Archive for the ‘Devotionals’ Category

Food for Friday

Friday, February 23rd, 2024

And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. Luke 2:24

Everywhere we look, we see differences between those who have plenty of money and those who don’t. Although the differences in affluent North America are not as stark as in third world countries where most people are poor and only a few have more than subsistence living, we still see major differences in income levels. While the rich drive expensive cars, the poor can’t afford vehicles. While the wealthy patronize specialty shops, the poor seek out bargains at Value Village. As the well-to-do dine at upscale restaurants, the poor appreciate the humble fare at the local soup kitchen. Although most of us lurk somewhere in the middle, we notice the great differences that economic status make. And we feel sorry for those who can’t afford what they would really like to have. So we would feel sorry for Mary and Joseph as they would arrive at the temple in Jerusalem with two turtledoves instead of a lamb.

In Leviticus 12, we find that when a child was born, his parents would be required to bring a lamb for a burnt offering and a turtledove, or young pigeon, for a sin offering. Only if the family was too poor could a turtledove be substituted for the lamb. Bringing the two birds to the temple was an admission of poverty. If the family truly could not afford the lamb, the law made it clear that the turtledove was just as acceptable to the Lord. So as the infant Jesus is brought into the temple, everybody who saw them knew that the family was poor. This provides a fresh reminder of the poverty into which the Lord Jesus was willing to come. Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9). His entire life was like that, as He moved in humility toward the hill outside Jerusalem where He would become destitute of all but a cross and a crown of thorns. And yet, despite His abject poverty, the Lord Jesus – and his earthly family – moved in accordance with the will and the Word of God. Should we do any less?

Our circumstances should have no bearing on whether we are obedient to the Word of God. Consider the case of Christians who decide that, because they are away from home on vacation, they can do some of the things that they would never consider doing when there are other Christians around to notice them. That is disobedience to what they have been taught, and what they believe. Or consider Christians who have a practice of giving a certain amount  of their income to the Lord as an offering, but encounter a sharp drop in their income, so they abandon their offering practice. In this case, they need to realize the Lord still desires the offering, but like with Mary and Joseph, He does not expect what they can’t afford.

God may not be keeping track of the amount of our giving to Himself, but He is keeping track of our willingness to be obedient in our giving. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord. Luke 2:22

Many of us have heard the account of a Christian man who was working for a company that became involved in some questionable business dealings. At one point, the Christian’s employer came to him to ask him to fill incorrect information into the company’s ledgers. Being an honest man, the Christian told his boss that he could not perform the work with a good conscience. The boss told him he would have to let him go because he needed someone who would be willing to ‘cook the books’. A few days later, the Christian received a job offer from another company. He later learned that his former boss had recommended him highly for the position, saying ‘this man will neither steal for you nor from you’. This type of honesty should be expected of us as Christians. As we read in our text, obedience to Scriptural principles was important to Mary and Joseph, too.

The Law of Moses laid out specific instructions for the purifying of a new mother. Our text indicates that Mary and Joseph followed the law’s instructions carefully. And they also carefully followed the instructions for presenting their family’s Firstborn to the Lord. These people made it a point to know what the Word of God said, and to follow it faithfully. There was a cost to their obedience, but they were willing to pay it because they were people who understood the importance of obeying the Lord. They set a good example for you and me today.

We don’t have the rules and regulations of the law to follow, as they pertained to the children of Israel. But the Word of God has instructions for us, expectations that God has for His people today. Obedient Christians will not live contrary to what the Word of God teaches, whether in small matters or in large. The life of the Lord Jesus, including His teachings, and the example of the early Christians in the book of Acts, give us a good pattern to follow. And the epistles lay down for us the way in which Christians and our Assemblies should behave before God and the world. We don’t need to be in any doubt as to what God wants of us, as long as we read our Bibles. We are taught some of the principles of Christian living that never change, including the honesty we have already noted. Kindness and compassion are also part of God’s requirements for us, as are submission to authority, decency and morality, truthful words, and so forth. If we are obedient, we will observe these things.

