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Tidings for Tuesday

August 7th, 2018

And they prayed, and said, Thou Lord which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen. Acts 1:24

Even if Judas Iscariot had not committed suicide, he would never have been allowed anywhere near the other disciples again. But the disciples did recognize the need to have an even dozen in their number. Of the many faithful followers of the Lord Jesus, they selected two who were highly qualified to fill their ranks. We know very little of these two men, Barsabas and Matthias. Sometimes we have to think twice about which one was selected. But we have the testimony of the eleven that both were faithful and worthy men. At this point, the disciples display spiritual wisdom. After exercising their own judgment to the best of their abilities, they were going to leave the ultimate decision up to God. Using an Old Testament method – the last time it was used before the New Testament system cam into play – they submitted to the Lord’s will. It’s a good example for us to follow.

We have the divine leading of the Holy Spirit today, enabling us to determine the Lord’s will in matters great and small. And we have the Word of God in its completed form as an infallible guide. We don’t need to cast lots. But we do need to exercise spiritual discernment as well as submission to God’s will. For example, when a young person is seeking to determine an appropriate life vocation, the Word of God, the guidance of Assembly oversight, and a goodly portion of common sense will eliminate most of the fields that should be rejected. Careers in the liquor, tobacco, and gambling fields are obviously wrong, as are careers in any business or endeavour that requires or promotes dishonesty of any kind. The point is, even before such a person begins to seek the Lord’s direction on such a crucial matter, the resources are available to narrow the choices considerably. But the happiest decisions are those that we allow the Lord to make.

We read nothing more of Matthias in Scripture. Various traditions about him exist, some of which identify him as Zacchaeus, Barnabas, or Nathanael. God no doubt used him in a mighty way in the early days of Christianity, otherwise, why would He have selected him? We have no reason to criticize the selection of Matthias. Just as we have no reason to criticize any of the decisions that we leave up to the Lord’s guidance. The God Who has never made a mistake will not make one when it comes to our decisions. We can trust His wisdom, His desire for that which is best for us, and His eternal purposes.

When we pray, Thy will be done, we are tapping into perfect wisdom and guidance, and so we should use this prayer more often. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

August 6th, 2018

And in those days, Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty). Acts 1:15

How many of Jesus’ disciples can you name without looking it up in the Bible? It helps if you learned those names in the Sunday School chorus ‘There were twelve disciples’. And if you were to do your naming at the time of today’s text, you would be able to eliminate the name of Judas Iscariot, eleven in all. But our text speaks of 120 or so names; I am sure you can’t name all of those! Where did the extra 109 come from? And what is the importance of all those extra people?

Consider the situation, which was only days after Jesus had departed and gone back to Heaven. He had instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, Who was to come and empower them to be witnesses for their Lord. They had no idea what was going to happen, or even when. Then did not know much of anything about the Holy Spirit and how He was to deal with with them. They were still afraid of the Jewish leaders, and kept out of sight as much as possible. But the group grew in size, as those who were faithful to Jesus and who had believed the account of His resurrection gathered themselves together for comfort, encouragement, and expectation. We know who some of the additional people were, of course. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there, and Mary Magdalene, and other faithful women who had served Jesus faithfully. Devoted followers such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were probably there, and possibly Nicodemus and other people who had received Jesus’ message gladly. Although nicely larger than just the handful of disciples, 120 people doesn’t sound like many to launch a message that would transform the world. Especially when they had no idea how it was to happen! But God used the little company mightily, as we find out in the rest of Acts. And God uses little companies today in amazing ways.

How large a company would it take to turn your town upside down like the disciples did to Jerusalem? The company that Peter was addressing in today’s text had severe limitations until the Holy Spirit was given. You and the others in your Assembly have no such restrictions. In fact, you have the entire Bible from which to preach the Gospel and to teach believers. Including the example of these disciples. If God could use such a skittish, disorganized group like the one Peter was addressing, He can surely use companies of faithful believers today.

As we consider the relatively small group that Peter was speaking to, and what transpired as a result of their obedience, we can surely grasp the potential of the little groups that gather to the Name of the Lord Jesus today. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

August 5th, 2018

And while they looked steadfastly toward Heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? Acts 1:10,11

A big house on the outskirts of town caught fire, and the crews of several fire trucks battled to try to save the building. As the smoke and flames shot out through the roof, people gathered on a nearby hillside overlooking the burning house. As they watched intently to see all that was happening, a man on a bicycle approached and noticed all the people gathered on the hillside. ‘Hey,’ he asked, ‘what’s everybody doing out here today?’ Most of the people ignored him. A few simply pointed to the burning house, and ignored him. His question seemed so unnecessary, given the circumstances. We might think the question the angels asked in today’s text was also unnecessary. But the angels had a reason for asking, and they had a message.

