Thursday, December 29, 2005

Back to Work!!!

I'm back to work after being on vacation for the past two weeks. This was the best vacation I have ever had. I feel rested, refreshed, and ready for the new year. I have been in the office the past several days. But I have not really been able to catch up on much administrative work. The office is closed until next week. So I have kind of had the house to myself. This has allowed me to plunge right into my study. I am scheduled to preach Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Saturday evening, I am to preach a Watch Night Service at the New Philadelphia AME Church in Carson, where Sherman Gordon is the pastor. To my knowledge, MSMBC has never had a Watch Night Service. So, usually, I am in the bed sleep when one year passes to the next. So this will be new for me. But what better way to start a the new year than in the assembly of God's people in worship.

Of course, New Year's Day is this coming Sunday. So I will have to get out of that Watch Night Service and try to get as much rest as possible, so that I will be ready to lead worship and preach in our Lord's Day Service. We will meet at 9:00 AM. And there will be no Sunday School (it's scheduled to resume on 1/8). I am working on an exposition of Matthew 14:22-33, where Jesus walks on water to rescue his disciples who were caught in a storm. And then Peter walks on the water to go to Jesus. I preached this text when I was a teenager. But that has been so long ago, that I am doing a fresh study of the passage. This is why I strive to be diligent is taking good notes now as I study scripture and write out my sermon manuscripts. If the Lord allows me to live and minister another ten or fifteen years, I want to have a better record of what I am presently learning and teaching from the scriptures. Anyway, I plan to finish my research today and write out the message tomorrow.

Monday, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, where my pastor Melvin V. Wade, Sr. serves, will host its annual "Prayer Bowl." It's an all-day interdenominational worship service of praise, prayer, and preaching. It's usually a really good meeting. When I was a boy, my friends and I used to go to Prayer Bowl every year. Mt. Moriah's rather large auditorium would be packed to capacity. And we would squeeze into on of the back rows. On several occasions, we sat in the last row with the ushers. I would hear men like Dr. William Epps, Manual Scott, Jr., Pastor Jarvis Collier, and other stellar preachers, one after the other. I never thought I would one day preach this meeting. My goal each year was just to get a seat. But in the providence of God, I have been preaching this meeting for twelve or thirteen years now. Many members of MSMBC will be present. Mt. Moriah is my "home church," so they usually receive my eagerly preaching. And many friends from across the city will be present. I pray this will be the best meeting in a long time. I am note yet sure what I will preach either Saturday night or Monday. I have been working this week to get myself ready for Sunday. 95% of the time, I preach and/or teach new material at Mt. Sinai. But I virtually never do new material away from Mt. Sinai. If it's good enough for my family; it's good enough for someone else's. So I am working to prepare for my first sermon of the year in my own pulpit. And I am trusting the Lord to guide me what to preach that will win the lost and edify the saints. Remember me in your prayers. And happy new year!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Georgia on my Mind

It was a long, exhausting, and wonderful weekend. Crystal and I caught a red-eye flight from Honolulu. We were to arrive at LAX and then catch another flight to Atlanta. But we missed our connecting flight. So we left Saturday for Atlanta in the afternoon, rather than in the morning. It was past 9 PM when we reached Atlanta. And by the time we reached Macon, it was about 11 PM. In essence, we spent all of Saturday in planes and on/or in airports. By the time we got something to eat, checked into our hotel, showered-up and settled-down, it was past 2 AM. And we had to be ready for church at 7 AM. We had jet-lag, airport-jag, and any other "jag" that has to do with being tired. We didn't fall asleep as much as we simply passed out!

Yesterday was Crystal's birthday. And we spent the day "churchin." We were in Macon to be with our friend, Pastor Maurice Watson. Watson, former pastor of the Salem Baptist Church in Omaha, is now the pastor of Beulahland Bible Church of "middle Georgia." The church is spoken of this way because it is one-church-in-two-locations. The congregation meets at 7:30 and 11:30 AM at its Macon location. And it meets at 9:30 at a site in Warner-Robbins, where is currently building its own facility (By the way, Pastor Watson announced yesterday that the church would be going to four services in February, 2006). I preached all three services at the two locations. That was something new for me. I was very tired. But the Lord gave me strength to preach. Pastor Watson is my favorite preacher, hands down. He is a solid and consistent expository preacher. And he is a sincere, prayerful, and devoted pastor. His example has been a great blessing to my life and ministry. And I am honored beyond words that he considers me his friend. So it was with pure joy that I watched him lead his new congregation in worship (He has served Beulahland for less than two years.). I am so excited that the Lord is blessing his ministry here. And I pray that the Lord will continue to strategically use Pastor Watson and the Beulahland Church to proclaim and promote the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

After the services, Crystal and I had lunch with Pastor Watson and his family. Then we came back to Atlanta. I slept off most of the entire evening. Crystal went out to see the Leslies, a family from MSMBC that moved to Atlanta a couple of years ago (By the way, our daughter, Natalie Marie, got her middle name from Marie Leslie). We miss the Leslies a lot. They were not able to make it to Macon for the worship services, but I am glad that Crystal and Marie were able to hook-up. When we get up and moving this morning, we plan to spend the day seeing the sights around Atlanta. This is really the first time either of us have been to Atlanta. I have been here once before to preach, but I was here for less then 24 hours. In fact, I was here to preach on October 8, 1999. When I sat down from preaching, I found out that my wife had given birth to our son, H.B. III, who was six-weeks premature. Interestingly, I met one of the "mothers" of Beulahland Church yesterday who heard me preach that night, more than six years ago. This "young lady" was at least in her seventies. And I thanked her for remembering. She assured me that, although she had a stroke a few years ago, God simply used it to get rid of the stuff she didn't need to remember. Now, she only remembers the importance stuff! That was great. I really enjoyed those few moments talking with this dear mother. I love to see senior saints who are still on fire for the Lord.

