News

Food for Friday

January 14th, 2022

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain until now. Romans 8:22

There is a little joke about how many mystery writers it takes to screw in a light bulb. It takes two, the first one to screw it most of the way in, and the second one to give it a surprising twist at the end. That is what good mystery writers do, keeping their readers in suspense and unable to figure out ‘whodunit’ until the final paragraph of the book. Our Bibles don’t really contain big surprises like that, but there are many portions of it that include a few words that change the ending in an incredible way. Our text is one of those.

None of us needs to be convinced of the pain that our creation is experiencing. The inhumanity that we see of some people towards others is appalling and sickening beyond measure. The dishonesty of individuals, corporations, and governments seems to never stop growing. The ravages of disease and substance abuse often shock us with their cruel effects. Around us swirl filth and hate and ignorance. And that is just looking at the people. Ever since our first parents were ushered out of Eden, all of nature around us – and much of it is magnificent and lovely despite the floods, earthquakes and fires – is in a minor tone compared to its beauty before the fall. As we consider all this groaning and travailing that Paul refers to in our text, we notice two little words that provide a surprising twist – until now.

This verse is written in the context of hope. As Paul writes of the agony around us, he reminds us in the very next verse of the redemption of our body. Although the world knows nothing of this hope, the blessed anticipation of the believer is that our Lord will come to pluck us from our groaning and travailing and usher us into His joyous and comforting presence forever. These words – until now – remind us that the great shout and the trump of God that triggers the rapture is imminent. No event or development needs to occur before the rapture does. As my dear grandmother reminded me the last time I visited her in the nursing home at 101 years of age, ‘perhaps today’. She was right. 

Even though we know the rapture is coming, it will surprise us when it occurs. It will also surprise us at how great will be our deliverance from the groaning and travailing we are enduring – until now. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

January 13th, 2022

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

As I sat chatting with our grandchildren during the required 15 minute wait at the clinic after we received our Covid shots, I remarked that they did not seem to be much bothered by the needles they received. They merely shrugged their little shoulders; no big deal. They hardly felt the needle, they told me. At their ages – ten and eight – they had little thought about how much suffering those Covid shots might spare them from; the visit to the clinic was just a minor adventure during their winter day. How much different was the ordeal the apostle Paul was referring to as he wrote to encourage the 

Christians in Rome in today’s text.

At the time of Paul’s writing, the Roman saints were in dire and dangerous circumstances. The authorities hunted and harassed them unmercifully and many had already been slaughtered. As the numbers of believers grew with the rapid spread of the Gospel in that great city, the intensity of the persecution grew as well. The believers there knew firsthand what Paul was referring to when he spoke of ‘the sufferings of this present time’. No stranger to suffering and persecution himself, Paul could understand fully what those saints were enduring. And yet, he could redirect their attention away from all that suffering to something vastly more profound as he placed their situation into an eternal perspective.

Because Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was not writing only to the saints in Rome; he was writing also to saints in all of the two thousand years since then. He was writing to saints during those millennia who have endured suffering even worse than that of the Romans, and to saints like us who know little or nothing of such suffering. To all of us, our text redirects our attention to the eternal perspective. Paul does not describe ‘the glory which shall be revealed in us’, because he cannot. Language lacks the ability to define such glory. We can only take from these words the wondrous reality of our coming eternal entrance into that which causes any suffering here in time to fade into nothingness.

Our God will soon reveal His glory in us. If we allow it, this precious thought will carry us through any suffering we might encounter in this present time. -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

January 12th, 2022

Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fastings and with weepings and with mourning, and rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. Joel 2:12,13

God loves repentance. He is pleased when sinful people acknowledge their condition and seek reconciliation with Himself. He is looking for those who will outwardly and inwardly repent. And when He finds them, He blesses them.

Or should I say He blesses us. Because we can take our place in this number that Joel writes of in our text. God must judge sin, but that is not His delight. No, His delight is to bless us, although we don’t deserve it. 

Now that we are saved, have we stopped repenting? Surely not! We are still clad in sinful flesh, still encumbered with the old nature that wars against the Holy Spirit Who dwells within each believer. As hard as some Christians try, none of us is perfect. We are all daily in need of repentance. So it is a good thing that God is slow to anger. When we see some of the incredible evil of some of the characters who share the planet with us, we are amazed that God’s anger is not hastened against them. But let us look inside our own hearts, and give thanks that God’s wrath is not dispensed in haste.

