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Word for Wednesday

July 24th, 2019

And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. Matthew 21:3

Let’s suppose you have a group of people to pick up and take to a Gospel meeting, but you have no car. Just imagine walking into someone’s driveway, opening the car door, slipping inside, and turning on the engine. As you shift into reverse and begin backing the car out onto the road, the owner comes dashing out the front door, shouting, ‘What are you doing with my car?’ You simply roll down the window and shout back, ‘It’s alright, brother, the Lord needs it.’ I don’t know how good your imagination is, but mine doesn’t see this situation going all that well. So why was it supposed to work for the disciples when they went to borrow the donkeys? It was to work because the command came from the Lord Jesus Himself.

Let’s consider that command by considering its parts. First, the words ‘the Lord’ identified the one who required the donkeys. When one of us needs something, we may have some work or some cost to obtain that which we need. But this was the Lord, the eternal God, who required the donkeys, and His word was all that the owners would need to release the donkeys. After all, every donkey that ever lived on this planet belonged first of all to the Lord. When the Lord needs something that we call ours, He is not taking it from us but making use of that which is and always will be His own. This is the truth of His absolute sovereignty. The words ‘hath need’ combine the truth of the absolute sovereignty of the Lord with His absolute poverty. The One Who was rich became poor for our sakes, and now He is in need of a donkey.

It is the same need that He had for a pulpit beside Galilee. He borrowed Peter’s boat, delivered divine wisdom to the multitudes, and delivered a great draught of fishes to Peter and his partners. It is the same need that He had for provision for the crowds in the desert. He borrowed a lad’s lunch and delivered a feast to many thousands. It was the same need that He had for a sepulchre. He borrowed one from Joseph and delivered to us the assurance of the resurrection and everlasting life. The words ‘of them’ tell us that the donkeys had a special purpose that could be fulfilled only by bringing them to the Lord. What a great honour was conferred on those humble beasts that day, a greater honour than that bestowed on any donkey before or since. You and I have lives and abilities and possessions that the Lord has need of today. That means our lives and abilities and possessions can be put to no better purpose and receive no greater honour than to be brought to the Lord to be used according to His desire.

What do we have of which the Lord hath need? We cannot withhold it if we would, so let us give willingly and immediately. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

July 23rd, 2019

And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples. Matthew 21:1

The little village of Bethphage holds a special spot in the annals of Christ’s ministry. Situated at the eastern base of the Mount of Olives, Bethphage was within a day’s journey of Jerusalem, within the range from which bread could be baked and be presented at the temple. It was the first suburban community that the Lord Jesus would reach as He and His disciples made their way to Jerusalem. On His arrival in Bethphage, Jesus dispatched two disciples to obtain a donkey for His entry into the city. This was the first act of the final phase of His ministry, the very first step that would take Him from His triumphant entry to His shameful crucifixion. Bethphage deserves our special attention as we realize its great importance.

Bethphage signals the launching of the final sequences of the life of Christ before His crucifixion. Those final sequences are foretold in prophecy and confirmed during Jesus ministry. Those final sequences come at the conclusion of a life devoted to His Father’s business, a life of perfect harmony with His Father’s will, a life of selfless service to others. The sermons and miracles for which He had become famous were about to be set aside for the real purpose of His incarnation. Had we never heard of the sermons or miracles, it might not have made much difference. But if we had never heard of what transpired during His time in Jerusalem, we would never be saved. So, at Bethphage, as He sends for the donkey, and prepares to enter the city, we sit up and take notice because of the critical importance of what is to follow.

Bethphage has a lesson for us today, as we realize that the important decisions in our lives are based on taking that first, great step toward action. It is not enough to read and pray and fellowship with the saints, we need to – like the Lord Jesus did – issue the call for the donkey. We need to set in place the steps for obedience to God’s purposes for our lives. Those who need to be baptized must come forward with their request, as do those who need to be received into Assembly fellowship. Those who need to distribute Gospel tracts must gather the materials and set foot outside the door. Those who need to mend broken relationships with other Christians must take the necessary action to do so. Those who are involved in relationships and activities that interfere with their ability to properly serve the Lord must break those relationships and abandon those actions.

