Worthless Worship

Worthless Worship: Malachi #2. An exposition of Malachi 1:6-14. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 23, 2015.

Intro:

It’s big business anymore.  Books, conferences, videos and seminars abound.  Worship has become a popular subject.  You can subscribe to services that will provide you with orders of worship complete with audio and video files to enhance your worship experience.  Churches have gone high-tech in order to attract a crowd.  Theatre seats have replaced pews; sophisticated lighting systems have been brought in to enhance the viewing pleasure of the audience.  It seems the only thing missing is the content!  One wonders how the church ever got along with just the power of God and the message of the Gospel.

Today’s worship is geared toward the “audience”…meaning those who attend the worship service.  In fact increasingly we are told that what we do must be geared toward the “un-churched”.  It seems that worship has become our primary evangelistic tool.  But is that its purpose?  It seems to me the Scripture is very clear – we are to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.  We are to go to the highways and hedges and compel them to come to Christ.  We are to preach Christ in the market place in the home and along the road.  We are to come together to worship God.  He is the focus.  He is the object of our worship and He is the audience!  He is the one we are seeking to please with our worship.  Rather than seeking to create worship that pleases the largest crowd we can gather, we should be concerned with what kind of worship pleases Him.

Worship doesn’t happen just because we engage in worship activities.  Just performing the rituals and following the bulletin does not insure worship has occurred.  The people of God where enjoying a time of relative peace and prosperity.  Enemies did not surround them.  Their crops were respectable.  Life was basically good.  And they faithfully went to temple and performed the appropriate sacrifices.  They had a good thing going until that cranky old prophet named Malachi came along thundering his burden from the Lord.  Our text this morning is found in the first chapter of his prophecy.

Text: Malachi 1:6-14

God’s messenger came with an oracle (burden) from the Lord.
This word carries the connotation of judgment.
God had some things to say to his people.
He brings charges against them.
There are in fact 6 complaints He brings.
Yet He began with a statement of love – “I have loved you…”
God had graciously chosen to be in a relationship with Jacob and his descendants.
That unconditional love is to motivate and inspire them.
Now Malachi addresses the issue of worship.
The prophet makes it very clear:

Thesis: Our God despises shallow, ceremonial, heartless worship.

Key verse = Malachi 1:10 – Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.

This is strong language.  God is declaring he would just as soon lock the doors to the temple then continue this vain worship.  Now I know this will not be a popular notion and I hesitate to even say it  but what this means, if we were to put it in our own context, is that the kingdom of God would be better served by shutting down a few churches rather than opening more.

Allow me the opportunity to state something parenthetically.
I used to think of this as a “pet peeve” – I’ve come to understand it as a “burden.”
For too long the church has followed the adage “the end justifies the means.”
We have been so focused on “results” we have not given attention to means or methods.
You can get a big crowd and produce results and it be an abomination.
We are responsible for how we do things.
This text makes that abundantly clear.

In this text we find 6 characteristics of authentic worship.
This is worship that honors God and pleases him.
This is the kind of worship we are to aim for.

  1. Authentic worship recognizes God for who he is.  (1:6)
  2. Authentic worship acknowledges God’s rightful place, above all others.  (1:6-7)
  3. Authentic worship continuously examines the heart to insure genuine devotion.  (1:6-7)
  4. Authentic worship goes beyond mere form to genuine obedience and commitment.  (1:9-10)
  5. Authentic worship stands in awe of the majesty, glory and wonder of His name.  (1:11)
  6. Authentic worship demands whole-hearted, passionate devotion to the Lord.  (1:12-14)

Our worship is to be heaven-centered, God honoring and pleasing to God.

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The Foreknowledge of God

The Attributes of GodThe Foreknowledge of God: The Attributes of God #14. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, August 19, 2015.

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Principles of Biblical Prayer

An Exposition of 1 KingsPrinciples of Biblical Prayer: 1 Kings #21. An exposition of 1 Kings 18:41-45. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, August 16, 2015.