Joel also reminds us of God’s great kindness. What could have been more kind than to give His own Son to die for such rebels and wretches? God is always kind to us. Even when He chastises, He does so for our blessing. Did you have a bite to eat today? Thank God for His kindness. Did you safely reach your destination after your most recent venture on the streets and roads? Thank God for His kindness. Do you have loving family and friends? Thank God for His kindness. Is there an Assembly of believers who welcome you as one of their beloved number? Thank God for His kindness. Do you have a Bible? Thank God for His kindness. Most of all, are you appreciating your salvation? Thank God for His kindness. 

Submit to God in repentance today and receive His warm welcome and kindness. -Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

January 11th, 2022

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the Crown of Life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him. James 1:12

The Crown of Life is often referred to by another name, the Martyr’s Crown. It is called this because this crown is also listed in Revelation 2:10, where it refers to those who are faithful unto death in a time of persecution. Down through the history of Christianity, untold thousands of faithful believers have qualified for this crown as they accepted death rather than deny their Lord. They believed as the martyr Jim Elliot declared ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’.  There is not letup, even today, in the slaughter of faithful Christians. You and I don’t live in lands where such martyrdom is experienced. At least not yet. Does this mean we can’t qualify for the Crown of Life?

Unlike the Revelation reference to the Crown of Life, our text today does not refer to our laying down our lives in faithfulness to our Lord; the reference is to enduring temptation. There is a huge difference, we might think, between actually being killed for our faithfulness and being able to resist the daily temptations that our flesh is drawn to on a daily basis. So how can enduring temptation be fairly compared to actual martyrdom? Maybe our enduring temptation needs to be turned up a few notches. Our text contains the key.

Our text declares that God has promised the Crown of Life to those who love Him. But don’t we all love Him? To a certain extent, all believers do love our Lord. But there is a difference. Some Christians display little evidence of divine life as they fail to allow the Holy Spirit to function in their lives. Other Christians are so filled with the effective working of the Spirit that their love for their Lord is always obvious. And then, there are the rest of us, maybe the majority of us. There is another term for enduring temptation: obedience. The greater our love for our Lord, the greater we will strive to obey His Word in all things. Our passion to please Him will translate into a life in which temptations of any kind will have no power over us.

So we can qualify for the Heavenly honour of the Crown of Life. Are you up to the challenge? Am I? -Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

January 10th, 2022

Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. Psalm 150:6

Everything that hath breath – does this verse tell us that all of the animals in the world should praise the Lord? I recall what one of our elementary school teachers told us as we watched some small birds drinking from a fresh rain puddle. The birds would dip their beaks into the water and then tip their heads back to allow the water to flow down their tiny throats. The teacher suggested that when the bird tipped its head back, with its beak to the sky, that it was thanking the Creator for giving the water. That is a lovely sentiment that should shame a thankless human race. But there is no evidence in the Scriptures or in nature that animals have any awareness of their Creator, even though they obey the instincts that He has given them. No, the breath referred to in our text is that which we find in Genesis 2:7 where God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. As members of Adam’s race, we are to praise the Lord. Some of us do.

Praising the Lord is important. This declaration – Praise ye the Lord – that is found in our text, which is the last verse in the Book of the Psalms, is frequently repeated throughout the book. Note that it is the opening and closing statement in each of the last five Psalms. God does not repeat things unnecessarily. I can think of at least two good reasons why we should praise the Lord; maybe you can think of more. 

Reason one for praising God is a right acknowledgment of God: He deserves to be praised. Our Bible is filled with titles and descriptions of a God Who is worthy of our highest praise. We praise Him in acknowledgment of Who He is: the omnipotent, almighty, omniscient God of eternity. We praise Him in acknowledgment of what He has done, in creation, in His design and provision of a plan of salvation for fallen sinners, and in the mercy and grace that includes us in His eternal purposes.

Reason two for praising God is a right acknowledgment of ourselves. Mankind’s greatest sin, like that of Lucifer, is pride. A heart that will not acknowledge our sinfulness and God’s rightful lordship is a heart that is lifted up in pride. The person who fails to recognize God’s existence, deity, and lordship is also a fool, according to Psalm 14:1. To praise the Lord is both wisdom and proper humility on our part.

