Sermon for Saturday

February 9th, 2019

Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Our text has an extra word, one that the translators tucked in there to help us understand the meaning. But in my opinion, their extra word confuses the meaning somewhat. The word ‘our’ is not in the original. If we omit this word, we have Jesus identified as the Author and Finisher of faith. And that links us back to the previous chapter, known as faith’s hall of fame. All of those great Old Testament heroes inspire us and instruct us with their faithfulness to God. Because they believed, they achieved great exploits for God. Over thousands of years, they functioned in many different capacities, but maintained a wonderful harmony in their portrayal of the God they served. And our verse explains why: they had an Author and Finisher, an Overseer and Perfecter. The Lord Jesus is not just the Author and Finisher of our faith, He is the Founder and Maintainer of all faith for all people for all time.

Without the Lord Jesus, there would be no faith. Without Him, Abraham would not have been able to please God, Moses would never have chosen affliction with the people of God, prophets would never have endured burnings and tortures, and Samson would never have pulled down pillars. We cannot imagine faith – in Old Testament days or in our own time – without the Lord Jesus. If we look at different translations of this verse, we find a variety of terms, all of them instructive, to refer to Jesus as the Author of faith: Champion, Source, Founder, Pioneer, Leader, and Prince. As the Finisher, He is identified as the Perfecter, Goal, and Completer. In all these terms, we obtain a sense of how faith takes its very fabric from His person. Just as in creation, He is before all things and by Him all things consist, so in faith, all faith proceeds from Him and without Him cannot even exist. The very faith that you and I used to identify Him as our Saviour and to enter into His salvation came from Him.

Even great worldly minds recognize the need for and importance of faith. The great German philosopher Wolfgang Goethe stated that epochs of faith are epochs of fruitfulness, while epochs without faith are devoid of all permanent good. If we study Chapter 8, we can identify the great events that needed to occur, all the result of faith. Nothing worthwhile that you and I ever achieve is possible without faith. And that faith comes only from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as He has freely given His life that we might have life, the Lord Jesus has provided faith that we might use it to access His power and direction. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

February 8th, 2019

Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Two young men bent on mischief had picked up another man in a Moncton bar, and convinced him to take them for a drive. When they were outside the city, the two took over the car and headed toward the US border. Along the way, they killed the man they had pretended to befriend, and dumped his body in a Sussex area gravel pit. Stealing his money and other possessions, they went on to Maine, where they were eventually arrested and returned to New Brunswick for trial. During the course of the trial, I watched as a carefully prepared list of police investigators, eye-witnesses, and others were called to testify. The prosecutors called many witnesses, and left no detail unaccounted for. All the two accused men could try to do in their own defense was blame each other for the killing. To no one’s surprise, they were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The jury had the advantage of a cloud of witnesses on which to base their decision. So do we as we make life decisions for ourselves.

The writer of this epistle has just described the faith of Old Testament saints, which he presents as evidence in favour of our pursuing a life of faith for ourselves. The evidence that is presented in Chapter 11 is very convincing, and we are put to shame as we realize how pathetically little we do, even with all of the advantages we have over the Old Testament folks. They never had the opportunity to read the evidence put forth by the writers of the Gospels about the life of the Lord Jesus. They had no privilege of reading of the acts of the apostles, or studying the teachings of the epistles, or examining the future as detailed in the great book of the Revelation. No, based on the evidence they had in the writings of the prophets, or in the revelations that God provided, they lived fruitful testimonies to God’s purposes and mercy. And, as our text reminds us, there was a cloud of evidence from them.

What have we done with the evidence from that cloud of witnesses? Have we allowed their evidence to dispel all of our doubts about God and His Word? Have we allowed their evidence to convince us of our own responsibilities as children of God? Have we taken their evidence as instruction and encouragement for ourselves? Have we rested our case on their evidence as proof that the Christian’s race is a worthy pursuit?

The cloud of witnesses beckons us today to faithfully and diligently pursue the only race for which there is an eternal reward. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

February 7th, 2019

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God… mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth. Colossians 3:3,5

One of the hardest parts of building a house, which we did in 1975, was the ceilings. Nailing the strapping to the trusses was difficult enough, but when it came to putting the 12-foot sheets of gypsum drywall on the ceiling, we were overwhelmed. It took the two of us just to get the heavy sheets up, but when we got them there, it was backbreaking and nearly impossible to hold them in place long enough to get the nails in. We were making a mess of it until a good friend stopped in and suggested me make ourselves a couple of dead men. They were simple enough… just a board a bit longer than the height between the floor and ceiling, with a cross piece at the top. With the dead men, we could easily lift the drywall sheets to the ceiling and brace them firmly in place to nail them. We were very grateful to learn about the value of dead men. Our text today also lauds the merits of dead men of a different kind.