Intro:

Prayer is essential to the Christian life.  It is the air we breath, it is the atmosphere in which we live.  Prayer is not just something we do or an activity that we engage in.  Prayer is woven into the fabric of what it means to be the people of God.  We live in communion with the Father.  We appeal to our advocate the Lord Jesus.  We trust in his intercessory work.  We depended on the work of the Holy Spirit to pray when we cannot or do not know how or what to pray.  Yet prayer is a difficult thing.  None of us pray as we ought.  I don’t know anyone who says, “I pray too much.”  I don’t know anyone who thinks prayer is an “easy” thing.  If you do…you’re not doing it right!  When we pray our minds wander.  We get sleepy.  Time seems to stop.  You can stop giving me the, “I’m socked look” you’re not fooling anyone.  We are prone to perform when called on to pray publicly.  We like to think that our public prayers soar like a magnificent jet.  Dazzling those who are lucky enough to be present but truth be told, more often than not, we sputter like a crop duster on its final flight.  This evening I want us to consider some principles of biblical prayer tucked away in one of those Old Testament history books.  Our text is found in 1 Kings 1 Kings 18 beginning with 1 Kings 18:41.

Text: 1 Kings 18:41-45

Let’s remember the context.
In 1 Kings 17:1 the prophet Elijah bursts on the scene.
There’s no introduction.
No credentials are submitted – he just shows up and verbal slaps the king in the face.
Ahab has ascended the throne and proves to be worse than all who came before.
He and his wife Jezebel introduced Baalism into the institutional heart of the nation.
He built a temple and an altar.
They imported priests.
He lived in defiance of God.

Elijah arrives and says, “As the LORD (Yahweh), God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Then he disappears.
For three years there is no rain.
Water sources dry up.
Crops die.
Cattle die.
People die.

The king and the people are outraged.  A massive search is conducted to find Elijah, the troubler of Israel.  Then God says to Elijah, “It’s time to show yourself to Ahab.  It’s time for it to rain.”  However, before it rains God must discredit the so called fertility god, Baal.  If it rains the people will think Baal has recovered his power.  They must be made to see that Baal is nothing.  So there is the “God contest” at Mt. Carmel.

Mt. Carmel is a sacred site for Baalism.  Thus Baal is given the home court advantage.  The day is set and you have on one side the 450 prophets of Baal and on the other, Elijah.  It is agreed both will prepare an altar, make sacrifice, and pray to their god.  The God who answers by fire, He is God.  The prophets of Baal go first.  They prepare the altar, make the sacrifice and pray to Baal.  They prayed and prayed.  They chanted, mourned, worked themselves into a frenzy.  They cut themselves (demonstrating their devotion) but no one answer.  There was only silence.  This went on all day.  Nothing.  Now it was Elijah’s turn.  He rebuilt the altar of God.  Made his sacrifice.  Prayed a simple prayer.  Fire fell consumed the sacrifice, the altar, licked up the water.  This was a bold, decisive, public declaration that Yahweh is God and Baal is nothing!

The prophets of Baal are executed and our text picks up at the 450:41.

Elijah prays again.  From this prayer experience I want us to learn that…

Thesis: Biblical prayer is always focused on and centered in the greatness of our God.

There are three (3) principles I want to draw from this text.

  1. Biblical prayer reminds us that we are nothing but God is everything.  (18:42)
  2. Prayer reminds us that God graciously choses to accomplish His great work through our feeble prayers.  (18:1, 41, 43)
  3. Prayer reminds us that God is always in charge and He will not fit in our box.  (18:43-45)
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The Overwhelming Amazing Love of God

The Overwhelming Amazing Love of God; an exposition of Malachi 1:1-5: Malachi #1. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 16, 2015.

