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Let the Lower Lights Be Burning

   In the days of wooden ships, navigation across the sea was with great hazard and uncertainty. A ship approaching land on a black moonless night filled the sailors with fear and longing. Lighthouses were built on high ground, prominent points of land where the beam of light pierced through the night far out into the sea. Great joy would erupt upon first sight of this glorious gleam cutting through the wave tossed darkness. Joy was soon replaced, however, with intense focus by the helmsman on the task of steering along the meandering rocky shoreline to the safety of harbor. All hands desperately watched for the lower lights, lamps from buildings and cottages burning along the shore, so not to flounder on the rocks. The lower lights showed the way, like a corridor lighted in nighttime, to the shelter of harbor where the seamen would find salvation from the perils of a raging merciless sea.

   Philip P. Bliss listened to such a tale one evening in 1871. The sermon he heard that night spoke of a ship that had approached harbor with a pilot on board. They had spotted the warm beam of the lighthouse, but in the stormy weather and night’s darkness they could not see the lights along the shore. The captain asked the pilot if he could still make harbor even though the lower lights could not be seen. To which the pilot replied, “We must, sir, or we perish.” In the darkness without the lower lights to follow, the channel was missed, the ship struck rocks, and many lives were lost in the stormy waters. Bliss was inspired to pen the words that we find so familiar today.

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy

From His lighthouse evermore,

But to us He gives the keeping

Of the lights along the shore.

Lighthouse - There are many lost souls in the world today looking for a way out of darkness, a lighthouse on the shore, the way to salvation. Where do they look? Where do they turn? Jesus tells us that He is the light of life in the darkness of sin and despair. He will lead us to salvation. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Lower Lights – Jesus has chosen us to be the lower lights that guide the lost to harbor. He tells us in Matthew 5: 14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Dark the night of sin has settled,

Loud the angry billows roar;

Eager eyes are watching, longing,

For the lights along the shore.


   Like the sailors of the song, we seek salvation at the end of life. Our harbor of safety is in heaven with God and all the saved. The entrance to the harbor is narrow, however, and difficult to reach, the passage filled with hazards. But find the harbor we must, or we perish! "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it, because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life and there are few who find it" (Matt. 7:13-14).

    Jesus is our light, and we are the lower lights that guide the lost toward the harbor of safety. “For you are all children of light,” 1 Thess 5:5. Like the nursery rhyme says, “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

What role do we play in bringing lost souls to the Lord? For one, our life should provide an example to follow. Though we often may overlook the power of our influence, may we be reminded that our example either draws people to God through word and deed, or it leads lost souls to destruction through sinful living. We must live in such a way as to bring glory to God and bring souls to obey Him. We must share the gospel with the lost.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;

Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,

Trying now to make the harbor,

In the darkness may be lost.

   The Bible reveals the way from darkness to light. The Apostle Paul telling others of his vision on the road to Damascus shared these words which Jesus spoke to him: “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:18).

Let the lower lights be burning!

Send a gleam across the wave!

Some poor fainting, struggling seaman

You may rescue, you may save.

   We are “lights” in the same sense as the moon gives light. The moon is not a source of light; it merely reflects the light of the sun. We reflect the light of Jesus as individuals and as a congregation. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:8-11).  We are sons and daughters of light. How bright do we burn?

- Danny Pickett