Thought for Thursday

September 14th, 2017

But they had heard only that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed, and they glorified God in me. Galatians 1:23-24

In a country far away from here, a small group of Christians had built a radio station, from which they faithfully sent forth the Gospel message, and which proved to be a great blessing to saint and sinner alike. Their faithfulness resulted in many souls being saved. But the radio station and its transmitter tower were on property that was next to a powerful supporter of the traditional religion in that country. This man proved to be a powerful opponent, doing everything he could to harass the staff of the station, and to interrupt power to the transmitter. Several times he succeeded in forcing the station off the air for short periods. He had threatened violence against the station workers, and on one occasion tried to burn down the building. His opposition exhausted the resources of the Christians, and they came to the point where they realized they would need to shut down the station. As the station workers arrived for what they believed would be the last day of broadcasting, they were met by the very man who had opposed their presence. With tears in his eyes, he handed them a large sum of money, apologizing for his previous actions. This man told them that he had been injured in a car accident, and while in hospital, he had heard the Gospel on the radio station, and God had reached and saved him. From that point onward, this man was the most stalwart supporter of that radio station. His testimony reminds us very much of that of the Apostle Paul, as he describes in today’s text.

Do you know of anybody who has professed to be saved, but has not been any different from what they were before. For good reason, you doubt whether their profession is real. On the other hand, you also know people who have undergone great changes in their life, entire transformations, as a result of their conversion. You have very little doubts about those people. Not everybody undergoes such a dramatic change as Saul of Tarsus. But we all have experienced some degree of change, otherwise something is wrong.

What is different about you today from your unsaved days? What do you appreciate now that you did not before? What direction has your life taken that it would never have ventured had you remained in your sins? Today, give thanks to God that He has delivered you from a wasted life, and given you something worthwhile to live for. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

September 13th, 2017

But we see Jesus, Who was made a little lower than than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. Hebrews 2:9

Perhaps the most popular attraction at any zoo is the primate section, the area where the monkeys, apes, and gorillas live. These creatures seem to have many similarities to humans, and people enjoy seeing the behaviour and reactions that appear to be almost human. We see these animals as similar to us, but a little lower than us on the mentality and intelligence scale. Actually, they are much lower than us, but that’s another story for another time. In the same way that we humans look at primates as subordinate to us, so too must the angels look at us as lower than themselves. How amazed must the angels have been to see their Lord and Creator step into time and onto earth, and take to Himself the form of a species lower than the angels!

Angels are spirits, and are not limited to the confines of a fleshly body, as we are. Angels have many other superiorities to humans, most of which we do not understand. They are undoubtedly vastly more intelligent and more powerful than us. And yet, it was to humanity that the Lord Jesus came, stepping below the level of angels, to reach the level of a needy human race. His incarnation is beyond our ability to understand, but we can accept the fact that He became a human being. Never at any time did He cease being God, nor could He, because God is eternal. His deity was unaffected by His becoming humanity. And yet it was as a man that He took upon Himself human flesh, that He might suffer, bleed, and die. It was in His body on the tree that He bore our sins.

Only by being made a little lower than angels could the Lord Jesus reach and save us. Today, let us pause to give Him thanks for such a stoop. We don’t understand it, but how we appreciate it! -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

September 12th, 2017

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel. Galatians 1:6

A good number of years ago, Murray McCandless and Fred Hannah were holding Gospel meetings in a little brown tent in Hampton. One evening, a small group of well-dressed, well-groomed young men arrived and sat in the row of seats at the back of the tent. They had the standard name tags that identified them as ‘elders’ of the Mormons. They appeared to listen carefully to what was being preached, and during the closing prayer, slipped out of the tent and disappeared. Whatever the purpose of their visit, they must have quickly realized they were not going to achieve anything when Murray began to speak. He abandoned the message he planned to use, and read Galatians 1:6. From this text, he preached on the dangers of other gospels and the evil of those who preach other gospels. We never saw those Mormons again. They do have a false and dangerous gospel, although their teachings have lost credibility because they have been scientifically proven to be rubbish. However, there is an even more dangerous false Gospel, and the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians to warn about it.

The other gospel of which Paul is writing was that taught by Jewish teachers who insisted that the Gentile believers in Christ are required to fulfill the ordinances of the Jewish religion in order to be saved. Simply put, they were saying that salvation consisted of faith in Christ, plus obedience to religious form. This dangerous doctrine continues today, and is much more widespread than most of us realize. It is a major part of the teachings of most so-called Christian denominations, and even in the cults. Other world religions follow a distorted form of the same doctrine, replacing Christ with their own dead figureheads. It is the doctrine of Cain: do what I believe is right to satisfy God.