Tomorrow, God willing, we will head home to our children. I really miss them and look forward to seeing them. And I will start my work for Christmas morning. I intend to do an exposition of Matthew 2:1-12. I will have to be very disciplined and creative about my study time this week. Crystal and I plan to take the kids somewhere in driving distance from LA for a few days. We are going to celebrate Crystal's birthday together as a family. I have had (and am having) a good vacation. But I do look forward to getting home and returning to my life and ministry routines. I really miss MSMBC. Even though I travel a lot, I am not often away from Mt. Sinai on Sunday morning. Being with Beulahland yesterday made me long for my own pulpit. Hopefully, I'll be there soon. But not too soon... I still have a little more vacation time left.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Are You On Your Honeymoon?

Yesterday, three different people asked me and Crystal whether we were on our honeymoon. Our answer was no. We then told them that we have been married for seven years. And each time our questioners responded with utter shock. They were amazed that we looked so young. There’s no way we could be married for seven years. We must have been kids when we got married. Now, these are great compliments, except for the fact that none of them were for me! In each instance, the comments were about my wife, Crystal, not me. These people couldn’t believe that Crystal could be married seven years, much less be the mother of two. And when she told them how old she is, they were even more shocked. All the while, I was standing there, trying to look as young as I could on the spur of the moment. Unfortunately, I look like I have been pastoring for fifteen years, and then some. So I don’t get the “you-look-so-young” look. I get the “what-is-that-old-man-doing-with-that-young-girl” look. Actually, I’m not offended. I read somewhere that young-looking wives are evidence of good husbands. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

After Seven Years, I Still Do!!!

I met Crystal during my senior year at Los Angeles High School. She was in the tenth grade. She was in my World History class. And I thought she was absolutely beautiful. We really didn’t interact much in school. She was doing what tenth-graders do. And I was doing what very few twelfth-graders do (pastoring a church). After I graduated, I did not see Crystal again for several years, even though I would ask my sister, Donetta, about her often. They were in the same grade and had formed a friendship at LA High. In fact, that’s how I met up with Crystal again. I went to visit my mom one day, and Crystal was there. My sister was doing her hair. That weekend, we made a connection. And we talked and saw each other periodically after that. From the first time I was around Crystal, I have said that she is the easiest person for me to be around that I have ever met. And that hasn’t changed. I love being with Crystal.

I do not know exactly when I first fell in love with Crystal. But I vividly remember the night I found out that I was in love with her. At the time, she was not even speaking to me. She had told me that she didn’t want to see me anymore (for the record, it was all my fault). And I thought I didn’t care, until that night. I will not go into details about that night, or the circumstances surrounding it, but that night was a turning point for me. However, it took months before Crystal reached that point. She was so mad at me that she wouldn’t receive my calls. We only started talking again because of her mother's intervention. Crystal’s mom, Charlene, picked me way before Crystal did (She passed away early in our marriage, but was the best mother-in-law a guy could have.). After we reconnected, we dated for quite some time before I asked her to marry me. I had intended to ask her to marry me on her birthday, December 18, in 1997. But, believe it or not, I was in the middle of a court case with a group of church members who wanted my pastorate terminated. The case was supposed to come to an end at the beginning of the next year. And trusted friends asked me to wait until that happened before I proposed. I reluctantly agreed.

It was several months into the following year, and the case was still pending. I had been on the road for several weeks. And I returned home to the news that my older sister’s newborn had died. I went to my office. I called one of my best friends. And he gave me the news that his grandfather, who has raised him, had died. I was overwhelmed. And all I could think about was Crystal. I concluded that life was too short for me to delay any longer. I told my friend that I was going to marry Crystal immediately. I didn't know if I was going to have a job in the comign days or not, but it didn't matter. I wanted to be with Crystal. While I was on the phone, there was a knock at the door. My sister and brother-in-law were concerned about me and had sent Crystal to my office to check on me. I was so glad to see her. And I proposed to her right there in my office.

Crystal and I were married at the end of that year, on December 12, 1998. Within a year, we were parents. H.B. Charles III was born on October 8, 1999. Several years later, on March 4, 2002, our daughter Natalie Marie Charles was born. So here we are after seven years. Ten years ago, if you have told either of us that we would be here together, we would have laughed. In fact, we did laugh at those who said we were going to end up together. But here we are, by the grace of God.

I thank God every day that I am privileged to be married to Crystal. Incredibly, she is even more beautiful today than she was when I first saw here in high school. She is humble, God-fearing, maternal, patient, optimistic, and wise. The more time I spend with her, the more reasons I find to fall in love with her all over again. She is my "Sunshine," my best friend, my prayer partner, my unwavering ally, and my soul mate. I really couldn’t imagine what life would be like without her. And I hope I never do. So much has happened in my life at an early age that I used to think that the Lord was getting so much in early because I would be checking-out early. But being with Crystal has caused me to regularly pray that I will live to be an old man. I look forward to growing old with Crystal. At the same time, I cherish every day with her. I love Crystal with all of my heart. I did seven years ago, when we exchanged vows with one another. I still love her (now, more than ever). And I always will.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Celebration of 15 Years

Today was the culmination of our celebration of the 15 years the Lord has blessed me and MSMBC to be together as pastor and people. This morning, Dr. John A. Reed Jr. of the Fairview Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, delivered the message. His preached a message called "You Can't Quit" from Acts 18:5-6, 9-11. He will never know how timely his message was and how the Lord was used him to speak to specific matters I have been struggling with. I am convinced the Lord sent Pastor Reed here just for me. I know that many other people in the congregation were blessed by the message. But I really think the Lord sent Pop here for me. This message is one of the most important messages I have ever heard in my life. It wasn't because of its expositional depth or homiletical brilliance. It was because the Lord used this message to speak to my heart and mind at a very critical time. Praise God for his goodness, his wisdom, and his faithfulness.