Before we were saved, we were dead in trespasses and sins. Our salvation brought new life to our souls, but it also brought about a new form of death. There are two aspects of this new death: positional and conditional. Positionally, God sees us as dead to the world, dead to sin, dead to temptation and the lusts of our former unregenerate life. But conditionally, we are rather different from a perfect, dead-to-sin condition. We still dwell in mortal, sinful, dying bodies that are attracted to sin and disobedience. That is why the apostle reminds us in verse 5 to mortify our members. The word mortify means to put to death, or to reckon as dead.

Our souls are bound for Glory, as certain of arrival as if we were there now. But our physical members are still upon the earth, and will remain unredeemed until the rapture. We need to place them into the same dead-to-sin state as our redeemed souls, as much as possible.

Just as our deathbed will bring us into the presence of the glory of our Saviour, so too will mortifying our members bring us into the joy of His good pleasure, as we use those members to serve and praise Him as we ought. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

February 6th, 2019

Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou has left thy first love. Revelation 2:4

I am reminded of the farmer’s old cow, after she had stood still and allowed the farmer to fill his pail to the brim with lovely white milk, lifted her big splayed foot from the filthy stable floor and placed it in the pail, rendering it a total loss. The folks in the Assembly in Ephesus were like that. There was so much that they could be commended for. For two verses, they sounded like the ideal Assembly, with plenty of discernment, activity, and patience, but… They came up short in a way that ruined it all!

The folks in Ephesus had cooled off. They knew they had everything in good shape, they knew they were up to scratch on doctrine and proper behaviour. But their love had waned. For all that we can commend the Ephesians for, they were lacking in a critical area, so critical that their lampstand was in danger of being withdrawn. Before we criticize these folks too vigorously, let us examine our own love for the Lord and His people. Is our love what it once was?

We all know that our spiritual ardour waxes and wanes as we allow circumstances and our own personal agendas to affect us. We remember the excitement of the new birth, when we first trusted Christ. We remember how the Word of God became an open Book to us, how the company of the Lord’s people became precious, how spiritual life became more important than our physical life, how the prospect of the rapture thrilled us through and through. Is it like that now? What has happened?

We are like the Ephesians… we have all of our ducks in order except one… except the most important one. Let us draw near to the Saviour today. Let us appreciate His great love and sacrifice for us. Let us appreciate His great person and character. Let our souls thrill once again that we are His and He is ours.

How much do we love Him today? Is our candlestick in danger of being removed? – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

February 5th, 2019

Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three, and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. John 21:11

Here’s a little arithmetic exercise for you: cube each digit in the number 153. Then, add up the three cubes. What do you get for a total? This is the smallest three-digit number you can do this with. Of course, the Lord Jesus knew this when He directed those great fish into the disciples’ net. There is a specific reason, perhaps several reasons, for this particular number of fish being caught that day. Bible students for centuries have been trying to discover the purpose of this number, and have a variety of theories. But none of them knows for sure. All we can be certain of is that this is one of Scripture’s little mysteries that will be unveiled in due time.

The Bible is filled with special little gems of all kinds, mathematical anomalies, facts that we cannot yet explain or understand, and thousands of other items that prove that Scripture is a treasure trove of information from a Mind that far exceeds our own. It has been said that the Bible’s history is more accurate than any history book, even though the Bible does not present itself as a history book. It is also accurate as to the science it contains, and it is also accurate regarding everything else it portrays. We can’t prove by our own means that much of the Bible says, although we are asked to accept these things by faith. One thing is for sure, nobody will ever be able to disprove anything that the Bible states; they can’t because it is the Word of God, and our God cannot lie. Even to the number of fish that are captured in a net in a lake almost two thousand years ago.

153 fish seems like a fairly ordinary number for a commercial catch on Galilee. Possibly these fishermen had caught exactly that number in earlier days. But we have no way of knowing that. We can, however, know that the number is significant, and that it will be revealed to us in due time. Just like all of the other obscure and deep mysteries of the Word. However, unlike the mystery of the 153 fish, many of the truths of the Book are not mysteries at all, at least to those of us whom the Spirit can instruct. We are able to understand and rejoice in the truths of the Gospel, the beauties of the love and character of our Saviour. We can accept and appreciate these things at face value. And we rejoice at the wonders of the Bible.

