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Food for Friday

September 21st, 2018

Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. Ezekiel 1:1

A large segment of American history deals with slavery. Many accounts have been written about the slave trade, the conditions under which slaves lived, the abuse and overwork they endured, the struggles for survival, and many other issues. Books and movies abound, both factual and fictional, that tell us about these people, in stories fascinating and poignant. Against this vast volume of material we compare Ezekiel’s miniscule description of the enslavement of many of the Jews during his day. The prophet devotes only a few phrases, not even a whole statement, on the conditions he experienced. Why? Because he had something far more significant to relate: the visions he received from God!

Have you ever wondered what life was like for Ezekiel and the other captives. That they were by the river indicates they probably performed backbreaking labour in the fields. That they are described as captives indicates they had little freedom or possessions and were likely treated cruelly. But Ezekiel does not fill in those details for us. God had opened the heavens to show him visions, and that was all he was interested in. He gives us a lesson in priorities. When we get together for discussions, do we talk about our conditions and troubles, or do we talk about what the Lord has opened up to us from His Word?

Life isn’t always easy, with its pains and heartaches, its disappointments and struggles. But God gives us two great assurances regarding our mortality: He will never allow us to be tested beyond our ability to cope, and He will soon come to take us to our eternal dwelling of joy and rest. With these great assurances, we can lift up our eyes from our discouraging surroundings and behold God’s eternal blessings.

Our happiness does not come from any extent of ease and pleasure down here, but rather on our appreciation of the glories that await us up there. God’s Book is an opening to Heaven, where we may enjoy visions of God. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

September 20th, 2018

And again He entered into Capernaum after some days, and it was noised that He was in the house. Mark 2:1

There is always an exciting anticipation as a series of Gospel meetings begins in a tent. It’s especially exciting to begin a series in a place where meetings were held many years previously. Initially, a good number of the Christians from the nearest Assemblies are in attendance, as are all their children and a few relatives. A few folks from the community often show up in the early days, and then things settle down as the preachers and the local Christians do their best to urge folks to come and hear the Gospel. As the days and weeks go by, the sense of expectation dwindles, and the meetings grind to a halt eventually with only one or two professions of Salvation. We are disappointed; we would like to have seen more blessing. We are also disappointed that seed sown in past meetings has failed to materialize in fruit this time. How we long for a response like the Lord Jesus received when he paid a return visit to Capernaum!

Huge crowds showed up as soon as it was noised that Jesus was back in town. People remembered His miracles from the previous visit. They heard His preaching and wished to hear more. Some of them actually believed His claims to be the Messiah, and for them, this was a wonderful event. Their expectations were high, and Jesus did not disappoint. But He was not there simply to grab attention or to please the people. He had the Gospel to preach, sick people to heal and comfort, and the will of His Father to fulfill. For Jesus, His return to Capernaum was part of His great plan, and there were precious souls there who needed Him. Just as there are precious souls all around us today who need Him.

We make return visits every day to the places where we are serving our Lord. We frequently encounter family members who need the Gospel, we bump into neighbours and friends every day, and the same goes for people where we work. How many of these people are excited and glad to see us? How many are excited and glad about our testimony for our Lord? We don’t perform miracles and we can’t preach like Jesus did, so we should expect only so much. But if we are faithful, loving, and sincere, we will encounter those who are happy that we are back.

If it was important for Jesus to make return visits, we should too. And we should tell people about Jesus when we do. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

September 19th, 2018

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him, and said unto him, I will, be thou clean. Mark 1:41

A portrait taken in the Trustees Room of the New York Public Library by a photographer for Forbes magazine shows a happy group of well-dressed and impressive looking people. All look happy, some wearing friendly smiles for the camera. That dozen includes some of the wealthiest people in the world, the likes of Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jon Bon Jovi, and David Rubenstein. This wealthy dozen is marked not just by how much money they have but also by how much of it they have given away. Warren Buffet, for example, has reportedly given away 99 percent of everything he has earned (and he’s still a rich man). Most of the money has gone to undoubtedly good causes and has helped many thousands of unfortunate people. Were these great philanthropists motivated by compassion, like Jesus was? We can’t tell. But we do know that their compassion couldn’t reach as deeply as Jesus’ could.

