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Tidings for Tuesday

April 17th, 2018

And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church. Ephesians 1:22

An elderly man who was the leading elder of an Assembly was very conservative in his views, and resisted all kinds of changes, even changes that were necessary. Because he was highly respected and a godly man, the Assembly endured his uncompromising stance, until he died. After his death, changes were made. Those things that required change were changed. But some things that didn’t need to change were also changed, allowing some practices and attitudes to come in that were not good for the Assembly’s testimony and harmony. Some thought that the Assembly would have been far better off if that elderly overseer had not been given such control in the first place. Maybe they were right. Our text reminds us there is only One Who should have complete control over God’s Assembly.

We recognize that Assembly oversight is of the Lord, not of men, with those who serve responsible to the Great Shepherd. Great care must be taken – and usually is – to make sure that decisions regarding the Assembly are in line with the will of God. Direction and guidance for the Lord’s people will be for their benefit only if they are in line with God’s purposes for His people. This places great responsibility on the Assembly oversight to know the Lord’s will and to carry it out. It would never do to go against the will of Him Who is Head over all things to the Assembly.

Not everybody reading this message is on the oversight of an Assembly. But submission to our Head is just as important to everyone else as it is to the elders. Younger Christians need to be aware of their roles as learners and helpers, as those with the energy and enthusiasm to make the Assembly vibrant and alive. Older Christians need to understand their roles of being good examples, of providing wisdom of experience, of being faithful stalwarts of the Assembly. Those with an exercise and with abilities need to use those in accordance with the will of our Head. Everyone has a place in God’s Assembly, and that place is where our Head wants them to function. That might not always be where we want to function, so it is important that each of us learn submission to our Head, so we don’t overstep or understep our place in His Assembly.

The Assembly is not ours; it is not the elders’, it is not the people’s. The Assembly has one Head, and everything pertaining to that Assembly is for His glory and according to His pleasure. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

April 16th, 2018

 

In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise. Ephesians 1:13

The engine from a 1952 Chevrolet was mounted on a pedestal in the Industrial Arts shop of our high school. We were able to look at it, touch it, and examine what we could of it. The engine was set to operate, and one day, the instructor started it, startling us with the noise, because it had no muffler. Afterward, he brought out several charts showing us the internals of that engine, and described very carefully how the thing worked. I am still no mechanic, but, like the other boys in the class, I was intrigued by the process. I can still recall that description of the four strokes of the valves – intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust. Each of those strokes was directly dependent on the previous stroke and was directly responsible for the succeeding stroke. Our text today also speaks of the cycle of salvation, in which one step directly results from a previous one and leads to the succeeding one.

Hearing the word of truth is the first stroke. Of course, many people hear the Gospel, or come into contact with it, without ever being convicted of their sin or ever being saved. The difference lies in how the Word was heard. Nobody ever gets saved unless they actually listen to the Word and allow the Holy Spirit to apply the Word to themselves. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The work of God that leads to salvation must always begin with the hearing of the Word of God.

The next stroke in salvation’s cycle is trust. Trust is the acceptance of the Word that has been heard. Trust is the acceptance of the Word’s condemnation of our sin, and the acceptance of God’s satisfaction with His Son. Each of us looks back to that day in our experience when we passed from death to life, and praise God that we ever trusted in Christ.

The next stroke in salvation’s cycle is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Unlike an engine, in which a time – however brief – may be measured between one stroke and the next, no time elapses between the stroke of trust and the stroke of the sealing of the Spirit. Charismatics who plead with God for the gift of the Holy Spirit are praying in vain; if they’re saved, the Holy Spirit is already within, if they’re not saved, the Holy Spirit can’t reside. God’s gift of salvation includes the sealing of the Spirit. The following verse reminds us that this sealing is the down payment for all that our salvation provides us for eternity. The final stroke of God’s cycle of salvation is actually an eternal stroke that abides forever.