An incredible event had just occurred. The Lord Jesus, Who a few short weeks before had been crucified and had risen from the dead, had been teaching His disciples. They had important questions to ask, and He had important instructions to give. Suddenly, He rose into the air, higher and higher, until He disappeared. Amazed and stunned at this event, the disciples gazed at the last place where they could discern their Lord, as if wondering if He would reappear. And then the angels asked their question.

The angels worshipped the same Lord as those disciples. But no angel knows Him as Saviour, like we do. No angel has ever known the joy of passing from sinful darkness into Salvation’s light. No angel has experienced the new birth, or appreciated the goodness of God that led to repentance. The experiences of these disciples as Jesus’ companions were unknown to angels, and the fascination of these men with their Lord was a mystery to the heavenly beings. It is not surprising they would wonder why these disciples should gaze so intently at the sky. Do the angels question today as the Lord’s people gather to remember our Lord and gaze upon a loaf of bread and a cup of wine? We appreciate some things that angels cannot understand.

The angels had another reason to ask their question. They knew some things these disciples were not aware of, and they were anxious to pass along their message. They knew that Jesus was going to return some day. They also knew that these disciples were soon to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and had a great commission to fulfil. They were there to guide and encourage, and their words were a reminder to the disciples that the wonder of Jesus’ assention must be replaced with the preparation for service.

The angels’ question reminds us today of the unique position we occupy as redeemed worshippers, and as ambassadors for our Redeemer. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

August 4th, 2018

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witness unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

We have all heard of people who have heard the Gospel and have come under conviction of their sins, but who have become frightened at the prospect of becoming a Christian. These folks compare their sinful life styles with those of the faithful Christians they have met, and are convinced that they will be unable to live up to such a high standard. They are right, of course. Before they are saved, they are incapable of living as a Christian should. We were the same before God saved us. The natural person cannot even understand the Bible, let alone live as a victorious Christian. The power to live a Christian life is not within ourselves, but is in the Holy Spirit Who comes to reside with us when we are saved.

When we read the account of the early days of Christianity, as outlined in the first few chapters of Acts, we are amazed at the transformation of the believers. The same men who ran and hid when the mob came to arrest Jesus are now boldly preaching in the temple and other public places in Jerusalem. In the face of persecution and death threats, they launch confidently into a life of witnessing, preaching, and service for their Lord. The contrast in their lives is amazing, and we can understand how the people around them could be so amazed. Unaware even of the existence of the Holy Spirit, the spectators would have no way to rationalize the difference they saw in Jesus followers on and after the day of Pentecost. Do people today have the same confusion when they see how the life of a Christian is changed from what it was before Salvation?

There are some Christians whose lives have not changed much since they were saved. For some of them, they have simply failed to allow the Holy Spirit to live through them and to empower them to victory over sin. For others, they had been living as moral and respectable people before, and there were few obvious signs of a sinful life for the Holy Spirit to remove. But the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of each believer is the provision of the power of God to not only change the believer from sinner to saint, but to empower that believer to reach heights not remotely possible to the unconverted. Paul could say, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’. And He was not exaggerating or overstating. He was declaring the limitless capabilities of a life submitted to the Spirit’s guidance and control.

As believers, we have a power that goes beyond the world’s understanding. This power is for our blessing and for the glory of our Lord. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

August 3rd, 2018

When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? Acts 1:6

This seemed like a good question at the time. After His crucifixion and burial, Jesus has come forth in triumph over death, and is gathered with His disciples. Their recognition of His deity and power is absolute, and they are totally committed to whatever He has in mind for them. To every Jew chafing under the Roman yoke, the hope of the restoration of David’s kingdom was uppermost. These disciples knew that Jesus was the true Successor to David, and it was natural that they should hope for Him to restore the kingdom. That He would ascend the throne they had no doubt; their question was when. We also have no doubt as to Jesus’ ultimate coronation, and like the disciples, we also wonder when.

There is one great event that must – for the Christian – occur before Jesus will be seated on the throne of David. The seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy must be preceded by the departure of the Saints by way of the rapture. During a period of tribulation that will precede the arrival of the King, we will be occupied with heavenly matters and will be unaffected by the tragic affairs of earth. So, for us, our interest lies solely in the rapture, because it will usher us into the presence of our King and Lord. Since the events recorded in the book of Acts, Christians have anticipated and longed for Christ’s return. It is the occupation of faithful saints today.

Faithful men who make a study of world events and trace them against the details of Scripture related to the Lord’s coming tell us that His coming is surely drawing near. We can’t tell for sure, but we can be comforted with the signs that suggest the rapture will occur soon. The same certainty was suggested by people when I was a lad, so we are aware that the timing of the fulfilment of this prophecy is only speculation. And yet, it remains our happy hope, and sustains us in the difficult times. The happiest Christians are those most aware of the imminent return of our Lord. My last conversation with my 100 year old grandmother was about her expectation that the Lord could return today. It was a comfort to her, and it was a joy to me. Is it a joy to you that your reading of this message could be interrupted by the arrival of your King?