Intro:

You see them every day but do you see them?  Regularly they are there to warn you but do you even notice them, let alone heed their warning?  “Watch for ice on bridge”,  “Dangerous curve”, “Watch for children playing”, “Not to be taken internally.”  Warnings that we ignore because of over-exposure.  But even greater are the warnings of Scripture:  “Be alert, your adversary walks about as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”  “What, can you not watch with Me one hour?  Watch and pray that you will not enter into temptation.”  “Be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”  “The night is almost gone, and the day is near.  Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”  Warnings to remain spiritually alert.  A call to be “on your toes” spiritually.

It was a time of corruption – politically, morally and spiritually.  The Israelites had returned from the Babylonian exile. Jerusalem had been rebuilt, and the temple restored.  But the people had not learned their lesson from the exile. They had grown skeptical of God’s love (1:2), careless in worship (1:7), indifferent to the truth (2:6-7), disobedient to the covenant (2:10), faithless in their marriages (2:15; 3:5), and stingy in their offerings (3:8).  To this carnal and rebellious people God sent his messenger  – the prophet Malachi.   His name means “my messenger”, and the first message the Lord put on his lips was, “I have loved you, says the Lord!”

Those living in Israel were the 2nd and 3rd generation after the exile.  The temple, though not as grand, was rebuilt.  Life was somewhat back to normal.  No wars were looming.  They were not surrounded by enemies.  The crops were respectable.  Life was good and the people were complacent.  They were coasting “spiritually.”  Like Laodicea they were neither hot nor cold but lukewarm.  To this complacent people the prophet came.  His message firm and at times harsh.  The prophet comes with an “oracle” of the word of the LORD.

The word oracle means, “burden.”  It is a weighty matter.  This was not sermon light.  This was not a “feel good” message.  Here is a message rich in truth and requiring honest thought and consideration.  A message greatly misunderstood and not liked by many.  A message of love and hate.  A message of choosing and rejecting.  Let’s walk through it carefully.

Text: Malachi 1:1-5

This, of course, is the passage quoted by the apostle Paul in Romans 9.  This passage has often caused great debate and confusion – I think needlessly.  This passage does deal with God’s electing love.  God’s sovereign gracious choosing of a people for his own glory.  The confusion comes from two misunderstandings.  1st the mistaken idea that God owes us his love.

On the one hand we know that grace is unmerited favor.  It is God’s giving to us what we do not deserve.  On the other hand we are convinced that he owes everyone his unmerited favor.  But if it is owed…it’s not unmerited!  God would be perfectly just to condemn all but he has graciously chosen to save an unnumbered host to the praise of his glorious grace.

The seconded mistaken idea is that God’s choice is arbitrary.  That it is random with no rhyme or reason to it.  Yet the Scripture clearly says it is according to his own purpose and will (Ephesians 1:11-12).

Malachi is about to thunder away at Israel’s lack of obedience but he begins with a statement of God’s love for his people.  Why?  Because it is the love of God that motivates our service.  We are to be driven by devotion.  As Paul would later say, “The love of God compels us…”

Motivation = “That which causes one to act.”  When I was in school they timed me with a calendar!  I was not quick of foot.  But one Halloween night I found sufficient motivation.  (The old Victorian – Wakefield has it now.  Scary music – someone jumped out and yelled, “Boo!”  I didn’t stop for 2 blocks and then waited for everyone else to catch up.)

Thesis: The overwhelming/amazing love of God motivates the believing heart in service.

Now, let’s consider:

  1. The love of God as our motivation for obedience.  (1:1-4)
  2. The love of God is the foundation of our worship.  (1:5)

Conclusion:
This is a glorious reminder that though we are fully deserving of God’s wrath.  Though we are rebels at heart, God has graciously chosen to love us and to redeem us.  He has chosen to be in relationship with us calling us his children, blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus – and it is all because of grace.  Such love is deserving of our all!
Throughout this brief “burden” the Lord speaks weighty words through His messenger.  Much of what He is going to say will be hard to hear.  Thus He begins with an assurance of His love.  Malachi speaks of the love of God in a way that causes us to tremble.  Because the love of God is a holy, fearsome, sovereign love.  This love is substantial enough to build a life upon.