Is this other gospel taught or followed by Christians in any of our Assemblies. Not that I know of. We place the word Gospel on our Gospel Halls to indicate that we believe in the only Gospel in the Bible, that salvation is rebirth only by repentance toward God and faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As other groups, including some that claim to be somewhat like ourselves, drift into a gradual acceptance of another gospel, or a social gospel that appeases conscience but ignores the need to be born again, we need to be very clear in our presentation of the Gospel. We can never water it down, or deviate from the clear teaching of Scripture. As Paul says in this verse, the Gospel is the grace of Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

September 11th, 2017

Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. Galatians 1:4

There is a famous painting entitled Peace. A first glance at this painting would lead an observer to think the painting misnamed, because it shows the violence of nature. Amid a raging storm, the winds drive massive waves of the sea ashore, smashing them onto a huge rock. Spray from the waves and rain in the wind have drenched everything in sight, and the storm has clothed the scene in a dark, wild gloom. A closer inspection of the painting, however, shows a deep cleft in the upper part of the rock, into which a small bird has found shelter. Instead of being concerned about the violence of the storm and the sea, the bird has tucked its head under its wing, and is fast asleep. The bird, just as our verse reminds us that Christ has done for us, is in the storm but has been delivered from its fury.

There is no question that this evil world is full of storms for saint and sinner alike. Troubles assail us from all sides, be it family problems, financial worries, sickness, accidents, the death of a loved one, misunderstandings, persecutions, whatever trial and ill you can imagine, it comes our way from time to time. Some of the Lord’s dear people have incredible storms to endure, and most of us know little about them. But we all have this life to live, and it’s an evil world. What is our reaction to these storms? How do we respond when the waves of evil and hate are swirling all about us? Where do we turn when we can see nothing but the angry waves of trouble, and can hear nothing but the shrill cries of the devil, telling us that everything is going wrong, nobody cares for us, and we might as well give in to the tinsel and toys of pleasure and sin?

There was nothing the little bird in the picture could do that day. No point in going to search for food, no hope of soaring the blue skies, no opportunity to gather with birds of like feather for a chorus on a high tree. The storm cancelled all the bird’s plans. Sometimes storms do that to us, too. Everything changes, nothing is normal, and our hands are tied and helpless. But there is always something that we can do. Like the little bird in the picture, we can take our shelter in the Rock, and allow His safety and presence to enfold us.

In this present, evil world, the Lord Jesus is always present, to be our shelter, to enable us to relax and appreciate His greatness. Rest in the Rock of Ages in whatever storm today might bring. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

September 10th, 2017

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. 1 Corinthians 16:22

When you got up this morning, whose face were you the most anxious to see? Was it a spouse, one of your children, or perhaps a parent? After a break of even one night, we find ourselves anxious to see the faces of those we love the dearest. Nothing else matters, until we see those faces, and everything else falls into place, because the ones who matter the most to us are within our view. I think Paul must have had something like that in mind when he penned the word Maranatha. At the coming of the Lord he would see again the face of the one who became to precious to him on the Damascus Road.

Do you know what a transliteration is? Simply put, it’s a word in one language that is placed in another language without being translated. A prime example is ‘baptism’. Bible translators took the Greek word, which means ‘immerse’ or ‘submerge’ and made an English word out of it, because they didn’t want to offend religious leaders and a king who preferred the unscriptural sprinkling approach to the ordinance. Here in today’s text is another transliteration, although not nearly so well known.

Maranatha is an Aramaic word that means ‘The Lord is coming’. For some reason, it was not translated into English by those who assembled the King James Version of our Bible. But that’s OK, it means we have this beautiful word, and we can enjoy it and use it, knowing it is both a promise and a prayer. Much of its meaning is contained in the prayer of the Apostle John in the last chapter of our Bible: Even so, come Lord Jesus. Those Christians who have drawn the closest to the Lord have learned the meaning of Maranatha.

Why is the coming of the Lord so important to those who are closest to Him? Because they have learned that nothing else is important. They have learned that the cares and affairs of this life are for today and will be gone tomorrow. They have learned that the burdens and trials that come our way are only for this life and with the coming of the Lord will be forever banished. They have learned that at His coming, the frailties of the flesh, the disappointments of this life, and the stumblings and strayings of our humanity fade from view forever.

