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

Tidings for Tuesday

February 11th, 2020

That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. Philippians 1:26

When you arrive, do people smile at you because they are well mannered or because they are actually delighted to see you? We all know people whose arrival is always a special event, and others whose arrival is always met by inward groans. Most of us fall somewhere in between. The apostle Paul speaks of rejoicing in Philippi when he shows up. The best example of how to make sure our appearance is a welcome sight is given us by the Lord Jesus, during His life.

Not everyone was glad to see the Lord Jesus, of course. When He was born, Herod was bent on killing him, but the shepherds rejoiced. When He began His ministry, the scribes and Pharisees were miffed but the common people thronged to see Him and hear Him preach. When He entered Jerusalem, the priests and Sanhedrin ignored Him but the children danced and sang. When He was hanging on the cross, one of the malefactors cursed but the other blessed Him. But if we dwell on those who recognized the Lord Jesus for Who He is, we can see that His arrival on any scene was cause for pleasure, joy, and blessing. It was all because His life was lived to fulfill His Father’s will. That’s what you and I can do if we want others to rejoice when we arrive.

Jesus devoted His life to serving others. He helped everyone He could, had kind words and gentle comfort to many, and showed compassion to all who were hurting, grieving, and troubled. The needs of others were more important to Him than His own comfort. That’s how we should be. I heard of a man who was disappointed when he arrived home and found his children paid no attention to him. So he decided to do something about it. He began bringing home little treats and toys, promises of interesting trips and events, and soon he found his children eagerly awaiting him at the door when he arrived. Yes, he bribed them, but he thought of what they wanted, and what would interest them. and he was rewarded.

Not everybody will always rejoice to see us coming, but those who matter will rejoice, if we treat them as Jesus would. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

February 10th, 2020

Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. Philippians 1:24

Does God make mistakes? Some people think so when they look around the sitting room of a nursing home, and see the vacant faces of some of those old folks sitting in their wheelchairs. None of us wants to be left in such a state, and some people go so far as to say God errs in leaving those old folks alive when their usefulness and ability to function and relate to other people has vanished. On the other hand, we all know some people who were vibrant and productive and valuable contributors to society in general and a good help to the Lord’s people, but were suddenly called Home to Heaven by accident or illness. Of those people, some will say God erred in taking them away too soon. Even the apostle Paul, in today’s text, seems to have a question about what is best for him as he sees the end of his life approaching.

We know God makes no mistakes, of course. Take those unfunctioning folks in the seniors’ home, many of them are unsaved, and have ignored or rejected the Gospel. God is graciously keeping them in their bodies awhile longer to delay their departure for eternal punishment. But in the case of a Christian facing impending death, is it better if we live or die? Paul makes the case in our text that it is better for the other Christians that we abide in the flesh. But only God knows whether that is best for His great plan. Why is it better for the other Christians that you live awhile longer? Why is it better for them not to have to attend your funeral? If we were all like the apostle Paul, we could understand why. But we’re not.

No, we’re not all great preachers and teachers and pastors and guides. God has not given us all the prominent gifts and abilities. We can easily assume we are of little use to the Lord’s people. But as long as God leaves us in the flesh, we can take it from Him that He deems us useful for Himself and for His people. So, every day and at every opportunity, we should practice that usefulness. We should be kind and considerate, we should be supportive and encouraging, we should be faithful. The other saints really do need us.

God has given each of us a row to hoe in his great garden. Until he takes the hoe from our hands and presents us with a crown, let us make use of the hoe for His people. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

February 9th, 2020

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel. Philippians 1:12

How many Christians do you suppose there are in North Korea? It’s one of the worst environments in the world for Christians, who can be executed if found out, and where the communist government has created an enforced religion of worshipping the country’s former and existing leaders. In a land where Bibles are forbidden, where religious tolerance is unknown, and where absolute devotion to the Kim family is mandated, the government assumes that there are no Christians in North Korea. The government assumes wrongly! An organization that smuggles Bibles into North Korea is confident that in that tortured nation of fewer than 25 million people, the number of true believers may exceed one million! Sorry as we feel for the persecution of the Lord’s people in North Korea, that persecution has served only to further the Gospel.

