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Food for Friday

November 30th, 2018

It was that Mary which annointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. John 11:2

A wonderful Christian couple who had been serving their Lord faithfully were deeply perplexed when one of their children became very sick. Instead of being able to carry on their work, they were reduced to spending long days and nights at the hospital at considerable expense and discomfort. In addition to their great concern for their sick child, they could not understand why they were called upon to go through such a trial. They were like many Christians today, with no clear answers as to why their burdens should be so heavy – so much heavier than others with far less interest in the things of God. They were also like Mary and her sister Martha, who were devastated by the sickness and eventually the death of their dear brother. Why did such wonderful people have to endure such a deep trial?

There is so much commendable about this family. And they had such a close relationship with Jesus. Surely they would be blessed in every way, we would think. But no, Lazarus was sick. Very sick. So sick that his sisters became alarmed and sent for Jesus. If the question of why was not on their lips, it was certainly in their hearts. Just as it is in many hearts today. But God’s purposes do not always have an answer to this question, at least an answer that we can understand today. But there is an answer, and it will be made plain someday.

In the days and months and years that lay ahead, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus would appreciate this great experience and understand that it was for the glory of their Lord. We look back on this event to see the great lessons that Scripture has for us. We see the great compassion Jesus had for His friends, and behold the tears He shed with them in their grief. We experience the thrill of witnessing His power in raising Lazarus. These we would never have known about had Lazarus not become ill. Far from being a tragedy, it became a great blessing that is still being appreciated and accomplishing God’s purposes two thousand years later.

It is natural to wonder why we enter into trials and woes. It is spiritual to trust our Lord to give us the answer in His time. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

November 29th, 2018

Then the Jews took up stones again, to stone Him. John 10:31

As boys, we used to throw stones at the glass insulators on the telephone poles alongside the road in New Annan. We rarely hit the insulators, and even less frequently damaged them. But what we were doing was wrong. We knew better, because we knew that the telephone line was a valuable communication tool for the community. If we had been caught, we would surely have been punished. The Jewish leaders in today’s text should also have known better than to take up stones to stone the Lord Jesus. And they will surely be punished for it. In addition to the cruel threat from their actions, consider the magnitude of the indignity they were offering to the Son of God!

Today, the religious leaders, and almost everyone else, continues to heap indignities on the Lord Jesus. His Name is used as a swear word. His Book is ridiculed and rejected, His people are persecuted and reviled, and even at Christmas time, His birth is used as an excuse for drunkenness and revelry. In their desire to stone Him, the Jewish leaders were not alone in their rejection of the Lord Jesus. When we think of such shameful behaviour, we know that we would not have endured it. Had we been the ones receiving such rejection and scorn, we would have struck back in anger. But we see the Lord Jesus uses this occasion to point out their error and to confound their faulty reason, and leaves them in confusion. He knew their latter end, and had no need to punish them at this time, but would leave them to either repent or to fill their cup of judgment.

As our Lord’s representatives today, we see people acting in shameful ways toward Him. We encounter rejection and apathy when the Gospel is presented. We meet with denial when the claims of Christ are declared. We meet with religious intolerance and bigotry from those who falsely claim to be His followers. Their selfish agendas are followed rigidly while ignoring the reality of a loving Saviour Who longs to see them redeemed.

In the Pharisees’ futile attempt to stone the Lord Jesus, we see the devil’s plot to divert Him from His great purpose. Had He been smitten down with stones on this occasion, there would be no Calvary. So their plan was doomed to fail, because it contradicted the great Plan of Salvation. To the child of God, this is precious, to know that even such evil behaviour by His creatures would not keep Christ from bearing His cross.

If our Saviour so loved those who would stone Him, how can we withhold the Gospel from them? – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

November 28th, 2018

And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Father’s hand. John 10:28

We went shopping for health insurance when I entered semi-retirement, and found it a frustrating experience. Prices for basic coverage were extremely high for people our age, and the list of companies willing to take us on as clients was very short, even though we had no medical conditions and live relatively safe lifestyles. The company we eventually chose was the least evil of a bad bunch, and even they would offer us nothing except prescription drug insurance. Because we had been in a car accident a few months earlier, they denied us chiropractic coverage, even though we had no issues related to that accident. They specifically exempted any coverage for drugs or treatment related to Crohn’s disease, even though I had not had any problems with Crohn’s in almost 40 years. We were very discouraged and disappointed with the protection we were offered. How good to know that the protection the Lord Jesus offers has no exemptions and no loopholes!