Not all of the $170 billion or so represented by those billionaires in the Forbes photo could cure the poor leper who came to Jesus. And not all of that money would have enticed any of those billionaires to place their hands on a leper. If Jesus had given the poor leper a loaf of bread, or even a handful of shekels, He would have helped the man. But He understood the leper’s real need, He cared about the leper’s condition, and from a resource deeper than any bank account of earth, He poured out His compassion and healing. There is something very moving and magnificent in the fact that Jesus actually reached out and touched the man, the first kind touch he had felt in years. It was an act that we ought to study today.

As Jesus understood the needs of the leper, so we understand the needs of the lost world around us. As Jesus reached out to the leper and touched him, we ought to be willing to reach out and touch those around us. The leper understood that his healing depended on Jesus’ willingness. But the lost souls around us are unaware that Jesus is willing to save them. They know nothing of His compassion and His willingness to envelope them in His love and His Salvation. You and I must show that love, that compassion, that willingness to reach out and touch, and tell of Jesus’ provision for them.

What spiritual leper will God bring to you today to display His compassion and willingness to save? And will you reach out and touch them? – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

September 18th, 2018

And Simon and they that were with him followed after Him. Mark 1:36

We know his name was Simon Peter, and sometimes known as Cephas. In the other Gospels, he is mostly referred to as Peter. But in the early chapters of Mark, he is called Simon. When we consider that much of Mark’s Gospel is from material Mark gathered from Peter, we can surmise that it was probably Peter’s idea to be referred to as Simon. We can only guess as to why, but if we look at the meaning of the names, we might get a better idea. The name Peter means stone. The name Simon means listener, or one who hears. We should agree with Peter that it is better to be a listener than a stone.

Our text tells us that Simon followed Jesus to the place where He was praying. Surely he heard some of the prayer, and it must have been worth listening to. He also heard Jesus preach and debate, and in later years, it was obvious that he had indeed listened and learned. We often think of Peter as the impulsive person who was always leaping into situations, always ready to act and do and go. But Peter actually prefers that we remember him as one who listened to the Lord Jesus. He is Simon the listener, Simon who took time to pay attention to what the Lord Jesus was saying, Simon who had all those wonderful memories on which to draw for his apostleship.

We remember the old saying about the wise old owl who sat on an oak, the more he heard, the less he spoke, the less he spoke, the more he heard, we all should be like that wise old bird. Some young men long for the time when they can stand on the platform and display their spiritual progress before the Assembly. It’s good to be exercised to participate, but it’s better to be prepared to listen and learn. The need to listen to godly leaders, to the Word of God, and to those around us is a lesson that sometimes is slow in sinking in. But if impetuous Peter needed to acknowledge that he was also Simon the listener, we need to learn that too.

Before you speak today, practice listening for the Lord’s voice first. You will be surprised at how much more you can learn. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

September 17th, 2018

But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell Him of her. Mark 1:30

We were at a time management seminar one time when an interesting speaker made a very effective presentation with some small cardboard tokens. These tokens – a little larger than a toonie – were fairly plain, with a simple decorative edging on each side. On one side was the word ‘Tuit’ in large capital letters. The speaker informed us that by giving us the tokens he had just enabled us to make great strides in all areas of our lives. He told us that because we now had a ’round tuit’, we could proceed with all the things that were holding us back. He said most things get delayed simply because we don’t get a ’round tuit’. It’s the same in our spiritual life, many things are delayed until we eventually get around to it. Nice to see in our text that the disciples didn’t waste any time in telling Jesus about Peter’s sick mother-in-law.

The word ‘anon’ in our text simply means immediately or straightway. The lads didn’t waste any time. This was the first task on their list. They knew that Jesus could heal and they knew that a woman was ill, and they rushed to bring Jesus to her. They had the joy of seeing the woman restored to good health, and they had the comfort of her hospitality to them. It’s a simple lesson, but we could also benefit by bringing needs and problems to the Lord Jesus as soon as ever we can. We don’t need to wait until prayer meeting night, or even until our evening devotions. No, Jesus power is always available, His heart is ever caring, and His blessings are readily dispensed. He doesn’t keep ‘hours’ like an earthly doctor nor require appointments like a Main Street specialist, nor does He ever place us at the back of a queue. Our access to His blessings depends on our haste in approaching Him, not on any reluctance on His part.

Because the disciples acted anon, they received a great blessing. How happy they must have been to see that woman delivered from her illness as quickly as possible. Jesus has no interest in prolonging our difficulties, either. He desires that we come to Him and receive of Him as soon as we can. But we often look to ourselves to resolve our issues, forgetting that Jesus knows and cares more about those things than we do. He understands more than we can even express. And He is willing to bless more than we can even imagine.

