Word for Wednesday

June 6th, 2018

The woman saith unto Him, Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. From whence then hast Thou that living water? John 4:11

Later in this same Gospel, we will read the account of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. In that account, John records the events that followed the Saviour’s death, including the actions of the soldier who took his spear and thrust it into Jesus’ side. From that wound, John declares, he saw flowing blood and water (John 19:34). Where did the water come from? And what was its relationship to the water that the Samaritan woman spoke of?

Medical people tell us that the human heart is enclosed in a sac that, in times of great stress, sorrow, and trauma, will fill with water. It was this pericardium that the soldier’s spear pierced, and a small flow of water would not have been unusual for a crucified person. That the flow was extensive tells us something of the depths of the Saviour’s anguish during the hours before and the hours on the cross. It was His death that brought forth that tide, a death that brings life to us, a death that enabled the Lord to defeat death for all time. Because of that death, Jesus is qualified to offer us living water, as he offered it to the Samaritan woman. And He draws it from a deeper well than that of Sychar.

The woman of Samaria knew the quality of the water from Sychar’s well. Even today, tourists can be refreshed by the cold clear water that can be drawn from its depths. But in a very short time, they are thirsty again. The woman knew the daily ritual of coming to the well to get more water. Like anything of earth, it offers pleasure for but a season. The living water that Jesus offers us has no expiry. His salvation never loses its freshness nor its delightful power to satisfy. When earth’s waters evaporate and seep away beyond our reach, the living waters from our Lord gush up and meet our need at every opportunity. They are more inexhaustible than the greatest rivers of our land, more refreshing than the sweetest fountain ever found, more wonderful than the best beverage that man’s imagination has ever concocted. Living waters, ours for the taking and enjoying, ours for eternity.

Jesus answers the woman’s question about where He was to get the water by pointing to His cross. Where the blood and water flowed we have our assurance of living water and everlasting life. From whence has He that living water? From Calvary! – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

June 5th, 2018

Now, Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well, and it was about the sixth hour. John 4:6

Someone recently sent me a fascinating link to a Web page that shows the different sizes of things. Very interesting were the tiny particles that are many times smaller than an atom. Also very interesting were the great objects of space that are thousands of times larger than our sun. Within those extremes are objects of all descriptions and sizes, causing us to be in awe at the magnitude, precision, and variety of creation. Genesis tells us that all that work was accomplished within only one week, and the space portion of it was assembled in only one day, and even then as a sub-task of making the sun and moon. Even after the work of creation, Scripture reminds us, the One Who created maintains that creation, never slumbering, sleeping, nor growing weary. How touching it is, then, that we read of that same One being wearied as He trudged the Samaria trail into Sychar!

In His deity, the Lord Jesus never wearies. In His humanity, He knew the limitations of an earthly body. But even His weariness with His journey was with purpose. He had travelled the detour into Samaria to keep an appointment with a woman who needed salvation. In keeping with His plans, His weariness led Him to the very well where that woman was to come for water. His timing was precise, too, because He knew the woman’s social status would cause her to go for water at a time when nobody else in town would be there. Just as His precision keeps the electrons spinning in their atoms and the planets revolving in their orbits, so His precision at meeting the needy sinner was flawless. We wonder about His timing, sometimes, in response to our prayers, because we don’t know the end from the beginning like He does. But with us, His timing in response to our needs is just as precise.

There have been times, we all know, when we despaired of ever receiving an answer to our needy prayer. There have been times when we longed, and pleaded, for an escape from circumstances that tried our souls. Some who are reading these words today might be in just such straits. If the Lord Jesus could know about a Samaritan sinner in need of living water, He surely knows about the burdens pressing down on His own dear children!

