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Thought for Thursday

September 17th, 2020

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18

A young man who had been recently saved was discussing how differently his life had become from his unsaved days. He had been accustomed to going to dances and other events that featured a particular element of rock music. He spoke of the effect of that music on him and the other young people who attended. He found the music made everybody aggressive and ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Fights were common at those events, because the music generated a combative atmosphere. That music would obviously be wrong for a Christian, in light of today’s text.

Peace is frequently spoken of in terms of the Christian. We are told that the peace of God should reign in our hearts. We are told that the Lord Jesus is our peace, and that He has made peace between us and God. If we have been brought into peace with our Heavenly Father, we should also be at peace with the world in which we live, even though that world is at enmity with God. God is reaching out to the world to give peace, and that should be our goal, too. Paul acknowledges that it might not always be possible, but it should be our desire and our bent of life to be at peace with everybody.

Avoiding animosity and conflicts is not always easy, especially when we have to deal with some very unreasonable people. But we should try to live peaceably with them, even if it costs us. Unreasonable neighbours often make demands or complaints that impose on us. These are touchy situations that we can often resolve by kindness and generosity. Unreasonable business attitudes, unreasonable school teachers, unreasonable service providers, these are all areas where we can find ourselves in difficulty, and need to be gracious even when we find ourselves being taken advantage of. It’s a good thing there are no unreasonable Christians, right?

Some of the most uncomfortable situations that we can get ourselves into are because of unreasonable Christians. For whatever reason, attitudes and feelings are aggravated, and the testimony of God’s Assembly is at risk. In such situations, the first thing we need to do is to make sure that we are not the ones being unreasonable. And the second thing is to revisit the first thing. May God forgive us and preserve us from being unreasonable to our fellow saints.

It would be a good epitaph to write on our tombstones, that we lived peaceably with all men. Could that be truthfully carved on yours? -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

September 16th, 2020

Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Job 4:17

One of the top stories in the news some years ago was about a woman who was challenging the Canadian law that forbade anyone from assisting someone to commit suicide. This woman had a debilitating and eventually fatal disease, and she wanted to have someone help her when she took her own life. Of course, this was not legal in Canada at that time (Sadly, this has changed). But this woman believed she knew better than the government that created the law. She also thought she knew better than God, Who forbids the taking of a life, even one’s own. This woman’s case was typical of much of society these days, as people challenge the laws of the land and the principles of the Word of God.

For example, the Bible condemns homosexuality. But this practice and lifestyle has been promoted and praised until anyone who dares to speak out against it is considered deeply evil. The taking of the lives of the unborn has become so accepted that our country’s highest honour was bestowed on the operator and promoter of abortion clinics. The Word of God that addresses these evils is said to be old fashioned and prejudiced. In effect, these people are proclaiming that they are more just than God. Their motives and actions are considered to be higher than those of their Maker. Where do Christians fit into this mess?

First of all, we need to acknowledge that the Word of God is always true and right. What God condemns we should also condemn. What God praises we should also praise. Because God cannot and will not change, His principles and truths will not evolve over time, regardless of the attitudes of those around us. His truth two thousand years ago will not be traded off for something new today.

We also need to understand that man is sinful, and that includes ourselves. We are not only capable of mistakes, but we are programmed by our sinful nature to make mistakes. We are not only capable of going against God’s Word, but we are programmed by our sinful nature to oppose God and His truth. But as Christians, we have been given a capability to obey God and accept His truth.

No, you and I are not more just or pure than our Lord. The attitudes of the world should not persuade us otherwise. We ought to obey God rather than men. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

September 15th, 2020

Behold, thou has instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands, thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou has strengthened the feeble knees. Job 4:3-4

Oh My! We could do with a few Jobs today! His friend Eliphaz is recounting how much help Job had been to many of those around him. I am sure that most people in Job’s day were just as selfish as those in our day. So a person who devoted so much of his life to being a help to others would surely stand out. Just as Christians should stand out today because of our willingness to help others. It’s the way Jesus lived, and it’s the way that His followers should live.

Job is first commended for being a good instructor. He taught many people about God and goodness. Many people were better equipped to live as they should because Job instructed them. To be an instructor takes more than a gift of gab. If you want to be an good instructor, you have to be knowledgeable and helpful. You must help people to grasp truths and use them. You must also have the wisdom to reach people’s understanding.

By strengthening weak hands, Job was enabling people to do their work and achieve the things they needed to achieve. Do we know what it is to help people reach their potential, to behave themselves in the House of God, to pick up the broken pieces of life and start over? We can start by being a good example and move on to mentoring those around us.