When it comes to bringing our problems to Jesus, anon is a great habit to get into. Anon we ask; anon He blesses. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

September 16th, 2018

And immediately His fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee. Mark 1:28

On March 4, 1966, the British newspaper, London Evening Standard, published a story based on an interview with John Lennon of the Beatles. At the time, the Beatles were the most popular singing group in the world. That all changed after the interview with Lennon. Here is a direct quote from Lennon during that interview: ‘I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.’ That quote triggered a backlash against the Beatles that resulted in a dramatic loss of popularity. 14 years later, when Mark David Chapman shot and killed Lennon, he gave the ‘more popular than Jesus’ quote as part of the reason for the murder. If you were to take a poll today, you would find Jesus far more popular than the Beatles are, and Jesus held in far greater esteem than John Lennon. To those who know Who Jesus is, nobody could ever be more wonderful!

We know that many today reject the Lord Jesus as the Christ. In fact, most of the cults major on denying His deity and lordship. To most of those we see every day, He is little more than a swear word with no relevance to their lives or future, as far as they know or care. What they don’t realize is that a coming day will reveal everyone who has ever lived acknowledging Jesus’ supremacy in all things. Despite their rejection, denial, and apathy now, there will be no doubt as to His popularity then. In the meantime, with those who have come to know His loving kindness and His saving grace, Jesus is our all in all.

Each Lord’s Day morning, the Lord’s people gather to honour and praise our Saviour and Lord. Each Lord’s Day evening, we gather to hear His Gospel presented to those who have not yet understood. To us, on His day, His popularity exceeds that which which the people around Galilee accorded Him in today’s text. On the other days of the week, He is no less precious or wonderful. We can safely shape our entire lives around serving and following Him, and know that we will never be disappointed. It would have been wonderful to hear His sermons and see His miracles during those Galilee days. But it is just as wonderful to enjoy His presence and meditate on His Word today.

Is Jesus the most famous person you know? How excited are you that He is your Friend and Lord? – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

September 15th, 2018

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

A few years after the apostle Paul penned today’s text, he was in prison in Rome. He was unable to preach the Gospel, or visit Christians, or attend meetings of the Assembly. His visitors were limited, his treatment was no doubt rough, his comforts were very few. And yet, even in the dirty, cold Roman dungeon, he could write that his being placed in prison had ‘fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel’ Philippians 1:12 He could speak of the prison and palace guards being aware of his bonds, and why he was there. He could also speak of how his imprisonment had given other brethren encouragement to preach the Gospel boldly. Souls were being saved because, even though Paul himself could not preach, others were preaching. Paul could be thrilled about his imprisonment because it meant that more precious souls were going to be saved. How much would you or I endure to know that a sinner would be saved or that a saint would be helped?

Sometimes it’s hard for us to actually believe and accept today’s text. When our bodies are in pain, when our hearts are breaking, when our resources are depleted, when our friends disappear, when discouragement and disappointment occupy our full range of vision, we wonder if all this is God’s will and purpose. We wonder why we have to endure these things. We fret that we are being unfairly targeted. We fail to see what God sees, that these things are only temporary, and that they are part of His perfect plan.

Remember when we are suffering pain, that we are not going to feel pain in eternity. Remember when we are feeling disappointed or lonely, that these are foreign to Heaven. Remember when we are unable to see anything but darkness that there is no night in our eternal home.

Lift up your heart, child of God. Your Heavenly Father is doing everything for your good, and He will make it all plain very soon. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

September 14th, 2018

Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. Romans 6:18

In 1973, Ken Dryden, the great goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, was unable to resolve his contract dispute with the hockey team, and decided to simply not play for the coming year. Because Montreal owned the rights to the goalie, Dryden could not go to play for another team. But the Canadiens could do nothing to force him to play for them. And they refused to trade him to play for any other team. In the field of professional hockey, players have a choice of whether to serve the team that owns their rights. But in the great game of life, unsaved sinners do not have such a choice. And saved sinners should never abuse their liberty to avoid serving their new Master.

Just like pro hockey players, we are all owned. The devil owns the unsaved, but the Lord Jesus has bought us who are saved. Tricking sinners into thinking they are their own masters, the devil has them dancing to the very tune that he himself has selected. But, as our text points out, the Lord Jesus has freed us from the puppet strings of the devil. He has liberated us from the sinkhole of disobedience and has placed the power of obedience into our souls. The righteousness that eluded us for so long has been conferred on us as our eternal state. And while we are here in time and in the flesh, we are enabled to serve the righteous Master with righteous deeds. While it is true that we can choose not to render righteous service, why would we want to do that?

