The Secret of Contentment

The PsalmsThe Secret of Contentment: Selected Psalms

This is an exposition of Psalm 59. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, August 16, 2017.

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A Christian Response to Trials of Fire

A Christian Response to Trials of Fire: 2017 Study of 1 Peter #14

This is an exposition of 1 Peter 4:12-19. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, August 13, 2017.

Intro:

It’s a fun game. People love to play and it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. You don’t have to have game pieces, no dice are required and it’s not a card game. Now the game can get a little rowdy. If you’re not careful it can get out of hand. Tempers can flare but it generally is a crowd pleaser. The game is known by various names but I like to call it – “Yea, well that’s bad but it’s nothing compared to what I had to go through.” Others may call it “One Ups-manship” or “Top That” but it’s all the same game. The object is to prove that you live with greater tragedy than the other players.

Life is hard. Trials and tribulations are a common denominator. Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, republican or democrat, male or female, child or adult – there is one thing you can count on – life is going to dump on you. Life in this sinful, fallen world is filled with trouble and being a Christian does not make you immune.

Peter is writing to a group of folks who are well aquainted with trials and tribulation they are the victims of the first great wave of persecution. Many of them have lost their families and have suffered greatly due to their faith. Peter is writing to encourage and strengthen them in the midst of their struggle. In 1 Peter 4 he deals directly with living in the midst of adversity.

Text: 1 Peter 4:12-19

Peter has been called The Apostle of Hope – which is amazing in light of his record!
Old “foot in his mouth” didn’t seem like “pillar material” in the Gospels.
The Peter we meet in the Gospels does not exactly cause you to think of calm leadership in a time of crisis.

Yet after the baptism of the Spirit, recorded in Acts 2, Peter became a leader and spokesman for the church. Now as a “statesman” he is writing to believers scattered, due to persecution, and offers them hope and encouragement to stand firm.

His message is simple and straightforward:

  • We live as aliens and strangers in a hostile land.
  • Holiness matters.
  • Live transformed lives.

The context of this section deals with what Peter calls “painful trials” or in another translation “fiery ordeals.”

That is a pretty apt description of life, as we often know it.

As a child of God I view life differently. My perspective is different because I see life as God declares it and not as I understand it. This is part of what it means to be a peculiar or holy people. In fact I think the message of our text is simply this:

Thesis: The people of God see in suffering an opportunity to grow and a chance to glorify God.

Now that is radically different from the way an unbeliever responds to crisis. But please understand I’m not talking about “positive thinking” or “possibility thinking.” This is not a mind game – I’m talking about faith in action. Peter does not write these words in a vacuum. He has already established that these folks have been given new birth into a living hope…into an inheritance that is forever fixed and settled in heaven. They are a royal priesthood, a holy nation – a people of God’s own choosing.
This is the basis for their living by faith – it is not a leap in the dark. It is to rest in the arms of God. It is to trust him who is worthy.

There are two things I want us to note in our text.

  1. The people of God find in troublesome times the opportunity to rejoice. (4:12-13)
  2. The people of God find in troublesome times an opportunity to grow. (4:14-19)

Conclusion:

When suffering comes you must entrust yourself to God (4:19).

Peter, as a loving pastor, gives us very practical advise for responding to times of severe trial –
See it as an opportunity to grow/mature in your faith
See it as an occasion to glorify God.

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Persistent Prayer: The Key to Surviving the Not Yet

Persistent Prayer: The Key to Surviving the Not Yet: 2016 Gospel of Luke #69

Exposition of LukeThis is an exposition of Luke 18:1-8. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 13, 2017

Intro:

Do you find prayer easy? Does it come naturally to you so that you do not struggle with prayer rather you regularly, faithfully and with great boldness plead your cause before the Father? If you said, “Yes,” do you lie about other things too? It’s hard enough to pray at all, let alone to keep on praying until you get an answer. There are reasons for why we struggle (and honestly none of them are good). There is physical weakness, ever fall asleep while you’re praying? There is laziness or lack of discipline, we simple do not make time to pray. Indifference, we are callous towards the needs of others and our world. There is lack of faith in the promises of God, we just are not sure He will do as He says. Of course there is just outright rebellion. We know we ought to pray we just don’t! Then, sometimes we stop praying because we lose heart. God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we think He ought to. We pray for the sick and they are not healed. We pray that God will provide but we are still out of work. We pray for someone’s salvation and them seem to be moving further away from the Lord. Whatever the reason we struggle to pray because things are not as they should be. Life is not to our liking. It’s too painful, too chaotic, or we just can’t deal with the uncertainty of it all.