This evening, my pastor, Dr Melvin V. Wade Sr. of the Mt Moriah Baptist Church here in the city, preached the message. He preached a message from John 20:24-29, entitled "Don't Miss the Meeting." Doc was tired. And he had a plane to catch tonight. So I didn't really expect him to preach that hard tonight. Boy, was I wrong. Pastor Wade went into that "zone" that he is known to enter. He just poured himself out in the midst of preaching. The last time Pastor preached at MSMBC, he didn't "whoop" at all. Tonight, someone would have had to sit him down if he would have gone much further. My friends, Pastor Prentiss Lewis and the Greater Starlight Church, also joined in the service. And we got a chance to hear Prentiss sing. This is always a treat. Prentiss is multi-gifted. And I praise God that he is my friend.

Well, one anniversary ends and another begins. Tomorrow, Crystal and I will celebrate seven years of marriage. Interestingly, our wedding ceremony was performed by Pastors Melvin Wade, John Reed, and Kevin Willis. So it was very special to have the three of them with us this weekend. Tomorrow, Crystal and I have a flight to catch to an "undisclosed location." Oh, well, Crystal just came in the door and gave me permission to tell that we are going to Hawaii for the week. Then we are going to Macon (GA) to be with our friend Pastor Maurice Watson and the Beulahland Church next weekend. And when we come home, we'll pick up the kids (they'll be staying with our nephew and my mother while we're gone) and hang out somewhere together until I have to be home for service on Christmas Day. I trust that I will get a lot of rest over the next two weeks. I intend to post when I feel like it, which may every day, or not much at all. We'll see. I won't make any promises. I'm on vacation!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Get Yourself Some Help

Last night, my brother Kevin preached the message during our fifteenth pastoral anniversary celebration. His text was from Exodus 18. His title was, "Get Yourself Some Help." The passage is about Moses' encounter with his father-in-law, Jethro, in which he is instructed to spread out the leadership responsibilities of the people so that they will not all wear themselves out. Kevin used the text to talk about the importance of pastors and church leaders not having a inflated sense of self-importance. And he challenged the church to partner with the pastor in order to reach the goals God has for the congregation. It think it was a rather gusty sermon. He discussed a lot of things that pastors struggle with, but don't often talk about (publicly or privately). And it was encouraging. But it's always hard under my brother's preaching. I am listening to the message. But at the same time, I see my father in him. And I look up to him so much. I have to work much harder than usual to concentrate on the message. Kevin is my big brother, "in whom I am well pleased." I continue to pray for his growth, family, and ministry.

During the service, Barry Wilson, Reginald Payne, Tracy Johnson and I all sat together on the front row. That's was a trip. The four of us began preaching together at MSMBC when we were still teenagers. Actually, I hadn't made it to my teens yet (sorry guys). And we were nurtured together under my father's leadership. In fact, we were all sitting together the night I was called to pastor Mt. Sinai fifteen years ago. It was great to have them share this milestone with me. Likewise, Clinton Smith and Ronald Saunders were on the front row with us. Clint, my brother-in-law, joined the church not long after I became pastor. And Ronald joined a couple of years after that. And for some time, it was only the three of us there serving as pastors. We would split up the work between the three of us. At this point, all six of us are pastoring local churches. And we don't get to see each other that often. It was very special to me to be with them for that time of worship last night.

Pastor John Reed made it to town and came out to the service last night. "Pops," who pastors the Fairview Church of Oklahoma City, is scheduled to bring the message in the morning. He ordained me, Reggie, Barry, and Tracy. It was good to have him there with us last night. Likewise, my sister Donetta sung in the service last night. She has been sick for several months. But she is slowly doing better. And it was good to hear her sing again ("The Lord Will Make Away Somehow"). Tomorrow, Pastor Reed is to preach in the morning and my pastor, Dr. Melvin Wade of the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, is to preach in the afternoon. I look forward to high times of worship and two edifying messages. Then, it's off to my vacation!!!

Friday, December 09, 2005

I have a Confession to Make

I have a confession to make. I have been trying to avoid this for a few weeks now. But I haven't been able to hide from the truth. In fact, it seems everywhere I go, I see signs reminding me of my wrong. Literally. But I can't run from the truth anymore. I have to come clean today. Oh well, let me stop beating around the bush. Here it is. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe hits theaters today. And I intend to see it some time over the next two weeks, while I'm on vacation. But I have never read any of the seven C.S. Lewis novels in the series. That's my confession. And boy am I glad to get that off of my chest. It's as if a heavy burden has been lifted. In fact, it feels so good, I think I'll say it again. I have never read any of the C.S. Lewis Narnia novels.