The wonders of God’s great plan of salvation are ours to explore and delight in now, and evermore, in the security of the Holy Spirit’s presence. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

April 15th, 2018

To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6

Our friend Bobby had invited us to his birthday party; he told us that when we arrived, to tell the man at the door that we were his friends, and were to be granted admission. But the man at the door was anything but welcoming. He refused to even talk with us, and ordered us to leave. Disappointed, we turned to go, but stopped when we heard a familiar shout. It was Bobby, and he was going to escort us inside. ‘They’re with me,’ he told the doorman, and the doorman smiled and waved us inside. As long as we were with Bobby, we were welcome. Being with the Lord Jesus is something like that, except that being with Him means far more than admission to Heaven.

Admission to Heaven is, of course, one of the first things we think of when we consider being accepted in the Beloved. Those pearly gates that will forever bar everything and everyone with a trace of sin will forever welcome us, because the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin. Whatever doorkeeper might be at the entrance to Heaven will welcome us gladly, because we will enter in the presence of the Lord Jesus Himself. That wondrous place that recognizes Him as its very reason for existence will accept us because He has accepted us. Our eternity is secure in His acceptance.

There are good reasons why the Assembly does not automatically admit strangers to participate in the Breaking of Bread. Just as Heaven cannot admit those who have not been accepted in the Beloved, so the Assembly cannot admit those who we don’t know have been accepted in the Beloved. Once proof of the recognition of His lordship is established, admission can be arranged. But those of us who have entered into the Assembly fellowship can appreciate that it is the Lord Himself Who has admitted us. In His Assembly, we enter into the good of our salvation, including the opportunity and right to worship and serve our Lord in the place where He is pleased to have placed His Name.

Everyone who is saved, including those not yet baptized or accepted into Assembly fellowship, can enter into the glorious relationship of being accepted in the Beloved. We can appreciate that we have been delivered from the penalty of our sins. We can appreciate that the Holy Spirit now lives within and seeks to guide us into conformity with the image of the Son. We can appreciate the Word of God, that volume that was hidden from our understanding until our eyes beheld the Lamb of God. We can appreciate all the wonderful blessings that come from being possessers of eternal life.

No eternity can be long enough to unfold the riches of the grace of Him Who has accepted us. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

April 14th, 2018

Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:2

Did you ever notice that all of Paul’s epistles to Assemblies include the salutation ‘Grace be to you, and peace’ or some variation of it? When he writes to individuals, such as Timothy and Titus, he expands it to ‘grace, mercy, and peace’. Is this greeting just a nice style that Paul has adopted, like most of us do in our letters? Or is there a deeper meaning behind Paul’s use of this term? Remember, the Holy Spirit does not include anything in Scripture that is not necessary or important. In his greeting, Paul combines two forms of greeting to form one. A standard greeting for a Greek or other Gentile was ‘Grace to you’. A standard greeting for a Jew was ‘Peace to you’, or ‘Shalom’. By uniting these two greetings into one, Paul is emphasizing the unity of the Assembly regardless of the makeup of its members.

Unity in God’s Assembly is impossible by ourselves. So God gives us His grace and His peace. An Assembly that appreciates the grace of God and the peace of God will be a harmonious Assembly. The grace of God brings us into a place where we don’t deserve to be. As sinners, we had no right to enjoy fellowship with God or with His people. As saints, we have been seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, enjoying all of the riches of His blessings. The grace of God unites us in thanksgiving and appreciation. So does the peace of God. We were once at enmity with God, and with each other. The peace of God has replaced that enmity, and we now rejoice in the Lord’s presence, and in the presence of His people. The anger, resentment, envy, and all the other emotions and attitudes that were once part of our unredeemed life are washed away in the wonder of the peace of God.

Note that the grace and peace Paul speaks of are from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. If we receive this grace and peace from God, we ought to show them in our own lives. As God has been gracious to us, we ought to be gracious to others, especially including those of the household of faith. We need to display grace even to those who don’t deserve it. After all, we didn’t deserve the grace we received from the Lord. We also didn’t deserve the peace we received, either. So, now that we are at peace with God, we must also be at peace with our fellow believers.