Our world is broken. It is not the world as God created it. It is a world corrupted by sin and distorted by the fallen sons and daughters of Adam. 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. The Christian worldview is fast becoming the minority opinion. Once the dominant worldview we are becoming the Kook fringe! 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 Luke 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.

(Read the text.)

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! The key for unlocking this parable is in the lock.

“Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

Let’s take a look at the parable itself.
First the characters.
We are introduced to two characters:

  1. A corrupt judge
  2. A wronged widow

Our Lord’s Interpretation.
Now Jesus makes the application and here is where so many interpreters miss the point. Look carefully at Luke 18:6 through 8.

Listen to it in the NLT

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this evil judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end, so don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when I, the Son of Man, return, how many will I find who have faith?” (Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.)

This is a parable of contrast!
God is not an evil judge!

We are not defenseless, helpless widows – we are beloved sons and daughters, joint heirs with Christ – that is the focus of this parable.

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.

Why do we keep coming to him in prayer?
Because this loving, caring, gracious God has power sufficient to meet our every need.

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A Passion for Justice

A passion for Justice: Selected Psalms

The PsalmsThis is an exposition of Psalm 58. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, August 9, 2017.

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Living in Light of His Coming

Living In Light of His Coming: 2017 Study of 1 Peter #13

This is an exposition of 1 Peter 4:7-11. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, August 6, 2017.

Intro:

It used to be commonplace; it dominated the preaching of Baptists a generation ago. Pulpits across the land thundered with the announcement of the coming judgment. Sermons warning of the coming Day of the Lord when divine justice would call to account the wicked and the godless. Today we are too sophisticated for such things. The culture, and it would seem the church, no longer believes that history will climax in a day of judgment. In fact many believers seem embarrassed by such notions. Images of red-faced preachers shaking their fists and calling down fire from above must be avoided if we are to be taken seriously by today’s enlightened culture. Modern man has replaced the notion of final judgment with the myth of endless progress. After all, the world is a better place today than it was 100 years ago. Look at our progress. Because of advances in science and medicine diseases that once devastated entire continents have been virtually eradicated. Technological advances have made work easier and more productive. Technology has managed to “shrink” the world. A journey that once took months now takes hours. The Internet puts the world at your fingertips.

The downside is that such advances have encouraged the notion that given time, techniques and the right leadership – we can make the world a better place. If we just take the right path we will create a utopian society. The problem is – though we are living longer and easier – we are not living better! Replacing the fact of final judgment with the myth of endless progress has not served our best interest.

While I’m not suggesting we return to the “sawdust trail” or begin a picket ministry in downtown Tulsa announcing the coming doom – I am suggesting that we return to the biblical pattern of declaring the end of all things is near. The aged apostle Peter was writing to a group of folks who were facing desperate times. Their faith was costing them dearly. Many had died – others would follow, yet Peter was not compelled to sugarcoat the message in order to help them feel better about their circumstances – he set forth the truth in plain language. He reminded them of their need for the Gospel – not just to be saved but also to live. He admonished them to live lives of holiness. He spoke of the need to submit to those in authority; the proper relationship between husbands and wives; the fact that at times it is necessary to suffer for the sake of righteousness – he reminded them of the judge who is ready to judge the living and the dead – then he said, “By the way, the end of all things is near.” Our text this evening is found in 1 Peter 1 Peter 4.

Text: 1 Peter 4:7-11

This text is about living in light of the return of Christ. We have a natural curiosity of the future. We want to know what is coming and we’d like to know when. But let’s be honest – some of the most outlandish things in the world have been done because “the end is near.” You remember all the panic related to Y2K. Some of you will remember the suicidal end of the Heaven’s Gate Cult and the fiery end of the Branch Dividians. I remember the fury of activity and predictions in the late 70’s and early 80’s as prophecy preachers made bold predictions. I remember reading 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Return in 1988 and its sequel – I Meant 89! I don’t have a problem with people who study prophecy, who diligently search the Scripture and try to make application – I just don’t feel that its all that helpful. In fact if we are not careful it can be harmful and lead to the attitude Peter addresses in 2 Peter 3.