Now, I am not proud of this fact. I am quite ashamed of this great wrong. In fact, I have been fearful about talking about this subject, thinking that if I confessed to the average person I know, they'd respond, "What's wrong with you? Didn't you go to elementary school? What, you couldn't read until you in junior high?" Let me be clear. Yes, there is something wrong with me. Yes, I did go to elementary school. And, yes, I did know how to read in junior high. But, no, I did not read any of C.S. Lewis' novels. Now, if it helps, I have read many other of Lewis' works. I've read the perennial best-seller, The Screwtape Letters (by the way, if you haven't read Screwtape, shame on you!). I've read Mere Christianity. I've read A Grief Observed, and many other writings of C.S. Lewis. I have read some biographical works on his life. And I have even seen Shadowlands, thank you very much (Anthony Hopkins was great!). But I know this does not atone for the fact that I have not read any of the Narnia books. And to prove that my repentance is sincere, I'm not going to lie and tell you that I am going to read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe before I go see the movie. Nope. I am going to go see the movie as soon as possible. And I may (emphasis on "may") get inspired to read the book. But it won't be any time soon (hopefully before the sequel comes out, and I'm down another book). But as much as I complain about how awful the media, music, and movies are. Here is a movie worth seeing. It's by a great evangelical author. It's a great story (or so I'm told). And the movie is a good treatment of the book (or so the critics say). Anyway, if you're looking for a movie to see this holiday, this would be a good one to put on your list. If I'm wrong, don't tell anyone. They may cancel my contract to host the new "Ebert, Roeper & H.B.: At the Movies" next season.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Something to Shout About

Last night, our fifteenth pastoral anniversary celebration kicked-off. Dr. A.D. Iverson brought the message. He is the pastor of the historic Paradise Baptist Church in our city. He preached my installation fifteen years ago. And he has been a consistent friend over the years. I have had the privilege of preaching at Paradise on a number of occasions. And I always enjoy my times of fellowship with Pastor Iverson. He and I have something unique in common, in that we both pastor the churches our fathers served for many years.

Dr. Iverson preached from Luke 10:17-20. His title was, "Something to Shout About." He only preached about 20 minutes. And his message wasn't deep or heavy. It was a simple reminder that we must not take credit for the work the Lord does through us. And that our greatest joy ought to be that our names are written in heaven. Likewise, Copelia L., one of our newer members, sung one of my favorite hymns: "Only What You Do For Christ Will Last." It was very moving. I was also greatly encouraged by the words of Lisa W. She spoke of the two messages that have stood out to her since she has been a member of MSMBC. She spoke of several things she has observed that cause her to respect me. And she offered God's blessings to me with the same words I offer God's blessings to the church when we meet together: Numbers 6:24-26. I was moved to tears. Also, my friend, Pastor Nathaniel Haley and members of the 1st Antioch Church were present. It is always good to be the company of Nate. He is one of the very fine younger pastors of our city.

My brother, Kevin Willis, and his wife, Linda, made it to town safely today. He is scheduled to preach the message in tomorrow night's service. I spent most of the afternoon with him. It's good to see him. I didn't know how much I missed him until I saw him today. I was just with him several months ago, during his pastoral anniversary. But I think that may be the issue. Because of our schedules, we only get to see one another when some type of "work" is involved. I pray that real soon we get to just spend some "down time" together (whatever that is). But I really do look forward to hearing him tomorrow night. Likewise, some of the "Sons of Sinai" should be present for that service, as well. It should be a great meeting. My our praises go higher and the celebration goes forward. Truly we have something to shout about.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Which Came First?

There's an age-old question that is yet to be answered: which came first, the chicken or the egg? The same type of question can also be asked of hurting pastors and churches. Which came first? Did the pastor hurt the church, causing it to be hurtful in return? Or was it the other way around? I don't think we can ever know. Let's face it. The delicate balance between godly leadership and a healthy membership is fragile. There's a ugly reality about all of us that we just can't get around: we are all sinners! Redeemed sinners, we may be; but sinners, nonetheless. It doesn't matter how sincere our motives may be, how deep our devotion may be, or our strong our convictions may be. At our best, we are all finite, tainted, and still growing (hopefully). Consequently, our thoughts, words, actions, motives, and reactions will inevitably fall short of the perfect standard of Christlikeness many times.

Now, don't get me wrong. These rambling thoughts about church life are not meant to excuse sinful attitudes or behavior in the church. I'm just asserting an important fact: the church is made up of people. The church is not a physical building. It's not the religious rituals that take place in that building. And it's not the organizational functions that facilitate the missional work of the church. The church is people! We are redeemed people who are exist to bring glory to our Redeemer as we are in the process of becoming more like him. And, oddly enough, this growing process involves all kinds of sinful things that do not bring glory to the Redeemer. It's a seemingly contradictory reality. It's been well said that the church of Jesus Christ is much like Noah's ark: if it were not for the destruction on the outside, you would be able to stand the stench on the inside. That's the bottom line. Church stinks sometimes.


I have to admit here that this post is kind of taking on a life of its own. I had a clear point to make when I started, I think. But it seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way (I'll put it on a milk carton later. And maybe someone will find my lost point for me.). There are so many thoughts going through my mind right now. And they're all fighting for my attention. Honestly, I do not and cannot write about the ways pastors and churches hurt one another dispassionately. I think abnd talk about this subject from personal experience, not just from theoretical speculation. I've been on both sidelines, worn both uniforms, and have played for both teams. And my "expert testimony" is that there are really two things that overcome the sinful things that happen in churches between leaders and members, or among members themselves. The first is very simple, biblical, and effective: forgiveness. In Luke 6:37-38, Jesus instructs, "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."