Is obedience to our Lord’s commands important to us? The way we live will tell others whether it is important. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child. Luke 2:17

Highway 246 in Nova Scotia runs from Wentworth Valley to Tatamagouche, through the rural communities of East Wentworth, Annandale, West New Annan, and Oliver. This highway has another name, one that is not as well known; it is called the Florida Road. As anyone who has ever travelled on it knows, that road has nothing to do with the state, or any person, named Florida. So where did the name come from? Sometime around 1850, a woman named Katherine (Kate) Ramsay, who came from Florida, married Alexander Munro, and they settled in West New Annan where they operated an inn. The inn was known as the Florida Inn, in recognition of Kate’s origins, and the highway became known as the Florida Road. The name reminds us that a woman from Florida lived there, even though it was a long time ago. Sometimes small details like that become significant. How much more significant was the incredible news of the arrival of the Messiah in Bethlehem!

Nobody who lives in or near West New Annan these days has any recollection of Kate Munro from Florida. Most never heard of her. But when a group of shepherds began broadcasting the news that the Son of God was born in Bethlehem, the news continues to be spread abroad today. Why? Because of the incredible difference that the arrival of the holy Infant made. Kate Munro was undoubtedly a good hostess at the Florida Inn. But Jesus Christ became far more than a carpenter’s helper and a good neighbour; He grew up to become Jesus of Nazareth, the Healer of Galilee, and the Saviour of the world. He confounded the religious leaders of His time, wrought great miracles including the turning of water into wine, the feeding of many thousands from a small lunch basket, the healing of hundreds of people from all manner of diseases, the calming of the raging elements on Galilee, and the raising of loved ones from the dead. When the memory of all of those miracles had faded, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the record of His death at Calvary, of his glorious resurrection, and His ascension to Heaven, was being spread from shore to shore and from nation to nation. The shepherds of Bethlehem began spreading the news on the night that Jesus was born. And others continue spreading the news today. Are we among them?

The shepherds spread the word for two reasons: they were wildly excited about it, and they recognized its great importance. If these two things applied to us, we would be spreading the news abroad as well. Are we wildly excited about the Gospel? After all, it is a message that has delivered us from judgment and guaranteed us a home in Heaven. Do we recognize the importance of the Gospel? To an extent, we probably do, but we fail to allow it to grip our souls as it should.

If the shepherds could make known abroad the news about Jesus Christ being born, how much more ought we make known abroad the news concerning His death? – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:13,14

I stood among a crowd of workers in a fabrication yard of Saint John Shipbuilding one day as the local Member of Parliament and member of the federal cabinet, Gerry Merrithew, stood on the bed of a truck and addressed the crowd. He was there to announce that the shipyard was to build several frigates for the Canadian navy. With each ship that Gerry announced, the workers burst into an enthusiastic cheer. When he had finished, the crowd burst into applause that lasted for several minutes before allowing Gerry to finish his speech. His announcement was wonderful news for those workers, and for the entire city, because work on those ships provided a huge amount of employment and a tremendous boost to the economy. No one who was at that shipyard announcement that day could ever forget the cheer that arose from those workers. But it could never match the great burst of praise that came from the angels at the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ.

No announcement of earth has ever had the same impact as the one described in Luke 2. Great announcements of earth come and go, and their impact is eventually forgotten. For example, the frigate contract at Saint John Shipbuilding was eventually finished, and now the shipyard itself is gone. But the impact of the angel’s announcement to the Bethlehem shepherds continues to reverberate through time these two thousand years later, and will persist throughout eternity. Today, we don’t need to wait until the Christmas season to rejoice over the birth of Christ. Every time we consider this great event, we must praise God, just as the angels did that night near Bethlehem. We know why this event was so important for us. But why was it important for the angels.

Let us consider the nature of the angels. They are created beings, like us, although they are of a higher rank than we poor mortals. They exist to praise and serve God, and their knowledge and appreciation of God is far higher than ours, because they know Him so well. But angels, who are holy beings incapable of sinning, have never experienced the redemption that God offers mankind through the sacrifice of His Son. And yet, when it came time for the Lord Jesus to take up residence on the earth among mankind, the angels took notice. To a certain extent, they would understand the purpose of His coming. They would behold firsthand the proof of the love of God, and be amazed at its magnitude. This was wonderful to them. They would also rejoice that some of earth would accept the Saviour, would benefit from His arrival among humanity. To the angels, anything that would bring glory to God would be worth celebrating. And celebrate they did.

