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Food for Friday

May 29th, 2020

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Ephesians 2:19

Some years ago a young man with whom I worked was on his way to a citizenship hearing. He was originally a stranger and foreigner from Central America and had been living in Canada for several years. He had found in Canada a land of greater freedom and opportunities than the poor and troubled circumstances of the land of his birth. He had spent some time studying our country’s history and government system, and was confident he could answer all the questions he would be asked. I wished him well. When he returned from the hearing with a big smile on his face, I shook his hand and greeted him as ‘my fellow Canadian’. He was truly proud of his new citizenship and very pleased to be welcomed in such a way. We too have been given a citizenship into a new and better country. We are no longer strangers and foreigners.

We are also fellow-citizens with all of the other Christians, including those who are now in the Glory. We share all of the blessings, the honours, and the responsibilities of being part of the same heavenly land. We are one with all of the blood-washed saints.

But Paul also reminds us of an even more intimate relationship, that of the family. As part of the household, we share those elements of life that apply to brothers and sisters, those who are near and dear, those with whom we eat and work, play and share on a personal level. The fractured world of Christendom offers little in the way of illustration of this relationship. But God’s Assembly provides us with this place of which Paul speaks, this household of God. In God’s Assembly, we can interact and share, we can exercise our gifts and participate, we can communicate, we can take part in those things that relate to the household of which we have been made a part.

In all of the blessings into which God has brought you, treasure that of being in His household most highly. In His Assembly, we fellowship with Himself and each other. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

May 28th, 2020

For through Him we both have access through one Spirit unto the Father. Ephesians 2:18

I keep receiving reminders in my inbox about a great deal for baseball fans. For a very reasonable price, a subscriber can watch any and all major league baseball games over the Internet. There are two catches. The first catch is that all games within the subscriber’s immediate zone are blacked out. The second catch is that all of Canada is considered the immediate zone for the Toronto Blue Jays. So, most Canadians are disappointed because the games they would most likely want to watch are blacked out. Our text tells us that there is no blackout for anyone wanting access to our Heavenly Father.

In our chapter, Paul is discussing the unity that God has brought about between Jew and Gentile. A great change has occurred, because of the work of the Lord Jesus. In the Old Testament days, the Jew had access to God through the offerings, ordinances, and the oracles of God. There were strict limitations, and everything had to go through the priest, but there was a measure of access. Not so for the Gentile, who must come into Jewry to obtain any access to God. This was a very difficult process, and was not available to most Gentiles. But when the Lord Jesus came and broke down the barriers, He made possible a way of access for both Jew and Gentile, through the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, we have an access that is so much more personal and immediate than the Old Testament Jew could know. This access is available; how much do we take advantage of it?

The throne room of Heaven must surely be a busy place. We can’t imagine the incredible flow of information and requests that pass through there each second. The God Who knows all and sees all has given to you and me the right and the channel to access that very throne room and to receive priority attention. This fact should amaze us, and it should prompt us to action. If the Holy Spirit is patching us through to the very heartbeat of Heaven, we had better get busy with our prayers, our praises, and our open hearts. If we have the Father’s attention, we ought to seize the opportunity and make the most of it. There is so much that we need to become, there are so many that we desire to see saved, there is so much work that we long to see advanced for Heaven’s interest. With Heaven’s attention assured, we can bring these things to our Father. But do we? With Heaven’s attention assured, we can pour out our hearts in worship and thanksgiving. But do we? Every day, every hour, we miss out on the benefits of the Holy Spirit’s access to the Father.

There can never be a blackout with the Trinity involved in this wonderful blessing: the Lord Jesus paid the admission, the Holy Spirit provides the access, and the Father offers His welcome. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

May 27th, 2020

Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended. Matthew 26: 33

As we made plans to build our new house, we visited a store that sells light fixtures. In one corner of the store was an interesting display that included some unusual mirrors, one of which we found so enticing that we purchased it for the bathroom of the new house. This mirror has a lovely frame. It is important to have a mirror that looks good. But we know that the most important thing about a mirror is that it gives a good reflection. Even a mirror that has an ugly frame can give a true reflection. Take today’s text, for example. This verse shows the ugly frame of pride, but as I read the verse, I see a little too much of myself in it.

We can accuse Peter of being arrogant and cocky, and maybe he was. But what would you or I have said in the same situation? Jesus had just told the disciples that they would all be ashamed of Him and would run away. If we had been one of those disciples, how would we have responded? I can certainly picture myself objecting and declaring my fidelity. I think many of us would. But the Lord Jesus knows our hearts better than we do; He knows we can and do fail in our faithfulness.