The coming of the Lord draweth nigh. His return for His people is almost two thousand years nearer than when the disciples asked the question in today’s text. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

August 2nd, 2018

The Lord hath made known His salvation; His righteousness hath He openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. Psalm 98:2

More than 30 years ago, a little brown Gospel tent was pitched on a lot in Hampton. At that time, the main highway between Saint John and Moncton ran right by the tent, and thousands of people had to see the sign inviting people to come and hear the Gospel. People going to and from the nearby golf course also had to drive directly past the tent, and must have read the sign, and heard the singing and preaching. Many years later, another tent was pitched on the same property. No longer is the road a major highway, but it is still a busy street, and the tent had high visibility. People in the town had no excuse; most knew the tent was there, and many read the sign and have received invitations. Whether they came or not – and some did come – they had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Our text declares that God’s salvation is being made known. What a privilege!

Our text reminds us that it is to the heathen that God is showing His righteousness. The term refers to us as those with no right to claim God’s salvation. Even the Lord Jesus could point out to Gentiles that He was first come to the nation of Israel. He had worked through that people through the Old Testament eras, and despite their rejection and backsliding, it was to Israel that the message first came and as an Israelite that the Messiah came. It was the rejection of Jesus as the Christ that caused the spreading of the Gospel to the Gentiles, as foretold by our text. We are seeing a similar pattern today, as people in the western world are turning their backs on the Bible and the Christ of whom it speaks. But the Gospel goes forth unabated. The apathy and neglect of the free world notwithstanding, the Gospel is still being preached, even though the response is small. But in the communist and moslem worlds, where Christians are tortured and killed and the Gospel is outlawed, the Gospel is blazing its glorious light in unprecedented brilliance, and thousands are being saved daily.

We have a responsibility in the Gospel, to support those who preach it in every way possible, and to display the reality of the Gospel’s deliverance in our lives. The Gospel’s message and mission should hold a high priority with every Christian. But we also need to remind ourselves that it is not our salvation, and even the best of preachers cannot produce converts. Only God can save, and the fact that He does so is cause for our rejoicing today. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

August 1st, 2018

This shall be written for the generation to come, and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord. Psalm 102:18

As my grandchildren learn to read, I enjoy showing them some of my old books, including two of the schoolbooks from my early years. One of those is my old grade four reader, a red volume called Up and Away, which was part of the Canadian Reading Development Series, produced in the 1940s and 1950s. Although an excellent reader, this book is currently not being used in schools, and for good reason. Many of the items in that reader are out of date, including the words of our national anthem. O Canada has been updated since that book was published, and its wording improved until the most recent change that abandons its poetic beauty. Although still an excellent source of stories for the grandchildren, the old reader is now just a reminder of the past and is inappropriate for today’s education. How different is the Volume that God has given to us, as our text declares, a Book that served the past, serves the present, and will serve whatever generations are yet to come.

We feel badly to see how the Bible is neglected and rejected in our society, to see it ridiculed by the foolish ‘intellectuals’ around us, to see it ignored and dismissed as irrelevant. Even in our country which was built on values and truths of the Bible, this book is so badly ignored that many people have no concept of what it is all about. Does that mean the Bible is losing its place as the world’s number one best seller? Not a chance! During the time when Harry Potter books were all the rage, the Bible was outselling Harry Potter by more than two to one! More Bibles are being printed and sold today than at any time in history. Despite a wane in the western world, the Bible is outselling everything else in China and other parts of the world. Although nobody knows how many Bibles have been printed, estimates range as high as six billion, far beyond any other book. Despite powerful efforts to destroy and discredit it, the Bible stands solidly indestructible. It will endure to serve the grandchildren of our children’s children.

What is the Bible’s purpose? We know it is the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Word of God to a fallen human race. Our text tells us that its purpose is that God’s creation will praise Him. The highest pinnacle that we can reach is praise to our God. By unfolding God’s great plan of Salvation, by revealing the great heart of love of our God, by presenting us with the majesty of God’s character and purposes, the Bible brings us to praise Him.

Praise has been the occupation of saints of ages past, and is the highest occupation of saints today. The Word of God will cause future generations to praise the Lord as well. – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

July 31st, 2018

For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust. Psalm 103:14

A little boy, obviously remembering his Sunday School lesson about creation, asked his mother if it is true that we come from dust. Yes, his mother assured him, the Bible tells us Adam was made of the dust of the ground. And is it true, the little boy wondered, that we are going to return to dust? Oh, yes, his mother declared, we are all going to return to dust. Then, the little boy declared, somebody is either coming or going under my bed! The story strikes us funny because we know that it’s not as simple as that. But we need to keep in mind that the creation, specifically the creation of mankind, is just as simple as the truth of Scripture that God made our first father from the dust of the earth. Even Christians tend to forget the simple truth of that sometimes.