The Lord Jesus did not hesitate in His obedience when He reached Bethphage. We should follow His example. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

July 22nd, 2019

So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes, and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him. Matthew 20:34

Many years ago as a young man, while skating with friends at a local rink, I noticed a pretty young redhead with another girl on the opposite side of the ice. I skated over to have a better look. And that look made a huge difference in the rest of my life as I eventually wooed and wed the pretty redhead. Recent and upcoming weddings remind us that it is often that first look that begins the process of falling in love and happily ever aftering. In our lifetimes, there are many looks that lead to great changes. People have reported that their visits to the Auschwitz death camps where Hitler’s Nazis slaughtered millions of Jews have made a life-long impression on them. Witnesses to terrible murders and deadly accidents report they are changed for the rest of their lives. But the look that two blind men outside Jericho received made the most important change that life can experience.

We don’t know if these two blind men had ever been able to see. But we do know what they saw as soon as their eyes were touched by the Great Physician. The world around them must have been wonderful to behold: the sky and birds, the trees and grass, the crowds of people. But the One Who had given them the eyesight was the only One they were interested in. They did not just stand and admire Him as He went on His way. They followed Him. And as far as we know, they were followers of Him for the rest of their lives. All because they received a look at Him, with the ability to see that He had provided.

These men who were healed are just like all Christians. The greatest look we ever received was that of the Lord Jesus as our Saviour. Because of that look, we became His followers. We will remain His followers all of our days. But there are times when we don’t follow Him as we should. And we sometimes see other Christians who are not following the Lord Jesus in obedient lives. What causes this slackness on our part? What leads Christians to become backsliders? I believe it is the failure to use the spiritual eyesight that the Lord Jesus has given us to focus on Him. The less we behold Him, the more attractive the world and its false ways will appear. But the more we behold Him, the more quickly the tinsel world fades and becomes unimportant.

Those who follow and serve the Lord Jesus the best are those who know Him best and who most appreciate the sight that they have received of Himself. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

July 21st, 2019

Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

Severe flooding had hit a remote area of an eastern country. The president was involved in critical state business and was unable to go immediately to the flooded area, but he dispatched his son to go and see what help the government could provide for the flood victims. A few days later, the president was able to make the trip to the flood zone, and arrived to inspect the damage for himself. To his surprise, he found his son dressed in work clothes and filling sandbags with other members of the work crews. When his father asked why he was not involved in the flood relief coordination or some other more dignified work, the son replied, ‘This is where they need help the most, so this is where I need to be.’ How like the Lord Jesus, Who knew where we needed help, and Who came to provide that help.

The greatest need for lost and perishing humanity is a ransom. Held captive in Satan’s dominion, we had no way to free ourselves from the yoke of bondage and the peril of eternal destruction. As 500 pence debtors, we could not afford the ransom. Deluded by the devil’s temptations and lies, we did not even realize we needed to be ransomed, and any efforts on our part to bridge the chasm between ourselves and God were made with deceitful hearts, defiled hands, and disobedient actions. Whether we realized it or not, our greatest need was for a ransom, and the Lord Jesus knew that need and came to give His life as that ransom.

It was not enough for the Lord Jesus to come into this world as a great king or governor. Yes, He could have established a righteous rule and corrected the many evils of our world, but that would never atone for all the evils of the past nor release sinners from their helpless bondage. Many today believe He came as a great teacher to instruct us on how to live better lives. He surely was the greatest teacher the world has known, but teaching could not atone for sins nor cover the vast debt that we had already built up. As a lad of twelve, He knew that He must be about His Father’s business, which business was to give His life a ransom for us. Throughout His ministry, His destination was always the cross of Calvary, where the great debt was to be settled forever and where God would see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. When the day came, He was a willing sacrifice, and the ransom He paid with His own blood has delivered us.