God has bestowed His grace and peace on His Assemblies. We will appreciate these great blessings only if we bestow our grace and peace on all who are in His Assembly. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

April 13th, 2018

And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Revelation 21:27

Every day throughout the world, 115,000 abortions are performed; that’s 42 million unwanted babies exterminated every year. More human lives have been sacrificed on the altar of unbridled lust than were ever slain by Moguls, Nazis, or even Mohammedans. As frightening as that carnage is, we can take a bit of comfort in knowing that most of those discarded children are probably better off than if they had been born. Regardless of what the godless judges of earth say, life begins at conception, not at birth, according to Scripture. That means all those aborted children have eternal souls. Unaccountable to God for their sin, those precious souls are sheltered by the blood of the Lamb, and are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, along with all other children who fail to reach the age of accountability, and all those who trust Christ as Saviour. But those aborted children have no names! So what is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

Note that our text doesn’t speak of names. The late Albert Ramsay used to ask people if their names are written anywhere besides the phone book. It’s nice to think of the Lamb’s Book of Life as a great listing of the names of all believers. But it is so much more! If it were just a listing of names, problems could occur because of misspellings, duplications, and name changes. No doubt names will be there. But the Book contains not only names – because some have none – but also the very personalities of those who are saved. The Lord Jesus didn’t write only your name, He wrote you in His Book. This glorious truth is one more aspect that is precious about the eternal security of the believer.

The verses that precede today’s text describe the Holy Jerusalem, its dimensions, its description, and its dazzling splendour. Such a place awaits us as our eternal dwelling, and the language of our chapter only begins to bring it into focus for our frail little minds. We rejoice that it is for us. But we pause at the solemnity of the fact that it is only for us. Our text tells us that, as welcoming as the New Jerusalem is for those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, it excludes all of those who are not written there. We fear for our unsaved loved ones. We fear for those who attend Gospel meetings but make no profession of salvation. We fear for those who refuse an invitation to the meetings, and those who never receive an invitation. The gates of the New Jerusalem will keep out far more than they admit. And it is only by the grace of God that they will admit us.

Membership in earth’s clubs, organizations, and societies can be expensive in terms of dollars, but they are pitifully cheap when compared to the price paid for you and me to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Praise the Lord for writing us there! – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

April 12th, 2018

And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write, for these words are true and faithful. Revelation 21:5

A year earlier, it had been just part of an old field, long since abandoned by the farmer and his cattle, with just some old foundations left from where a barn once stood. But it was part of the development plans for a new subdivision, and we had struck a deal with the developer for a new house. On that lonesome bit of field, the builders did their work, digging a foundation, diverting a spring, building slowly until a little bungalow took shape. As the weeks went by, a well was dug, siding and roofing were installed, tradesmen installed wiring, plumbing, and drywall. After some unplanned delays and disruptions, the work slowly became more finalized, with painting, cupboards, flooring, and light fixtures, until we were informed that the house was ready for occupancy. There, on what used to be a plot of alder bushes and goldenrod, stood a pretty little house, and we were pleased. An even greater pleasure awaits us when we see how our Lord will make all things new in the time of the new Heaven and new earth.

Nobody has an imagination anywhere near good enough to visualize or understand the remake that the world is due for at the end of time. Far beyond the beauties of spring blossoms or the wonders of nature that we can see in our world, the new Heaven and new earth are to be transformed in spectacular fashion, and it will all be for our delight and enjoyment. But let us not forget that – for us – the transformation began on the very day that we were saved. Our Lord’s promise that He will make all things new started when He translated us into His kingdom. The new birth brought us out of the old world of judgment and sin and into His world of peace and promise. Although still pent in sinful flesh, our spirits soared into the glorious joy of the knowledge of sins forgiven, and the happy realization that our future is with our Saviour and Lord. We were given power to overcome temptations, resist the devil, and serve the Lord. We received the desire and right to worship, and we entered into the appreciation of the fellowship of the Lord’s people. Life changed at salvation’s moment, and it continues to change as we grow in Him.

As we live our Christian lives, we continue to develop in our appreciation for the things of God. We learn more of His Word, we learn more of fellowship with Him and His people, and we learn by our experiences in faith more of the holiness, wisdom, and power of our God. Unless we are backsliders, we have experienced during the time since we were saved the transforming power of God in bringing us into conformity with the image of His Son. All things are becoming new.

