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Malachi 4:6 . . .lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Revelation 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

The old testament begins by God making a man called Adam who sins against God and who passes that sin nature on to his descendents. Adam’s race constantly frustrates God by desiring heathen gods and heathen woman. When they are in a bad spot they have trouble believing that God can save them. They constantly grumble and complain about their lot in life. They take advantage of the poor and forget the widows and orphans. It is only appropriate that the old testament ends with a curse.

The new testament begins by God sending His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is sinless and who always pleases the Father. However this Son, the One who shouldn’t die, is born to die. His name was called Jesus because that name means Savior and He died to be the Savior of the world. In the old testament, we are reminded of what we deserve. In the new testament we are reminded that God has found a way to spare us from the curse that we deserve. Thus, the new testament appropriately ends with grace. I personally like the message of the new testament better than the message of the old.

There is much grace shown in the old testament and there is much judgment coming during the tribulation period of the new testament that occurs before Christ comes to set up His earthly thousand year reign of peace and justice. In both testaments there is failure on the part of man and there is perfection in the person of the Messiah. In the old testament He is prophesied to be coming and in the Gospels He came and now He has told us He is coming again. I am sure that during those 4000 years that the descendents of Adam waited for the Messiah to come many decided that the promise would never be fulfilled. We have now waited for 2000 years for the promise of His second coming to be fulfilled. While many in the world are questioning the reality of that promise, God says, “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37). The Lord says, “Behold I come quickly (suddenly)” (Revelation 22:, 20).

I am glad that I am waiting for the second coming of Christ rather than for the first and that I am living in new testament days rather than in the old. The Lord is coming again both to rapture the Saints and to reveal Himself as King to the earth. For those of us who are saved we can have confidence that no matter what this year brings, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with us. Our curse is gone since “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). We would say like John the beloved apostle, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Week of January 4, 2004

Luke 19:46 It is written, My house is the house of prayer.


I have been meditating on the fact that we who are saved are not doing much praying together. We may be praying on an individual basis but that is not leading to a desire to pray together in a congregational setting. It is interesting that most people tell those who are unsaved to pray to receive Christ. I don’t do that. I tell them to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved (Acts 16:31-32) but I anticipate that the automatic reaction to trusting in the Lord and His promise to give eternal life to those who do trust Him will be to pray and thank Him for saving them. If prayer is the automatic response of a new believer (Acts 9:11), why do we find it so hard to emphasize public prayer in our corporate gatherings?

If we can take the liberty of applying the idea of the house of God or temple of God to our local churches, then would our houses be called houses of prayer? What has concerned me about this title “the house of prayer” is that as I travel around the country, I notice that the one of the meetings that seems to fail because of a lack of attendance is the corporate prayer meeting. Many meetings called prayer meetings are mostly fellowship and teaching or Bible study meetings with just a little time devoted to prayer. In the early church, “they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).” Notice that the word prayers is plural. While an invocation or a benediction may be a part of our meetings, I do not think they would cause someone who didn’t understand Christianity and who was observing us to call our congregations, houses of prayer. They might call our congregations, houses of music. They might call them houses of bread (Bethlehem’s) because of our fellowship meals. They might call them houses of preaching where the apostle’s doctrine is proclaimed but would they really call them houses of prayer? I like music and I like to preach and to hear good preaching. I like food and I think food is an effective evangelistic tool since many people will enjoy a congregational meal with us where we can present the Gospel, particularly on special occasions. But should those things be the focal point of the church or should prayer be the focal point? Have we started to use the church to talk to each other rather than coming together to talk to God.? Does that mean that we are worshipping a God whose presence does not seem real to us any more?

Since no relationship can be healthy without communication, I think we need to consider the need to reinstate the emphasis on public congregational prayer when the whole church gathers for unified public prayer. This doesn’t always have to be “asking” prayer, some of it and perhaps most of it should be “thanking” prayer. This doesn’t have to be a distinct meeting (although in Acts 3:1 there was an hour for prayer in the temple), but it should be a preeminent part of our corporate gatherings. I believe that our survival and our revival as effective witness for Christ depend on it.

Week of January 11, 2004

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers (various) temptations (trials or adversities).