It is a good thing to praise the Lord. All the time. -Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

January 9th, 2022

I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world. Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me, and they have kept Thy Word. John 17:6

The little boy loaded his tiny plastic wheelbarrow with sand, and followed his father’s huge wheelbarrow into the unfinished building where his father was preparing to pour a concrete floor. Just like his father, the lad dumped his little wheelbarrow and headed back to the sand pile outside. As they refilled their wheelbarrows, an acquaintance came by to chat with the father. The friend remarked that the little boy was doing a big job. Proudly, the father nodded his head, and declared, ‘Yep, he’s a big help on this job!’ The father’s delight in his son’s efforts is much like the Lord Jesus in his delight in his disciples, and in us.

We might have been hard pressed to find much to praise in that bunch of complainers, of doubters, of braggarts, and of little faith. But the Lord Jesus, who knew them better than you and I do, was so thankful that His Father had given this bunch of disciples to Him. He was pleased that they had learned about Him and followed Him, and had confessed Him as the Christ. And He declared that they had kept the Father’s Word. This seems a bit of a stretch to us, but He knew of their coming faithfulness in a coming day. He knew of their struggles to learn the lessons He was teaching them. And most of all, He knew of their perfect position as  His possession.

When we measure ourselves against the disciples, we have little to be proud of. At least they had a deep desire to be in His presence, and to follow him, and even to suffer for Him. Can we say that much? But, like them, we have been taken from the world, and presented to the Lord Jesus as His possession. Although we have not always kept His word, we have tried, and we have succeeded far more than the poor lost world around us. Measuring us against the world, the Lord Jesus is pleased with us. And viewed in terms of our eternal standing as joint heirs with Him, He sees us in the sinless perfection that He has granted us. This is very humbling when we consider we do not deserve His affection and delight in us. But it is also very uplifting to consider what we are in Him.

Let us obey the Word of God, that our state might be that of obedient children, just as our standing is. -Jim MacIntosh

Sermonette for Saturday

January 8th, 2022

And they were helped against them, and the Hagarites were delivered into their hand and all that were with them, for they cried to God in the battle, and He was entreated of them, because they put their trust in Him. 1 Chronicles 5:20

How many wars can you name? After you get them all named, check to see if the war in today’s text is among them. I’m pretty sure it’s not! What was this war? Who started it, and who all was involved? We really don’t know much about it, except that part of the Israelites were involved. As the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, moved to take their portion of the promised land, they met opposition from the Hagarites. Crying to God for help, the Israelites went to war to take what God had promised them. Because they trusted in God, God gave them the victory, and the Israelites had a good land to occupy for many years. They learned a simple but powerful lesson in that war, a lesson we do well to heed today.

Who did the armies of these two-and-a-half tribes defeat in this war? The only thing we can be certain is that their opponents were the offspring of the bondwoman, Hagar, and were probably the descendents of Ishmael. They had no claim on God’s promises and no access to God’s help. They were defeated by those who had received God’s promises and who were taught to seek God’s help. Has God given us promises? Has God offered us His help? Yes, He has! Have we received God’s promises? Have we accepted His help? To a certain extent, we have not!

Just as the Israelites were promised a possession and His help in obtaining it, so we have been promised eternal life and God granted it to us in the day that we put our trust in Him. He has also promised us victory over sin and temptation; how are we doing in that battle? He has also promised to help us in our testimony before the world; are we winning that battle? He has promised to supply our needs and to bear our burdens; how victorious are we in trusting Him in these?

It would seem that the only reason the Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassehites won the war in today’s text was their trust in God. That is also the only way we will win any wars today. -Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

January 7th, 2022

I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the world. John 17:15

The purpose of a ship is to travel on the ocean. If you take the ship out of the ocean, it serves no purpose; it conducts no business; it generates no profit for its masters. Time spent in drydock for maintenance or repairs is important to the ship’s future usefulness, but it is not a time of profit. A good ship makes good progress through the ocean in good weather and successfully navigates through bad weather. Her element of operation is the ocean, and that is where she is ought to be. But tragedy occurs when the ocean gets into the ship. All sorts of difficulty occur when seawater enters the vessel, even the possibility of the ship sinking. It is the same with Christians; we are in our element of service in the world, but we are courting tragedy if the world gets into us.