2 Peter 3:3-4
I want us to note Peter’s approach to this subject in our text. His advice is straightforward and basic. He doesn’t beat around the bush and he doesn’t get theoretical. From Peter we learn:

Thesis: In an age dominated by the myth of social progress and unlimited potential believers must live lives focused on the fact of the coming judgment.

Now, don’t confuse basic with easy.
Peter demands some things from us that are difficult.

There are two things I want to point out in our text.

  1. The urgency of the hour simplifies our options. (4:7-11a)
    Survival mode calls for simplicity.
    Peter says four things are necessary in light of our Lord’s coming:
    A sober mind and a calm spirit – for the purpose of prayer – 4:7
    A fervent love for one another – 4:8
    A hospitable attitude – 4:9
    A servant’s heart – 4:10-11a
  2. The urgency of the hour reminds us of the goal of our living. (4:11b)

“So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

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Thy Kingdom Come and Come Again?

“Thy Kingdom Come and Come Again?”: 2016 Gospel of Luke #67

Exposition of Luke

This is an exposition of Luke 17:20-37. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Batptist Church on Sunday morning, August 6, 2017.

Intro:

It’s a classic routine. I must have heard it a hundred times and I laugh every time I hear it. Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” The routine involves a reporter talking to a baseball player about the strange names of some of the ball players. He asks about some of the fellas playing on this team. Costello replies, “Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know’s on third.” “What’s the guys name on first?” “No what’s on second.” “I’m not asking who’s on second.” “Who’s on first.” “I don’t know.” “He’s on third!” It is a masterful routine that goes on for several minutes and becomes very confusing. To watch or listen to that is fun. To have that happen to you is not so fun! Have you ever had one of those conversations that somewhere in the middle of it – you found yourself wondering if you and the other person were engaged in the same conversation? The same words are going back and forth – but you’re not communicating?

I’m afraid that is often the case as believers engage in conversation regarding certain doctrines. This confusion has led many to believe that doctrine should be avoided because it is too confusing or divisive. The truth is there are some doctrines that we do struggle to understand. There are aspects of the truth that we will never fully grasp. The Christian life is one of continual study and growth. We never “arrive” we are always in pursuit. But that is not an excuse to “blow it off” and say, “Leave that for the theologians to argue.” Every believer has a responsibility to “study to show themselves approved unto God. A workmen who doesn’t have to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.” That is not reserved for the pastor, theologian, teacher or church leader – but every child of God.

One of those “confusing” areas of doctrine is the focus of our text this morning. What about the Kingdom of God? Jesus, in the model prayer, told us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” John the baptizer came preaching, “Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” Jesus went forth preaching the good news of the kingdom. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talked about kingdom living. One day Jesus said to a group of people “there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). And yet there are other passages in which we are told that when Jesus comes the whole world will know it and no one can deny it. It’s all very confusing. Did the kingdom come in the first century? Is it here now? Is it coming in the future? The answer is yes! It came. It is here and it is coming later. Our text is found in Luke 17:20-37.

Text: Luke 17:20-37

Luke is narrowing the focus of his Gospel.
We are in the final months of our Lord’s earthly ministry.
He is moving steadily, decisively toward the cross.
He is focused more and more on the kingdom.
He is concentrating more and more on his followers, preparing them for his departure.

One of the problems with the passages dealing with the kingdom of God is that often different but related questions are being dealt with within the same text. That is what we have in the text before us. Often, in our attempt to define the trees, we fail to see the forest! We can become so fixated on the details we fail to see the grand scheme. I’m confident that God has a very detailed and exact plan and program scheduled. I’m less confident about our ability to decipher that plan! I’m also convinced that there is plenty of room for discussion and disagreement among believers on the details. What is essential is that we understand the larger issue.

I am convince from our text that:

Thesis: When it comes to the Kingdom of God believers must learn to live in the tension between the now and the not yet.

This is not a matter of compromise or semantics.
This is not a clever attempt at fence straddling.
This is the biblical understanding of the kingdom of God.