Churches can be strong, healthy, and growing - in spite of the individual sins of the members and leaders or the collective sins of the congregation - if the church would major in Christ-centered forgiveness. Forgiveness obeys the Lord's charge to the church, leads to personal growth, strengthens the bonds of unity, gets the attention of this cut-throat world, and brings honor to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But when forgiveness doesn't truly take place ("from your heart," as Jesus would say in Matthew 18:35), growth is stunted, unity is broken, and Christ is dishonored. We can dress it up any way we want to. But the naked truth is that this is why so many church members pout, fight, and/or leave. And it's why so many pastors, who really ought to know better, join the members in pouting, fighting, or leaving. Or, as happens in most instances, they get put out! There are the only two options for the sinful realities of church life: forgive or fight. Ultimately, it doesn't matter which came first, hurt(ing) pastors or hurt(ing) churches. The issue is not which came first; it's what should come next. May the Lord help more of us choose forgiveness.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

15 Years & Counting

This week, the membership of MSMBC and I will celebrate 15 years of ministry together as pastor and people. I was selected to pastor Mt. Sinai on Monday, November 5, 1990. And I was installed as pastor during the week between the 1st and 2nd Sunday of that December. So much has happened over the course of these fifteen years, I wouldn't know where to begin talking about it all. There have been some great victories. And there have been some crushing defeats. There have been some things that bring a grateful smile to my mouth when I think about them. And there are other things that still make me cringe to think about. There have been a lot of changes - some good, some bad, and some a mixture of the two. But one thing I believe has been consistent throughout the years: my commitment to biblical preaching and teaching. I do not say this to compliment myself. Rather, I say it to affirm my confidence in the sufficiency of God's Word to save the lost, edify the church, and change the world. My goal is to have a philosophy of ministry that is stubbornly biblical. And I believe that I am heading in that direction. I still have so much to learn. And I have an even longer way to go in learning how to flesh out the practical implications of my doctrinal convictions. May the Lord help me to remain focused, diligent, and teachable, as I seek to guard my life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16).

The celebration of these fifteen years will take in worship services on Wednesday (12/7), Friday (12/9), and Sunday (12/11). One special element to these services will be that the men who preached my installation fifteen years ago are scheduled to preach again. On Wednesday, Pastor A.D. Iverson of the Paradise Baptist Church will bring the message. I don't think I will ever forget the message he preached that Wednesday night fifteen years ago. It was on the sin of Moses in Numbers 20. He called it, "Don't Knock the Rock." Friday, my brother, Kevin Willis, who pastors the Riverside Baptist Church in Memphis, will bring the message. He is Mt. Sinai's favorite preacher. I am sure that it will be a special service. On Sunday morning, "Pops," Dr. John A. Reed, Jr. of the Fairview Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, will bring the message. He was one of my dad's dear friends. And he has been a father to me since my dad's death. He was preaching at MSMBC the week my dad died. He ordained me. He installed me. I have preached his meeting during the OKC Simultaneous Revival since 1990. He... Oh, you get the picture. This celebration just wouldn't be complete without Pastor Reed here.

On the afternoon of my installation fifteen years ago, Dr. E.V. Hill preached the message. He preached a message that only Dr. Hill could preach. He called it, "What Can that Boy Tell Me?" Several years ago, the Lord called Dr. Hill home. He is the only one of the men who preached my installation that is not scheduled to return. But, by God's grace, we have a great replacement. My pastor, Dr. Melvin Wade of the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, will bring the message. Pastor Wade has been my pastor for most of my pastorate. And I cannot measure the contribution that the Lord has used him to be in my development as a man, Christian, husband, father, and and pastor. And Dr. Wade is one of the best preacher anywhere! I am really looking forward to hearing him preach again. Along with these special speakers, many other of friends from around will will join us during this celebration. Even my "boys," who were young preachers of the church with me when I was selected to pastor, will be back - with their own congregations. Above all, I look forward to sharing this special milestone with the leaders and members of MSMBC. God has been faithful to us. And he is worthy of our grateful praise. It's fifteen years and counting. May the Lord bless us with many more years of faithful and fruitful ministry.

Friday, December 02, 2005

My Current Reading List

My end-of-the-year vacation is quickly approaching. You just don't know how much I need this time of rest to recharge my batteries. One the special features of my vacation time is that it allows me to catch up on my personal reading. I am a bookaholic. Of course, reading is a vital part of my work. But it is also just a part of how I am wired. I begin to get anxious if I go a day or so without doing some personal reading. It keeps my mind alert and it's humbling to be constantly learning things I don't know. As I was writing this post, I reached down into my computer bag and pulled out seven books, besides my Bible and my journal. And on one the shelves behind me, I have another stack of books that I am trying to work through. Here are the ten books from my current reading list. I am at different places in my reading of these books. A couple of them I have just started. Others I have just a chapter or so to go. Regardless, I intend to be finished with these 10 books in the next six weeks:

1. Living By the Book - James Montgomery Boice - (Baker Books)

I love to read the late James Boice's writings. This particular book is an exposition of Psalm 119. I am reading it to help me get ready for the exposition of Psalm 119 that I am scheduled to begin in our Midweek Service on 1/18/05.

2. Trusting Thy Word - Jimmy Draper (Heartspring Media)

This is another verse-by-verse exposition of Psalm 119. I have several books by Draper that I have picked up over the years at various Lifeway Stores across the country. His work has proven to be biblical and practical. This one is also homiletical, which helps as I get ready to preach through Psalm 119.

