Food for Friday

February 21st, 2020

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

We arrived at our friends’ home to a warm greeting. The atmosphere in the home was pleasant, with soft music playing and a cheery fire crackling in the grate. A beautiful table was set, and we sat down to a bountiful and delicious feast, made all the more pleasant by the engaging conversation with friends we deeply appreciated. When we finished our meal and a few hours of visit and prepared to go home, we told our friends that we had enjoyed a lovely evening. Lovely, the same word used in today’s text, what does the word ‘lovely’ mean? And were we using it correctly to describe that visit with our friends?

Only once does this particular word appear in our Bible. Its meaning combines the ideas of acceptable and pleasing. One source I checked even rendered this term ‘lovable’. What a splendid filter for our thoughts! If we kept our minds trained to follow along these lines, we would surely be better testimonies for our Lord, who demonstrated loveliness in His words and deeds.

The unsaved folks all around us do not think about acceptable things, at least not much. We can tell, because their speech contains that which is unacceptable. We hear blasphemies, smutty and potty talk, lies, slander, gossip, and much more pouring forth in unacceptable verbal stream. As Christians, we ought never to let these things escape our lips. And if these things are not in our minds, we won’t be talking about them. Pleasant speech is also not practiced much by the world. Hateful, hurtful, and degrading words come from hearts that are occupied by prejudice, malice, cruelty, and lust. Such motives are surely not for the Child of God! Our thoughts ought to banish these altogether. And we do so by filling our thoughts with lovely things.

There is no shortage of loveliness for our minds to take up. We begin with the Person of the Lord Jesus, Who is altogether lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16). That topic will take an eternity to explore. The majestic splendours of the Scriptures are also lovely to consider, another eternity of perusal for our hearts. Some other lovely things to take up our thoughts by times are the wonderful Christians you know and love, the beauties of nature all around us, the delightful presence of little children, and so much more.

With so much lovely all around us, let us forget about those things that are not. And we will be more like Jesus. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

February 20th, 2020

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

One of the men who helped to shepherd me when I was a young Christian offered me some good advice for the place where I worked. Some of the other people who worked there had calendars and other pictures on the walls, featuring immoral things. The other brother advised me to stay away from the areas where those pictures were displayed, and to have some good pictures (they wouldn’t have tolerated Gospel texts) displayed in the area where I worked. It’s difficult, he explained to me, to keep our minds pure when we expose ourselves to the fleshly lusts that the world enjoys. His advice, to replace the immoral pictures with good pictures, is in line with today’s admonition to think on whatsoever things are pure.

When it comes to purity, the Lord Jesus is not only our ideal example, He is also the ideal target for our thoughts. As an example, Jesus shows us throughout His life and ministry the character of God. His life was marked by holiness and purity in all that He did and said. But He did something that you and I should practice, to enable us to maintain purity in our lives, our words, and our very thoughts: Jesus spent much time in prayer. He was in constant communication with His Heavenly Father. This included times when He would spend the night on the mountainside in prayer. It should be noted that prayer and purity are closely related; praying saints will be pure saints. If our minds are taken up with our communion with God, we won’t have room in our thoughts for impurity.

As the target for our thoughts, Jesus will lead us in a pure pathway. As we read of Him, as we contemplate Him, as we study His person and His work, our minds cannot be distracted by those things around us. We know that the world is becoming more immoral, that gross sins are not only practiced openly and are accepted, but they are also flaunted, promoted, and praised. It can be difficult for us living in such an environment to maintain purity of thought. But it is possible.

The translation of an old German hymn tells us that ‘Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, He makes our sorrowing spirits sing’. He should lead our thoughts today into all things pure. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

February 19th, 2020

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

How much is your handshake worth? If you were called upon to take part in a joint venture with others, involving a great deal of money and a large amount of work, is your handshake with the others in the venture at the outset as good as the others expect your participation and effort to be at the conclusion? There are great businesses today that operate on the handshake principle, and they are not disappointed. Their partners know that the handshake is worth full value. Their dealings are honest because their hearts are honest. Not many are like that, though. So we need to look to the Lord Jesus for our example and instruction in honesty.