Do we celebrate today the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, as the angels are doing? We should acknowledge not only the value of that birth to us, but the measure in which it brings glory to God. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

Monday, February 19th, 2024

And this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Luke 2:12

What are swaddling clothes? Over the years, we have heard many different definitions for this term. Some have described swaddling clothes as a means of wrapping a newborn baby tightly in strips of cloth for warmth and security. Others suggest it was simply a term for very poor clothes that would be placed around a baby, if the parents were too poor to afford better. These definitions might well have a good application, and indicate the poverty and the cultural conditions into which Jesus Christ was born. However, there is a very different, very solemn definition for swaddling clothes, and I suspect is the correct definition for the manner in which the holy Infant was wrapped on the night of His birth. One expert has identified swaddling clothes as a form of burial cloth that was used to wrap the body of a person who had died during a journey. The swaddling clothes would serve as a shroud for a wayside funeral. So, why did Mary wrap the Lord Jesus in a burial shroud?

In practical terms, Mary undoubtedly wrapped her Baby in the swaddling clothes because that’s all she had. She and Joseph must have been very poor if they had to turn to such a morbid piece of fabric in which to cradle the Baby. This gives us a sense of the deep humility into which the Lord Jesus was willing to come in order to be our Saviour. But consider the spiritual impact of the situation. In that little manger was the Son of God, on the very night of His birth, wearing garments of death. We know that the purpose for which the Lord Jesus came into the world was that He would die for our sins. Every step along His life’s journey was a step toward Golgotha. But it is a bit shocking to consider the imagery of His arrival into the world in grave clothes. How critically important this brings before us the truth of the Scriptures that tell of His coming to lay down His life for us. This grand theme of the New Testament –  with all of its types and shadows in the Old Testament – is so important to us. In fact, nothing can be more important. No salvation is available to us apart from His coming and offering Himself a ransom for us. No hope is available to us apart from a Substitute taking our well-deserved wrath upon Himself. No Heaven is available to us apart from the precious blood that purchased our redemption.

Jesus died for me. That is all that we need. And that is what God in His Word wants us to believe and embrace as we consider the swaddling clothes in which our Saviour was first clad. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

Sunday, February 18th, 2024

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

The term ‘firstborn’ in the Scriptures has a special meaning, and does not necessarily refer to the first child born into a family. It is in fact a title that indicates rank or position, or order of precedence. For example, in Colossians 1:15, we find the Lord Jesus identified as the Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature. Verse 17 of that chapter tells us that He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. Verse 18 declares that in all things He might have the preeminence. So we see God’s declaration and God’s assessment of His Son as His Firstborn, the One Who outranks all of creation, whether of humanity or angels, all are subject to Him and all acknowledge Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But our text does not speak specifically of the Lord Jesus as being the Firstborn of God, but of Him as Mary’s Firstborn.

No birth on earth could have been more humble, as we read of the holy Infant being wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a feed box, probably in a cattle enclosure. That shepherds came to worship indicates that God would not leave His Son’s arrival on earth without acknowledgment. Both angels and shepherds did Him true homage. And yet, Mary’s Firstborn was given no room by humanity, and Mary and Joseph had not the financial means to accord Him a place more in accordance with His rank. They did the best they could, but the humble birth of the Lord Jesus indicates to us the humility of the One Who made Himself of no reputation. Apart from the worship of the shepherds and of Simeon and Anna in the temple, and the adoration of the magi in his childhood, the world saw no evidence of His rank of Firstborn among them. But of all infants ever born to women in this world, none holds a higher rank than He, both during His earthly sojourn and in all of eternity.

We accept – although we will never understand – that God the Son became a man. He Who ever was and ever will be God became something that He never was before. But when He returned to Heaven after His resurrection, He did not cease to be a man. There is indeed a Man in the glory, exalted at His Father’s right hand. And He holds the highest rank there, as His Father’s Firstborn. And as Mary’s Firstborn. We often ponder on His greatness in His deity and power and might and dominion. But we do well to also consider His priority in all things human. As the Seed of the woman, He is not under the curse of sin, as all of the rest of humanity is. In His purity and holiness, He is able to be our kinsman Representative to argue our case daily before His Father. In His humanity, He is able to understand and appreciate all that we encounter. But He rises in victorious dominion over all.