The 153 fish could feed many people and fill a few pocketbooks. But the Word of God and its truths and mysteries will feed and thrill our souls for all eternity. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

February 4th, 2019

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. John 21:3

We can all recite John 3:16, and have been able to do so for most of our lives. We have all heard of Christians who regard that great verse as an important part of God’s dealings in bringing them to salvation. And we have all heard Gospel messages – some of us have even preached them – on John 3:16. We all know how that verse is termed the Gospel in a nutshell. Within that verse is so much truth concerning the Gospel that it well deserves such a title. In contrast, today’s text could well be termed frustration in a nutshell, because it encapsulates so much of what it takes to be a flop in being a disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Did you notice that despite being gathered with the other disciples, Peter makes a declaration concerning his own intentions: I go a fishing? Effective service for Christ never begins with I. In fact, it doesn’t even begin with we. It begins with He. Peter had plans and intentions, and he sought no direction from the Lord in following them through. How could he possibly have expected to succeed in his chosen project? But he was just like us; we also take major steps along our Christian pathway in our own personal agendas, without seeking the mind and direction of the Lord. It won’t work; it didn’t for Peter and his companions, and it won’t for us today. We can expect to catch nothing.

Peter’s resolve to set out on his own agenda had a direct impact on those around him. His confident and dominant personality caused the others to jump on his bandwagon. They had no real reason to doubt his intentions. They would probably have thought Peter would know what he was doing, and would be heading in the right direction. They were wrong, but they didn’t know that. They were headed for disappointment, because they allowed someone to take the lead who failed to take his leadership from the Lord.

Another failure in Peter’s misguided mission was to work at night. As an experienced fisherman, he would know that night fishing used to work, before he was called to be a fisher of men. Everything was changed, and His Lord had reminded him many times that He was the Light of the world. Peter returned to his old style of operation, and the nets remained empty. You and I can also expect to see little results if we use the methods of our old days, the methods of the world, the style of operation that used to work when we didn’t need to consider how the Lord wants us to behave and function.

As fishers of men, we will catch nothing if we go according to our ideas and plans; we need to take our direction from the Lord, not Peter. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

February 3rd, 2019

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. John 20:30

As a reporter, I attended many meetings of Saint John Common Council. To avoid missing any important sound from the meetings, I would record each session from beginning to adjournment. By keeping careful track of the counter numbers on the recorder, I could limit the amount of each session that I had to go through when I returned to the newsroom to prepare my reports. All of the material was on the tapes, but I needed only those portions that were required to prepare good reports. John takes the same approach as he presents details of the days after Jesus’ resurrection. The next verse tells us that he provided the details that were needed to enable us to believe. The account He gives us is all that the Holy Spirit requires to confirm the truth in our hearts.

We have some other events recorded in other Gospels. But even if we put them all together, we are still missing many of the events that transpired during this crucial period. John assures us that there were many other signs performed and discussions held, and other occasions experienced. We will never know about all of those; they are not in the book. That doesn’t mean those things were not important or interesting. I am sure the disciples were thrilled at everything they experienced during that period. Just to have Jesus with them again after the trauma of the arrest, crucifixion, and burial was amazing and precious to them. If we had been there, we would have hung on every word and deed, and made notes of everything. But the Holy Spirit has filtered out those things that are not necessary for us to know at this time. And we have everything that is necessary.

John’s reference to all those things that are not written in this Book is important, because it tells us that there are some things we don’t need to know. It also tells us that what is in the Book is the most important. Sometimes we like to get information from other sources. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it can be bad if what we get from other sources contradicts or disputes what is in Scripture. Whenever there is a difference between what Scripture says and what something else says, Scripture must always be taken as the correct information. Because it is always accurate, Scripture cannot be challenged.

Some things that are not in the Book are interesting. But unless they line up with the Book, they can be ignored. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

February 2nd, 2019

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. John 20:24

I had other things to do that evening, so I opted to do them instead of going to the midweek prayer meeting. I succeeded in getting my tasks done, and felt I had made the right choice. But the next day, one of the Christians called to tell me about the meeting. Instead of the prayer meeting, they had held a missionary meeting. It turned out that a missionary we had been supporting was in town for a visit and had offered to give a report. I was disappointed, because I had missed hearing the report from the missionary. But I had actually missed an even more important Person who was in attendance.