How faithfully do we stand for the Lord Jesus today? How often do we defend His holy Name when someone around us uses that Name in blasphemy? How often do we exert ourselves for the cause of the Gospel when there are easier, more comfortable pursuits all around us? How much of our lives do we commit to God’s Assembly and the Lord’s people, compared to the time and money we put into our own interests and hobbies and entertainment? As we examine our day and see how little of it we expend for the Lord, we can start to see Peter’s reflection in our mirrors.

Peter’s problem was his pride, and he suffered an embarrassing and humiliating fall as a result. Oh, how carefully we need to act and speak, that we don’t suffer the same humiliation. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

May 26th, 2020

For He is our peace, Who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us. Ephesians 2:14

Fighting and killing continued in Syria, despite the efforts of the United Nations to convince the ruling dictator and his opponents to lay down their arms. Meetings and conferences were held, inspectors were sent, leading nations made their pleas for peace, and the UN even appointed a high-level envoy to do everything he could do to bring about peace. The envoy, Kofi Annan, came up with a peace plan, and convinced all the parties to agree to it. His plan had the support of the UN and all the major powers of the world. The day came when the peace plan went into effect. But the killing didn’t stop and the fighting didn’t end, and the animosity didn’t disappear. The best efforts of the peacemaker weren’t enough. Like the animosity that existed between Jew and Gentile, more than a peacemaker was required.

Our text speaks of the Lord Jesus, not as our peacemaker, but our peace. While it is true that He has made peace, He is much more than a peacemaker. Peacemakers bring about an easing of hostilities, an end to combat, and a return of cordial relationship between two warring parties. Peacemakers work out compromises, and allow those who are unable to appreciate the position of the opposing party to give up their prejudices and accept others for who they are. Peacemakers develop a rapport with both sides in a dispute, and earn the trust of both sides by their proven goodwill to both. When we examine the role and position of a peacemaker, we can surely see that the Lord Jesus fits the position perfectly. But, unlike peacemakers like Kofi Annan, He is able to bring about lasting and permanent peace, because He is so much more than a peacemaker.

As our peace, the Lord Jesus went further than negotiations and relationship-building. As our peace, He stood in the heart of the storm of God’s wrath and exhausted that wrath. The result is peace between us and a holy God. Enmity between us and God is removed, not by negotiations, but by a sacrifice. That sacrifice was able to satisfy God’s righteous claims against us. A God Who cannot compromise on righteousness saw that righteousness met in His Son. The Lord Jesus is also the peace that breaks down the enmity between Jew and Gentile. He provides the missing element for the Gentiles who had no claim upon God. And He provides the missing element for the Jew who had a claim upon God based on a law that he could not keep. Now, the Jew and Gentile are grafted in together because of the person of the Lord Jesus.

We appreciate the peace of God that passeth all understanding, knowing that Peace is the person of our Lord and Saviour. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

May 25th, 2020

Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:9

A young man carrying a broom walked up to a car dealership and began sweeping the dust from the doorstep. When he had finished his brief task, he set the broom down, walked into the building, and approached the sales manager. ‘I just cleaned your front step,’ he told the manager, ‘now you can give me a new car’. Politely, the sales manager told the misguided lad that cars are not purchased with chores and labour, but with money. We need to keep reminding ourselves that our salvation is not purchased with works of our own, and we are offering God an insult when we offer Him our paltry efforts for His great Gift.

If our salvation were by works, how would we ever know how much works is enough? That is the problem with religion; people may believe, or may be taught, that their religious exercises have merit with God, but they never know for sure if they have collected enough merit. They also don’t know how much of their merit has been cancelled because of their misbehaviour. That’s why religious people are always so diligent and so worried. On the other hand, Christians can relax and rejoice in the knowledge that the only One Who could ever work for salvation has completed that work for us. That doesn’t mean that Christians don’t do good works. In fact, the Christian should be marked by more good works than the unbeliever, even the ultra-religious. But our works are from our salvation, not for our salvation.

As a very young Christian, I used to think that baptism would make my salvation more secure. I changed my mind about that, although I still regard baptism as very important. In fact, any person claiming to be a Christian who doesn’t want to be baptized causes me to wonder if that person is truly saved. Baptism is a work, something that we do. Although not required for salvation, it is required for obedience to the One Who we claim as our Lord. There are other works that our Lord expects, not to earn salvation or to preserve salvation, but to display our salvation. There are some Christians who perform great works of service for their Lord, and they don’t brag about them, because they know that the real work was done by the Lord Himself. There are some Christians who perform little works of service for their Lord, and they brag about them, because they don’t appreciate the difference between what their Lord has done and what they are able to do.