Joy is apparently the thought of cheerfulness, calm delight or gladness. We who are believer’s in Christ are supposed to be Christ-like, but I think someone left this lesson about joy in trials out of the play book that was presented to me before I trusted in Christ. I had been brought up to believe that we are rewarded with good things (praise, honor, maybe money) when we do things right and we are rewarded with corrective (otherwise known as bad ) things when we do things wrong. Isn’t that the basic idea behind the discipline of a parent? Now I am being told that my reward for doing right is trials or adversity and that I am supposed to be happy about it. This is certainly one place where God doesn’t think like we think (Isaiah 55:8).

Why did the Lord have joy in the trials associated with the cross? Likely, it was because He was saving those that He would have for a bride. Imagine having a bride that not only loved you because she was supposed to but because she wanted to! Imagine having a bride that realized how much the Lord loved her because His love was demonstrated at the cross! I think He also had joy in knowing that He was being obedient to the Father’s will and that He was going to be victorious over sin and Satan. So likely, His joy was because of the benefits that would result when the trial would be over. All told His earthly ministry lasted about 3 years. The sorrows and griefs of the cross lasted less than 24 hours. What is that in the light of eternity?

Our trials are supposed to develop endurance (maturity) and are going to be rewarded with a crown of life according to James. In Hebrews 12, our trials are supposed to be evidence of the love of God toward his true children. Paul says that our trials are “light afflictions” and are “but for a moment”. He says that they bring about an “eternal weight (or possibly abundance) of glory or praise”. (See 2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Paul considered his afflictions light because he was looking at the shortness of the time when the afflictions occur and the length of the “time” associated with the glory brought about by the afflictions.

Trials or adversity are not pleasant. The unsaved have them and they have nothing to look forward to after they are over. We who are saved have them but we have eternity to look forward to after they are over.

Hopefully, then, we can rejoice in the fact that trials prove we are children and that they develop patience in us since they won’t last all that long. We can also rejoice in the fact that they make heaven and eternal life seem more attractive since our trials starkly contrast with our blessings which will be eternal.

Week of January 18, 2004

Ephesians 4:17-19 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness (hardness) of their heart, who being past feeling (lacking compassion and sympathy) have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.


Notice that we who are Christians are not to walk or live as the immoral gentiles (unsaved) live. That means that it is possible for Christians to live this way. However, if we do we will grieve the Holy Spirit or make Him distressed or unhappy (see Ephesians 4:30). Grieving the Holy Spirit is not going to give us joy or confidence in our salvation. The problems of the unsaved start with the mind (they dwell on things that do not profit). The mind then affects their heart or affections and motives. Their motives affect their emotions which affects their sinful lifestyles. So they think wrong which leads to feeling wrong which leads to acting wrong. Now we are not saved by changing our lives but by trusting in the sacrificial work of Christ who died to save us. But being saved should change our lives. And the changed life of a Christian with an ungrieved Holy Spirit sealing him (see Ephesians 1:13) allows him to enjoy with confidence the truth that, “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

If we are not enjoying that truth (that is if we are living in doubts), maybe we need to act right (be kind and compassionate or tenderhearted) so we can feel right which will lead to thinking right. When we think right we will be able to appreciate the work of Christ in our lives. Acting right does not save the unsaved but if we have walked as the unsaved walk after we are saved, we need to change our walk in order to regain an appreciation of our salvation. Many of us do not have assurance of salvation because of things that we are doing in our lives and Satan has convinced some of us that the truth that God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake is not true. When we have dug a hole and are living in it (that is when we living in the pit of depression because of things we have done) we cannot get out of the pit by starting at the top. We have to reverse the process that got us into the hole. This is not a message to the unsaved as to how to be saved but to the saved for restoration to the fellowship of God when they have grieved the Holy Spirit. When we have done wrong, if we acknowledge our wrong which involves making corrections, we should regain our confidence in the truth that “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Forgiveness is a great release. When we forgive, it releases us from tension, high blood pressure and from the desire to get even. When we are forgiven by God or by man, it releases us from a bad conscience and from worry about the penalty that we deserve because of our sin. God has eternal penalties as well as earthly consequences, man usually has penalties as well. They range from social avoidance to the legal penalties of the courts. Forgiveness offered and received (reconciliation) restores relationships, brings peace to former enemies and gives us mental health. I am convinced that there can be no true mental health for a Christian apart from a life that is unlike the immoral unsaved that allows us to properly appreciate the truth that “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Week of January 25, 2004