Will Jesus come and sit on our well today, to keep an appointment to meet our need? Let us delve into His Word to find out. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

June 4th, 2018

And He must needs go through Samaria. John 4:4

A Christian who was working as a pastor of a small southern US congregation was doing well, and getting along fine with the people in his community. Everything seemed to be going well for him and his little family. Suddenly, he resigned his position and moved with his family to the heart of a large Texan city, where he started an entirely new work. One of his friends came to visit him to ask why he had made such a move. He simply replied that God showed him there were many lost souls in that city who needed to hear the Gospel. He said he had no choice, but was compelled to go and preach to those people. He was like the Lord Jesus, who ‘must needs go’ into an area where a lost soul needed to hear the Gospel. We must needs go with the Gospel as well.

The sinful woman of Sychar did not go to seek the Lord Jesus; she wasn’t even aware that He was there. No, if she was to be reached, somebody had to go to find her. We face the same issue today. Many people are simply not aware of the Gospel. They don’t know about a Saviour Who came to deliver them from their sins. They don’t know that He is longing for them to come to Him. And the only way for them to find out about their need of Salvation and about the Saviour’s provision is for us to go to them with the Gospel. Samaria was a long ways off the regular route that Jesus would normally have taken on His way to Galilee, but He never hesitated. He needed to take the long route through Samaria. And sometimes we need to take the inconvenient route, the difficult path, the unpleasant avenue, to get to where the sinners are who need the Gospel.

No, we are not all fitted to be missionaries and carry the Gospel to faraway lands. But we can surely support those who are able to go in terms of financial resources, encouragement, and prayer. God has also not called all of us to pitch Gospel tents in new communities, and to distribute invitations, Seed Sowers packets, and tracts. But we can support these efforts as well. We can also give all the support we can to our regular Gospel meetings, and to the Sunday School work. Many of us can also have a handful of Gospel tracts available to distribute to folks we encounter during our daily activities. Living before the world as faithful representatives of our Lord is also a vital part of supporting the Gospel. And, of course, we can all pray for lost souls, and should be exercised before God as to who should be prayed for.

The lady from Sychar is in Heaven today because Jesus must needs go. Who will be in Heaven because we recognized that we must needs go? – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

June 3rd, 2018

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. John 3:21

The grandchildren delightedly bring home their report cards and present them to their parents. So far, in the younger grades, they are making good marks, and their report cards make for good conversation among their parents and grandparents, as we discuss how each one is doing in each department. As the years go by, and as the lessons get harder and the teachers become more particular about who receives praise, we wonder how gladly the children will bring home those report cards. We hope, of course, that they continue to receive straight As all through school. If they don’t, they may become more reluctant to hand over the report cards. Our text points out that those whose lives reveal the presence of eternal life have no reason to hide their deeds; they will always have a good report card to show.

Our text speaks of deeds that are wrought in God. This, of course, refers to those deeds that the Holy Spirit enables us to do and that we perform in harmony with the Holy Spirit’s will. Of course, this refers to all of the good that we do, because, of ourselves, we are unable to do good. In the flesh dwells no good thing. But through the Spirit we are able to please God. This is why we can bring these things before the Light to be examined. The Light, of course, is the Lord Jesus. It is His eye that sees our deeds today, and it is His voice that will pass judgment on our deeds at His great Judgment Seat. Our desire is that our lives will be filled with those deeds that will receive His ‘Well done’ in that soon coming day. As we consider lives that are lived in the light, we must always look to our great Example, whose deeds were all wrought in God.

Jesus tells us that He is the truth. In contrast to the all inclusive liarhood of mankind, the Lord Jesus was true in all His actions, words, and thoughts. His truth stands, not only as a contrast to our inability to be completely honest, but as an anchor that we can trust in time and for eternity. The Gospels record much of His teaching, and as we study that teaching, we marvel at all that He said. Like the officers who came to arrest Him, we marvel at His authority. Like the people who flocked to hear Him, we marvel at His gracious words. Like the critics who sought to confound Him, we marvel at His wisdom. But above it all, we marvel that He was always true, and His words and deeds were true.

