Word for Wednesday

January 27th, 2021

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Revelation 22:21

Have you ever thought about what you would like to say for your very last words? Assume you are on your deathbed and your last strength is ebbing away, you open your mouth and say – what? Do you shout defiance against the disease that is claiming you? Do you whisper words of comfort and farewell to loved ones? Do you quote a favourite verse of Scripture that has sustained you throughout life? Books have been written about the words spoken by famous – and infamous – people as they were expiring. Last words are important. And when we come to the Word of God, the last words are particularly powerful and sweet!

Today’s text comes at the end of John’s description of the revelation he received while exiled on Patmos. This verse is the final breathing of the Holy Spirit as He moved the last of the holy men of God to speak. In a way, this verse encapsulates the entire of Scripture that comes before it, because it speaks of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. No more glorious theme can we take into our minds and hearts and on our lips! His grace tells us that He came to dwell amid us in our poverty, and through His poverty elevating us to righteousness that we might dwell forever with Him.

God’s desire is that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ would be with us all. This being the case, we need to remind those who do not know of this grace of its availability. These last words are a call to zeal in the Gospel as well as a call to conformity with the Saviour. It is also a call for us who have entered into this grace to appreciate it and know more of it. This final verse of Scripture takes us back to the rest of the Book, that we might know more about the Lord.

Yes, God will speak again, with a voice that splits the heavens and calls us Home. But even that Word is wrapped up in today’s text, the last words of Scripture. May we treasure them today as they remind us of undeserved eternal blessings. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

January 26th, 2021

As ye also learned of Epaphras, our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ. Colossians 1:7

Very little is known about Epaphras, other than this mention here, again at the end of the epistle, and again at the end of Philemon. But Paul obviously put a great stock in this man and was pleased to mention his name to the folks in Epaphras’ hometown of Colosse. Paul appreciated him as a fellowservant and a fellow prisoner, and no doubt his company and spirit were a great comfort to Paul. But to Colosse, he is described as a faithful servant. There is a desperate shortage of men of his ilk these days.

In what ways was Epaphras faithful? For one, we know he was faithful in his responsibility to the Assembly in Colosse. Although he shared a prison cell with Paul in Rome, he remained faithful in prayer for his home Assembly. He also brought the Assembly’s needs before Paul, and as a result, we have this lovely epistle. Although no doubt lavish in his praise, Epaphras was honest in his description of Colosse’s saints. We need people like this today, to take a care and build up the Assembly, doing what they can to be a help.

I am sure that Epaphras was also faithful in his prayers for the Assembly. And he would have been faithful in his ministry to the saints there. He would have delivered clear, scriptural messages and faithfully corrected whatever wrongs he could discern and deal with. He was a faithful shepherd who cared for the flock. Assembly oversight could learn a few lessons from this good man.

Epaphras was undoubtedly also faithful in his devotion to and teaching about the Assembly. Amid all of the error that was floating through the early church, here was a voice that delivered sound instruction, clear regarding the divine principles of New Testament gatherings of the Lord’s people. As much as anything, we need men to teach these principles today, as young folk in our assemblies struggle with the identity of God’s Assembly.

Do you know a faithful servant such as Epaphras? Thank God for him. Are you a faithful servant such as Epaphras? I thank God for you. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

January 25th, 2021

Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. Colossians 4:14

I sent a birthday greeting to former prime minister John Diefenbaker when he was about to turn 80, because my friend and MP Bob Howie told me The Chief always personally acknowledged every piece of mail he received. Bob said the response would make a nice souvenir. I did get a response: a form letter that Diefenbaker sent to everybody who sent him a birthday card, and a small book with a thank you, personally directed to me, written on the fly leaf. It was more than I expected and I was delighted. Have you ever received a greeting or message from somebody famous? Imagine how the folks in Colosse felt to receive – in Paul’s letter to them – a greeting from the great Dr. Luke! This was an important man in the Christian community, a writer of two of the major books of the New Testament, a man who had met and known the Lord Jesus, and a close confidante of many of the apostles. But he was not above noticing and greeting the folks in a faraway colony. Are we always as humble as Luke?