The protection service that the Lord Jesus gives is called ‘eternal life’. Even the name is an absolute. No possibility of an expiry date exists if it is eternal. And the life that the Lord Jesus gives is abundant life, which means the presence and protection of the Holy Spirit while here in time, and a perpetual existence in the presence of God for eternity. This eternal life is not of our doing or providing; the Lord Jesus declares that He gives it to us.

He also guarantees that we will never perish; not only are we assured of Heaven, we are preserved from ever encountering hell. How much better than the insurance of earth! They can promise to help clean up after disaster strikes, but they can’t prevent the disasters themselves. When bad things happen, they hurt and damage is done. But the ‘never perish’ of our text is a guarantee that the wrath of God is forever removed, and the king of terrors is reduced to a shadow.

Our text reminds us why we are so secure; we are in the Father’s hand. No enemy is strong enough to move us or remove us. The almighty Hand is our resting place and our eternal security. Words of a lovely hymn come to mind: Be hushed, my sad spirit, the worst that can come but shortens the journey and hastens me home (Henry F. Lyte). What better protection could we desire than that? – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

November 27th, 2018

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. John 10:27

Tom, Tim, and I were playing a game called Personal Preference in which players choose which items other players would prefer from a list of options. On one question, Tom and Tim had to choose my preferences for a list of activities. On that list was exploring a cave. Tim said, ‘No, that’s not something Jim would want to do.’ And he marked his card accordingly. Tom said, ‘Dad would love to explore a cave.’ And he marked his card accordingly. How did those two come to such opposite views as to my preferences? As my friend, Tim knew some things about me, but there was much he did not know. As my son, Tom knew me better than I realized, because we spent so much time together and shared so much. Around us are people, some who know us very well and others know little about us. But the Lord Jesus knows us best of all.

While it is true that God knows everything about everybody, Nahum 1:7 reminds us that the Lord knoweth them that trust in Him. This means that He doesn’t just know us, He holds us as His personal acquaintances. In verse 14 of our chapter, as the good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus declares that He knows his sheep and they know Him. Just as a regular shepherd would be aware of each sheep in his flock, its habits and personality, its fears and worries, its needs and likes, so the Lord Jesus knows all these things about us. And as our Shepherd, these things matter to Him. That is why our prayers are so important; they keep us ever aware of our dependence on Him. It is also why our reading is important; it keeps us ever reminded of His care and provision for us. These deepen the knowledge we have of our Lord, and of His individual care for us.

We hear of political leaders who learn all they can about the people they are representing. And some of them do make a serious effort at being able to relate to the problems and struggles of their people. But these leaders can never know any but a tiny few of the people in a personal way. So they can never be like our Lord, Who makes it a point to be personally involved with each of us, and Who knows us better than we know ourselves, and cares more for us than we do ourselves.

Jesus says His sheep follow Him. Why would we not follow One Who knows us so well and cares for us so deeply? – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

November 26th, 2018

Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. John 10:24

When a witness is about to give testimony in a Canadian courtroom, the court officer steps forward and holds a Bible out so the witness can place his hand on it to take the oath. To the court officer, and others in the courtroom, the Bible is just a part of the judicial process. During wedding ceremonies, the bride will often carry a white Bible as part of her arrangement. To the bride, and to others in the wedding party, the Bible is just a nice touch. Bibles are often given as gifts at graduation and other ceremonies. To the recipients, those Bibles are just pretty ornaments and mementoes. In many a pulpit, the preacher will read a few verses from the Bible, then set it aside to tell his (or her) little lesson or illustration. To the preacher, and much of the congregation, the Bible is just an obligatory part of the religious process. To only a few, it seems, does the Bible tell us plainly that Jesus is the Christ.

Why do so few see what is so obvious in the Word of God concerning the Son of God? Too many will deny that the Bible identifies Jesus as the Christ. The so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have rewritten the Bible to accommodate their claim that Jesus is not the Son of God. And they will receive the appropriate damnation for doing so. Like the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, people deliberately ignore the Bible’s primary message that Jesus is the Christ. These Jewish leaders had heard Him preach, and some had seen His miracles. They had His words, but still refused to accept His claim to Deity and to Messiahship. If they refused to heed His words, what more could Jesus do to convince them? And today, what more can we do to convince people about Christ than to present them with His words?

Despite the many who have not and will not accept The Lord Jesus for Who He claimed to be, there are the few, relatively speaking, who gladly receive His word. We who have come to know Him look into His Word and agree that He has told us plainly. We see in the Old Testament the pictures and shadows, the illustrations and promises, and rejoice at how plainly He has told us. We read of His life, His ministry, His death, and resurrection, and give thanks for the plain truth of the Gospels. We follow the epistles into the Revelation, and find the message plain again.