In peaceful, free North America, we have little idea how persecution fans the flames of revival and blessing. We struggle to get people interested in a Gospel that can be freely accessed; We can’t get people to read Bibles that can be bought at dollar stores. We can’t imagine the life of dear saints in North Korea who read God’s Word, when they can access it, under threat of death. When we gather for regular meetings of the Assembly, we little realize that such gatherings are unknown in North Korea, where companies of believers can seldom safely extend beyond immediate family. Those dear saints would have difficulty understanding the concept of a conference! And yet, under such repression and opposition, the Gospel is being spread much more effectively than we are doing it in our free society. Freedom has nothing to do with the furtherance of the Gospel, as the apostle Paul reminds the Philippians in today’s text.

In the coming years, as the rapidly growing influence of the homosexual sector places heavy restrictions on access to the Bible, and as Mohammedanism and other satanic religions surge in their opposition to the truth, will we see the Gospel flag or flourish? These things are happening now, so we need to be prepared. Blood will flow. Assemblies will be pushed underground, Public preaching will disappear. Much as we dread these things, more souls will be saved than are being reached now. And that is the most important. -Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

February 8th, 2020

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:11

When I was a youngster, an expert on apple orchards came to our farm and carried out some grafting work in our orchard. I can’t remember much about the work he did, but in the years that followed, I became very much aware of the success of his efforts. Some natural apple trees were growing in the orchard. Left to themselves, those trees would produce apples that would likely be next to useless, yellow bitter things (we called them pig apples) that even the cows would disdain, although they did make excellent apple jelly. My father’s desire was that these trees should produce good fruit. As a result of the grafting work, we obtained some wonderful apples: Dutchess, MacIntosh, Spartan, Crimson Beauty, several types of Pippins, Wolf River, to name a few. Just as Christians can do, those trees brought forth good fruit because of a good graft.

The Bible says you and I have been grafted into the True Vine, which is Christ. Our text tells us that the fruits of righteousness are by Jesus Christ. It is only through Him and because of Him that you and I are able to produce fruits of righteousness. But what are fruits of righteousness?

We can come up with all sorts of things to list as fruits of righteousness. Honesty, kindness, compassion, and submission to God’s will might head the list. But if we look at all these things, we can see that the fruits of righteousness are simply the result of living righteously. And how to we do that? We live righteously by living as the Lord Jesus would live and as He would have us live. We learn about His life in the Gospels; we learn about His doctrine in the Epistles; and we learn about His person throughout the Bible. If we live according to Him, we must produce fruits of righteousness, just as a grafted tree in our orchard must bring forth good apples.

In our unsaved days, we had no power to produce good fruit for God. But the fruits of righteousness we can produce now that we have been grafted into the Person of His Son. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

February 7th, 2020

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. Philippians 1:9

I had developed a sore throat, usually the precursor to a head cold, and I mentioned the sore throat to an old friend. The best thing to take, he assured me, was a mixture of molasses and ginger. It was the first I had heard of such a remedy, and I asked for instructions on how to prepare it. The concoction seemed to work, or else enough time had passed, I don’t know, but the sore throat eased. Those two ingredients seemed to me to be an unusual combination to accomplish their purpose. Our text today tells of an unusual combination of ingredients: love, combined with knowledge and judgment. This was Paul’s earnest prayer for the Philippians, and God’s will for you and me.

First of all, is the apostle speaking of love for God or love for our fellow saints and lost souls? Love must always start with God, because He is the originator. We need to love Him before we can truly love others. Love that is not developed on the vertical plane (between us and God) is of little use on the horizontal plane (between us and others). So our love for God must be abounding in both knowledge and judgment. Let us examine these two ingredients that we are to combine with love.

What does knowledge have to do with our love for God? Think of it this way: doesn’t it just make sense that the more we know about God, the deeper our love will be? The word ‘knowledge’ refers to an understanding of facts or truth. To know more about God, we must read more of His Word. The Bible contains His revelation of Himself to us. We need to read the Book from cover to cover, and we need to meditate on small portions of it daily. We will learn about God’s character, His dealings with mankind, His purposes for our lives, and most important, we will learn about His Son and how to be more like Him. All this knowledge will deepen our love for God.