We need not wait for Heaven to experience and enjoy that God has, is, and will be making all things new for us. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

April 11th, 2018

And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city, and fire came down from God out of Heaven, and devoured them. Revelation 20:9

A little inner-city mission had struggled faithfully for years to take the Gospel and some comfort to the slum area in which it was located. Several of the gangs operating in that area had targeted the mission several times, but were unable to discourage the folks who were running it. Finally, the gangs got together and conspired to destroy the mission once and for all. They set their plans, and gathered their forces, and advanced one dark night on the mission. Unknown to them, an informer had passed their plans on to the police. The police, appreciative of the work of the mission, called in the military to help, and set a trap for the gangs. Just as the ringleader of the mob was to give the command to attack, the military turned on their floodlights. Dozens of gang members found themselves surrounded by hundreds of well-armed and highly motivated soldiers. Every gang member was captured and led away without a blow being struck. It was something like the battle that never happened in today’s text.

Our text tells of the ultimate rebellion and the final destruction. After a thousand years of righteous reign in which this world will know perfect peace and perfect administration, the armies of the world will haste to align themselves with Satan and his minions. Just as they encircle Jerusalem and the Christians, they are snuffed out by fire from Heaven. This is the final destruction of the enemy. This is the last dramatic flash of God’s great power in dealing with the devil, the final crushing of the serpent’s head. For the righteous, this is the final triumph, the epilogue to all the judgments that have preceded, and the perfect conclusion to the vengeance that our Lord has promised. For struggling saints today, this portion gives comfort in the assurance of final victory. It also gives us daily comfort in knowing that the One Who will destroy all our enemies provides daily victory as well.

The God Who can wipe out the armies of the world in a moment can surely give to you and me the encouragement, strength, and determination to stand against the wiles of the devil. His Word provides us the daily nourishment that we need to not only survive but thrive as soldiers of the cross. Daily prayer and communion with Him keeps us in touch with His purposes and his care for us. Regular fellowship with the Lord’s people keeps us happy and encouraged along the pilgrim path. And willing service for our Lord keeps us from being led astray by the temptations and ideas of the world.

The great day of total victory is coming. The little day of little victories is already here. – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

April 10th, 2018

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Revelation 20:4

Every Christian should be required to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs at least once in their lifetime. This book provides shocking reality that contrasts so sharply with our little world of safety and security and comfort. Its pages describe how godly men, women, and children laid down their lives for their Lord through the centuries. And yet, this little book provides only a tiny snapshot of the martyrs in the years that it covers. Many millions more have died because of their faith, and thousands continue to die today in communist and Hindu lands, and at the hands of the brutal and vile Mohammed’s disciples. Our text today tells us that the killing doesn’t stop, and neither does the faithfulness, when it comes to the end times and the great tribulation.

The martyrs of the tribulation are separate from the martyrs of the age of Christendom. Those who have died for their faith since Pentecost will be raised at the rapture. But the tribulation follows the rapture, so the faithful of that horrific period will be raised at the end of that time of judgment. It appears there will be many, possibly millions. Their time as Christians will be brief, because most will die within days – or even hours – of their conversion. They will be willing to die physically to avoid the second death that is assured to all who wear the mark of the beast. Their faithfulness provides a great example and inspiration for the Lord’s people today.

How terrifying it must be to face an executioner and realize that, for being faithful to your Lord, you must die, and possibly be tortured along the way! It’s hard for us to imagine. We won’t likely experience anything like that. But what will we experience? Very little, especially if nobody knows we are Christians. Even if we are out-and-out Christians who boldly let everyone know we belong to Lord Jesus, we will face little more than a bit of ridicule or a few insults. But if the tribulation saints were willing to face the executioner’s sword for their faith, why should we not be willing to face the scoffer’s jest or the atheist’s hateful smirk? While others pay so much, why can we not pay a little? While others bravely win their martyr’s crown, can we not meekly serve and speak for our Lord?