Job was also known for upholding those that were falling. We have some Christians with us today who are good at detecting when young Christians – or even a discouraged older Christian – are struggling with temptations and weaknesses. These dear folks know what to say, and know how to provide support and encouragement when it’s needed. Our Assemblies are so much richer because of these folks who have helped to prevent struggling saints from falling.

If strengthening the weak hands means helping Christians to accomplish what they should, strengthening the feeble knees means helping Christians to stand up for what they should. The world and the devil don’t want us to have a testimony. They don’t want those around us to know we are different because we belong to Christ. But there are folks like Job who encourage the saints to shine for their Saviour, to stand up and be counted as His.

Job was a good man in many ways, probably more ways than you and I can be. But he sets for us a good example of how to serve our Lord. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

September 14th, 2020

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. Job 2:11

Their intentions were good, these three, although their perceptions were wrong. They were friends of Job, and wanted to comfort him. They did the right thing, at least at first. They showed up during the worst of Job’s trials, and they waited for Job to speak before they said anything. They get a bad rap for their later accusations against Job, blaming him for the ills that had befallen him. Although they caused Job more grief and stress, they at least showed up to offer comfort when he needed comfort. We can learn at least that much from them.

What do you say to somebody going through a tragedy? What words will make a difference to a person who has just lost a life partner, or who has just been diagnosed with cancer, or who has been in an accident that caused serious permanent injuries? Job’s three friends got the second part of their mission right, too: they didn’t say anything to Job for seven days. To somebody going through a deep trauma, our presence is much more acceptable than our words. Unless the Lord gives you something to say that will actually help, don’t say anything. In his deep sorrow and his agonizing pain, Job must have felt more like crying than chatting. And the presence of his three friends – at least at first – would cause him to be thankful that they cared enough to come. There are people we would want to have show up when tragedies occur. And there are people who would want us to show up to comfort them in their catastrophes. Like Job’s three friends, we need to be willing to be there.

Are you the kind of person you friends want to see when they are smitten with grief and pain? Remember how the Lord Jesus responded when two of His friends lost their brother. His tears were real; He was able to weep with them. He felt and shared in their sorrow. And, when He spoke, He always said what was the best thing to say. Those whose hearts are heavy and whose bodies are in agony don’t benefit from hearing blame or criticism; Jesus always knew that. We should know that too.

Put yourself in the place of the weeping or suffering friend, and be the type of friend you would like to see show up. And don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to hear if it was you in their place. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

September 13th, 2020

But I am poor and sorrowful; let Thy salvation, O God, set Me up on high. Psalm 69:29

Nobody is so poor as the wealthy who have lost their riches. Stories abound of the effects of the stock market crash of 1929, when many people who believed themselves to be rich suddenly found themselves to be penniless. Many lost their homes and virtually all of their possessions, driving them to depression, suicide, and even to crime as they were unable to cope with the change in their life’s circumstances. Billionaires turned paupers were unaccustomed to performing menial chores, had no taste for common fare on their tables, and were uncomfortable in the clothing worn by the destitute. Hungry and deprived, they were miserable and angry and disillusioned. How different they were from the Lord Jesus, Who was rich, but for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich!

Throughout His life on earth, we never read of a word of complaint from the Saviour. The food He ate, the bed He slept upon, or did not have to sleep upon, the clothing He wore, the humble upbringing, all these were so far removed from the comforts and blessings of His rightful place in Heaven. And yet, He entered willingly into His poverty, so unlike those who lost their shirts in the Wall Street crash. Knowing all of the depths of poverty, He came and endured it.

The sorrow that is mentioned in today’s text is part of the great poverty to which our Saviour came. There is no sorrow in Heaven, nor ever will be. Until He came to earth, the Lord Jesus knew no sorrow. Yet, we read of Him weeping with Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ death, his tears at the failure of Jerusalem to recognize her King, his torturous sorrow during His hours of agony on the cross. But there was no hesitation on His part to enter into that sorrow or to shrink from that poverty. Knowing that His submission to being poor and sorrowful was the only way to purchase our salvation, He gladly endured and willingly accepted.

