June 6, 2012
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“Let The Lower Lights Be Burning”
Yesterday we visited Lewes Delaware which is the earliest settlement in the state. Because Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution the town refers to itself as “The First Town in the First State.” This area has two great lighthouses; the Delaware Breakwater Lighthouse (above) and the Haven of Refuge Lighthouse (right). Lighthouses are one of our favorite sights to explore when we’re near the ocean. So today we will share a message about light!
When we lived in northern Pennsylvania we often passed a roadside historical marker honoring a nineteenth century hymn writer Philip Paul Bliss. He wrote many hymns, several which are still sung today such as “Hallelujah, What a Saviour!”, “I Will Sing Of My Redeemer”, “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing” and the well-known music to “It Is Well With My Soul.” Survivors of the RMS Titanic disaster, including Dr. Washington Dodge, reported that passengers in lifeboats sang the Bliss hymn, “Pull For The Shore” as the Titanic was sinking.
Bliss often received the inspiration for a hymn, while listening to a message during a church service. Once an idea struck his alert mind, he worked rapidly usually completing both the text and the music in one sitting. I appreciate the message in a song titled “Let The Lower Lights Be Burning” based on a nautical theme and found the hymn history online.
One day, while traveling with Dwight L. Moody as the musician for an evangelistic campaign, Bliss was impressed by an illustration used by Mr. Moody for a message. Moody often told this moving true story of a violent storm on Lake Erie:
“Are you sure this is Cleveland?” asked the Captain, seeing only light from the lighthouse. “Quite sure,” replied the pilot.
“Where are the lower lights?” “Gone out, sir!”
“Can you make the harbor?” “We must, or perish, sir.”
With a strong hand and a brave heart, the old pilot turned the wheel, but alas, in the darkness he missed the channel, and, with a crash upon the rock, the boat was slivered and many a life lost in a watery grave.
“Brethren,” concluded Mr. Moody, “the Master will take care of the great lighthouse. Let us keep the lower lights burning.”
“Let the Lower Lights Be Burning” first appeared in Bliss’ earliest songbook in 1871, and later in the well-known collection, Gospel Hymns, published by Sankey and Bliss in that same year.
Nautically speaking the “lower lights” are lights apart from the lighthouse that illumine the water line. They’re the various lights from our windows, street lamps, and businesses that enable vessels to come into the harbor at night, through a narrow channel of the harbor’s mouth.
Spiritually speaking the “lower lights” are lights from individual followers of Christ who allow the light of Christ to shine through them; their words, actions, and deeds. When we, as believers, allow the life changing message of Christ to wane in our lives or behave in a manner that does not glorify Him our flame flickers. If it goes completely unchecked our light can burn out. We don’t want to bring disgrace or further the darkness but rather we want to honor the One “who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Today the Almighty God of the universe has called us to let our light shine. May we do our part to see that the “lower lights” burn brightly providing a lighted path for “some poor, fainting, struggling seaman, [that] we may rescue, we may save”!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father God, You have called us to be a chosen generation, a people set apart to show forth the praises of Christ who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Since You have enlightened our darkness we will not conceal it, but we will allow it to shine forth wherever we are; in the marketplace, in our homes, in the business place, in the neighborhood, in the voting booth, in church and wherever we have opportunity to bring forth light in this world of darkness. We can make a difference and want to do so. We want to witness faithfully of the light of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord in whose name we pray. Amen.
This house built was built in 1665, the oldest house still standing in the state of Delaware. It now serves as a historical society. The doorways were just wide enough to walk through. You can forget bringing a refrigerator or sofa through such narrow openings. One room’s ceiling was too low for Stephen to walk in. We have certainly grown over the years!
From His lighthouse ever more.
But to us He gives the keeping,
Of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning,
Send a gleam across the waves,
Some poor fainting, struggling sea man,
You may rescue, you may save.
Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar,
Eager eyes are watching, waiting,
For the lights along the shore
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother,
Some poor sailor tempest tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
With the Saviour as your pilot,
You have conquered wind and wave.
Let His brightness shine right through you,
Be a beacon light to save.
Bliss wrote many songs. See here for a list.
Mary Belle (seen in photo) is a great niece to Ira Sankey who wrote many hymn texts and musical arrangements. He and P. P. Bliss teamed up for a number of sacred hymns as they served under D.L. Moody. For a number of years we regularly visited Mary Belle before she transferred to a rehabilitation facility. Brooksyne visited her there only a few months ago; she has failed more in health but continues to let her light shine for Jesus.
“This Little Light Of Mine” Video Not specified but powerful voices. Two weeks ago I attended a conference in Washington where the preacher encouraged us to let our lights shine. He held up his index finger and waved it back and forth and we immediately made the connection to the children’s song with motions and he spontaneously led us in “This little light of mine” It was some of the best singing of the conference!
“The Lighthouse” Video Ronny Hinson He wrote this gospel song in his late teens on a piece of toilet paper. Ironically, he had never seen a lighthouse before he penned the lyrics. The song was copyrighted in 1971 and was a very popular song when we were young Christians.
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