A Christian recently asked me if I believed that there is intelligent life on other planets. I am afraid I gave a rather non-commital answer. After all, there are vast numbers of stars, galaxies, and other heavenly bodies out in space. Based on the known number – which is probably woefully inadequate – there are more than two billion stars for every person currently living on earth. Such a vast number causes some people to speculate that some of those stars must have planets on which intelligent life forms could possibly exist. But if we think about it, we must realize that we are assuming that those life forms would have evolved on those planets, a process requiring billions of years. Yet Genesis 1 tells us plainly that God created the stars on the fourth day of creation. If we accept creation for the earth, we must also accept creation for the stars. Our imagining life on other planets is a subtle acceptance of the lie of evolution. And we should be ashamed of that.

Even a non-technical examination of the human body reveals that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The wonders of the intricate design that God has given us never cease to amaze those who study how we are assembled. The study also reveals that the elements that make up the human body are identical with the elements in dust. Our creator has assembled those elements in an amazing way, and we are proof of His genius and perfect design. It should humble us today to understand that we are nothing but dust that our Creator has touched.

God never intended that we should be filled with pride. And a right understanding of what we are made of will keep us humble and keep us thankful to Him. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

July 30th, 2018

But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

Fanny Crosby, who wrote so many of our hymns, was never too dismayed by the fact that she was blind. She declared that her blindness probably kept her closer to the Lord, and kept her from becoming occupied with meaningless things. She spent her life not knowing what grass or flowers or trees or anything of nature look like. She never knew the brightness of a friend’s smile or the twinkle of a sister’s eye. You would have difficulty describing a beautiful painting or work of art to her. She had no reference point on which to base an imagination. Yes, she was just like us trying to imagine all that God has in store for us beyond this life and experience.

We who have reasonably good eyesight appreciate being able to see and recognize loved ones, to feast our eyes on autumn’s splendid foliage, to read our Bible and other books, to follow a path or road to a destination based on familiar landmarks. Yes, we have eyesight for earth’s temporary things. But while we are here in the flesh, we lack the eyesight to perceive the spendours of Heaven and its occupants. We can tax our imaginations to their limit and totally fail to grasp the beauties of Heaven’s jasper wall and pearly gates, of the streets of gold and the prepared mansions, of the angels’ beauty and our Saviour’s smile. Our text tells us we can not grasp it.

Beauty appreciated here will be as nothing compared to glory displayed there. Heaven will be beautiful. But we will enter into so much more than its beauty. Unshackled by sinful flesh, we will be able to understand the depths of Scripture that elude our feeble minds here. Liberated from flesh’s limitations, we will be ushered into an appreciation for the excellencies of Christ. The wiping away of earth’s tears will unfold to us the vastness of the meaning of pleasures forever more.

All of the glories and joys of Heaven are for those who love the Lord. And we do so because He first loved us. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

July 29th, 2018

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10

Some years ago, a political party rose in our province and used a particularly contentions issue to attract significant support, winning a surprisingly large number of members to the legislature in the provincial election. Shortly after the election, however, different groups within the party began disputing with each other. The contentions were so bitter that within a few months, the party’s support disappeared, and it was eliminated in the next election. Disputes and disagreements in any group are not good for the group. But disagreements among the people of God are bad for morale within the Assembly, bad for the Assembly’s efforts to serve the Lord, and bad for the testimony of the Assembly before the world. No Assembly can survive long if those in fellowship are at odds with each other and in disagreement over important matters.

In an Assembly where Paul has much to address in terms of problems, this is the first issue he raises in his letter. He is not addressing gossip; he has reliable reports of the problem, and he quotes his source, the house of Chloe. Every Assembly needs such a house, a family that is grieved by disagreements among the Lord’s people and willing to do something about it. Paul addresses the issue strongly because correcting problem is critical to restoring the Corinthian Assembly. If we have disagreements or disputes in our Assemblies today, we need to get them cleared up. Thankfully, we have a resource today that the Corinthians did not have at their disposal: the Word of God in its entirety. Faithfulness to the Scriptures will eliminate contentions in the Assembly.

As Paul wrote his epistle to Corinth, he produced a document that serves us well today. Paul’s admonition and teaching on this problem is a wonderful guide to Assemblies almost two thousand years later. Paul explains what is wrong (and sinful) about a party spirit in an Assembly. And in today’s text, he urges the saints to unity. And that unity is found in the truth.

What divisions do you see in your Assembly? What side have you taken in those divisions? Scripture does not find any sides… there is only unity in Christ. – Jim MacIntosh