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Tidings for Tuesday

July 25th, 2017

Be it known therefore unto you that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. Acts 28:28

Some 15,000 Jewish people in Israel call themselves members of Messianic Judaism, which is an acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. As many as 250,000 people in the United States claim to be Messianic Jews. These people, although still following many of the tenets of their Jewish religion, recognize the deity and resurrection of Jesus as Christ and Lord. Although this sounds impressive, this number represents only a tiny percentage of the world’s Jews. Because Israel as a nation rejected Jesus when He came, only a tiny few have ever been saved. As Paul pointed out to the Jewish people in Rome, God had turned to the Gentiles, and many of them were welcoming the Gospel.

Today, many groups of the Gentiles are also rejecting Jesus, just as the Jews did two thousand years ago. And just as He did with the Jews back then, God is turning away from the nations that have rejected Him and is turning to those people who will listen to the Gospel.

Many times, a series of Gospel meetings in a community fails to draw any of the people in that community to hear the Gospel. The tent or hall is filled with Christians who bring their children and their friends. But from the actual community, the no-show is almost total. They will not hear the Gospel, despite the valiant efforts of preachers and helpers to issue invitations and texts. Sadly, God is listening to their rejection, and frequently, a Gospel series comes and goes with no visible impact on the community. The day of visitation comes and passes, leaving people responsible for their rejection of the Gospel.

Amid the struggles to get people out under the sound of the Word, the discouragements of poor attendance and lack of interest, listen to the words of today’s text, ‘the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and.. they will hear it.’ God is still saving souls, still rescuing the perishing, and still working in the hearts of the lost. We just don’t see it around here very much.

In lands and places where the Gospel is going forth with power and is being received, preachers are delighted at the response. Pray that people in our land would see the folly of their rejection, and turn to the Saviour. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

July 24th, 2017

Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content. Philippians 4:11

I remember watching a news strip of the late actor George Burns, who had appeared at a function where he was to make a short speech. As he approached the microphone, Burns made the observation, ‘It’s nice to be here. Actually, it’s nice to be anywhere when you’re 100 years old!’ He had a good point; most of us don’t reach that grand old age like George Burns did. Most of us don’t want to be 100 years old, but none of us want to avoid it, either. Just to be alive is the most important thing, after all. The apostle Paul, in today’s text, is considering how the circumstances around him were becoming less important than the simple fact that He was in God’s hands.

How content are you with your current circumstances? There is nothing wrong, of course, with working hard to improve our situation, to make things better for ourselves and those we love. But if we find that the circumstances around us deteriorate through no fault of our own, does that cause us anxiety and dismay? Speaking for myself, I would have to confess it does. But it shouldn’t. I have to remember that circumstances here are temporary, and God has a permanent plan for me that is so much greater and better. There is nothing to regret about losing out in this world when we realize that we are gaining everything in the next world.

Look at the person who has the big mansion down the road; is that person better off than you? What about the person driving the handsome new expensive car; does that person have a right to more happiness than you? Probably not! Those people most likely are not even saved. They don’t have the most precious and important thing in all the world: God’s salvation. All those folks who flow around you in a busy mall are in a struggle to get ahead, to have more things, more fun, more friends, more power, more of this world’s passing pelf. And all this time, you and I have everything that is the most important for time and for eternity. Why should we not be content?

To be content is a lesson that Paul learned. It is a lesson that we do well to study every day; it will make us sweeter saints. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

July 23rd, 2017

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Philippians 4:23

If this text looks familiar, it should; all of Paul’s epistles end with either these exact words, or words very similar. In fact, if you look at all of Paul’s epistles, you will see that he also invokes a prayer for peace at the introduction and closing of each. In every epistle to an Assembly, he spoke of grace and peace, and in every epistle to an individual, he spoke of grace, mercy, and peace. Because not one word of Scripture is unimportant, there must be a good reason why the Holy Spirit instructed Paul to speak so much about grace. This is a good day to consider the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and its significance to us as both individuals and Assemblies.

Several of our hymns make the precious point that grace is free. We who deserve eternal condemnation rejoice that, as 500-pence debtors, we have been freely forgiven. Not only have we been delivered from wrath, but we have been given eternal life. We have all the blessings of being heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. For us, this is all free. But for God to provide it, He paid the great price of giving is Son. The free grace that we rejoice in today came at infinite cost.

As we rejoice today at the position into which grace has brought us, we must consider the position that the Lord Jesus had to take to provide this grace. To remember the Lord Jesus today, God has seated us together in heavenly places. But the Lord Jesus must leave those heavenly places for a time, that He might redeem us. We read of His mighty stoop, His laying aside the visible evidence of His glory to take on humanity, and to be clad in human flesh, that He might suffer for us. If it were but the taking upon Himself humanity, that would be a great price to pay. But He did not only take on humanity, He also entered into judgment for sin. Fully exhausting the wrath of God that you and I deserve, He paid the infinite price that was required for grace to be available.