Maranatha means closing the door to this life, and welcoming the presence of our Saviour. If it be by the rapture, how glorious that day will be! If it be by death, how sweet to awake in the arms of Jesus! Maranatha, dear brothers and sisters, the Lord IS coming! -Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

September 9th, 2017

But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost, for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

In 1845, the United States sent Commodore James Biddle with two warships, to Japan, to force that nation to open trade between the two countries. Biddle must have been a poor persuader, or else his warships were not very impressive to the Japanese; they simply told the Americans to go away. The door to Japan remained closed. Eight years later, Commodore Matthew Perry returned, this time with four ships powered by steam, and so intimidated the Japanese that they agreed eventually to open their country to trade with the US. Perry effectively opened the door to trade and a cultural exchange between two nations. The Apostle Paul speaks in today’s text of an even greater door opened for him to take the Gospel to Ephesus. That same door is opened to the world around us, if we will but see it and take advantage of the opportunities.

Who opened the door in Ephesus for Paul? God did, of course. Just as He opens the doors around us. Both individually, and as an Assembly, we can use the doors that God has opened. We are not limited, as those in communist and Mohammedan countries, to secretive and private meetings and witnessing. We are able to hold meetings weekly – and sometimes special Gospel series – in our halls. We are able to conduct Sunday School classes and hold children’s meetings. We are allowed to hold open air meetings – within limits – and to set up Gospel tents to take the message to new areas. We can also canvass an entire large city with Seedsowers texts and invitations to Gospel meetings. Yes, God has opened a great effectual door for us to preach and spread the Gospel. What a great opportunity! Are we using it as fully as we can?

God has also opened a great and effectual door for us as individuals to spread His message. We all have relatives who need to hear the Gospel. Sometimes they won’t listen to what we say, but they will observe our lives. What about the people we go to school with, or work with, or meet at various places? Do they know we are using the open door to live and speak the Gospel before them?

Paul spoke of there being many adversaries. He’s right. Some of them are attempting to close the door that God has opened for us. The danger is that, if we don’t make use of the door, God may simply allow the adversaries to close it. They have already done so in many places.

The door is open. Let us pour the Gospel message forth while we can. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

September 8th, 2017

Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58

How many perfect Christians do you know? If you go to a conference and see all the faithful, devoted Christians there, you might be able to start making a list. But follow those folks home and check out their lives and attitudes on Monday, and you start to cross off the names. Look around the circle on Lord’s Day morning as the worship arises and you will see some folks who should surely be on the list. But track their path through the following week, and the list dwindles sharply. Don’t look in the mirror either, you won’t find a perfect Christian there. And yet, reading today’s text, you would almost think that Paul is telling the Corinthians to be pretty much perfect as far as their Christian life and service are concerned. He’s setting the standard pretty high. Who among us can reach it?

In fact, none of us can attain 100 percent to what our text says, but it should surely be our goal. And the higher the goal we strive for, the higher the level we actually reach. What does it take to be steadfast and unmovable? The idea the Apostle has in mind is a person who is unshakeable in their convictions and faithful in their commitments. Do you ever have doubts about God and His people, about the inerrancy of His word, and the leading of the Holy Spirit? There are things that we all wonder about sometimes in the right – or wrong – circumstances. But God would have us to be settled in our minds on His things. He would like us to be comfortable in our faith. He would long that we would be happy to be led by His Spirit and satisfied with His Word. God wants us to be satisfied with what He has taught us concerning Himself and His Assembly. The foundational doctrines of the faith should be the source of our delights, not of our doubts.

With all of our failings, we have to admit that we do not always about in the work of the Lord. Our commitment to His business is often a half-hearted thing, or a part-time effort. Even preachers can get side-tracked from the work they are committed to do. But our text tells us that God would like us to recommit our zeal to His work.

There is a reminder in this text that should cheer us on to faithfulness and service. Our labour is not in vain in the Lord. Nothing we do for Him is wasted effort or unremunerated. We can’t say that about any earthly endeavour.

In God’s own time,
In God’s own way,
Who does God’s work,
Will get God’s pay!

-Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

September 7th, 2017

Behold, I shew you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51

At a funeral a couple of years ago, I saw a dear old friend who I had not seen in more than 35 years. She has aged gracefully; the years have been kind to her. Her first exclamation on seeing me was, ‘you haven’t changed a bit!’ I told her that I own a mirror and knew better. In all of those years, I have surely changed a great deal in my appearance and probably in most other ways as well. We have all looked at baby pictures of someone who is now an adult and tried to see the adult in the infant face. Over the course of our lifetime, we all change a great deal, and sometimes the changes are unbelievable. If we change so very much here, how much greater will be the change when we are raptured to be in the presence of our Lord!