We will probably never know what we would do when faced with dire persecution or death for our faith. But what will we do when faced with a little shame for His Name? We have great examples behind us and before us. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

April 9th, 2018

And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. Revelation 20:2

The Nuremberg Trials in 1945-46 resulted in the conviction and sentencing of most of the top officials of Nazi Germany. A few of those tried were acquitted, several were convicted and executed, and others were convicted and ordered to spend various terms in prison, including some who received life imprisonment. One of the latter was Rudolph Hess, at one time the deputy fuhrer until he flew to Scotland in 1941, in a strange attempt to persuade Britain to strike a peace deal. Hess was committed to Spandau Prison, where he became the last imprisoned member of Hitler’s cabinet, dying in his cell in 1987. He served a long sentence, many say not nearly long enough, for his crimes. But others have served longer sentences, some of them worse criminals than Hess. Our text talks about the greatest criminal of all time serving the longest sentence of all time.

I have sat in courtrooms and listened to judges hand out lengthy sentences for some criminals, saying that the length of sentence was for the protection of society, to keep the criminal from being able to hurt anyone, for as long as possible. That is certainly part of the purpose of having the devil locked up in the bottomless pit for a thousand years. The absence of the devil is part of the blessing of the thousand years’ reign of Christ. His absence means the absence of many of the temptations that the devil torments people with today. His absence means the absence of cruelty, hatred, and violence, which are the hallmarks of that old serpent. Without the devil around, this world will be free to enjoy the glorious reign of great David’s greater Son. His perfect righteousness will be unimpeded by the fiery darts of the wicked one. Most days, you and I could wish the devil were locked up now, that we might be free of his evil wiles. But it is comforting to know that this earth will one day enjoy a millennium without him.

Did you notice who it was that bound the devil? It wasn’t the Lord Jesus, or Michael the archangel (as far as we can tell), or Gabriel, or any of the highest order of angels. It was a regular angel, just one angel. And he apparently had no difficulty in laying hold of the devil, and binding him. How tremendously humiliating that will be for the one who was the highest in creation, the most powerful of all the angels, the ultimate in the spirit world. All of his power goes for naught, as a humble and unnamed angel grabs hold of him and subdues him easily. That surely is a comfort for us to know that our tormentor and accuser will be so humiliated.

On the cross, the Lord Jesus defeated all our enemies. We rejoice at the wonderful prospect that we will be spectators to the defeat of our worst enemy. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

April 8th, 2018

And I saw Heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness doth He judge and make war. Revelation 19:11

Faithful and True, what a lovely name! Of course, this name must refer to the Lord Jesus. This is not the first time that we find this term in our Bible, in fact, it is not the first time we find it in the book of the Revelation. If we go back to Chapter 3, we find the One addressing the assembly at Laodicea identified as the faithful and true Witness. Maybe we should pay particular attention today to this One, seeing that He is identified as the Witness to the period of history identified as our own time. How significant is is it today that He is faithful and true?

My wife was scouring the flyers for the various grocery stores in our area, looking for the weekly bargains at each, and deciding what stores we would visit to do our shopping. She observed that, with the rising price of food, we could not afford to be faithful to any one store. Not being faithful is a common theme of life these days. When I was working in the information technology field, I found that most IT workers spend little more than two years at any one company before moving on to a new employer or project. Such lack of faithfulness to an employer may well be true in other industries as well. Lack of faithfulness is responsible for the breakdown of so many marriages, as partners quickly weary of each other and move on to somebody else. The courts are filled with legal battles over one party or another failing to live up to contractural obligations. Faithful people are becoming the exception in our day, and those who are faithful are often mocked as old-fashioned and out of touch with reality. Against such a shameful backdrop we can appreciate One Who is not only always faithful, but Whose very name is Faithful.

One of Jesus’ great proclamations during His earthly ministry was His identification of Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). We know that His Word is always true, and His words have ever been truth. No lies or deceit like the rest of us, of whom Scripture declares that all men are liars (Psalm 116:11). And now our text tells us that His very name is True. What a wonderful comfort to know that our Lord and Saviour is the One Who can always be trusted.

The Faithful and True is the perfect judge to correct the evils of this world, and the perfect warrior to destroy the enemies of the Lord’s people. The Faithful and True is moving today, and moves forever, in righteousness. – Jim MacIntosh