Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Miscellaneous (page 2 of 7)

A New Communion Hymn

Today I share the words of a new communion hymn written by my good friend, John McGarvey, pastor of the Cochranton Alliance Church in Cochranton, PA. They are to be sung to the tune of Come All Christians Be Committed. May your heart be warmed for your next celebration of the Lord’s Supper.


Gather at the Table

We have come to give attention
To the story of the cross
Where our Savior laid His life down,
Willingly for all the lost.
But our minds are so distracted,
And our hearts are drawn to sin,
So we gather at the table
To remind ourselves again.

Come and see God’s gracious working
On behalf of sinful man
Come and give your full attention
To the gospel truth again.
When our hearts become complacent
And our worship has grown dull
We will gather at the table
Till our hungry hearts are full.

We have come to share the supper,
Come to hear the truth retold,
Come to see and taste and handle
These reminders from of old,
For our senses are bombarded
With the vain pursuits of men
So we gather at the table
To remind ourselves again.

Turn aside, for God is calling;
Come and see what He has done!
For His presence is among us
And we stand on holy ground.
Come and ponder all the mysteries
Of His matchless love and grace.
Let us gather at the table
For He meets us in this place.

Life after the Election

Well that certainly was interesting. What an election year we’ve seen! Surprise and shock is the response of a great many Americans, even those who voted for President Elect Trump.


As followers of Christ we must ask, “What now?” “How are we to live following this election?”

God left us clear guidance through the pen of the Apostle Paul as he instructed Titus on how to guide the new believers on the island of Crete to live out their faith in Christ while living under difficult leaders in a difficult time (Titus 3:1-8). Here God tells us …

There are certain DEMANDS that rest upon us as Christian citizens. We are in constant need of being reminded of these demands (“Remind them to be …” v.1a). Among these are …

  • Submission (“to be submissive to rulers and authorities,” v.1b)
  • Obedience (“to be obedient,” v.1c)
  • Good works (“be ready for every good work,” v.1d)
  • Gracious speech (“to speak evil of no one,” v.2a), and …
  • Peacemaking (“to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people,” v.2b).

There are certain REASONS why God calls us to live in this way as Christian citizens in whatever country we may find ourselves.

  • Christians have a past (“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another,” v.3)

Before Christ’s grace we were …

Deficient (“foolish”)

Disobedient (“disobedient”)

Deceived (“led astray”), and …

Dominated (“slaves to various passions and lusts”)

  • Christians have grace (vv.4-7)

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

This is a MANDATE under which we must live as Christian citizens. This mandate is …

  • Obligatory, not optional: “This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things” (v.8a)
  • Exclusive, for no one else can fulfill this for us: “… so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (v.8b)
  • Strategic, not insignificant: “These things are excellent and profitable for people” (v.8c)

What Abraham Lincoln said in calling the nation to a day of fasting and prayer in 1863 is still true of us today:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

May we as followers of Christ lead the way in repentance, prayer, and good works. And may God once again bless America.

Interview: The Place of Bible Commentaries

I was recently a guest on the Emmaus Project Podcast where Caleb Hilbert interviewed me regarding the  value and role of the Bible commentaries. My part begins at 47:45.


Torturing History

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these? ‘For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)


There is a valid place for the discipline of history. It is wisdom to learn from the past. The whole of the Old Testament calls for a reciting of God’s mighty deeds to a new generation. The psalmist rightly cried, “O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old” (Psalm 44:1) and longs for God to so move in the present generation.

Nostalgia, however, is a different matter and is neither wise nor helpful. Mark Buchannan insightfully writes, “. . . the past was never as clean and bright as we remember it . . . He who waxes nostalgic will usually, in time, turn bitter about how the past won’t return to him . . . the church of our summertime, whether we’re still in it or long ago moved on, seems holier and truer than wherever we are now” (Spiritual Rhythm, pp.119, 120).

He is correct. History, like statistics, will tell you anything you anything you want it to say, if you torture it enough. Sometimes we’re guilty of torturing the past until it speaks to our vanity, praises us, and describes to us an air-brushed version of events.

We need the ability to look back with gratitude, instead of with wistfulness over why things aren’t the same anymore and instead of with anger at those who seem to stand in the way of the old times returning. Gratitude recognizes God’s hand in the good. Wistfulness grieves a loss in a way that never allows us to move on. Anger dishonors the good we’ve experienced and blocks any chance of further good in the present.

The ability to look back with gratitude and yet still look around in thankfulness is a Spirit-enabled grace. For this we need God’s present enabling.

Lord, thank you for so many good memories of past graces. But enable me, please, to live fully in the present that I might taste further and more fully of your goodness. Amen.

An Intolerant Take on Tolerance

Recently I picked up a small volume from a stack of books marked, “Free for the taking.” I did so because I recognized the author: Vance Havner. I’ve heard a hand full of recorded messages by Rev. Havner, but only read a few bits and pieces of his works. I’d found his razor sharp insight delivered with country wit rather refreshing. So I thought I’d give Jesus Only a try. When I came to chapter 10 I thought I might be reading something as contemporary as a blog written this week. Change a few of the labels and names and the prophetic insight is startling … and, again, refreshing. The message was originally published in 1946, but it could have been just this morning. I reproduce a rather lengthy section in which Rev. Havner speaks to the matter of tolerance and intolerance.