How many meetings of your Assembly does the Lord Jesus attend? According to Matthew 18:20, He is at every one of them. At most meetings, one person or another is not able to make it, because of illness, work, or being away from home. And sometimes, some feel the meeting is not as important as other things they can do. Those people miss out on the presence of the Lord. We don’t know why Thomas failed to attend the first meeting when Jesus appeared to His disciples, so we can’t cast too much criticism at him for not being there. But we can make note of what he missed by not attending. Had he known that Jesus would be there, he would undoubtedly have made a great effort to attend. If we allow the realization that the Lord Jesus is going to be at each Assembly meeting to grip us as it should, we will miss very few of those meetings.

Our text identifies Thomas as one of the twelve. He was definitely within the fellowship of that special group. He had participated in all of the activities that the disciples engaged in during Jesus’ ministry. He had taken part in the discussions during and after the crucifixion. He must surely have known all about the gathering that night. There is no reason to believe that his doubting the resurrection was something that applied to him alone. If it had been another disciple who had missed that meeting, that other disciple would probably have done the same as Thomas. So it wasn’t a matter of who missed the meeting, but it was the fact that a meeting was missed.

Missing meetings can cause us to miss out on some very important events. Like Thomas, we should have been there. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

February 1st, 2019

And when He had so said, He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. John 20:20

For three years, these lads had devoted their lives to their Lord, following Him everywhere He went, listening to His every public sermon and private preachment, helping Him with His work in whatever ways they could. Their devotion was deep and strong, and not even His death could shatter their commitment. With the tragedy of the crucifixion mingling with the incredible reports from Mary Magdalene and others that Jesus was alive, these men were meeting with mixed emotions and uncertainty. We can’t imagine what these faithful disciples were going through until Jesus appeared. From their initial astonishment, they would experience growing belief as He would prove to them that He was indeed alive. Some of them probably cheered, some laughed for joy, and none of them had a dry eye! Our text is wonderful in its understatement that they were glad when they saw the Lord.

It’s difficult to put ourselves into their position, but if we try, we can understand how excited they must have been. After years of training and anticipation, followed by what they thought was an end to their hopes and prayers, here they were once again in the presence of the One Who they had recognized as the Messiah, the Christ of God. That He had proved Victor over death added to their appreciation of Him, even as they recognized that everything they had hoped and prepared for was still valid. The Jews had failed in their efforts to dispose of Him. They had much to learn concerning the purpose of His death, but they were ready to enter into whatever He had planned for them. Our commitment to the Lord Jesus is also deepened when we grasp the significance of His resurrection.

We are glad when we gather to remember the Lord each week. We are glad when His Word is ministered to us and when we can fellowship with His people. We are glad when our meditations on His Word and our prayer seasons bring us into His presence. All these glad times are made more sweet when we grasp that the One Who died for us also rose again for us.

To contemplate the significance of the resurrection is to enter once again into the same joy as those disciples. Let us be glad that we have seen the Lord. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

January 31st, 2019

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. John 20:1

The stone taken away… what stone? The previous chapter doesn’t mention any stone. All we read is of Jesus being laid in the sepulchre, and everyone going away because of the preparation day and the sabbath. No mention is made of a stone, at least, not in John’s Gospel. But plenty is mentioned in two other Gospels about the stone. Matthew tells us that Joseph of Arimathaea rolled a great stone over the sepulchre opening, and also that the Romans placed a seal on that stone and had a guard detail watch it. Mark confirms that Joseph placed the stone. Like John, Luke makes no mention of the stone beforehand. All four Gospels confirm that the stone was moved on the resurrection morning. Can we take from this that the placing of the stone was not as important as its removal?

The first Adam was made of the dust of the ground, and, because of his disobedience, was told he would return to dust. The last Adam was made in the likeness of men. But, unlike the first Adam, He did not come from the dust, and could not return to the dust. No sepulchre had the power to hold Him; no stone had the weight to suppress Him. Had all the stones on earth been piled on that sepulchre, they must all move aside for the Victor o’er the dark domain. No, the stone was not moved to allow Him to depart the sepulchre; it was moved to prove to you and me that He had risen. It was moved to prove that death has lost the war.

Grief grips us when loved ones die. Worry and despair grip us when illness and pain cause us to realize our own life hangs by a slender thread. Frustration grips us when our bodies weaken and fail to provide the strength we once enjoyed. But the grip of these children of death is broken when we live in the greatest realization that the stone has been moved from the empty sepulchre. Not only has Christ risen, but He has left the proofs in the empty tomb and in the accounts of the eyewitnesses. Had the Roman seal never been broken, we might never know, but we do know because all four Gospels relate it, and many witnessed it.

Comfort and hope spring from the moved stone. It grants to us the assurance of everlasting life. – Jim MacIntosh