God’s perfect Servant came to serve us in providing the ransom we needed. How can we respond in any other way but to serve and worship Him? -Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

July 20th, 2019

For the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. Matthew 20:1

Two young men had a good idea for a business, and went about developing their idea. They hired a few good workers to help them as they got started. Because they believed their ideas would grow into a large enterprise, the owners of the business urged the workers to make plans that would work well as the business grew. Those early employees established working conditions and policies that were designed for large numbers of workers. As the company grew, those conditions and policies proved to be very valuable, protecting the company from the growing pains that affect many expanding enterprises. When the business became a huge, international organization, the owners paid tribute to the excellent foundation laid by those early employees. Our text reminds us of the early members of the kingdom of Heaven.

The great organization that we refer to as the Body of Christ had some excellent early workers. The disciples did some stumbling and struggling during the Lord’s years of ministry, but they learned their lessons, and were ready to assume leadership roles when the day of Pentecost was come. Their doctrines and teaching and guidance were of immeasurable help to the early Christian companies. The early missionaries and preachers provided the initiative for the Great Commission to take the Gospel to the world. The apostles such as Paul and the writers of the Gospels gave us the New Testament Scriptures. We owe much to these early morning hires in the vineyard of Christianity.

But there is another group of early morning hires who are important to those of us in God’s Assemblies. During the centuries since the early days of Christianity, many of the precious truths of the gatherings of the Lord’s people were lost to the evils of clerisy and the darkness of Rome. Even the great reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin remained embedded in the religious systems and practices of their day. But in the early 1800s, a few godly men began to see the error of the established churches and began exploring the Scriptures for the truth concerning God’s plan for the gatherings of His people. During the next few decades, these men identified those principles of Scripture that applied to this great subject, and established Assemblies that matched the pattern of the Word of God. Despite occasional upheavals and schisms over the years, the work of those early labourers continues today. The principles that they rediscovered are the basis for the operation of your Assembly.

We ought to read about those early pioneers, so that we might appreciate how much we owe to the early morning labourers in the vineyard of God’s Assembly. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

July 19th, 2019

Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all and followed Thee, what shall we have therefore? Matthew 19:27

Everybody listens to radio station WIFM! Because of who we are and how we are made, we are very interested in WIFM – that stands for What’s In it For Me. Every time we are asked to do anything, or are given an opportunity to participate in anything, we need to know what we will get out of it. Only a big reward or a substantial payment will induce us to carry out a difficult or dirty job. Sometimes the reward is monetary or material, sometimes it is just the satisfaction of knowing we have done something worthwhile, but we all want something for ourselves, otherwise we would not do anything. That is why students who understand the value that their education gives will do far better in their grades than students who see education as pointless and valueless. That’s why Peter wants to know what the return is for his decision to follow the Lord Jesus. It’s a good question, and one we should all consider.

The disciples truly had given up much to follow the Lord Jesus. Their fishing nets and boats might not seem valuable, but they represented their livelihood and their way of life. By joining His itinerant band, they had also left behind the comforts of cot and cottage, and the companionship of family and neighbours. Most of us, our full-time workers and missionaries excepted, have not done so much. In fact, much of what we have given up is all for the good. We have left behind the bad habits and sinful lifestyles that marked us before we were saved. We have left behind the bad companions that corrupted good manners, the wayward paths that were filled with sinful snares, the pursuits of pleasures that endured but a short season, the chasing of goals that had little more than a momentary fulfilling. It is true that some have experienced trials and setbacks in order to live for their Lord, but for most of us, life is better now than when we were in our sins. So in this life, with the joys of Heaven to anticipate, the fellowship of the saints to appreciate, the Word of God to enrich and satisfy, and the love of God to fill us with gratitude, we are definitely winners. One of the delights of being a Christian is the knowledge that our Lord appreciates everything that we do for Him, and has promised a reward for all that we do.