The other day I was impressed with an offer that came in the mail. It proposed to provide me, for considerably less than I am now spending, with Internet service that is better than I now receive. However, throughout the interesting information in the ad were little numbers. I checked the bottom of the page and found those little numbers were exceptions to the offer being made. The descriptions of those exceptions were in print so small that I could barely read them. I was glad I made the effort because the fine print made the wonderful offer into almost a joke. Always read the fine print, says the wise man. And always remember that Jesus never used fine print. Read His words in the Gospels. You won’t find any double-talk, no hidden meanings, no loopholes or preferential treatment. God’s dealings with mankind have always been just and equitable, and honest. And the Lord Jesus showed us that when He was here.

In his excellent books on human relations, Dale Carnegie teaches that the best way to succeed with people is to treat them the same way that you want them to treat you. Now, where did he get that idea? The golden rule has always been the masterpiece in human relations, and it teaches us to always be honest and just.

If we train our minds to always be honest with people, and treat them fairly every time, we will be a little bit more like our Saviour in his dealings with us. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

February 18th, 2020

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

Watch out for the man who declares that he always tells the truth; he’s sure to lie about other things too! We all lie! Every day! And not just with our lips; we have many ways in which we create and pass on false impressions and wrong messages. It’s our human nature, or to be more accurate, the old nature we inherited from the first Adam. But now that we are saved, we have the ability to tell the truth, and to understand the truth. That’s because the Last Adam has given to us His nature, and His nature is true.

Our text tells us to think on whatsoever is true. First of all, that means we think about the Lord Jesus, the One Who declared that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No higher occupation can our minds employ than contemplation of our Saviour. Beyond the precious truth that Christ died for the ungodly lies an eternity of forever unfolding the wonders of the riches of His grace. He alone will be the everlasting occupation of our thoughts.

Truth is also bound within the Bible, as in no other book. All of the writings of men fall so far short of the one Book that contains nothing but truth. It will never guide us wrong, can never fail to help and strengthen us, and must ever reveal to us the character of its Author. To ponder the Bible is to ponder truth.

One of the primary goals of education is to teach us how to think. But if the education is based on that which is false, it must lead us astray. No wonder there is so much wrong thinking in the world today. So much of education is based on the falsehoods of evolution, humanism, and secular reasoning. Parents who subscribe to Christian education or home schooling that focuses on the truth of creation and man’s responsibility before God do their children a great service in preparing them to think on the truth.

Satan is the father of all lies. God is the Author of truth. If we think on those things that are true, we defeat the lies of the devil and bring our minds into line with the thoughts of our Heavenly Father. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

February 17th, 2020

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

Brain experts tell us that there is never a moment of our life – awake or sleeping – when we are not thinking about something. Even when we are not actively pondering something, our minds are still active, processing input from our senses, sorting through memories, or mentally chewing on a problem we need to resolve. When we sleep, our thoughts continue, with dreams and the sorting and filing of information received during the previous day. Thinking is a very complicated and involved process, and is not well understood by most of us. In fact, most people assume thinking is pretty much automatic, and there is little we can do about it. But our text tells us that as Christians we should be focusing our thoughts on the good things.

The late David Pethrick had a wise saying: It’s not what a man thinks he is, he is, it’s what a man thinks, he is. In fewer words, we are what we think. The things that occupy our thoughts determine the person we are. A person who dwells on gloomy and sorrowful thoughts will be morose and glum all the time. A person who keeps their mind on happy things and pleasant thoughts will be good natured and enjoyable to have around. That’s why Paul tells the Philippians to keep their thoughts on the delightful list in our text.

We don’t need to look far to find harmful and destructive things to think about. The morning newscast, the chat with the next-door neighbour, the visit to the health clinic, all these can direct our thoughts into places that are unproductive at best and often destructive. God wants our minds to be built up, not mashed down and distorted by the worlds worries and evils. By filling our heads and hearts with the positive and the pleasant, we shape our lives and personalities to be more like those of the Lord Jesus.