3. Humility - C.J. Mahaney (Multnomah)

The Lord has been making me more and more sensitive to issues of pride in my life. And I truly pray and long to cultivate greater humility in my life. So I am looking forward to working through Mahaney's treatment of this subject. I also think it's the January book-of-the-month at MSMBC.

4. And the Place Was Shaken - John Franklin (Broadman & Holman Publishers)

This is a book on corporate prayer that I picked up somewhere a few months ago. Specifically, it's about the importance of corporate prayer meetings and how to lead them effectively.

5. On Writing Well - William Zinsser (Quill/Harper Collins)

I have read this book already. But I keep going through it as kind of an ongoing reference. It is filled with helpful advice about the principles, methods, and forms of good writing.

6. When Grace Comes Home - Terry L. Johnson (Christian Focus)

I have been richly blessed by this book. It discusses how the doctrines of grace have practical impact on the various aspects of our personal lives. Johnson has been enlarging my vision of God's sovereignty, goodness, wisdom, faithfulness, and love. This book has been a great blessing to me this year.

7. Preparing Evangelistic Sermons - Ramesh Richard (Baker Books)

I read Richard's previous book on preaching, "Sermon Sculpture." And it is quite helpful. I have just begun this work. But if it is anything like Sculpture, I trust that my preaching will be helped by this work as well. Most of my preaching is pastoral, seeking to nurture Christlikeness among the saints I serve at MSMBC. But I have to work at making sure that my preaching is consistently evangelistic, no matter what subject I am preaching on. I hope this book will aid this process.

8. Elders in Congregational Life - Phil A. Newton (Kregel Books)

In March, 2006, we intend to begin the process of formally embracing biblical eldership in MSMBC. Along with my preaching and teaching, I want to recommend several works for the congregation to read. Newton's book is readable, expositional, and practical. Along with his case for eldership in congregational life and his expositions of pertinent texts, he also discusses the transition process to eldership in his own church.

9. Confessions of a Caffeinated Christian - John Fisher (Salt River/Tyndale House)

Admittedly, I have not begun this book yet. And I really don't have any clue what it's about. But I love John Fisher's books. I have more than ten of his previous works. And his writing has always proven to be challenging for me. As one who grew up in church, I take a lot of things for granted. But Fisher cuts through the fog of the evangelical subculture and challenges the reader to be authentically Christian. If you want to read him, I would recommend that you begin with "On a Hill Too Far Away."

10. Made for His Pleasure - Alistair Begg (Moody Press)

I am reading this book for no particular reason. I am just on this Alistair Begg thing, lately. I really appreciate his stuff. I have caught him on the radio a few times. And I really enjoy his teaching (not to mention his accent).

Well, that's the current list. It's nothing deep. But it will keep me going over the next several weeks. Then it will be time to move on to the next group. Years ago, a friend of mine bought me a t-shirt that perfectly sums up the matter: "So many books; so little time!"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Remarkable Story with a Tragic Ending

As I was getting dressed this morning, I turned to CNN to catch the headlines. As I did, they were running a story on Terrell Pough. I immediately recognized the pictures of him, even though the name didn't ring a bell. I was introduced to Terrell's story several months ago, while reading People Magazine on a flight somewhere. They were commending him as an exemplary single-dad, who was taking care of his 2-year-old daughter, Diamond. All too often, we hear about young black men acting in irresponsible ways. So I was really excited and encouraged to find the story of this 18-year-old who had taken responsibility for his little girl, while finishing high school and working the night shift at a chicken joint in Philadelphia. Terrell's meager earnings really weren't enough to care for he and Diamond's basic necessities. But he refused to complain, make excuses, or start hustling. People Magazine was right. This was one of the good guys whose story deserved to be spotlighted. And as a result of their story, someone stepped up and bought Terrell a car, a Honda Civic. He received several job offers. And some people even volunteered to pay his rent every month. What a remarkable story!

Apparently, two young men, who had gone to high school with Terrell, also thought it was a remarkable story. And they were determined to take advantage of it. Two weeks ago, on his way into the house after getting off work, Terrell was confronted on his porch and shot in the head. He died not too long after the shooting. The CNN report I saw this morning was about the fact that the police had arrested two young men, one 18 and the other 20, who they believe committed this heinous crime. The authorities may have strong evidence against these two suspects. It seems that they not only shot Terrell, but they also stole his car. What a tragic ending to a remarkable story. I feel like I should make some comment at this point to try to put this senseless tragedy into some kind of perspective. But I really don't know what to say. It's such a sad story. I pray that Terrell's story inspires many other young black youth to "man-up," and take their life responsibilities seriously. I trust that Terrell's wish for Diamond will be honored by whoever ends us raising her; that she will never have to wonder if her father loved her. And I hope that the criminals who committed this horrible act will be brought to justice and repentence. And I cry for the day when our heavenly Father's kingdom will come, when his will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Monday, November 28, 2005

This is the Day...

This is the day... Crystal and the kids come back home. Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Last Wednesday, the three of them flew to Midland, Texas, to spend Thanksgiving with her father. Although Crystal was born in Seattle, her formative years were spent in Midland. But she has not been back there in some time. So when her dad asked her to come, we thought this would be a good thing to do. We knew from that start that I would not be able to go with them. And we both were okay about that. But the past five days without Crystal and the kids have been absolutely miserable. Honestly, I haven't been alone in this house this long since we moved here almost two years ago. And it was strange. I used to think that peace and quiet were good things. But I have discovered that sometimes quiet isn't very peaceful. I haven't had much social interaction these days, either. Some of my family and friends have asked me out. But I wasn't really up to doing much of anything without Crystal. That may sound silly. But there's a simple explanation. I love her. And I miss her and the kids. But the Charles clan should be reunited today. It will be kind of weird for us. I will be going to pick up Crystal, H.B. and Natalie from the airport, rather than the other way around. And I am proud to say that I have not made a mess of Crystal's house, as she suspected I would. Now, the house is no cleaner than it was when she left. But it is definitely not any dirtier than it was when she left. I have dutifully cleaned up everything I messed up, sort of. I still have a little bit of straightening up to do before I head to the airport.