Being a follower of the Lord Jesus is rich compensation in itself. But God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His Name (Hebrews 6:10). -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

July 18th, 2019

But Jesus beheld them and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26

Most of us know the story of Peter Orasuk, a man who was heavily involved in drugs until he was reached by the Gospel and delivered, to become one of the most dynamic Gospel preachers of our day before his homecall. Despite his wicked and reckless lifestyle, several of the Christians in his area had not given up on him, and were faithful in witnessing to him. There were probably times when they wondered if their efforts were worthwhile, but their patience and persistence were based on the truth that the Lord Jesus is presenting in today’s text. Many were surprised when Peter was saved, but the Lord Jesus was not.

The context of today’s text is Jesus’ admonition that it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. The amazed disciples wondered who could possibly be saved, if the rich were so restricted. The impossibility of a camel passing through a needle’s eye was so apparent to them. I have threaded a few needles, and know by experience that even a slender thread is a challenge sometimes. But a camel, never! No wonder the disciples were perplexed. Were rich people blocked from salvation? Were there restrictions on the grace of God? The truth of the Gospel lies not in that some can never be saved but in that nobody can be saved except through the power of God.

Millionaires and drug dealers alike find it impossible to gain entrance into God’s Heaven on their own efforts and merits. Those of us who are neither millionaires nor drug dealers remember when we had to come to the same conclusion: Heaven was blocked to us by our own inabilities and unworthiness. Just as a rich person could never pay enough, a religious person could never pray enough, a diligent man could never work enough, so you and I could never gain God’s favour. The camel of our sin is far too great to pass though the restrictive needle’s eye of God’s righteous requirements. But this becomes irrelevant in the face of God’s power and grace.

Our sin, our worthless works, and our misguided piety cannot pass through the needle’s eye, but the Lord Jesus was not so encumbered. He had no sin, His works were perfect, and His devotion to His God was absolute. The needle’s eye was no obstacle to Him, as He faced the righteous wrath of God against our sin. Because He passed through that needle’s eye, we are spared.

As we carry the Gospel forth, we should be encouraged that the Lord Jesus has already done the work, and sinners who cannot meet God’s demands can rest in the possibility available through His power. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

July 17th, 2019

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come and follow Me. Matthew 19:21

Over several years, I filled out a number of online surveys for a polling company. For each one I filled out, I earned a number of points. I received a note recently from the company, telling me I had built up enough points so that I could redeem those points for valuable items or for money. So I accessed my points account, and selected the option to have the points converted into money and placed into my PayPal account. While the points remained as points, they were of no benefit to me or anyone else. But now that they have been transferred into cash, they are useful. In the same way, our possessions here in this life have no real and lasting value, until we convert them into treasure in Heaven.

The Lord Jesus in today’s text is bringing before the young rich man the reality of His failure to love his neighbour as himself. But He is also stating a valuable lesson in economics: treasure in Heaven is obtained by converting our treasure here on earth. The God of Heaven has been gracious and generous to us by giving us many things, including our possessions, our money, our time, and our abilities. But we need to keep in mind that these things have been loaned to us, they have not been given to us permanently. Everything that we own is ours only until the day we die, then it must all be left behind for others to fight over. But the Lord Jesus is revealing a way for that which the Lord has given us to become ours eternally. He is unveiling a program for transferring earth’s possessions into Heaven’s treasures.

It is a two-stage program, as our text reveals. The first stage is to use our possessions as the Lord Jesus directs. The young man with great possessions was instructed to sell all and give to the poor. Those great possessions would have gone far in alleviating misery for many people. Yes, there are many people around us who could surely benefit from receiving financial aid from us or from others. Someone has suggested that God has allowed so many people to be poor so that His people would have plenty of opportunity to transfer their possessions to Heaven through them. God may not have the same plan for you to spend your money, your time, your energies, and abilities. But He does want you to spend them in His service and at His direction. The second step in the transfer program is to follow the Lord Jesus. Having sold all his possessions, the rich young man would become dependent on the Lord Jesus for everything. This is a lesson that every Christian must learn, that we are dependent on the Lord Jesus for everything. The closer we follow Him, the more we understand living by faith and not by self.