The amazing grace of the Lord Jesus is surely a sweet sound, as John Newton’s wonderful hymn reminds us. May we speak much of such amazing grace today. -Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

July 22nd, 2017

Let your moderation be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5

I’m sure you’ve heard the old expression ‘all things in moderation’. It’s a good saying, but we have to be careful. That old saying and today’s text are often misapplied to say that all things are acceptable, as long as we exercise moderation. This verse is not teaching that at all. Some things are not appropriate for a Christian, even in moderation. Some things are sinful, and wrong, and need to be entirely avoided, such as the use of alcohol or illicit drugs, sex outside of the marriage bond, profanity and vulgar speech, to name a few. Such things do not require moderation for the Christian, they require total abstinence. So what is the term ‘moderation’ in our text referring to?

Actually, the translators could have used a better word. The term used by Paul carries the thoughts of reasonableness and of gentleness. Now those are both excellent things for a Christian to practice!

Are you a reasonable person? It’s not always easy to tell about ourselves, although we notice unreasonableness in others quickly enough. Jesus was always reasonable. He didn’t place unrealistic expectations on anyone. He didn’t push Himself on others when they didn’t want. He was considerate and mindful of others in all His dealings. We should be likewise. Note the text says our moderation – or reasonableness – should be known to everybody, not just to our best friends, closest neighbours, and favourite relatives. All those who know us should know that we are reasonable.

Everybody should also know us as gentle. I once read that the definition of a gentleman is a man who never intentionally hurts anybody in any way. Of course, we are not violent or destructive, not ever. But are we gentle in other ways as well? Do we watch to make sure our comments about people don’t insult or belittle, or cause resentment? Do we make sure our actions are fair and considerate of all those we encounter? Nobody was more gentle than the Lord Jesus. Let Him be our example.

Oh, how wonderful our world, our homes, our Assemblies would be if we were all more reasonable and gentle! Let’s make the effort, one person at a time. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

July 21st, 2017

Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice. Philippians 4:4

In 1915, two Welsh brothers, George and Felix Powell, submitted an entry in a competition for the best morale-boosting song for the war effort. Their entry – Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag – not only won first prize, but was later described as the most optimistic song ever written. It became the most famous marching song of the First World War. George wrote the words and Felix composed the music. Surely we would think these were two good-natured joyful lads. But something was tragically wrong, at least with Felix. In 1942, he shot himself to death with his own rifle. The joy that he poured into his famous song was only temporary. The world’s joy is always temporary, unlike the ability that the Lord gives Christians to rejoice always.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you and I are bursting with smiles and chuckles all the time. Not every day is a ride on a fluffy cloud. Tragedies and accidents happen. Disease hurts. Heartaches are all too frequent. It’s often a struggle to keep the corners of the mouth turned upward. And we all know some folks who say they are Christians but their faces are long and their moods gloomy. And yet, Paul is not expressing an ideal here when he tells us to rejoice always; he is expressing a real possibility. And he gives us the key to being able to rejoice always.

The words ‘in the Lord’ make all the difference. On a good day, you and I can rejoice in the knowledge of sins forgiven, the prospects of Glory, the hope of eternal life, the support and comfort of the Holy Spirit, and so much more. On the bad days, we find solace in the knowledge that the best is yet to come and that blessings will not be hindered or denied in the long run. Grief at the departure of loved ones is always tempered with the the sweetness of knowing separation is only for a little while. The knowledge that we are in the Lord allows us to rejoice despite tears, heartache, and pain.

Is it easy to rejoice today? Give thanks for that! Is it hard to rejoice today? Give thanks that it is only temporary! -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

July 20th, 2017

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

Word for Wednesday

July 19th, 2017

For our conversation is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:30

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

Tidings for Tuesday

July 18th, 2017

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

Meditation for Monday

July 17th, 2017

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

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

July 16th, 2017

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

Can you name the twelve men who were sent by the Moses to spy the the promised land of Canaan? No, like you, I can remember the names of only two of them, Joshua and Caleb. Why don’t we remember the names of the other ten? Because they brought back a bad report. They were negative thinkers, dismayed by the obstacles and discouraged by the prospects as they could see them. They doubted God’s ability to help them achieve the very purpose that God had delivered them from Egypt for. Forget the bad report, consider the good report, and rejoice that God is able.

Of all the good reports that we can consider, the good report of Caleb and Joshua must be high on the list. If you and I are going to amount to anything for God, if we are to have a good testimony, if we are to be a help to God’s Assembly, if we are to be effective in our support of the Gospel, if we are to find God’s purpose for our lives, we must become aware that God will be our strength and shield. It was faith in Christ that saved our souls, and it will be faith in Christ that will enable us to live for Him. Even the great thinkers of the world acknowledge the role of faith in our accomplishments, Goethe declared that epochs of faith are epochs of fruitfulness, while epochs without faith are devoid of all permanent good. The good report of the Word of God is that God will enable us to do His will. If we grasp this by faith, we will accomplish for Him.

Think about this! Our text today tells us to think about this good report. Actually, there are many good reports in the Bible for us to think about. We can think about the Old Testament heroes of the faith and how their examples can guide and encourage us. We can think about the Gospels and their portrayal of the Lord Jesus, with all the blessings that flow from those accounts. We can think about the apostles and their pioneer adventures in the book of Acts, with lessons that continue for us today. We can think about the doctrines and directions that the epistles provide to us, and also about the hope and purpose we can obtain from the Revelation. The Bible is a Good Report for us to think upon.

What will occupy our minds for the unending ages of eternity? Maybe we should be getting some practice now by thinking on the things that God has set before us. -Jim MacIntosh