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Word for Wednesday

August 10th, 2022

But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel. Acts 2:16

You and I are living in a prophecy valley. The period of history that we occupy, as far as the writers of the Old Testament prophecies are concerned, was unknown. Those prophets could foretell the coming of the Messiah, His sufferings, death, and resurrection, His return in judgement and claiming His kingdom, and much of the end-time events. But the prophets had little concept of what is commonly referred to as the ‘church age’. The exception was in the prophecy of Joel, which Peter was about to quote in today’s text. But even Joel’s prophecy had been taken to apply to the end-times events, with none realizing that Joel was speaking of the launching of a great intermediary period when God would bless the Gentiles.

Peter’s address at Pentecost was primarily to Jews. And in the early days of Christianity, mostly Jews were saved. But since then, the percentage has changed, so that the vast majority of those who have trusted Christ as Saviour have been Gentiles. Peter’s address makes it clear that the prophecies of the Old Testament always had the blessing of the Gentiles in view. The miraculous events at Pentecost were amazing, but greater miracles have occurred since, when we consider the millions in our world today, saved by the grace of God, who are indwelt, empowered, guided, and comforted by the Holy Spirit. Before Pentecost, the disciples lacked the power and courage to preach the Gospel. Since then, even martyrdom has been unable to quench the flames of the Gospel, so that the initial miraculous signs referred to by Joel and recorded in Acts 2 are followed by centuries of miraculous moving of the Holy Spirit in our world.

For the first time in Jewish history, Peter has a reference point for Joel’s prophecy. It had meant little or nothing before, but now Peter points out its great application. You and I were not there at the start, although we have Luke’s faithful recording of the events of those early days. But almost two thousand years later, we are part of God’s great program for the ages, foretold by Joel and proclaimed by Peter. We don’t always act like we are part of this program, do we? Maybe we need to regain some of the excitement that Peter was explaining when he identified the events of Acts 2 as being God’s unfolding of His blessing in the Gospel.

Joel’s prophecy dates back several hundred years before Christ. It is not new, nor was Peter’s reference to it. You and I are part of an ancient program of God’s purposes for our world, and it should still be as exciting today. – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

August 9th, 2022

Now, when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. Acts 2:6

In the third century, BC, King Ptolemy II of Egypt, a man deeply interested in collecting books of all kinds, was told of the Scriptures used by the Jews. He determined, not only to obtain copies of the Scriptures, but also to have them translated into Greek, because many of the Jews at that time were more conversant in Greek than in their own tongue. Besides, Hebrew was of no use to Ptolemy. Various stories are recorded, by Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, and others, of the translation work by six learned scholars from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Because of its 72 translators, the new Greek version became known as the Septuagent. It was apparently a good translation, because it was used by Jesus in His teachings, and quoted by several New Testament writers. The Septuagent served a great need at the time, enabling many more people access to the Scriptures. That was also the purpose of the languages provided at Pentecost.

God has always desired that His Word be in the hands of His people. This was true of Old Testament days, of New Testament times, and of our modern era. Although none of the New Testament was written at the time of today’s text, the apostles and the rest of Jesus’ followers had the teaching of their Lord to impart to those around them. Even when many of those around them could not understand the commonly spoken language and dialect in Jerusalem. It is significant that one of the first acts of the Holy Spirit when He came to dwell with Believers at Pentecost was to make the Word available to as many as possible. Down through the centuries, attempts have been made to restrict and limit availability of the Scriptures, and the leaders of medieval Roman Catholicism face great judgment for such a heinous crime. Alternatively, translators and reformers such as Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Luther face great reward for their efforts and sacrifices to open the Word of God to the people.

Because of the gift of languages, the Gospel was enabled to go forth in an all encompassing way at Pentecost. The miraculous means for it to be provided was impressive, catching the attention of many. God is still unfolding His Word to more of the world’s population, as translators reach new languages with the Scriptures. And His people are seeking to spread the Word to those who have not yet heard it. Gospel efforts around us are part of His great desire to reach those who need to hear it in their own language.

The God Who desires all men everywhere to be saved is interested in having all men everywhere familiar with His Word. Let us pass it on to those in our language. -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

August 8th, 2022

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. Acts 2:1

I have a little habit each Lord’s Day morning, part way through the Breaking of Bread, of making a count of the number of believers present. The number varies. One week, we will have some visitors, and the number will be up. Another week, a good number will be away at work or at a conference somewhere and numbers will be down. Each time I do the count, I make note that one person or another is not there. Work commitments, illness, and vacations mean that very seldom do we have 100 percent attendance from every Christian who is in the fellowship. How different the picture in today’s text, in which every Christian, not only in Jerusalem, but in the entire world, was in attendance!

It is good that everyone was present for the Pentecost meeting. What an incredible experience they would have missed if they had been unable, or unwilling, to attend! The next few verses tell of the sound as of a mighty rushing wind, the cloven tongues as of fire, and the filling of the Holy Ghost. Nothing like this had ever happened before, and nothing like it has happened since, regardless of what the charismatics say. Those who were present would never forget what happened that day. And, in the coming days, weeks, and months, as the Lord added to their numbers, they could tell others about the wonderful experience. As a result of being there, their lives were never the same. Now, you and I have never attended a meeting of the Assembly, or even a conference meeting, with such astonishing happenings. So we can’t exactly relate to what these people experienced. But we have all been at meetings where the unexpected happened, where we encountered something that made a huge difference in our lives. Looking back on it, aren’t you glad you were there?

But nothing extraordinary ever happens, we think. The meetings have a sameness from week to week, nobody does anything unusually well or bad, and everything is very predictable. We might even get a little annoyed if somebody gives out a hymn at what we feel is an inappropriate time. Maybe we are just a little too complacent. Maybe we need something different to happen, to shake us up. I’m not speaking of the disorder and confusion that we see in some of the denominations, but I think we could stretch some of the boundaries a bit, making sure we don’t offend any of the saints. If we allow the Holy Spirit to shake things up, like He did at Pentecost, maybe we will see a little more excitement in our meetings.

If all of the Assembly was attending a meeting at which everybody was expecting great things to happen, we would surely see some changes. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

August 7th, 2022

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 to remember 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 came 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

Sermonette for Saturday

August 6th, 2022

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. They did not know much of anything about the Holy Spirit and how He was to work 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

Food for Friday

August 5th, 2022

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’ ascension 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

Thought for Thursday

August 4th, 2022

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’ (Philippians 4:13). 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

Word for Wednesday

August 3rd, 2022

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 very 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 final conversation with my 100 year old grandmother was about her expectation that the Lord could return today. It was a comfort to her, and her anticipation 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

Tidings for Tuesday

August 2nd, 2022

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

Some 30 years ago, a little brown Gospel tent was pitched on a lot in our town of 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. Some 25 years later, and 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 must have read the sign and many received invitations. Whether they came or not – and some did come – they had a second 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 heathen, us 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

Meditation for Monday

August 1st, 2022

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 learned to read, I enjoyed 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 twice since that book was published, with its wording improved the first time and messed up the second time. 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 and almost beyond every other book put together. And some 80 million new copies every year far outstrip every other best seller that comes along. 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