He has told us plainly, regardless of what the doubters and deniers say. Jesus’ revelation as Christ causes us to accept Him as Lord. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

November 25th, 2018

No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again; this commandment have I received from My Father. John 10:18

Very few people know in advance the means and time of their death. Possible exceptions are criminals who face the death penalty, and even they don’t get to chose the time or the means, which are set by their judges. Suicide victims might also know the time and the means, although this can be questioned because of the poor mental state of any who would commit such a deed. Most of us, if we had a choice, would prefer to die in our sleep, when we had no awareness of the arrival of the king of terrors. But our text today speaks of One who always knew the moment and the means of His death.

When we die, our death is the triumph of sin over our mortal frames. Death – the natural outcome of sin – wins a victory every time someone dies. But death was the great loser when the Lord Jesus died on the cross. Death not only lost a great battle at Calvary, but it lost the entire war. All those who are in Christ Jesus may face the death of our bodies, but our death is only temporary. Death cannot touch our redeemed souls, and even the bodies that must decay will someday be raised again in eternal victory. All because the Lord Jesus had power to lay down His life and power to take it again.

During His ministry, the Lord Jesus displayed His power over death. Whether it was a little maid still lying in her death bed, or a young man whose bier was being carried to the cemetery, or a Lazarus whose body had begun to decompose, death was powerless to hold its victims when the Almighty bid them rise. But their return to life was temporary, as we know; they have all since returned to their graves. The great enemy death had not yet been defeated, although that defeat was soon to occur. The irresistable force of death was about to meet the immovable object of the power of God.

Where does death get its power? From sin! Even the presence of death is the result of sin, for by one man sin came into the world, and death by sin. But death has no power where there is no sin. That is why there will be no sickness nor death in Heaven, where no sin can enter. That is also why Joseph’s tomb could not hold the body of the Lord Jesus. Death never did have a claim to that body, and must yield up that body to the One Who had the power to take up His life again.

Our hope of eternal life is based in the power that brought the Lord Jesus in triumph from the grave. The same power will do the same for us. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

November 24th, 2018

And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a Sower went forth to sow. Matthew 13:3

How many Gospel preachers do you know? Add all those who take their responsibility in speaking in the local Sunday night Gospel meeting of your Assembly, plus all of those you know in denominational places who also preach the Gospel, and you are aware of a goodly number of sowers of the Good Seed. Which one of these is described in the parable that Jesus begins to tell in today’s text? In one way, it could be describing them all. But more accurately, the Sower is none other than the Holy Spirit. He it is Who has motivated and directed all of those who have ever preached a Gospel message, given out a Gospel tract, spoken a word in witness to the unsaved, or in any other way have presented the Gospel message in this world. And His work of sowing the Good Seed continues, and will do so, until this age of grace is terminated.

It is only by the Spirit’s presenting of the Gospel message to the unsaved, and the striving of the Spirit in the hearts of the lost, that any in this world are ever saved. We hear powerful preachers as they stir audiences and know that they are as incapable of saving souls as they are of climbing to the moon on a rope of sand. We need such preachers, because the Holy Spirit can move through them and their words to sow and water the seed and to bring about repentance. The ultimate Sower is always the Holy Spirit.

If we can’t save anybody, and if we can’t speak or preach effectively by ourselves, and if we can’t make any impression other than emotional on an audience by ourselves, where is there room for pride in the heart of the Gospel preacher? How can the tract distributor, or Sunday school teacher, or the testimony teller pat themselves on the back for the effort? Oh, we can surely appreciate the Gospel being well preached. And we should thank those who are able to do so. But their efforts are but a tiny portion of the great effort that God puts into sowing the Good Seed.

How good of God to allow us a small part in sowing the Good Seed! But let us never lose sight of Who the Sower is, nor ever fail to acknowledge that He alone can save a soul. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

November 23rd, 2018

I am the door, by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. John 10:9

Very few Sunday School students have not memorized this verse. During any Gospel series, at least one message will be preached from this text, and it appears framed on many walls. It is a lovely verse with a powerful Gospel message as it portrays the Lord Jesus as the only way to salvation. Many Christians will tell you that this text played a great role in bringing them to repentance and faith. Precious as this verse is as a Gospel text, you and I can look at it today from the perspective of our daily salvation, and appreciate it every day.

We are saved once at conversion’s day from the penalty of sin; we will be saved in the Glory from the very presence of sin. But each day we sojourn in this enemy’s land, we need to be saved from the power of sin. The devil flings his fiery darts at us, the world spreads its temptations and pleasures before us, and the flesh lusts after the beggarly elements of this world. From these things, we need to be saved every day. From these things, we need shelter and protection, guidance and direction. In our own strength, we are no match for these things. We know that, and so does our Lord. That is why He reminds us in today’s text that He is the door through which we can enter into a victorious and worthwhile life for Him.