The word ‘judgment’ in our text refers to perception or understanding, discernment. In other words, it refers to what we do with the knowledge we obtain about God. It refers to the use we make of what we learn when we read the Bible.

When our love for God grows through knowledge and judgment, our love for God’s people also deepens and expands, and our love for lost souls also grows. And this is my prayer for you. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

February 6th, 2020

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. Philippians 3:18-19

Our text today is a vivid picture of much of today’s western civilization, including Canada, the United States, and much of western Europe. This civilization boasts itself as the most advanced in history in terms of wealth, power, and lifestyle. These nations see themselves as superior to most other parts of the world, and to a great extent they are. Or were. Sadly, the foundations are rapidly crumbling because of economic messes, spiritual collapse, and moral catastrophe. For example, much of the world’s finances are turning away from the once ‘almighty’ US dollar to more stable currencies. When the US issued a dollar coin a few years ago, some were concerned because the words ‘In God we trust’ were not to be found on it. Actually, those words are there, but on the edge, not the face, of the coin. Unfortunately, the god the Americans trust is their belly, not the Almighty whom they once reverenced, but of whom they now appear to be embarrassed. While much of the rest of the world starves, people in our western civilization are becoming more gluttonous than ever. A recent study shows two-thirds of Canadians and Americans are overweight, and a significant percentage of those are obese. What a sorry character for any people!

Some years ago, during his presidency, Barak Obama issued a statement calling on all Americans to embrace homosexuality and welcome homosexuals. Flying in the face of God’s utter condemnation of that abominable lifestyle can only drag that country further into the dunghill of its own destruction. As our text proclaims, they are glorying in their shame. Obama also issued decree after decree to countermand the efforts of the George W. Bush administration to halt the slaughter of the unborn. The situation in Canada is no better, with those who oppose abortion being labeled enemies of society for attacking the right of promiscuous women to slaughter their children. What hope does a nation have that seeks to destroy its own children and future on the altar of immorality and open fornication?

Much of the emphasis of our western civilizations these days is on a thrust for freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion. The rapidly growing trend toward ignoring God and squelching the rights of Christians to exercise their beliefs is sad and telling. How much longer can God endure such rejection in the face of all the blessings He has heaped upon this part of the world?

Our western civilization used to be worth celebrating. But little worth celebrating remains. Our nations are minding earthly things, and ignoring Heavenly things; and they are headed for certain destruction. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

February 5th, 2020

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. Philippians 3:17

In the early 1960s, a large group of young people gathered every Friday night in an old house in the community of Millbrook, near Tatamagouche. Most of these had been saved during Gospel meetings held by Doug Howard and Fred Holder in 1960, in the old Millbrook school, and during follow-up meetings that were held in the months afterward. These Friday nights were wonderful times of fellowship and training, and fruit has continued to be evident in the decades that have come and gone since then. One great reason why those sessions were successful was the men who provided the instruction for us, and who also provided godly, consistent examples for us to follow. The dedication and faithfulness of such men as Hiel Patterson, Floyd Steward, Bob Hunt, and the Elliot men of the Pugwash Junction Assembly served to deeply impress many of us. The Apostle Paul had these men in mind as he penned today’s text.

God has His ensamples in every age, including our own. We remember with great fondness and respect those men from a bygone day. But as we look about us, faithful ensamples still people our Assemblies and provide young people the guidance and patterns they need to live as they should for the Lord. Paul says to mark these men. But many of them don’t get much recognition, nor do they seek it. Their joy is to see young Christians rooted and grounded in the faith, growing in their knowledge of God’s Word and in the likeness to Christ. Their reward is to see young men and women filling the ranks of faithful Assembly testimony, raising families in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and supporting God’s work with their time, money, and energies.

Do you owe somebody a thank-you for the ensample they have been for you? I believe we all do. I also believe today is a good day to express that thanks, not only to God, but also to the ensample. -Jim MacIntosh