During the next few days, we will be looking at some of the things that God wants us to focus our thoughts on. Keep reading, and keep thinking on the things of the Lord! -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

February 16th, 2020

I beseech Euodias and I beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. Philippians 4:2

To read some of the commentaries and to listen to some of the expositors, you would think that this verse is the central focus of the entire Epistle to the Philippians! You would think that two sisters in this Assembly are at serious odds with each other, the work and the testimony of the Assembly is deeply affected as a result, and the apostle has taken it upon himself to step into the breach in a bid to resolve this painful situation. I think somebody is reading a whole lot more into this than is actually there, don’t you? Has the apostle gone to the trouble of introducing some wonderful doctrine, providing some excellent instruction and guidance, and everything else in this precious epistle, just for the opportunity of working in a 17-word plea to two sisters to patch things up between themselves?

Don’t get me wrong, disputes between sisters can be bitterly dividing and painfully harmful to the testimony. But it’s just a single verse, a short interjection, that we have here. I really believe it’s just a gentle jab by Paul that these ladies who are in the same pew should be singing from the same hymn sheet. The amount of space devoted to this issue indicates to me it’s just a minor issue, and Paul has every expectation that the ladies will kiss and make up just fine. What this verse does tell me, though, is that the Apostle had a great deal of love and care for the folks in Philippi.

The verse previous to today’s text is full of terms of affection and endearment as Paul addresses the Assembly he planted in Philippi. Paul loved those people. On his back were the scars from the lashing he took during the early days, but his heart was full of great memories as he recalled the results of the Gospel preaching by himself and Silas, of the ministry meetings he held with the new believers, of the planting of the testimony and growth of the Assembly.

Elders in today’s Assemblies feel much as Paul did when they consider the Lord’s people they shepherd. There is much to care for, many to teach and encourage, and deep responsibilities to honour. And like Paul, today’s elders are careful to keep the relations among each of the believers sweet. A word of encouragement here and there will help sisters to be of the same mind in the Lord. -Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

February 15th, 2020

For our conversation is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20

Many years ago, when the national men’s volleyball team from China was touring Canada in preparation for a major sporting event, they were scheduled to play against a university team in Fredericton. When I arrived as a reporter to cover the event for the newspaper, I was astonished at the crowd in the auditorium. No, not at the number of people who were there, but at the number of Chinese people who were there. More than half of the audience for that game were Chinese. The Chinese population of Fredericton was, and probably still is, fairly small. So I assume Chinese people from throughout the province showed up. Many of these people were one or two generations removed from their parents’ arrival in Canada from China, but they still felt a strong attachment to anything that had to do with China. They were like Christians, living in a foreign land, but with a built-in longing for a homeland far away.

The translator’s use of the word ‘conversation’ is misleading; the meaning is actually ‘citizenship’. When we trusted Christ as our Saviour, our citizenship was transferred from that of earth to that of Heaven. Our earthly citizenship conferred on us only frustration, loss, and death. Our Heavenly citizenship confers on us purpose, blessing, and eternal life. Like those Chinese folks in Fredericton drawn to that which represented their homeland, we are drawn to that which reminds us and tells us of our Heavenly homeland. We speculate on the timing and the nature of the Rapture, we talk about the release from earth’s sorrows, pains, and struggles, we contemplate the splendour of the pearly gates, the Tree of Life, and the Throne of God, and develop a longing to be there.

Paul speaks of looking for our Saviour. This is our precious occupation today. This gives us hope and encouragement when the earthly atmosphere darkens and stinks. This gives us joy when the delights of earth prove to be fleeting foam. This gives us purpose as we persuade others to enter into this great citizenship.

Keep in mind that our Heavenly citizenship is a present possession, not a future anticipation. Let us live here in the good of being Heaven’s citizens, knowing our Savior is soon coming for us. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

February 14th, 2020

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Some people around us put a lot of effort into those things that they wish to promote. for example, some well-known and outspoken atheists have embarked on massive advertising campaigns and speaking tours to spread their message of hopelessness. Advocates of same-sex marriage and unlimited abortions are also not lazy about pushing their agendas of abomination and slaughter. When we see those who have nothing but destruction and degradation to offer exerting such energies, it makes us wonder why Christians, who have a message of hope, comfort, and eternal blessing, are so slow and reluctant to pass it on. We should be like the apostle Paul, who was willing to press toward the mark with every ability and amount of energy he had.