Yesterday was a great personal victory in that I actually taught my Sunday School class and preached the morning exposition. I had concluded Saturday evening that I wouldn't do either. I made the appropriate phone calls, so that my posts would be covered. Then I went back to bed. Crystal and I talked for a while. And she encouraged me to go on and preach. I was ready. I just didn't think I was up to it physically and emotionally. But I pressed through. In the words of H. Beecher Hicks, I am "preaching through a storm." This end-of-the-year planning stuff usually takes it toll on me. But this year has been much more taxing than normal. And several transitions that have taken place in our congregation this year are burdens that I continue to carry. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that I have been pastoring most of this year with a broken heart. Now I am several days away from the celebration of 15 years as the pastor of MSMBC. It's a special milestone. But these pastoral anniversary celebrations are quite traumatic for me. And this fifteenth year is a whammy. I can't stop thinking about the fact that I have served this congregation all of my adult life. My life has been directly shaped by the happenings of this congregation since I was 17-years-old. And I can't stop considering the fact that this congregation has seen me at both my best and worst, as I have been growing into manhood in front of them over these years. And I can't help but wonder if I am beginning to wear out my welcome.

As I said, I am preaching through a storm. I have not gotten much office work done these past weeks. This is not a good thing, considering that I was supposed to complete 2006 planning these weeks. Basically, I have just been praying, studying, and getting myself ready to preach and teach. It's been hard to concentrate on much else. Yesterday, I preached a message that I had been working on for several weeks. It's an exposition of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. I had various stylish titles for it. But I ended up simply calling it, "Don't Be Discouraged." This text had been on my schedule to preach for a few weeks now. But it was only the wise providence of God that navigated the circumstances, so that I would be meditating on this passage over these days. I definitely was not able to preach it last Sunday, even though that was the plan. I needed another week to work through it for myself. But I finally got it out yesterday. It was one of those strange experiences where I was consciously preaching to myself as I preached to the congregation. I hope the congregation received the message. I really, really hope the preacher received the message!

One more thing... Thanks to whoever sent the anonymous comment this weekend, which simply asserted, "It's time to BLOG." I got the message while I was checking my emails on my hand held. I was in a public place. But I busted up laughing. I was very amused by that comment. So a big shout-out to "Anonymous" for the good laugh. Hope you're still reading.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sunday Night

It's Sunday night. We have just put the kids to bed. I have had a long post-church nap. And I got to watch some football this evening. The kids and I have watched some TV and had some hot chocolate. And Crystal and I are now watching a movie, kind of. This is a typical Sunday evening at the Charles compound. We are doing absolutely nothing in particular! This is our routine, if we don't have church on Sunday afternoon. And it is wonderful!

This morning, I preached the sermon that I preached at Midweek a week or so ago. It's from Mark 6:1-6. I called it, "The Danger of Knowing Jesus Too Well." I had been studying 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 all week. But I was not able to get it in preachable (I think I just made that word up) form in time. I actually think the Lord had me to study that text this week because he knew what my own soul would need. And boy did Paul's words, "So we do not lose heart," come in handy Friday. But there is also a secondary benefit from this. I have a head start for next Sunday. And so I will only have to start one sermon from scratch this week - my Thanksgiving Day sermon on Psalm 138.

It was a long week. And I really haven't been feeling well since Wednesday. I have been taking stuff to fight off a cold. And it drained my energy. My body does not know what "non-drowsy" means. So I slept most of Thursday, until I had to get ready to preach. George drove me to San Bernardino, which was a life-saver. And I stayed overnight. I tried to study Friday, but I didn't get much done. One of the longtime musicians of the church resigned. And I'm still not sure how I feel about it. But all of my spiritual energy was spent praying through this issue. In fact, it was so hard for me to concentrate that I didn't settle on what I was going to preach Friday night until midway through the pastor's introduction. But the Lord was with me and helped me to preached. And the congregation seemed to receive it. Saturday was just plain slow, until the children got home from their day (my little children have much more of a social life than me and Crystal). We wrestled for hours. And we were all pooped. And we passed out together.

When I woke up this morning, I went to my computer and went straight for my notes on Mark 6. There was no question about what I was going to preach today. It was a good day. My mother led the hymn this morning. I had not heard her sing in some time. It was wonderful to hear her again. And the hymn she led is inspiring, "Rescue the Perishing." I was tired. But I was very excited about being in worship and having the opportunity to preach to my congregation. I was also a bit nervous. It is very rare that my Sunday morning message is not new material. But it didn't matter as the message progressed. I pray the congregation was challenged to attempt great things for God and to expect great things from God.