Because of the achievements of His poverty and sorrow, the Lord Jesus is today set up on high. Although the world at large still rejects Him, we will exalt Him when we gather to remember Him. -Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

September 12th, 2020

So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. Job 2:7

During our daughter’s preteen and adolescent years, her favourite expression used to be ‘It’s not fair!’ As a girl growing up in a busy family, she would often encounter situations that seemed to her to be unfair, whether it was the clothes she was expected to wear, the places where we wanted her to go, or the requirements we would put on her for school, or any of a hundred different situations. Many of us feel life is unfair in many ways. It doesn’t seem right that we have to endure painful or costly situations while others around us are not affected. We see situations where we try our best but fail while others coast through successfully with little or no effort. We make the discovery that life is not fair. Surely, Job would have cause to cry out against the unfairness of his situation. Satan had slandered Job before God and God allowed Satan to test Job. It had nothing to do with what Job deserved or rated. You and I also encounter situations where we need to recognize that God may be acting in ways that are beyond our understanding.

Did Job deserve those boils? Of course not! But when we look at the big picture, we see that God honoured Job’s integrity and eventually gave him twice as much blessing as he had before. In the long run, Job did not lose out. We need to realize that, if we are faithful to God, we will not lose out, even if it seems like we do. What about the Christian who loses his job for refusing to take part in a dishonest activity? Or the Christian whose business suffers for refusing to support an immoral demand from a homosexual organization? Is it fair? Not as the world deems fairness, but God’s higher purposes are beyond our ability to know, and we need to bow to His sovereign will.

Few of us will ever be tested as severely as Job was, even though it seems like we are sorely tried at times. Job came through the trial with his faithfulness to God intact. It is important for us to do the same. We will not be the losers for it. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

September 11th, 2020

And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. Daniel 9:3

Have the numbers in fellowship in the Assembly where you meet increased or decreased in recent years? If it’s like most Assemblies where the Word of God is honoured and every effort is made to be faithful to the truth, it’s getting harder and harder to fill the chairs at most meetings. Numbers dwindle as the old folks go Home, as others move away or become disillusioned or discouraged, as young folks fail to grasp the value of New Testament Assembly truths and drift away to denominations or nothing. Our testimonies and their impact on our communities continue to shrink. Just as Daniel was saddened by the desolation of Jerusalem, so we in our day are saddened by the creeping desolation of the places where the Lord has been pleased to place His Name in our day. But note in today’s text that Daniel was prepared to do something about it.

In the previous verse, Daniel had been studying his Bible. He discovered in Jeremiah’s prophecy that God had placed a time frame on the desolations of Jerusalem. The seventy years were rapidly passing by, and Daniel realized that there was hope of a restoration when the time frame was complete. As a result, he began to pray. His prayer included an acknowledgment of his own and all of Israel’s sin, an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God, and an entreaty that God would show mercy and kindness on the people He had placed under chastisement. Some of Daniel’s prayer approach would undoubtedly go a long way to correct some of the declension among God’s Assemblies today.

Study Daniel’s approach to his prayer, the fasting, sackcloth, and ashes that accompanied his prayer, and the great remorse he displayed as he drew near to God. When was the last time any of us gave up even one meal so we could spend time in prayer? When was the last time any of us took such pains to take a place of deep humility before God? When was the last time you heard somebody in a prayer meeting remind God of what wretched and undeserving sinners we are, in the same tone as Daniel prayed? One thing that was absolutely missing from Daniel’s prayer was any evidence of pride or any hint that God owed him anything. Do we pray as though we deserve God’s blessing?

We need to get Daniel’s vision of God and Daniel’s vision of himself, before we can expect God to come in and restore us. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

September 10th, 2020

Yet will I leave a remnant that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries. Ezekiel 6:8

It seemed a never-ending sea of vehicles ahead of us as we made our way north on the New Jersey Turnpike on a Friday evening. The volume of traffic was almost unbelievable, and it was overwhelming. We seemed but an insignificant speck on what is one of the most heavily travelled highways in the world. But as the car ahead moved to another lane and I moved up behind the next car, its bright bumper sticker grabbed my attention. The message was like a beacon in the darkness, an oasis in the desert. It read ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ I knew it was a Christian, because I have never seen any unbeliever have anything to do with that text. The driver of that car will never know what a cheer his bumper sticker was to us that day. Just one other Christian’s car, that’s all I saw. Amid the many thousands of vehicles heading north on that busy highway that day, there was a tiny remnant that I identified as belonging to the Lord. But how precious that remnant was!

Murray McCandless once said that a Christian is glad even to see another Christian’s dog. There is something very special in encountering other believers, in identifying someone who is part of the remnant that belongs to Christ. It’s not only that there are so few of us, but that we are so precious to each other. The remnant that God has so faithfully provided is made up of fellow believers who, because of Christ’s love for us and ours to him, we are able to love as brothers and sisters in the faith. As long as we can identify each other.