The word ‘press’ in our text refers to vigorous, persistent, and passionate effort. There was a mark that Paul sought: the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He longed for the commendation that would result from a life lived for his Saviour. We know of Paul’s beatings and stonings, of his hazardous journeys, of his imprisonments, and other sufferings. He regretted none of these because there was a worthwhile prize for his efforts. There is a worthwhile prize for us too, and we need to keep it in mind daily. Remembering the mark will help us to remember our responsibility.

What do we know of that mark? Paul speaks of it as the high calling, or upward calling of God. The world has a calling for all of us. Some are called to be skilful labourers or masterful craftsmen, others are called to be convincing salespeople and successful merchants, and yet others are called to function skillfully in health professions, public service, and in many other fields. We need to earn a living and we need to fulfill our fiscal responsibilities. But God has a higher calling that takes us into spiritual realms and into service for Him, for His people, and for the needs of the lost. Paul sought diligently every day to find this calling. So should we.

Many of the things we do in this life provide fulfillment and are considered worthwhile. None of these things are as fulfilling or as worthwhile as our devotion and service for our Lord. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

February 13th, 2020

But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7

The last-century evangelist and temperance preacher Billy Sunday used to say that a man’s reputation was what his neighbours know about him, but his character is what God and his wife know about him. This description helps us to understand the stoop that the Lord Jesus made when He came into this world. He never laid aside His holy divine character, but He did lay aside His reputation.

When we say that He made Himself of no reputation, we refer to the setting aside of His reputation in Heaven. As the Son, He was worshipped by angelic beings, and was an active participant in all the workings of the Godhead. All Heaven acknowledged His lordship; His was the highest reputation in those celestial spheres. That was the reputation that He set aside for a time when He stepped into humanity. It was His heavenly reputation that the angels proclaimed to Bethlehem’s shepherds. But it was as the carpenter’s son that the folks in Nazareth knew Him. It was the Christ of God who the disciples acknowledged as they followed him, but it was the lowly Galilean Who was arrested and hauled before Caiphas and Pilate. It was as the Lord that He was received by one malefactor but as a false Christ that He was cursed by the other malefactor. It was as their Master and Teacher that Joseph and Nicodemus laid Jesus in the sepulchre, but as an imposter that the soldiers closed the sepulchre with the Roman seal.

So little of the world today places any reputation on the Lord Jesus. So few acknowledge all that He is and was and ever will be. So few accord to Him any reputation but that of a religious teacher, an obscure figure of history. But a few do acknowledge His true reputation today.

Isaiah tells us that He will be exalted and extolled and be made very high (Isaiah 52:13). This is the portion of every believer who appreciates what was accomplished when Jesus made Himself of no reputation. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

February 12th, 2020

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. Philippians 1:27

In his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Lee Stroebel declares that one of the greatest proofs of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the confidence of the early Christians, particularly the disciples. These folks were willing to lay down their lives to proclaim the message of eternal life through the risen Lord. Stroebel’s point was that nobody would be willing to die for something they knew was a lie, so they had to be telling the truth when they declared that they had seen the Lord Jesus after His resurrection. We have not see Him in the flesh, but we have the eyewitness accounts, and we can believe them. This should give us confidence in the face of our adversaries.

Although our lives are not threatened here in North America for our faith, we still have plenty of adversaries. Many would oppose, or at least ignore, the preaching of the Gospel. Many would take offense at a Christian’s stand against the murder of the unborn, the promotion of homosexuality, the wilful disregard for morality and decency in today’s society. If we live for God, we will be targeted for ridicule and discrimination. Satan will see to it that we are harrassed by his minions. But Paul reminds us that we should not let these things terrify us, because our testimony is proof that the enemies are facing destruction while we are sheltered by God’s salvation.

This is why some missionary martyr stories that seem to us to be tragedies are really triumphant victories by those who allowed God to replace the terror with confidence. This is why Heaven rejoices at all the dear saints – unknown to us – who face death bravely in the prison camps of communist China and North Korea, and before the cursed Sharai law courts of Mohammedanism. This is why you and I can place our trust firmly in the God Who calls us to serve and follow Him and Who assures us of a righteous recompense if we do so.

The enemies’ terrors today are but a reminder of the glorious morrow that awaits us in Jesus’ presence. Service for Him is worth it all. -Jim MacIntosh