Witnesses in our courts are sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. As Christians, we ought to be as truthful. We have a great Example who has shown us how and bids us to do so. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

June 2nd, 2018

That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:15

A member of parliament where we used to live put on an annual picnic for his organization. He extended an open invitation to everybody who wanted to come, and he would get huge crowds. There were games and treats for children, hot dogs and hamburgers aplenty, watermelon, horseshoe games for the men and women, and many other activities, including groups who would gather in clumps and hold lively discussions. It really was an open invitation, and anybody could show up. Nobody was guarding the gate to check credentials. The event was a wonderful public relations exercise for the MP, and boosted his popularity nicely. As wonderful and free as his invitation was, it certainly does not compare with the wonderful and free invitation in today’s text! We often wonder why it is not more popular.

Cynical people or those of different political persuasions might ignore or avoid the MP’s annual picnic. Maybe they would assume there would be strings attached or obligations involved. Is that why the Gospel invitation as described in our text is not more popular? The text is very clear, the only obligation is to believe, just as the only obligation at the MP’s picnic was to attend. But too many people assume they have to bring along their works, their donations, their religion, their good neighbourliness, or whatever. But there is no admission price required for the sinner to enter God’s salvation; the admission has been fully paid. And yet, such a glorious invitation goes wanting for respondents every time the Gospel is preached. It just isn’t a popular invitation out there.

But there is one group for whom the invitation is always popular and precious. Just as the politician’s picnic was a delightful place for all those who attended, so too God’s salvation is a wonderful place for all those who have entered into it. We have the Saviour’s promise of everlasting mercy, in that we will never perish. We also have His promise of everlasting grace, in that we have eternal life. In between mercy and grace are all the wonderful blessings that come with being the apple of God’s eye, and of being the residence of the Holy Spirit, and of having all the treasures of the Word of God, the fellowship of the Lord’s people, and the peace that passeth all understanding. Such great salvation is worth celebrating and sharing.

If the blessings of our text are so wonderful, why are we not more excited about them than we are? – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

June 1st, 2018

If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? John 3:12

We don’t know for sure if he actually existed, but if he did, Aesop was very popular with the children of his day. Stories from ancient Greece tell of Aesop as a wise man who loved to tell fanciful stories in which animals often took on human characteristics. We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, of the vain crow, of the greedy dog, and the dog in the manger. Children would love to listen to such stories, and as they did so, Aesop would get across to them some very fundamental principles of life. The children learned these important lessons about human behaviour by hearing how animals behaved in Aesop’s fanciful world. He told animal stories to teach people lessons. It is an excellent way to teach, because Jesus used some of the same principles, except that He told earthly stories to teach heavenly lessons.

Would those children have learned wise behaviour without Aesop’s fables? We’ll never know. Have people learned about heavenly things through Jesus’ parables? Yes, many have. The people to whom Jesus preached during His ministry were certainly impressed with His parables. And many learned enough through those lessons to become permanent and faithful followers of the Lord Jesus. But to the vast majority, those parables were little more than entertainment, or food for speculation and debate. Jesus would often unfold the meanings behind those parables to His disciples and to other followers. He knew whose hearts were open to receive the truth. In the same way, the Holy Spirit, as He strives with sinners, knows who are sincere in their search for the truth and who reject the Word of God or dismiss it as irrelevant.

In our text, Jesus is speaking to one of the top religious leaders in the land. He is reminding Nicodemus that the lessons Jesus taught in His parables were critical to an acceptance of heavenly truths. As a human earth-dweller, Nicodemus had no real concept of the heavenlies. Neither do we. It is only through parables and earthly teaching from Jesus that we can grasp the heavenlies. Such concepts as the presence of God, the nature of eternity, and the torments of hell are beyond our human capacity. But when placed into terms of things we know and understand, we can accept these things. And accept therm we must because they are the truth.