For years there has been a running feud between those who saw the kingdom as a present reality and those who saw it as entirely future. Both sides have had to engage in theological gymnastics in order to get around certain troublesome passages. I once had a discussion with a man I love and respect, that was greatly concerned about how to teach the January Bible Study. The study that year was the Sermon on the Mount. I asked him, “What is your problem?” His reply shocked me. “I want to be practical. That passage is about life in the kingdom. It doesn’t relate to us. It is for the kingdom age.” Now he was consistent in his dispensational approach to Scripture, I’ll grant him that. But he was wrong! At the same time I know others who feel that everything related to the kingdom is here present. That there is no future fulfillment. There is no kingdom yet to come. That’s wrong as well. It is not a matter of either or. It is both and!

There are two things I want us to glean from our text.

  1. The believer lives in the confident assurance that the kingdom of God is a present reality. (17:20-21)
  2. The believer lives in the confident hope of the ultimate fulfillment of the Kingdom with the return of Christ. (17:22-37)

Then our Lord reveals three things about His coming.

When He comes – no one will have to speculate as to whether or not He has come.
When He comes – He will come in judgement.
When He comes – we must have the proper focus.

Conclusion:
In the days before the flood and the days before Sodom was destroyed – it was business as usual. They were consumed with the mundane as if that was the profound!

How do we avoid that mistake?
Live and walk in the knowledge that the kingdom of God is here now and in the confident hope that its ultimate fulfillment is yet to come. A biblical understanding of the kingdom of God demands that you live within the tension of the now and the not yet.

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Parables of the Growing Seed and the Mustard Seed

This is an exposition of Mark 4:26-34. This message was delivered by Brother Ron Lundin at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, August 2, 2017.

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Living in an Alien Environment

Living In An Alien Environment: 2017 Study of 1 Peter #12

This is an exposition of 1 Peter 4:1-6. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, July 30, 2017.

Intro:

I was so excited. For months I had anticipated the departure. I was a bit nervous. After all, we were going a long way from home. We would be gone two weeks even though I was part of a group of 40-50 people I was apprehensive. It’s not that I had not been to exotic places. I had been to Turley, Skidee and Wakinee, Kansas! But the trip to Argentina was full of wonder for me. Things had gone relatively smooth from Oklahoma City to Dallas and from Dallas to Miami. When we boarded the plan in Miami bound for South America things changed. I was separated from the rest of the group. On the flight to Buenos Aries I was surrounded by Spanish and Portuguese speaking people. That’s when it hit me. For the first time I was heading somewhere where I was going to be in the minority. I would be in unfamiliar territory. I would not know the language and would know nothing of the culture. I was going to be the foreigner!

Those were two of the most exciting weeks I have ever known. Yes, I was a foreigner; I had trouble understanding the culture. I saw all kinds of strange things. I saw things that sickened me. I saw things that angered me. Yet it was a vast mission field. Everywhere you turned there were mission opportunities. As time worn on I longed more and more for home. I developed some sweet relationships. I fell in love with the people of Argentina. But Argentina was not my home and I wanted to go home.

As a believer in Christ – this world is not my home. As the old Gospel song put it –
“This world is not my home, I’m just pass’n through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me to heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

That is how we are to live in this sinful, fallen world. This isn’t it. Our citizenship is in heaven. Our home is there.

That is what Peter is trying to say to those folks so hard pressed by persecution. “Sure this world stinks. Sure you’re getting the short end of the stick – life is hard – but this is not your home. You’re on you way home but you are not there yet.”

This is a relevant message for us. Take a look around you. This is a pagan culture. We are surrounded by people who do not share our values, who openly embrace a way of life that is foreign to us. Our culture is becoming increasingly pagan and do you know why? Because the world is dominated by pagans!

Now, while that is true, we are here for a reason. There is a purpose for our being left on the planet. The question we will deal with this evening is, “How am I to live as a resident alien in this pagan land?”

Text: 1 Peter 4:1-6

Thesis: As aliens in a hostile environment, believers are called to godly living.

What does it mean to live godly? When we talk about godliness or holiness we usually think in terms of lists. We think of lists of “dos” and “don’ts”. And to be honest – those lists are usually pretty superfluous. It amounts to nothing more than “moralism.” What I mean by that is – it does not require faith. It does not require the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It does require faith in God or even belief in a god – it merely requires a determination to avoid certain things and to practice certain things. Nonbelievers can avoid playing cards and going to movies – and yet a few years back – that was the definition of godliness! Surely to live godly, in the biblical sense, means something more. That is what our text is about.