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The Love of God

The Attributes of GodThe Love of God: The Attributes of God #13. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, August 12, 2015.

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A Call to Authentic Ministry

theplowmanA Call to Authentic Ministry: this is an exposition of  Matthew 10:16-28. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 9, 2015.

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The Grace of God

The Attributes of GodThe Grace of God – The Attributes of God #12: this message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, August 5, 2015.

There are five aspects of the Grace of God to consider in this message:

  1. It is free: “…as a gift.” Romans 3:24
  2. It is eternal: “…before the ages began.” 2 Timothy 1:19.
  3. It is sovereign: “And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious…” Exodus 33:19.
  4. It is far reaching: “…all people.” Titus 2:11.
  5.  it is mediated: “…the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5.
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Showdown at the Mt. Carmel Coral

Showdown At The Mt. Carmel Coral: 1 Kings #20: an exposition of 1 Kings 18:1-40. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, August 2, 2015.

Intro:

It was a moment of high drama.  For three years drought has ravaged the land.  In the heart of Baal country the prophet of Yahweh declared it would not rain until he, by God’s authority, said so.  A massive manhunt had been underway.  Ahab was determined to find this “troubler of Israel.”  God had him tucked away down in Zarephath.  Now the time had come for the prophet to confront the king.  1 Kings 18 is an important chapter.  Here we have a “God Contest.”  At issue is the acknowledgement of the real God?  Ahab and Jezebel brought full scale worship of the pagan fertility god into the official heart of the nation.  There they built an altar and a temple to Baal.  They set up the Asherah.  They promoted the growth of Baalite worship while seeking to rid the earth of the prophets of Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel.  It is time for the people to decide one way or the other.  The matter is stated by the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21, “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him. But the people did not answer him a word.”  Elijah stood on Mt. Carmel against the 450 prophets of Baal.  Altars were built.  Sacrifices made.  Both would call upon their God.  The God who answered with fire, He would be God.  Our text is found in 1 Kings the 18.

Text: 1 Kings 18:1-40

This is one of those mountain peaks of Scripture.
We know the story about the showdown.
But I’m not sure we always consider the backstory or the implications.
Why was Israel under the judgment of God?
Why the drought?
Because of their idolatrous ways.
Because they went after pagan gods.
It seems God was serious about that 1st commandment.

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.  (Exodus 20:2-3)

“Before Me” = in my presence.
This isn’t about make sure I’m the first of many.
Rather understand, I alone am God.
This is another of those passages making it very clear, God is not real “understanding” about our pension for serving other gods.  He’s pretty narrow-minded at this point.  Serve the right God and serve Him the right way.

As we work our way through the chapter we will discover that…

Thesis: The “God Contest” on top of Mt. Carmel exposes some important truths about our God.

There are 4 truths I want to point out along the way.

  1. The uniqueness of our God is reflected in the diversity of His servants.  (18:1-15)
  2. The existence of our God makes some disturbing demands.  (18:20-21)
  3. Our God stands in stark contrast to all divine pretenders.  (18:22-39)
  4. The revelation of our God is both terrifying and condemning.  (18:40)

Conclusion:
Yes, 1 Kings 18 is full of drama but do not lose sight of the main character.  It is not Elijah.  It is, as always, the true and living God.

  • He is unique.
  • He is demanding.
  • He is above all so called gods.
  • He is terrifying.
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Surviving the Not Yet

The Parables of Jesus

The Parables of Jesus

Surviving the Not Yet, The Parables of Jesus #16 This is an exposition of  Luke 18:1-8. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 2, 2015.