Who is there in your neighbourhood or workplace that is beneath your dignity to speak to or lend a hand to? There are some people we need to avoid for various reasons, but it should never be because we are above the need to notice them. We have nothing to be proud about. Luke, before he was saved, was just as lost a sinner as anyone in the community, and so were we. Only the grace of God has given us a right standing before God. A humble spirit of friendliness and care for everyone is a wonderful testimony to the grace of God and enables us to witness for our Lord.

Surely there is nobody in your Assembly that you would not personally and sincerely greet each time you meet. Ouch! We all know of individuals within Assemblies who don’t speak to each other, or who speak as seldom and little as possible. This is not right. It is especially wrong when the broken communion is because of pride on the part of one or both persons. Nobody in our Assembly deserves to be there, and nobody in our Assembly is any better or any more important than anybody else. We should be honoured to be able to greet and commune with each and every saint.

If we could see how unworthy we are of God’s grace and see how wonderfully God has lifted up each of the other Christians into His own royal family, we would seek to greet them all, and be delighted that they would ever be glad to commune with us. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

January 24th, 2021

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

After the First World War, the Allied powers determined that Germany was required to pay reparations of 6.6 billion pounds, or $33 billion US. Although the payments were interrupted during the Nazi regime of Hitler and during the period in which Germany was divided, payments resumed after reunification in 1990, and Germany is believed to have paid off the last of the debt in 2010, more than 90 years after the Treaty of Versailles established the amount. As the loser in that war, Germany has had to pay a very high price for the peace outlined in the peace treaty. But the 6.6 billion pounds set out in that treaty would never come close to paying for the peace between wicked sinners and a holy God. When we gather to review the death of the Lord Jesus at Golgotha, we can see – although never fully understand – the magnitude of the debt reparations that were required for peace with God.

Just as only one amount would satisfy the Treaty of Versailles, only one amount will satisfy God. The Israelites in Egypt heard that escape from the death angel was provided only by the applied blood of an innocent lamb. The ordinances of the tabernacle and temple were satisfied temporarily by similar blood. These offerings and this shedding of blood was repeated at regular and frequent intervals. But on the cross, precious blood from a holy Lamb was shed, blood that was of sufficient value to settle forever the righteous claims of God. And the payments did not need repeating or continuous installments, unlike Germany’s 90-plus years of payments for World War 1. Verse 11 of this same chapter tells us that God would see of the travail of Jesus’ soul and be satisfied. As proof, Jesus Christ rose from the dead in three days, placing God’s stamp of ‘Paid in full’ on Calvary’s work.

How wonderful to be able to preach the Gospel to sinners, telling them that God is satisfied with the price His son has made to give us peace! How wonderful, to for us to gather (Covid permitting) in that peace today, to rejoice in the completeness of the payment made for our sins! -Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

January 23rd, 2021

And He said unto them, cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. John 21:6

Many commercial fishermen – and many sport fishermen, too – pay substantial money for fish-finding electronic equipment. This gear enables them to find where the fish are, and substantially increases their chances of a good catch. This equipment enables the users to locate any fish that are within range. But no fish-finder ever built is able to match the skill of the One who made the fish and tracks every flip of their fins. We could argue whether Jesus knew where the fish were and told the disciples, or whether He actually directed a school of fish to the fishermen. It doesn’t matter. This account shows that He is sovereign over all creation.

This account also shows that the sovereign Lord also desires to bless us. Never in their years of fishing on that lake had the disciples ever encountered such a haul. The 153 fish were far beyond their expectations that day. After a futile night, these lads had their hoppers filled because of their obedience to a simple command from the Lord.

This same blessing is available to us, too. God does not always place complicated commands in front of us. In fact, most of us couldn’t deal with anything complicated. No, His commands are always simple and direct. And He blesses those who obey. Sometimes the blessing is far beyond the proportion of the effort we put in. But make no mistake, God rewards obedience. Whether it be a straightforward command of Scripture, or the guidance of the Word and the Spirit on an issue surrounding us, we are always benefitted by obeying.