How cruelly Satan entices young (and not so young) Christians into the lusts and pleasures of the world. He convinces so many that joy and good times can only be had in the pursuit of sin. He paints the victorious Christian life as one of boredom and drudgery. And to the extent that Christians view the world as more attractive than living for our Lord, to that extent has Satan succeeded in his lies. He can never enslave us again, but he can fool us into returning to the taskmaster’s whip.

We serve a wonderful Master whose desire is always for our very best. Let our service to Him be always that of joyful appreciation. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

September 13th, 2018

And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple, and when He had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, He went out into Bethany with the twelve. Mark 11:11

Did you ever wonder why the Lord Jesus, after his great reception and arrival in Jerusalem, did not remain there? Why did He leave the city to spend the night with his disciples and friends instead of claiming VIP lodging in Jerusalem? Although He entered the city as the King, He did not find Jerusalem ready for His kingdom. Jerusalem is still not ready, and won’t be for awhile, although He will someday set up His righteous reign there for a thousand years. In the meantime, He is sojourning outside, with His followers. With us!

During His first sojourn on this earth, Jesus spent most of His time with a few devoted followers. Other than the disciples, He had close friends such as Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in Bethany, and others who appreciated Him. By times, the crowds were attracted to Him for brief periods. It’s the same today. The Lord Jesus has a few devoted followers throughout the world, those who recognize His lordship and who appreciate His person. The crowds still gather around once in awhile, such as Christmas and Easter, and even call on Him during tragedies and problems, but ignore Him most of the time. For now, just as on that day in our text, Jesus is content to dwell in the outside place with His own.

After looking over the magnificence of the temple, the Lord Jesus must have found the little house in Bethany pretty humble. But the temple held no attraction for him at this stage. It was full of religion and ritual, but no worship. It was bustling with activity, but it had no time for Him. But out in Bethany was a small and quiet spot where He was recognized and loved. Outside the camp of religion is where we welcome Him today. Outside the camp of ritual and ceremony is His desire to meet with a few of His own. Little companies who recognize no name but His, who seek no glory but for Him, who honour no word apart from His. Do you know such a place?

If the Lord Jesus was content to dwell outside the camp, our greatest desire should be to dwell with Him there. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

September 12th, 2018

And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. Mark 1:17

I worked one summer with a young man who was struggling to pay his way through Bible school. He had another year to go, and he wanted to earn enough during the summer to pay his tuition. He was a good worker, and pleasant to be with, but his heart was elsewhere much of the time. The summer job was just a means to reach his goal of graduating with a degree that would enable him to become a preacher in his denomination. I never followed up to see if he succeeded, although he probably did. He had a great desire to become a fisher of men. But he took a different route to that great profession than the one Jesus prescribes in today’s text.

People who attend Bible schools, especially those who attend Bible schools that seek to faithfully teach Biblical truths, undoubtedly learn much about the Bible. They also receive training, coaching, and practice in preaching and evangelism in various forms. But do they become fishers of men? Some do, probably. But I will venture that those who do succeed because they place less emphasis on their formal education and more emphasis on their following Jesus. We have great examples in the New Testament, including the disciples to whom Jesus issued His directive to follow Him. These men had no schooling at all. And yet their preaching turned the world upside down, including some sermons in which thousands were saved. What about the apostle Paul? He had received the highest teaching possible from the greatest of Jewry’s rabbis, but that served him nothing when it came to His exercise to be a fisher of men. His training came from the same place where the best of training comes now, in the local Assembly activities. He became a great fisher of men because He became a great follower of Jesus.

A local Assembly has many opportunities for us to train to become fishers of men. Those opportunities are based in a setting where Jesus is acknowledged as Lord and where the delight is to be in His presence and to learn from Him. The opportunities come in Sunday School work, in children’s meetings, in support for each Gospel series that comes along, in prayer and support for preachers and missionaries, in faithful service and witness day by day. As for education, a Christian who faithfully and diligently prepares for and attends Assembly Bible readings will gain a greater knowledge than any Bible school can impart. And it’s all based on following Jesus, just as He said.

We could have few higher goals than becoming a fisher of men. And the instructions to becoming one couldn’t be simpler: ‘Come ye after Me’. – Jim MacIntosh