A humble Christian is a good testimony for the grace of God. A boastful Christian is a poor testimony to the grace of God. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

May 24th, 2020

Wherein in time past, ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Ephesians 2:2

What’s wrong with walking according to the course of this world? After all, everybody seems to be walking that way; it’s popular and doesn’t involve any conviction or motivation. But for the Christian, the course of this world is dangerous and sorrowful, and devoid of all spiritual benefit. There are many ways in which this is the wrong course for us; let us examine a few of them.

The course of this world is a course of darkness. The light of the Word of God cannot illuminate this course because this dark course is directly opposite to that which God desires. It opposes the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ that desires to shine into souls, that they might be saved. We can sing about sending ‘the light, the blessed Gospel light’, and the devil doesn’t mind, as long as we don’t actually send it. Letting the world remain in darkness is the course of this world.

The course of this world is also a course of human wisdom. We read that the world by wisdom knows not God (1 Corinthians 1:21). The world’s wisdom rejects God and rejects all restraint against sin. Surely this is no course for the child of God! What possible concord can we have with those who deny the existence of the very God Who made them, and who blatantly promote unbridled evil in all its forms?

The course of this world is also a course of disobedience. Our text speaks of the children of disobedience, motivated and activated by the devil. Disobedience is the course of this world, and everything in the life of an unbeliever is disobedience to the Word of God. In contrast, the believer is enabled by the Holy Spirit to obey the Word of God and is motivated by the love of Christ to obey his Lord. Jesus tells us, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15).

The course of this world is also a course of conformity. This world pushes everybody to conform to the same clothing styles, the same political views, the same eating habits, and just about everything else you can name. Teenagers are so pushed by conformity and peer pressure that they will commit suicide if they are unable to keep up. As the world’s morality plunges to new lows, it drags everyone it can along with it. But the Christian is admonished not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2. It may not be popular and it may not always be pleasant, but the Christian who shuns the course of conformity can be assured of his Lord’s commendation.

May we long to be like Paul, who, at his journey’s end, could speak with confidence of finishing his course, rejoicing in the knowledge that it was not the course of this world. -Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

May 23rd, 2020

Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas. Matthew 26:3

When the important people get together, something worthwhile usually gets discussed and something worthwhile usually gets decided. In the case of the meeting described in today’s text, all of the heavyweights of Jewish society, religion, and academia were assembled. They had urgent business, and they had a unified purpose. Such a meeting as is described should have produced a unified approach to a major issue facing them all. And what concern was so pressing that it brought about such a meeting? What passion so stirred up such an assemblage of leadership to take urgent action? Nothing but rank envy!

Envy is one of the basest of human motives, and marks the world’s worst decisions and ugliest crimes. This was certainly the case in today’s text, when the religious and civic leadership in Jerusalem assembled to formulate a plan to get rid of Jesus of Nazareth. Their territory had been invaded by Someone Who had wielded authority that they could never achieve, and their feathers had been ruffled by losses in public debates to One Whose wisdom had publicly embarrassed them. So their envy could accept nothing short of getting rid of the Galilean. They were willing to forge whatever alliances were necessary to achieve their goal. There is a warning here for Christians to avoid unholy alliances with the world to resolve what we perceive are threats to ourselves.

There is an old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Normally, the scribes, who were primarily Sadducees, had little to do with the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, who were mostly Pharisees. But their religious differences were laid aside to challenge what they perceived was a common threat. They could get back to fighting against each other later, but for now, they needed to act together to oppose Jesus. Can Christians make such crucial mistakes of affiliation? Sadly, it happens. I have heard of Christians who have entered into affiliation with groups of Roman Catholics to oppose the evil of abortion rights. Christians can also become entangled in organizations of various types such as peace movements, political parties, and social activism. No good can come to our souls from such involvement.

The world has the wrong attitude about the Lord Jesus. To avoid taking sides against our Saviour, let us avoid entangling ourselves with the world’s movements. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

May 22nd, 2020

And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church. Ephesians 1:22

An elderly man who was the leading elder of an Assembly was very conservative in his views, and resisted all kinds of changes, even changes that were necessary. Because he was highly respected and a godly man, the Assembly endured his uncompromising stance, until he died. After his death, changes were made. Those things that required change were changed. But some things that didn’t need to change were also changed, allowing some practices and attitudes to come in that were not good for the Assembly’s testimony and harmony. Some thought that the Assembly would have been far better off if that elderly overseer had not been given such control in the first place. Maybe they were right. Our text reminds us there is only One Who should have complete control over God’s Assembly.

We recognize that Assembly oversight is of the Lord, not of men, with those who serve as shepherds of the local flock responsible to the Great Shepherd. Great care must be taken – and usually is – to make sure that decisions regarding the Assembly are in line with the will of God. Direction and guidance for the Lord’s people will be for their benefit only if they are in line with God’s purposes for His people. This places great responsibility on the Assembly oversight to know the Lord’s will and to carry it out. It would never do to go against the will of Him Who is Head over all things to the Assembly.