Mary’s Firstborn is not only God Almighty, He is also the pinnacle of all that mankind was ever intended to be. And He is our Lord and Saviour. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

Saturday, February 17th, 2024

And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. Luke 2:1

During his reign, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus ordered three great census takings. These were so significant that when he made a list of his greatest achievements, Augustus listed those censuses as number eight. Our text refers to the census that took Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem as a taxing. The purpose of the census was to carefully record all citizens of his vast empire so that everyone would be recorded on the tax rolls. Sending everyone to their ancestral home town was part of the process of recording people so that nobody would be missed. Each person who arrived at a centre to fill out a census document would record his name and the names of his parents and grandparents. He would also indicate his ancestral home town, any scars or other identifying marks, his profession or occupation, his wife’s name and age and her father’s name, the names of all of his children, and the names of any other relatives who lived with him. This information, as valuable as it was to Augustus’ administration, was just a tiny cog in God’s great and perfect purposes.

We don’t know why Joseph, a descendent of David, was living in Nazareth, which was some 120 kilometers north of Bethlehem, and when he, or his parents or grandparents moved there. But we can see how God made all the arrangements so that Mary and Joseph, who geographically would have had no expectation of being included in the events of the Messiah’s birth, would fit nicely into every Biblical prophecy. God arranged even the timing of an emperor’s census to coincide with even greater and more eternal purposes. In fact, God arranges events large and small, near and far, that fit in with His plans and purposes for you and me today. There are no coincidences with God, just a vast master plan that is incredibly detailed and absolutely accurate.

Those of us who are getting older can look back over events in our lives that had us puzzled at the time, and we can begin to see a pattern that God has worked in our lives. We all wonder at certain events or conditions, and question how those things could matter. We encounter tragedies and fail to see any point in them. We watch the comings and goings of those around us and are left in the dark as to why those people came and went. And yet, God has had His plan for us, despite our own stumblings and wanderings away from that plan. God is not surprised at what you are today although He would have liked you to be a little more in line with his program, a little more like His Son. Rest assured you are far more blessed than you could ever have been if God had not stepped into the events of your life.

How much do we know of God’s purposes for us as individuals, and of His working around us to achieve those purposes? Something to think about! – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

Friday, February 16th, 2024

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel. Luke 1:80

I have some homework for you. There are seven references in the Scriptures to a child growing, similar to what we have in our text today. The seventh reference is to the Lord Jesus, in verse 40 of the next chapter. So your task is to identify the first five, all of whom are found in the Old Testament. How wonderfully God provides His patterns in His Word, with the number seven always pointing to that which is finished, perfect, or complete. And so it is with boys in the Bible, with the Lord Jesus being the seventh boy to be identified in this way. And John was the sixth, the one who God chose to introduce the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God. Of both John and the Lord Jesus does Scripture record they waxed strong in spirit. This must be significant.

When I had a young son, I was pleased as he grew and developed in his abilities. Now that I have grandsons, I also take great delight in seeing them becoming strong, healthy, and bright boys and men. As parents and grandparents, we enjoy seeing the young as they become more able to do things. For example, it gave me a big thrill some years ago to watch my eldest grandson win a race at a swim meet. I am sure other parents and grandparents experience the same at their children’s achievements. But how often do we take note of their development in spiritual things? How important is it to us to see them saved and growing in their appreciation for the things of God? After all, that is far more important than their physical and intellectual development. Nothing that they could ever achieve in school, in sports, in any endeavour, is as enduring and as precious as their achievements in grasping the truths of the Word of God and in discerning the will of God. Growth in spirit is to be desired above all things in our children.

Notice where John spent his time: in the deserts. We are not told what he did there, although he would have to work to provide for his needs. But in the deserts, he was not under any pressure to develop the fancy manners and wear the pretty clothes that would be appropriate for a lad growing up in the towns and cities. John was a plain man, seeing no need for the comforts and the fancy food of society. Spiritual things were so important to him that the things of the world simply did not matter, as long as he had enough to get by. That is an attitude that would make a great difference among us, if we could be a little more like John. We would be better Christians, better able to serve our Lord, if we had less attachment to the comforts of this world.