The next couple of verses in this chapter tell us that one of the great changes will be the replacing of our corruptible bodies with incorruptibility. How wonderful to know that our weak and failing, sickly and suffering frames of aches and agonies are going to be changed into bodies that will never know pain or discomfort of any kind, never decrease in strength or vitality, never be weary or weak. That change goes beyond our ability to understand. I believe in addition to a changed body, we will receive a changed set of emotions. Because all tears are forever wiped away, we will never know disappointment or sorrow, regret or embarrassment. Instead will be a never-ending entering into the delights of the joys of our Saviour’s presence.

But what about others? We know we will be changed, although we often look at Christians around us and wish they were a little different. Maybe one of the ways in which God will change us will be to help us appreciate more the good in others.

If our bodies are going to be changed, that means we will have changed faces. So will we know each other? The good news is that we will not only know the folks we know now, we will also know everybody else, too. We won’t need to be introduced to the apostles, the great heroes of the faith, the founders of our Assemblies; we will know then and their faces will be familiar to us.

Are you getting anxious already to experience the great change that is coming? The Lord’s desire is that the glorious anticipation will be an encouragement to us every day, as we wait for His appearing. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

September 6th, 2017

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable, but now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1 Corinthians 15:19-20

Communists used to make fun of Christians by saying that all they had was after this life. One of their so-called poets, Joe Hill, had a famous mocking line: Work and pray, live on hay, you’ll get pie in the sky when you die. Poor Joe Hill didn’t have much for a reference point; an execution squad shot him for a murder he probably didn’t commit when he wouldn’t use the alibi of being with another man’s wife at the time of the murder. Sadly, much of the world shares Joe Hill’s belief that the Christian is missing out on all that is good in this life, and will probably miss out in the next. How very wrong they are on both counts. Paul reminds us in today’s text that because of the resurrection, Christians have the best prospects for time and for eternity.

The most important element in life is hope, and it is part of our reason for being at all stages of life. Teenagers hope for a drivers license and a nice car, and for a glamorous girlfriend/boyfriend. Students hope for a great job and a fulfilling life. Young people hope for the best for their families and careers; middle aged people hope for a great time in retirement; retired people hope for good health as long as possible; and those in poor health hope the doctors find a cure. We need hope, it’s what gives us a reason for living, for looking forward to tomorrow and next year. That’s the way humanity is built. Without hope, we die. Do we have hope every day and especially when we gather to remember the One who died to give us assurance of hope? The certain and glorious hope of eternal salvation is rooted and founded in nothing more and nothing less than the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ.

When we gather as an Assembly to remember the Lord, it causes us to look backward to Calvary. We remember how much He suffered, how much He paid, how much He loved, to rescue poor sinners from eternal perdition. We remember His death. But we also remember His resurrection. Because He died, we have no fear of hell. Because He lives, we have assurance of Heaven.

Without the resurrection, we would be miserable. But we rejoice today, because He lives. And we will live forever with Him. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

September 5th, 2017

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel, which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand. 1 Corinthians 15:1

The river had risen more than a foot overnight, and its muddy waters swirled and gushed along, carrying away the effects of the heavy rainstorm of the day before. Despite the frightening flood, a man stood in the river, partway across, making repairs to a cable that crossed the river at that point. He had rubber waders on, and the water came up to his knees. Despite the swift current, he had no trouble standing in it. I asked another man on the shore how the cable repairman was standing so easily, with water only to his knees. He informed me that, at the place where the man stood was a concrete platform, so he was well above the muddy river bed and only partly in the swift current. That concrete platform reminds me of the Gospel: it’s the foundation for everything in a Christian’s life.

We understand the importance of the Gospel, in bringing us into our eternal relationship with God. The Gospel was essential to our becoming Christians. But it is also essential to our victorious life as Christians. Our knowledge of, appreciation of, involvement in, and commitment to the Gospel are all key indicators of how we are doing in our spiritual life.

Our ability to witness can be very impaired if our understanding of the Gospel is fuzzy. That is, if we have a difficult time explaining the fundamentals of the message (man’s ruin, God’s remedy, man’s responsibility). We also need to have a deep appreciation for the value of the Gospel in terms of it being the most crucial message anyone can hear. Our involvement in the Gospel is also crucial: there is no work so rewarding or fulfilling as participating in whatever ways we can to spread the Gospel message. The avenues for participation are broad, from praying specifically for sinners and for Gospel meetings to handing out invitations or even preaching the message. The Gospel field has room for all the workers who can show up. As for our commitment to the Gospel, nothing else in this world has such potential for eternal rewards as this. A deep commitment to whatever we can do in supporting and helping with the Gospel is the hallmark of a faithful and devoted servant of the Lord Jesus.

In a world that is a flooding river of ideas, fads, and passing fancies, how good to know that we can stand on the firm platform of the Gospel, and amount to something worthwhile for eternity! -Jim MacIntosh