Heavenly things are not really within our grasp today, as far as understanding them. But they are within our grasp today, as far as accepting them. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

May 31st, 2018

Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? John 3:9

I think my father always wanted to be an engineer, although he never had the opportunity. But he did enjoy making the engineers look silly when they tried to tell him how to do his job. They would bring their ideas and theories onto the construction site where he was working, and propose solutions to problems. With his trusty slide rule, his uncanny knack of how machines worked, and his many years of experience, Dad would turn their ideas upside down and come up with his own practical solutions that saved time and expense. Those engineers would be forced to admit that, despite their education and degrees, they didn’t have all the answers. They were like Nicodemus, who considered himself an expert but was bewildered by Jesus’ teaching.

The world is overrun with experts. The trouble is, the expertise they hold today was unknown 20 years ago and will be nonsense 20 years from now. Quick to tell us how to run everything from our lives to our letter openers, these experts are seldom open minded enough to stop and ask a question like Nicodemus did. Although an expert in terms of Biblical studies and Jewish doctrine, this man had enough sense to recognize that somebody else just might have some good answers. This man was an excellent example of a good candidate for the Gospel. We should be on the lookout today for people like Nicodemus. We can never tell who the Holy Spirit will work with, but He seems to have a preference for those who are willing to suspend their own ideas long enough to listen to the truth.

We can recall the ideas we had, and the resistance we developed to the Gospel before the Holy Spirit stepped in and brought us to conviction. He brought us to the position that Nicodemus reached, of opening our minds and hearts to receive the truth of the Word of God. Those around us need to reach the same place. Many today, like Nicodemus, ask questions. But most of their questions are either idle curiosity or are mockery. For example, their question as to why God allows bad things to happen to us is often just an excuse to rail at God or to deny His existence. But sincere people are seeking. Some of the folks out there really do have an interest in learning. There are burdened and inquiring hearts. Although it doesn’t seem like it very often, there is good ground on which to broadcast the good Seed. But we will never find it if we aren’t willing to keep broadcasting.

There would be no John 3:16 or several other great texts if Jesus had not shared the Gospel with Nicodemus. What else will be missing if we don’t share the Gospel with others? – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

May 30th, 2018

The wind bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit. John 3:8

Did you ever hear the expression, ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’? Sometimes, we say of a boy that he is a chip off the old block, meaning he is very much like his father. Genetic experts tell us that we inherit everything that we are from our parents, and live our lives displaying the various characteristics that they gave us. Many of the things we are able to do are a direct result of what we were born with. Our new birth also gives us characteristics and abilities that differ from those around us who don’t have the new birth.

The word translated ‘wind’ in our text is the same word that is translated ‘Spirit’ later in the verse. The text describes some characteristics of the Holy Spirit, and then notes that everyone who is born of the Spirit shares those characteristics. That means if we allow the Holy Spirit to take charge of our lives, we will conduct ourselves in the same way that the Holy Spirit does.

What is the chief responsibility of the Holy Spirit? His function is to focus attention on and bring glory to the Lord Jesus. The new birth actually gives us this ability as well, an ability we lacked when we were not saved. As our text declares, every saved person has this ability. So why does every saved person not display this ability?

We all know Christians whose lives are proof that the Holy Spirit dwells there. These people are zealous for God and His Gospel. They spend much time in prayer and in the study of the Word of God. They interact with fellow believers with Christ-like meekness, sweetness, and compassion. They are always rejoicing in their salvation and in God’s daily goodness, and their presence lifts up those around them. It is no trouble to tell that these folks are allowing the Holy Spirit to direct them. How many Christians do you know who are like that? More to the point, how many do you know who are not like that? Are you like that? Why are we not all like that? You and I take on the characteristics of the Holy Spirit only to the extent that we give Him control of our lives. Our lives must be yielded to Him if we are to display the Christ that He seeks to exalt.