We could carry our Bibles at all times, with Gospel texts in bold letters; that would help others to identify us as Christ’s. But there are many other ways as well that we can enable others to identify us as part of the remnant. I have met some wonderful Christians through the simple act of giving thanks for food while at a restaurant. What about our language and our deportment, do we keep ourselves from the scruffy and filthy talk and behaviour of the world? Other saints can recognize us that way. Playing hymns or listening to music or Gospel preaching on our entertainment devices is also another identifier. We should make it a point to act and look in such a way that fellow believers will be able to identify us as part of the remnant.

Is the remnant that belongs to the Lord precious to you? -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

September 9th, 2020

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. 1 Timothy 5:23

Part of this verse appears to be one of the best-known portions of Scripture! Especially among the unsaved. I’ve heard it quoted (and misquoted) many a time by people, as an excuse for them to drink, although they ignore the ‘little’ part and drink to excess. Properly read, and placed in its context, this verse does NOT give us license to drink. Properly read and placed in its context, this verse called Timothy to engage in wise and proper behaviour, as it calls for us today to do the same.

No, Paul was not telling Timothy to abandon his intake of water and replace it with wine. No, he was not encouraging Timothy to become a regular partaker of alcohol. What was Paul telling Timothy? First of all, look at the verse just before today’s text… the last phrase says ‘Keep thyself pure’. In light of the admonition to keep himself pure, Paul reminds Timothy that his zeal for purity does not deprive him of the opportunity to use wine in a medicinal way. According to my Scofield notes, Paul was telling Timothy not to drink only water. Paul was telling his younger brother that he could use a little wine as his stomach required it, and still remain pure. We need to recognize these caveats that Scripture gives us in the use of alcoholic drinks.

For one thing, Timothy was to use only a little. Just what was needed, no more. Secondly, the wine was to be used as a medicine. Timothy had ailments. The wine was to ease his discomfort and improve his condition. Thirdly, it was to be used as a supplement to the water, not as a replacement. In all these things, Timothy was at no time encouraged to abuse alcohol nor given a license to use it recreationally.

There are many Christians today who don’t see anything wrong with alcohol, in moderation. It becomes one of the little foxes that creep into the garden and eventually destroy the grapes of testimony and service. To those who ask, ‘what’s wrong with it? I respond, ‘why bother with it at all? Why does anybody need it? What purpose would it serve? Those in the world think they need it in order to have a good time. But if Christians can’t have a good time without booze we are a long ways away from the Lord and from each other.

Rightly dividing the Word of Truth means we don’t use the Bible as an excuse for wrong. As Paul told Timothy, keep yourself pure. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

September 8th, 2020

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. 1 Timothy 4:1

If we look carefully at today’s text, we can surely believe that we are indeed in the latter days. Never in the history of the world have so many been enticed by seducing spirits, those flowery and exciting demonstrations of the charismatic movement, which claims to be operating in the power of the Holy Spirit but is instead operating in the power of seducing spirits of evil and error. The doctrines of devils is also becoming more and more commonplace around us as we see the false cults that deny the position and power of the Lord Jesus while raising up base and sinful men to the positions of prophets and demigods. We are not ignorant of much of this activity. However, we are unaware of how pervasive this evil has become in the world about us, and how much it affects even those of us who have trusted Christ.

Seducing spirits would have us believe that the end justifies the means, and that entertainment is a good way to draw people to meetings. Seducing spirits would have us believe that evil such as homosexuality and immorality is actually not all that bad. Seducing spirits would have us believe that the Moslems maybe do have some good ideas and it’s OK to let their leaders share the teaching of spiritual things to our young people. But God says the preaching of the cross – not the pounding of drums and twanging of guitars – is the power of God unto salvation. God says sin is just as sinful as it ever was, and homosexuality and immorality are still as abominable as they ever were. As for the Moslems, their doctrine is truly that of devils, with their vile prophet Mohammed having been one of the most satanic people who ever lived, preaching a god who bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible but is instead that old dragon, Satan.

Paul tells us that in these days, some shall depart from the faith because they give heed to these seducing spirits and devilish doctrines. Giving heed to these evil and godless things will lead to giving in to them; surrendering to the satanic. How we need to search our thoughts and attitudes to make sure we are not being softened to accept that which is from these spirits and doctrines!

Note that Paul says some will give heed. That suggests to us that some will not. Some will stand firmly on what the Word of God says concerning sin and evil. Some will stand firm on the proclamation of the Gospel. Some will stand firm for the principles of scripture concerning the gathering of the Lord’s People. Some will not deny the faith. Let us be among those who stand for God. -Jim MacIntosh