In God’s own time,
In God’s own way,
Who does God’s work
Will get God’s pay.

Missing God’s hand of blessing lately? Maybe there is an obedience problem. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

January 22nd, 2021

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth. Luke 3:4,5

My father was intrigued when I mentioned to him that the Bible describes how to build roads. My father spent a large part of his life building roads, in various capacities. He knew how to build roads, and when he got a look at this verse, he agreed, this is how to do it. These are the four major steps involved in highway construction. The low places are filled in and the high places are levelled off. The kinks and twists in the road are straightened, and the surface of the road is made smooth for good travelling. So, long before the advent of the automobile and the need for roads that would provide conditions to accommodate high-speed travel, God knew all about the process. And told us about it. These instructions for building roads also work for our lives, which are each a highway through this world.

God wants to fill in the valleys, because a Christian should not be down and discouraged. He also wants to get rid of the mountains of pride and hills of self-achievement in our lives. We should be humbly subject to the Lord’s power and direction. What about the crooked places? God would have our lives lived in purity and holiness before Himself and the world. And the rough ways? Those are the elements of self that get in the way of our being less than what we should be for God. This includes poor manners, bad habits, inappropriate companions, wrong reading choices, and all of those things that interfere with the character of Christ in us.

You are a highway for God. Allow Him to build you according to His Word. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

January 21st, 2021

All my state shall Tychicus declare uno you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord. Colossians 4:7

For a man who is mentioned five times in Scripture, we know very little about Tychicus. He was with Paul during at least part of his missionary journeys, and he carried greetings from Paul to the Assemblies in Ephesus and Colosse. Paul also mentions him in his letters to Timothy and Titus. Tychicus was apparently from Ephesus, but no details are given us anywhere about his life or circumstances. Paul obviously held him in high esteem, and valued him as a faithful companion and helper. His commendation in our text today shows him to be a person we might do well to learn from.

Paul firstly describes Tychicus as a beloved brother. What a lovely title! Are there any Christians who say of you that you are a beloved brother or sister? Does the reality of your life in Christ mean that other Christians regard you with deep affection and warm-hearted care? We don’t know what Tychicus did or how he conducted himself to earn this title, but we all know what we can do to earn it for ourselves: show loving care and affection for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Paul also regarded Tychicus as a faithful minister, or servant. Paul undoubtedly had many tasks that he needed help with, given his imprisoned state and failing health. Tycnicus not only looked after all those tasks, but he also did so faithfully, cheerfully, and carefully. Paul could be thankful for such a good worker, whether to carry messages to other Christians, to write letters or read to the apostle (Paul’s eyesight was poor), or to keep the prison cell tidy, Tychicus was always available and on the job. His attitude and diligence are worthy of our copying.

The greatest thing that Paul and Tychicus shared was their commitment to their Lord and Saviour. The term fellowservant is more accurately rendered fellow slave. Both of these men were devoted to their Lord and their entire lives were committed to His service. This was a precious thing for them to share as they met daily and discussed the things of the Lord. Their appreciation of the One they served brought them closer together, and their combined devotion brought greater blessing to the Lord and to those around them

Tychicus earned a warm commendation from Paul, and from the Lord. Oh, that we might seek to be so deserving of such praise! -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

January 20th, 2021

And she said, the glory is departed from Israel, for the ark of God is taken. 1 Samuel 4:22

Our text indicates that Eli’s daughter-in-law appears to have been much more spiritual than her husband. Although a priest serving in the Tabernacle of God, Phinehas was an evil and vile man who abused his position. But when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, and killed Eli’s two sons, Phinehas’ widow lamented, not her husband’s death, but the capture of the Ark. She understood that the Ark represented the presence of God and therefore the nation’s glory, and it broke her heart that it was gone. We don’t know this woman’s name, but we do know that her spiritual discernment would detect much of the same calamity if she were with us today.