Sadly, it is impossible this side of the Glory for us to be everything that the Holy Spirit would have us to be. But happily, it is possible for us to be as close to everything that the Holy spirit would have us to be as we will let Him. – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

May 29th, 2018

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. John 3:1

The great men who did such a wonderful task of compiling the King James version of the Bible weren’t perfect; they missed a few important things. Our text today is an example of one of their mistakes. They weren’t alone, though. Most other Bible translations also ignore or drop a word that is supposed to be at the start of this verse. You will find it in the original Greek, so it should be there. The Darby translation includes the missing word, and so does the Louis Segond version in French. The missing word is ‘but’. Although not a big word, it makes a big difference in the account of John’s Gospel. For one thing, it explains why Jesus took the time to converse with a member of the Sanhedrin, a group that he roundly condemned for their hypocrisy and rejection of Himself. Jesus still has time to converse with people like Nicodemus.

In the previous chapter, we find Jesus purging the temple of merchandisers and performing miracles, attracting many people to hear Him preach. Despite their open acceptance of Himself, Jesus did not commit Himself to them. He knew their hearts. He knew that they were curious, fascinated, and deeply interested in Him, perhaps even hoping He might be the One Who God would send to deliver them from Rome. Jesus knew the extent of their interest and passed on. It is against Jesus’ acknowledgment of the crowd’s insincerity that we encounter the ‘but’ of John 3:1. There was somebody whose interest was more than curiosity. Despite his high rank in Israel and his wealth of knowledge of the Scriptures, Nicodemus put aside his pride and his prejudices because he sincerely wanted to know Who Jesus was. Because his heart was open, Jesus was ready to talk. You and I found the same thing when the Holy Spirit broke through our pride and prejudices and brought us to repentance. Our hearts were thrilled that day that He would have the time of day for us. Did you know He still has the time of day for you today?

Sometimes the business of our jobs, school, home, and social activities, even our Assembly activities, can get in the way of a timely talk with our Lord. We deprive ourselves of much when we don’t take Him up on His promise to be with us. We also deprive ourselves when we are not sincere in our approach to the Lord. He knows our hearts, and He will not commit Himself to us unless we approach Him – like Nicodemus did – with a complete willingness to listen to everything He has to say.

Jesus knows our hearts today. And if we seek Him sincerely, He will draw near and unfold His heart to us. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

May 28th, 2018

When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them, and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. John 2:22

Many years ago, when I was attending the Pugwash Junction conference, one of the speakers mentioned how inconsiderate it is of some people who arrive late for the Breaking of Bread, creating a distraction to those who have already gathered to worship. The preacher then referred to an Assembly in Northern Ireland where the doors are locked ten minutes before the meeting is about to begin, thus eliminating latecomer distraction. I couldn’t help exclaiming to the person sitting next to me, ‘What a great idea!’ Those words struck me particularly because at the time I was in an Assembly where more people arrived for the Breaking of Bread in the ten minutes after the meeting started than in the 15 minutes before it started. That was a long time ago, and I still clearly remember that message. Can you remember ministry that you heard years ago? It was important for the disciples to do so.

As they accompanied the Lord Jesus during His three years of ministry, the disciples observed His miracles and listened to His teaching. They heard every one of His messages preached to the multitudes, and they heard every one of His discussions with them at mealtimes, along the highway, or in intimate gatherings with the disciples. As our text indicates, the words of Jesus were to serve them in the years after the resurrection, as Christianity was born and developed. The foundation for all that was taught and practiced during those years came from the words and example of the Lord Jesus as witnessed by His followers. Their personal witness gives us confidence in the New Testament, and gives us an example of how we should be faithfully passing on the spiritual lessons we have learned.

As young Christians, we spent most of our time in learning, or at least we should have been. Personal study of the Word, careful attention to Assembly ministry and the Gospel, attendance at Assembly Bible readings, and time spent in the company of older and experienced Christians provided us with a wealth of information. It is hoped that we allowed all of that to shape and guide our lives as followers of Christ. It is also hoped that what we learned we have been able to pass on to others, both in word and in example as we live out the truths God has given us.

God never intended that what we learned should remain with us, but always planned that we would remember His words and be faithful followers and passers-on. – Jim MacIntosh