How is our strength of spirit these days? And do we take as great delight in our children as they grow in spirit as in their growth in other areas? -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an Horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David. Luke 1:68,69

Whoa! Isn’t Zacharias getting a little ahead of himself? His baby boy is only eight days old, and here the old priest is proclaiming redemption for Israel. We know that Zacharias was rejoicing in the birth of a son after he and Elisabeth had grown too old to be parents, naturally speaking. And he had also received a great promise from Gabriel about his son’s future. But the angel had said nothing about a redeemer or a horn of salvation. So where did Zacharias get those ideas, and was he in fact speaking about his own son? Actually, Zacharias was not only appreciating what God would do with his son, but was also looking forward to Another Son, One with greater credentials than John and with a greater mission. And Zacharias is so convinced of his prophecy that he speaks of it as already being accomplished.

At this time, Israel was under the domination of Rome; there was no redemption at hand. Also, although Zacharias and Elisabeth were godly and faithful people, they could easily see that most in their nation were not so. So Zacharias was looking into the future, and he was as certain of what he foretold as if it was already accomplished. We can see from the vantage point of two thousand years later that Zacharias was right. The Lord Jesus has come as the Saviour and Messiah and has redeemed untold millions of Jews and Gentiles. We recognize Him as our Horn of Salvation, and rejoice in the redemption that He has brought. The prophecy takes us beyond the time of the Gentiles into a day when the Lord Jesus will redeem the very nation of Israel.

The term ‘horn of salvation’ was not a foreign term to the Israelites. A horn in the Old Testament Scriptures was a symbol of strength and power, perhaps drawing on the imagery of the rhinocerous with its single powerful horn. Associating the horn with the house of David was a theme of those Scriptures, such as in both Psalm 132:17 and Ezekiel 29:21: There will I make the Horn of David to bud. Zacharias was undoubtedly thinking of this reference when he uttered his prediction. He could not have been referring to John as the fulfilment of this prophecy, because both Zacharias and Elisabeth were of the house of Levi, not of the line of David. No, Zacharias was speaking of none other than Jesus Christ as the Horn of Salvation. As such, He is the fulfilment of all of God’s great programs, both for the Jew and Gentile, both in our day and in the great kingdom that is yet to come.

Zacharias was confident in his declaration of all that Jesus Christ is and ever will be. His words give us confidence in the same. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

And blessed is she that believeth, for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. Luke 1:45

Do you know the expression ‘put out the fleece’, and what it means? In the days of the judges, Israel came under the control of the Midianites because of their sin. As they suffered at the hands of their captors, the Israelites looked for a deliverer. God chose Gideon, who was a reluctant recruit. To make sure that the call from God was real, Gideon put a fleece out on the ground on a dewy night. In the morning, the fleece was dry although the ground was wet. Still unconvinced, Gideon put the fleece out again. This time, the ground stayed dry but the fleece was wet. God wanted Gideon to be sure, because until he was sure, he would not make a decisive and effective victor over the enemies of Israel. In our text today, God provided the words of Elisabeth as confirmation to Mary of God’s great purpose for her. God wants us all to be sure of His purposes.

Mary had just received her great announcement from Gabriel, and she was probably still trying to absorb its magnitude. Did she fully believe it? Probably, but God was going to give her the confirmation that she needed to settle her heart. The Holy Spirit moved Elisabeth to respond to Mary’s greeting with her words of confirmation. Never again did Mary have any doubts, as her response to Elizabeth indicates in the next ten verses. She fully accepted and embraced the great role that God had given her. Just as we should accept the roles that God gives us. God desires that we have the same confidence in His purposes for us as Mary had.

Granted, none of us will have a place in God’s purposes as great as Mary had, or even as Elisabeth had. Our piece of God’s great puzzle might be very small, and we might see it as insignificant. But we don’t know how God views it. And if He desires obedience from us, and has given us work to do, He will want us to be sure that it is His will. How does He give us this assurance? To begin, He gives us direction through His Word. If we seek His will, He will make it plain. Bible verses will speak directly to us to confirm God’s purposes. God also uses events and experiences to confirm His will. Events that others might see as coincidences line up in amazing ways to let us know that God is leading us into His purposes. And, just as Elisabeth provided confirmation to Mary, God will send His messengers to us with a word that endorses the conviction that He gave us. Sometimes it is just a conversation with a brother or sister. Sometimes it is a word given by a preacher from the platform at a conference or a message delivered by a local brother on a Sunday morning. But if we are listening, we will be given the word we need.

Wouldn’t it be great to be part of God’s great purposes? We will never know unless we move with confidence in His everyday purposes. – Jim MacIntosh