Not everybody reading this message is on the oversight of an Assembly. But submission to our Head is just as important to everyone else as it is to the elders. Younger Christians need to be aware of their roles as learners and helpers, as those with the energy and enthusiasm to make the Assembly vibrant and alive. Older Christians need to understand their roles of being good examples, of providing wisdom of experience, of being faithful stalwarts of the Assembly. Those with an exercise and with abilities need to use those in accordance with the will of our Head. Everyone has a place in God’s Assembly, and that place is where our Head wants them to function. That might not always be where we want to function, so it is important that each of us learn submission to our Head, so we don’t overstep or understep our place in His Assembly.

The Assembly is not ours; it is not the elders’, it is not the people’s. The Assembly has one Head, and everything pertaining to that Assembly is for His glory and according to His pleasure. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

May 21st, 2020

In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise. Ephesians 1:13

The engine from a 1952 Chevrolet was mounted on a pedestal in the Industrial Arts shop of our high school. We were able to look at it, touch it, and examine what we could of it. The engine was set to operate, and one day, the instructor started it, startling us with the noise, because it had no muffler. Afterward, he brought out several charts showing us the internals of that engine, and described very carefully how the thing worked. I am still no mechanic, but, like the other boys in the class, I was intrigued by the process. I can still recall that description of the four strokes of the valves – intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust. Each of those strokes was directly dependent on the previous stroke and was directly responsible for the succeeding stroke. Our text today also speaks of the cycle of salvation, in which one step directly results from a previous one and leads to the succeeding one.

Hearing the word of truth is the first stroke. Of course, many people hear the Gospel, or come into contact with it, without ever being convicted of their sin or ever being saved. The difference lies in how the Word was heard. Nobody ever gets saved unless they actually listen to the Word and allow the Holy Spirit to apply the Word to themselves. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The work of God that leads to salvation must always begin with the hearing of the Word of God.

The next stroke in salvation’s cycle is trust. Trust is the acceptance of the Word that has been heard. Trust is the acceptance of the Word’s condemnation of our sin, and the acceptance of God’s satisfaction with His Son. Each of us looks back to that day in our experience when we passed from death to life, and praise God that we ever trusted in Christ.

The next stroke in salvation’s cycle is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Unlike an engine, in which a time – however brief – may be measured between one stroke and the next, no time elapses between the stroke of trust and the stroke of the sealing of the Spirit. Charismatics who plead with God for the gift of the Holy Spirit are praying in vain; if they’re saved, the Holy Spirit is within, if they’re not saved, the Holy Spirit can’t reside. God’s gift of salvation includes the sealing of the Spirit. The following verse reminds us that this sealing is the down payment for all that our salvation provides us for eternity. The final stroke of God’s cycle of salvation is actually an eternal stroke that abides forever.

The wonders of God’s great plan of salvation are ours to explore and delight in now, and evermore, in the security of the Holy Spirit’s presence. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

May 20th, 2020

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me. Matthew 25:40

A Christian couple living in an impoverished country saw many destitute teenagers living on the streets around them. Their hearts were moved to help as many of the young people as they could. They offered some of them a place to sleep, and meals. They provided clothes and other necessities, and, because the young people were in a Christian home, they came under the influence of the Gospel that was lived before them. They listened to, and read, the Bible daily. Some of the teenagers were able to get an education and move into worthwhile employment. Although there were heartbreaks and trials, the Christian couple had the joy of seeing several of the teenagers trust Christ. But the expense of looking after so many extra people drained their resources, and the extra work and worry drained their health. They both died, but not before summing up their efforts in one word: Inasmuch.

What type of meal would you prepare if the Lord Jesus was to show up at your house today for supper? What attention would you pay to details and comforts if the Lord Himself requested a night’s lodging? How much effort would you put into a project if Jesus were on hand personally to superintend? We all think we would go all out for him, but in truth, we fail to do so, when we are surrounded by His representatives. He tells us plainly that everything we do for even the least of His is exactly like we were doing it for Him.

The word ‘inasmuch’ means in the same manner or in exactly the same way. It is not only that everything we do for any child of God is as good as doing it for the Lord Jesus, although that is true. But Jesus says He Himself is the recipient of what we do for others. He receives the benefit and appreciates the blessing that we hand out. A cup of cold water given to a thirsty person in His name is just as refreshing to Him as it is to the recipient. Shouldn’t that make us want to serve a lot more cups of cold water?

It is a privilege and an honour to bestow food and drink, comfort and kindness, caring and love, to the Lord Jesus, through His representatives. Inasmuch, brothers and sisters, inasmuch. -Jim MacIntosh