There are three things I want to call to your attention regarding godly living.

  1. Godly living demands a clear, decisive identification with Christ. (4:1a)
  2. Godly living demonstrates a definite break with sin. (4:1b-3)
  3. Godly living divides the believing from the unbelieving. (4:4-6)

Conclusion:
We live as resident aliens in a hostile land. What does that require of us? To live godly. Godly living demands a clear, decisive identification with Christ.
Godly living demonstrates a definite break with sin.
Godly living divides the believing from the unbelieving.

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A Grateful People

A Grateful People: 2016 Gospel of Luke #67

Exposition of LukeThis is an exposition of Luke 17:11-19. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, July 30, 2017.

Intro:

We, as the people of God, are to be a separate people; distinct and different from the world around us. Set apart for God’s purposes and God’s glory. As such we are to see life from a different perspective. We are to respond in a different way from those who do not know God. One of those distinguishing characteristics is a sense of genuine gratitude. We are to be a thankful people. Grateful for every act of kindness we experience. Thankful for the slightest blessing. Humbled by simplest gift. Regrettably, that is too often not true of us. We are like the woman whose son was swept up in the tornado. The storm blew up quickly. The woman grabbed her young son, who was playing in the yard, and began to run for the shelter. The winds overtook them and the son disappeared into the swirling debris as he was sucked out of her arms. The woman feel to her knees and cried, “Dear God, bring back my boy. He’s all I’ve got. I’ll do anything to have my boy back.” She began to sob. Suddenly her son dropped at her feet. She jumped up, took the boy in her arms and began to dance with joy. Abruptly she stopped and stared at her child. Then she glared into the heavens and said, “Lord, he was wearing a hat!” Some people just can’t be pleased. No matter how much they are given – it is not enough. Ingratitude is an ugly thing especially when considered from the vantage point of faith.

Biblically, we know everything we have and all that we are we owe to the grace of God. Ingratitude is born in the heart that believes God owes us something. The truth is God doesn’t owe us a thing. Yet we owe Him everything! Our text this morning is found in the 17th chapter of Luke’s Gospel.

Text: Luke 17:11-19

Our Lord is on his way to Jerusalem. He is going there to die. To give his life a ransom for many. He is marching to the cross. Along the way he has been teaching, preaching and healing. Hostilities are mounting as he continues to engage with the religious establishment. They are determined to find cause to get rid of him. Meanwhile he popularity is growing among the people.

In the immediate context he has been talking with his disciples about the demands of the Christian life. This is what I expect of you because you belong to me. He lays out for them in the first 10 verses of Luke 17 requirements of “normal” christian living. Cause no sin, confront all sin, forgive any sin. That’s awfully demanding. In fact it is well beyond our abilities. We must trust the grace of God to do the very things he demands of us. This is crucial to our understanding what it means to be Christian. The christian life demands exacting obedience fueled by total dependance. Apart from his enabling we cannot even do the basic things required of us. Thus Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Following that teaching session our Lord continues his journey toward the holy city. Along the way he encounters a group of lepers. It is here we discover another of the marks of genuine faith.

[Read the text]

This encounter serves to remind us that…

Thesis: Profound gratitude marks the heart genuinely transformed by the touch of God’s mercy.

We are to be a grateful people. In our text we discover three characteristics of genuine, biblical gratitude.

  1. Gratitude begins with an understanding of just how desperate the need. (17:11-13)
  2. Gratitude sees Christ as the only hope of relief. (17:14)
  3. Gratitude expresses itself with praise and thanksgiving. (17:15-19)

Conclusion:
Note Luke 17:18 – this foreigner. Only use of this word in the NT yet a prominent word in that day. It was on a sign warning Gentiles not to enter the temple. This cleansed leper would not have been welcomed at the temple but he was welcomed at the feet of Jesus!

He is told his faith has made him whole. His faith saved him. This one had saving faith. He was made well, made whole. All were cleansed but apparently the other 9’s healing was only skin deep! This one was made whole evidenced by a grateful heart overwhelmed by the grace and mercy of God.

Profound gratitude marks the heart genuinely transformed by the touch of God’s mercy.

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Trusting God and Fearing Man

Trusting God and Fearing Man, from Selected Psalms

The PsalmsThis is an exposition of Psalm 56. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, July 26, 2017.

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