Intro:

The unthinkable has just happened.  There you are sitting in that doctor’s office and you can’t believe your ears.  “It can’t be.  It just can’t be.  He used the “C” word when talking about me!”  Your company has just been sold.  You’ve given your heart and soul to that company for 15 years.  The word is they are going to let you go.  Oh sure it’s not an “official” word but you heard it from a very reliable source.  You’re struggling with getting up the nerve to let the love of your life know that you “like” her.  Sure there is the age difference – but that doesn’t matter to you.  But what if it does to her?  After all – she is in the 6th grade and you’re a lowly 5th grader!  Uncertainty – we all have to deal with it.  Whether it is something as innocent as a childhood infatuation or as deadly as a terminal disease, uncertainty wrecks havoc with our minds and emotions.

As live in a new world.  A world where a gunman opens fire following a prayer meeting.  A world were gang violence is not just a problem on the Coast.  Scandal and corruption are common place.  Terrorist’s threats abound around the world.  Meanwhile our faith is attacked here at home.  Who knows what this next year will bring?  Sure, as a believer, I can set back and declare with confidence “I know who holds the future!”  “I am resting in the strong arm of my Savior.”  Then I lay my head down on my pillow at night and my mind is flooded with anxious thoughts about tomorrow because being a child of God does not make me immune from the cares and worries of this fallen world.  How are we supposed to live?

The Kingdom of God is here!  It has been here since the Lord Jesus died on Calvary and rose triumphantly from the dead.  The Kingdom of God is a present, spiritual reality.  So why are we in this mess?  Because while the Kingdom is a present reality, we are living in the “not yet” before the ultimate fulfillment of that Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God is the people of God in the place of God under the rule of God.  As believers who place our faith and trust in Christ and live under the lordship of Christ we experience the peace and blessing of the Kingdom but not everything is in obedience to the Kingdom.  That awaits the return of the great King.  Yes, every knee will bow in heaven and in earth and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord – when He comes.  In the mean time we live in the tension between the now and the not yet.  So how are we to live in the mean time?  What “gets us through” these difficult days?  That is the focus of our text this morning found in Luke the 18.

Text: Luke 18:1-8

Jesus is moving steadfastly toward the cross.
The time determined by the Father has come.
Halfway through Luke 19, Luke begins his narrative of the Passion Week.
In the last half of Luke 17 is Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom.
I’m convinced that the opening words of Luke 18 are best understood in that light.

The message of Luke to his friend Theophilus and to us is clear:

Thesis: Living in the “not yet” of the kingdom demands a life of consistent, persevering prayer.

The reason I’m so confident about that interpretation is that it is precisely what we are told in Luke 18:1!  I didn’t go to four years of college and three years of seminary for nothing you know!

“Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”  That is pretty straightforward.  You don’t need seminary training to figure that out but we do need to “unpack” this truth.  We need to unfold it and examine it to find out how and why it works.

This parable is one of the most familiar of Jesus’ parables.  Most often it is called the parable of the “Persistent Widow.”  I’ve heard this parable taught and preached on many occasions.  I’m convinced that while it is one of the most familiar it is also one of the most misinterpreted and misused parables found in the New Testament.  The reason I say that is that most often I’ve heard this parable used to enforce the idea that we must bombard heaven with our praying.  We are to be “persistent” with our prayers.  While I agree there is an “element” of truth behind that teaching that is not the focus of this parable.  To interpret this parable in that way is to miss the point!

Let’s take a look at the parable itself.
First the characters.
We are introduced to two characters:
A corrupt judge
A wronged widow

There are two things I want us to note quickly in light of this passage.

  1. Our confidence in prayer rests on the beauty of God’s character.
  2. Our persistence in prayer rests securely on the strength of God’s character.
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The Great Call and the Four All’s

The Great Call and the Four All’s: An exposition of Mt. 28:18-20. This message by Roy Emmons was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, July 29, 2015.

From Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus declares:
1. a great claim: All authority is given to Jesus.
2. a great commission: teach all nations all things Jesus taught.
3. a great commitment: I am with you all your days.

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