Heaven’s bank is now open to accept our deposits. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

July 16th, 2019

And behold, one came and said unto Him, Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life. Matthew 19:16

In and around the city of Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity organization run by the Catholic nurse known as Mother Teresa ran 517 homes for the dying. Teresa’s organization worked for years among the slums and poverty of India to alleviate human suffering. Those who admired Teresa declared that if anyone deserved to be in Heaven because of her works, it was her. But did she do enough to get herself admitted to Heaven? A team of Canadian researchers doesn’t think so. The researchers found that the homes operated by Teresa were often dirty and short on staff, food, and pain killers, even though Teresa’s organization raised many millions of dollars to support those homes. They also found that Teresa believed that the sick must suffer like Christ on the cross, and did little to alleviate their actual suffering. So maybe she didn’t do enough to get to Heaven? Those of us who know the Gospel know that nobody can do enough to get to Heaven. But we live in a world that believes otherwise.

The Moslem religion teaches that the only sure way to get to heaven is in a holy jihad – in other words, by killing Christians (and other so-called infidels). But any right-thinking person knows that murdering people is not a good thing. And the one in our text who came to the Lord Jesus was looking for something good to do. He was like the religious world around us, so ready to exert his own efforts to do something that God might be pleased about. Whether a missions operator like Mother Teresa or a collection-plate passer at a local church, the religious fail to understand how impossible it is to find anything good enough to please God. Defiled hands and depraved hearts produce only sin and evil deeds, no matter how well-intentioned. Eternal life is the gift of God, not the wages of work or a prize deserved. The truth of the Gospel is that the only work that God can accept as payment for eternal life is the cross work of Christ.

So why do Christians fill their hands with good deeds and honest, moral living? Are we not striving to maintain our qualification for Heaven? No, our testimony of good works and righteousness is the proof of our salvation, not the means of it. It is also one of the reasons why God reached to us with His salvation, that we might by our good deeds and testimony show the world the holy character of His Son. The good things we do will never bring salvation to us, but they very well might be used of God to bring salvation to others.

Good deeds by the ungodly are prideful vanity, but good deeds by the redeemed are the will of God. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

July 15th, 2019

Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them and pray, and the disciples rebuked them. Matthew 19:13

Only a couple of the students at the one-room school I attended as a child were left-handed, but the teacher was also left-handed. She used to tell us about when she was a little girl in school, and her teachers tried to turn her into a right-handed person. Their attempts frustrated her and caused her to have great difficulty in school for several years. Then along came a teacher who understood that left-handedness is normal for ten percent of the population, and liberated her from the attempts to change. Once she was allowed to function normally, our teacher said, she had no further problems in school. She reminded the southpaws among us that they could achieve as much as the right-handed pupils, and they had no need to change. She was like the parents who brought their children to the Lord Jesus.

Our text tells us that the children were brought to the Lord Jesus to be blessed. The parents were happy to have the Lord Jesus simply put His hands on the children, and pray for them. They were not asking that He give them Einstein brains or Sampson strength, or Solomon wisdom. They were not looking for the Lord to transform them from insufferable brats into angelic charmers, either. No, they knew that just bringing the children to the Saviour would take care of making any changes that the children needed. Bringing them to Jesus was the first and foremost goal, one that parents today need to keep in mind.

We have all experienced coming to know somebody who has made a great difference in our lives. Perhaps it was a Sunday School teacher, or a favourite uncle or aunt, or a friendly neighbour, who gave us words of encouragement and wisdom, who helped us to make some right decisions, who believed in us when others didn’t. Just knowing those special individuals made us a better person. If those earthly role models did us so much good, how much greater the influence of knowing the Lord Jesus? Those wise parents of long ago had their priorities straight in terms of their children’s relationship with the Lord Jesus. Wise parents of today do all they can, as well, to introduce their children to the Lord Jesus, and to allow that relationship with Him to shape and direct their children’s lives. No greater and better influence can children have than being in the presence of the One whose love for them is so great.

Our responsibility is to bring the children to the Lord Jesus. It will be our joy to see what He can do with them in their lives. -Jim MacIntosh