The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence. When it was gone, Israel could not claim that presence. The enemies of God and His people had taken the ark. The enemies of God and His people are still at it today. Bibles and prayer are disappearing from our public schools as God’s enemies seek to banish His presence from among the children. The last time I looked, the Bible was still in our courtrooms, for witnesses to swear oaths upon, but that will probably change soon. Society has relegated ‘religion’ to a small ceremonial spot in many ways as the world seeks to remove God and any mention of His name from all of their activities. Christians, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, are ridiculed as old fashioned and fanatical and even dangerous to their so-called rights to unbridled immorality and perversion. The hateful, vengeful, repressive, and violent Allah of Mohammedanism is being elevated to a higher status than the holy, loving, and majestic God of the Bible.

False religions such as Islam, the cults, evolution, and global warming (yes, evolution and global warming are religions) have also been powerful tools in the hands of God’s enemies, to remove the presence of God from our midst or to so confuse people that any ideas they have about God are totally wrong. Western society’s apathy toward God and the Gospel is terribly sad.

As the glory has departed from our society, we desperately need people like Mrs. Phinehas to recognize the situation. And Christians need to live so that the presence of God among us is still evident. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

January 19th, 2021

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Acts 2:41

As a young and newly-baptized Christian, I asked a member of a denominational group why they were allowing several young people to participate in the Lord’s supper, even though they had not yet been baptized. His answer was that it was not scriptural to require baptism first. A week later, I put the same question to a member of another denomination, whose answer was just the opposite: Scripture requires baptism before participation in the Lord’s supper, he said. Who was right? How was a 13-year-old youngster to tell which position was actually scriptural? The answer is, of course, that both were operating from a false premise.

Our text today makes it clear that these folks in our text, after they were baptized, were not added to the participation in the Lord’s supper. No, they were added to the Assembly fellowship. Participation in the Lord’s supper, or Breaking of Bread, was part of activities of the Assembly, as we see in the very next verse: And they continued steadfastly in… breaking of bread.

This is why we don’t permit casual attendance by those not in Assembly fellowship, to the Breaking of Bread. We are accused sometime of excluding people unjustly. But the pattern of scripture, and the teaching of this chapter, makes it clear that the order is very specific. After a person trusts Christ, they are to be baptized. Then, they are to be ‘added’ to the local Assembly fellowship. After that, they participate in the Assembly’s activities, including the Breaking of Bread. This is also why it is wrong for a group of people to gather spontaneously outside of an Assembly setting and hold a Breaking of Bread meeting. It is not a difficult concept. It is nice and clear. We need not become confused or at odds with anyone over it.

God’s patterns and practices for His Assembly are simple and direct. Let us honour them. Let us appreciate His order. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

January 18th, 2021

Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise in the congregation of saints. Psalm 149:1

I remember as a lad sitting in front of a Christian who had virtually no singing ability but who was trying his best to contribute to the hymn being sung at the start of the weekly prayer meeting in Oxford. This brother’s monotone rendition made me wonder why he even tried. Looking back on the incident now, I am glad that he did. He knew that singing is far more important than singing well. I don’t sing well, myself, so it a comfort to know that the Lord appreciates the effort, if not the harmony. I have been in some places where the singing is little short of dreadful, musically speaking. In some cases, the saints simply do not have the skills, they struggle faithfully to do their best and God is pleased. In other cases, the saints just don’t put much effort into the singing, and I doubt that God receives much glory.

Why should we sing during our meetings? Because we are told to. Scripture makes it plain that part of a New Testament Assembly meeting is the singing of hymns and spiritual songs. We have been richly blessed with excellent hymn books and, in many cases, with excellent singers. We have no excuse for not trying. Or at least we won’t once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

The psalmist reminds us that we have a new song, a song that even the Children of Israel were unable to sing. We have so much to sing about, we have so much reason to lift our voices in praise and worship, and we have so many excellent songs to employ.

Let us make use of this valuable aspect of our Assembly meetings, to express our joy at our salvation, to express our appreciation to our Saviour for His love, mercy, and grace, and to express to God our reverence for Who He is and what He does. -Jim MacIntosh