“The New Testament Church was an intolerant church. At once we throw ourselves open to a broadside of protest. ‘Intolerant’ is a scandalous word to use these days, for if there is anything that is in style among our ‘progressive’ churches it is that word ‘tolerance.’ You would think that intolerance was the unpardonable sin. We are majoring as never in church history on being broad-minded. That we have become so broad we have become also pitifully shallow never seems to disturb us. We must ‘broaden or bust.’ Of course, some experts in tolerance can be amazingly intolerant of those who do not share their broad-mindedness, but that does not disturb them either.

There is, of course, a false, pharisaic intolerance that has no place in a true church. And one encounters it again and again among conservative Christians. It has brought about the remark that the modernists are arid and the fundamentalists are acrid, that the former lack clarity and the latter charity. It has nicknamed the fundamentalists ‘feudamentalists’ and gotten them a reputation for spending so much time sniping at each other that they have little time left to go after the devil.

But there is a proper intolerance, and the New Testament Church had it. They were intolerant of any way of salvation except Jesus Christ. ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). That makes it straight and narrow, and it isn’t what you are hearing in some localities these days. You are hearing that Jesus is the best way but that other ways are good and will lead to God just the same. Union meetings of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews create the impression that a general faith in God is enough without specific faith in Christ. Now, that cannot be true if no man comes to the Father but by Christ. The devils believe that there is one God and tremble: men believe it and do not even tremble, but expect to reach heaven by theism instead of by Calvary.

The New Testament Church was also intolerant of anything that threatened to compromise this Gospel of No Other Name. In Galatia men tried to mix a little legalism, and in Colosse they were slipping in a bit of false mysticism—and Paul would have none of it. He could have been very ‘lovely’ about it and stylishly tolerant, and he could have said nothing about it. I am sure that some of the false teachers must have accused him of seeing bugaboos and hobgoblins. He could have told Timothy to play ball with the apostates of his day, but, instead, he wrote, ‘From such turn away.’ He advised Titus to reject a heretic after the first and second admonition, which sounds uncomfortably intolerant. And even the gentle John forbade hospitality to those who abode not in the doctrine of Christ, asserting that ‘he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.’ To be sure, we are not advised to bawl him out and throw stones after him until he is out of sight: but neither is there any encouragement for that fashionable modern fellowship with unbelievers.

The New Testament Church was intolerant of sin in its midst. When serious trouble first showed up in Ananias and Sapphira it was dealt with in sudden and certain terms. When immorality cropped out in Corinth Paul delivered the offender to the devil for destruction of his flesh. It was in line with our Lord’s teaching on discipline in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. To be sure, it was to be done in love and tenderness, and the brother overtaken in a fault was to be restored by the spiritual ones, and Paul was quick to recommend the restoration of the Corinthians brother. But, still, sin was not to be glossed over and excused as we condone it today in our churches until liars, gamblers, drunkards, and divorcees fill prominent places in Sunday schools and on boards and have never as much as heard that we must be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord. We have let the camel get his foot in the door and then his head, until now the whole camel is inside and along with him other animals far more unsavory. Peter added even hogs and dogs to our spiritual zoology, and the lambs today are so mixed with every other species that what was once a sheepfold has become a zoo. Our Lord warned us that the shepherd who did not stand his ground when the wolves appeared was only a hireling. We are bidden to feed Hi sheep but not to feed wolves. I grant you that it is often a complicated problem and can be handled only on one’s knees. But we are paying an awful price today for our sweet tolerance of sin within the Church. If the church of the Acts had overlooked iniquity and by-passed evil and smilingly looked the other way while the devil sneaked into every phase of her life as we have done today, Christianity would have died in infancy.

The New Testament Church had a healthy, holy intolerance. It got somewhere because it started out on a narrow road and stuck to it. It might easily have taken up a dozen wide boulevards and ended in destruction. We face the peril of the wide gate and the broad way today, and it tantalizes us all the more because ‘many there be which go in thereat.’ We were told a long time ago that ‘few there be’ who take the S. and N. the Straight and Narrow. We Americans especially are gregarious; we like to run with the crowd. We had rather be called almost anything on earth than narrow; yet our Lord chose the adjective, and faithfulness to Him will prove that it still fits today.

I am sure that there were those who called the Early Church ‘exclusive,’ and predicted that it would never get anywhere until it became inclusive. ‘Exclusive’ is another word that is anathema today and has been shoved into the limbo of the outmoded, along with ‘intolerant’ and ‘narrow.’ But the New Testament Church was the most exclusive fellowship on earth. It was not just a society of people with good intentions. It was not a club for improving the old Adam. It was a fellowship of people who believed in Jesus Christ as the one and only Saviour. It seemed not to have a chance in the face of the great Roman world. It could easily have let down the bars and taken in all sorts of religiously minded folk, but it stuck to ‘Jesus Only.’ A river may look very lovely spread out all over a marsh, but to generate power it must narrow itself. We have endeavored to spread out the river today. We have sacrificed death for width and instead of a power dam we have a stagnant swamp.” (pp.60-63)

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