassable nor impossible. They are the way!
"Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).