Many of us remember the account of the Herald of Free Enterprise, a ro-ro ferry operating between the Belgian port of Zeebrugge and the English port of Dover. On the night of March 6, 1987, somebody forgot to close the bow doors as the ship departed Zeebrugge. Seawater rushed in and within minutes, the ship sank, killing 193 passengers and crew. We call that a tragedy, and so it was. It is also a tragedy when a child of God allows the world to enter his life where it should not go. In our text, the Lord Jesus is praying for us. His desire is not that we be taken out of the world. It is only in the world that we can be a witness for our Lord and serve Him as we ought. But there is always a danger that the world will make its entrance into those areas of our life that should be for our Lord.

Our top priorities in life should revolve around the will of God. If our goals are in sync with the leading of the Holy Spirit and in harmony with the Word of God, we will be like a seaworthy and profitable ship. We will be able to testify of our Lord’s mercy and grace, and display His power in transforming and preserving us. We will be kept from the evil influences that would destroy us and bring us to shipwreck in our service for our Lord.

There are days when we long to be taken out of this world, but that is not God’s purpose for us. His desire is for us to remain in the world, but separated from it, that we might bring glory to our Lord. -Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

January 6th, 2022

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:17

Kenny and Bobby were two little boys who lived in the apartment at the west end of our house when I was a little boy. Because I played with them, I picked up some of their vocabulary. Theirs was not a Christian home, and their parents made no attempt to bridle their tongues. As a result of my association with Kenny and Bobby, I learned some words that I should never have learned, let alone said. When I first uttered one of those words in my mother’s hearing, she sat me down and sternly warned me that I would be spanked if I should ever be heard saying that again. Only a few days later, one of those words slipped out, and my faithful mother applied the board of education to the seat of understanding. It must have worked, because I still don’t say those words. However, we live in a world that has not learned the lesson of the Garden of Eden: with free will comes great responsibility.

My mother could not prevent me from saying inappropriate words, but she could inform me of the consequences of doing so, and could make sure that I received the consequences. In like manner, God created Adam and his wife with a free will to decide whether to behave or not, and then informed Adam carefully and seriously about the consequences. Just as I defied my mother’s warning, Adam defied God’s warning and turned to his own way. We made the wrong choices. Those of us who are saved have received the ability to make the right choices, So today’s text serves as a warning and reminder to us to be obedient, that we might not suffer loss.

If Adam disobeyed, he died. If he obeyed, he lived. If we disobey, our deeds die in shame, if we obey, our deeds live in victory and reward. For the Christian, the principle is just as valid as it is for the unsaved. For the unsaved, they don’t really have any choice, because of their sinful nature. But for the Christian, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into the right paths and to empower us to do the will of our Lord. And so, we must decide every day whether to suffer loss by allowing the flesh to be unbridled, or whether to submit to the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The one leads to loss and punishment, the other leads to blessing and reward and the joy of our Lord’s presence.

Rather than considering what we will lose today if we don’t trust and obey the Lord, let us consider what we will win by obedience and faith.  -Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

January 5th, 2022

Then took they Him, and led Him, and brought Him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. Luke 22:54

Following afar off is a common practice among the believers these days. We can appreciate godly saints who follow close to their Lord, but they are becoming scarce. Most of us live our lives as though we firmly believe that as long as we are following, it doesn’t matter if we are afar off or near. With the spirit of Laodicea upon us, we have little interest in being more than afar off followers.

We read our Bibles and pray (a little bit, anyway), and we get to most of the meetings, and we have for some of our closest friends the believers in our Assembly. We watch our language that we don’t slip into the gutter talk of the world around us, even though we don’t reproach the profane for their filthy talk. How can that be following afar off? How can it be following closely?!!

Think of Peter. By following, he went to the high priest’s house. But by following afar off, he was unable to participate in any of the discussion that took place that directly related to his Lord. He did get into discussions, but they actually led to his infamous denial of his Lord. He was not close enough to challenge the lies that were being told about Jesus. He was not close enough to defend the Saviour from the buffeting and spittle. He was not close enough to stand with Jesus and share the humiliation and abuse.

Following the Lord Jesus closely means taking some abuse and ridicule, some reproach. It means putting His priorities higher than ours, in fact totally tossing our priorities out the window and accepting His. It means being on the front line of volunteer service for Him. It means being available whatever the cost or inconvenience to ourselves. It means many things, but it does not mean simply fitting a few meetings and a few minutes of devotion into our own busy schedules.

Is following Jesus part of your life? Or is following Jesus your entire life? -Jim MacIntosh