Our text speaks of going out and coming in, and we do both as Christians. We go out into a world that has no respect or interest in the things of God, but a world that desperately needs the Gospel. Only the Lord Jesus can strengthen and guide us to be the witnesses we need to be. Only He can preserve us from the snares of the world while displaying the love of Christ.

Our text’s reminder of going in speaks of entering into our Lord’s presence. This can refer to our gatherings of the Lord’s people for worship, ministry, prayer, Bible study, and the preaching of the Gospel. It also refers to our personal times of devotion, prayer and meditation. We go in, and He builds us up in our most holy faith, saving us from our foolish ideas as He feeds us on His Word. With Him, we find the pasture rich and satisfying.

Are we making use of the Door today to go in and out for the Lord Jesus? As our Saviour, He preserves and enables us to do so. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

November 22nd, 2018

And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. John 10:4

We had no time left, so we had no choice but to overload the wagon as we made our way home from the woodlot. My brothers and I were responsible for balancing the load, and making sure it did not tip or spill, causing us extra work and time wasted. We had to cross fields that were rough and uncertain, and the wagon lurched and twisted, almost spilling the load every few seconds. We pushed and braced, and dashed from one side of the wagon to the other, to keep the load intact. We would never have accomplished the task if our father on the tractor had not warned us about every dip and bump, and if we had not jumped quickly to heed his words. Finally, we made it to the lane near the house, and had smooth going for the rest of the way. It was rough, but we had somebody going ahead, to guide and encourage us. Christians have such a guide and encourager too.

No matter how rough our pathway seems – and we will all hit some pretty rough stretches on our Christian pathway – we can be comforted by the assurance that our Lord has already travelled the path. Nothing that happens to us ever catches Him by surprise. Like a shepherd, He leads where He knows we can follow, even if it takes some pain and effort on our part. He never takes His own children along a route that is too difficult for us to endure – and that’s a promise! Because He goes before, He knows everything we will encounter, and will give us what we need to make the journey a success.

Just as us boys could trust our father’s instructions, we as Christians can trust the Guidebook that our Lord has provided. Because We know the Author, we can be confident in its instructions. We can trust the promises, heed the exhortations, rejoice at the blessings, and follow the directions. Unlike the guidebooks of earth, there are no steps missing, no fuzzy descriptions, no unfinished instructions. Our Shepherd’s voice from His Scriptures is a safe and certain sound that fills us with confidence, courage, and expectation.

The rough part of the path will drive us to our knees to seek comfort and guidance. The smooth part of the path will drive us to the Bible for strength and courage for the road that remains to be travelled. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

November 21st, 2018

But go thou thy way till the end be, for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days. Daniel 12:13

The large house on the hill was marked by a wide verandah that ran across the front and around the west side. One piece of furniture occupied the spacious and airy verandah, a huge and impressive rocking chair made of thick, rough timbers. The occupant of that chair was even more impressive. He was a giant of a man, with powerful limbs and a large head adorned with dark hair heavily streaked with silver. His eyes were bright and piercing, and his weathered face bore the marks of firm resolve and strength. He smiled as he viewed the spreading fields that lay before him, and smile he might, because those fields were laden with bountiful crops. He remembered how that scene had appeared 50 years earlier, when as little more than a mere lad, he had tackled the great stands of forest occupying the land that was now fertile fields. He had worked hard, wisely, and diligently, and his large farm was prosperous. In his advancing years, he could now take a little rest and let his work speak for itself. Daniel was like that. So are all diligent Christians.

God has a rest for His people. That is why faithful Christians don’t grow weary of their labours here, knowing the rest is coming later, a rest that will make all the labours here worthwhile. This is not a time when God has appointed us to relax and be comfortable, not when there is so much to do. God would have us to be zealous in the Gospel, hospitable to His people, faithful to His Assembly, and occupying until His coming. He would also have us appreciating that the time of rest is sure.

What will it be like for Daniel to stand in his lot at the end of the days? Such a faithful servant of His God must have a wonderful testimony to take before the Judgment Seat of Christ. It makes us ashamed, when we think of how much smaller our lot will be, how much less we will have to be reviewed by the Lord. But God did not place us in Daniel’s time, nor give us dreams to interpret nor lions’ dens to lie in. In our own time and in our own circumstances, God has granted to us a lot. And in that lot – different from anyone else’s – we have been faithful or wanting. And in that lot we will stand to receive our review and commendation.

Take comfort, knowing the time of rest is nearing. Take action, knowing that the time of review is soon. – Jim MacIntosh