Okay. That's enough. Good night.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Kingdom Living in a Hostile World

I am not feeling well today. My wife, Crystal, has been dealing with severe cold-like symptoms for the past week or so. And, apparently, I am either catching or have caught whatever she has. I started feeling really bad in the middle of a meeting yesterday afternoon. It was just a couple of hours before our Midweek Service. And when I finished my meeting, I grabbed by Bible and laptop and went home. I got in the bed and was there from 7 PM last night to 7 AM this morning. Before I left the office, George (my friend, associate pastor, and staff member), prayed for me and walked me to my car. Then he had to scurry back to his office to get ready to preach in my place! I have not yet heard how the service went last night. But I trust that George did a good job.

Last night, I was going to preach a message entitled, "Kingdom Living in a Hostile World." The text is Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 - the parable of the wheat and the weeds. The point of the message is that the Lord Jesus is building the kingdom in the midst of hostile opposition. The general outline is as follows:

I. The Establishment of the Kingdom in the Earth
A. Jesus is sowing righteousness in the earth.
B. Satan is sowing wickedness in the earth.
II. The Co-Existence of the Kingdom with Evil
A. The Patience of the Lord
B. The Purpose of the Lord
III. The Victory of the Kingdom at the End
A. The Lord will remove the wicked at the end.
B. The Lord will reveal the righteous at the end.

I know that that the presentation of this outline does not explain the details of the message. But I couldn't resist. I still have the sermon in my system. And I don't know when I am going to have the opportunity to preach it. Anyway, I will have to get out of bed soon. I am scheduled to preach tonight and tomorrow for Pastor Percy Harper at the St. Mark Baptist Church in San Bernardino, CA. I also have to press on with my preparation to preach this coming Sunday. I have been planning to preach 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. But I may preach this "Kingdom Living" message instead. I am not sure yet. I have to pray about it. Fast. Ultimately, I need to get some rest. When I catch a cold, rest is the only thing that really helps me to feel better. But my time is limited and my deadlines are looming. So the adventure continues.

Monday, November 14, 2005

And Today!

I went to sleep last night and woke up this morning with two words from Hebrews 13:8 on my mind and heart: "and today." In its entirety, the verse says, "Jesus Christ is the same and today and forever." (ESV) I love that verse and believe it with all my heart. However, there are days when I struggle with those two little words, "and today." I have absolutely no problem fully embracing all that scripture teaches that the Lord Jesus accomplished yesterday. And with great expectation and anticipation, I look forward to the future and complete fulfillment of all the promises of God through Jesus Christ. But sometimes, as I live in between what Jesus has done and what Jesus will do, I forget that that he is the same today. He is at work today. He is worthy of my praise, trust, and obedience today, no matter what. So, as I enter another busy work week, I am so grateful that the Lord caused me to pillow my head last night on the assurance of Hebrews 13:8: "and today." And even though you may have not have slept with that verse last night, may you live with it today. As you go about your day - at work, at school, or at home - gratefully, prayerfully, and confidently trust the Lord Jesus to be dynamically-present, actively in-charge, and unchangingly faithful... today!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Glocal Christian Ministry

Our Missions Conference today was informative, challenging, and encouraging. It was our first missions emphasis event. And the really smiled on our time together in study and fellowship. I wish more of our membership would have been present. But I praise God for the every one who was present. Pastor Randy Vaughn of the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Port Arthur was our guest speaker. He shared his personal testimony, explained the biblical mandate and purpose of world missions, and discussed practical ways he and his congregation are involved in missions work. Pastor Vaughn used a term that I am sure many of us will be repeating in the days to come: "glocal." It's the combination of the words "global" and "local." His point was that we must avoid being a church that has only a local impact without a global vision. And we must also avoid being a church that focuses on worldwide missions and neglects its local function. We must strive to be "glocal." May the Lord sovereignly help MSMBC to become a "glocal" church. And may he do the same in, through, and for your congregation, as well.

Confessions of a Frustrated Writer

Last week, my family and I stole an afternoon together to celebrate my son's perfect spelling test that day. We ate a meal, caught a movie together, and then went to one of our favorite bookstores. We all have sections in this store. My children have their section, of course. My wife likes to look at the books related to home and family. And I usually browse the magazine racks and new releases, unless I'm looking for something specific. That's what I was doing that evening, when I stumbled over a section of magazines on writing. Even though I have prowled those magazine racks many times before, I had never noticed this small section. I picked up on of magazines and began to read the table of contents. All of sudden, I became filled with emotion. The articles were written for beginning writers (or "would-be" writers like me). And many of the questions that I have about writing were addressed. I picked up another and found that it, too, was filled with helpful hints, directives, resources for would-be writers. I picked up another magazine. And to my surprise, it was an entire magazine devoted to "spiritual writing." And some of the writers whose works I enjoy and benefit from had articles in there practical suggestion for those who would write for the spiritual good of others. As I thumbed through magazines, my heart began to race. I was excited. Maybe too excited.

I am a frustrated writer. I group up with a burden to preach. And as I got older, I wanted to pastor. And alongside of these two passions, I have wanted to write. I remember as a teenager, going to bookstores and just becoming overwhelmed by all the books. I wanted to write. More recently, I gave up on my desire to write. I have just seen too many people who don't have anything biblically helpful to say get published simply because they are high-profile religious personalities. Evidence for this disturbing trend can be seen in the fact that many books that are published now ditch the idea of cover-art and simple plaster a picture of the well-known religious personality on the front cover. Honestly, this trend has been very discouraging to me. But I am not at the point where that old flame is being rekindled. I've been writing a little monthly newsletter for my church for the past year. I have been writing a little review of our book-of-the-month for several years now. I have been writing periodic articles on various issues for the church, usually in our weekly bulletin. And I have begun this blog. And my wife has been challenging me to write for the entire seven years of our marriage. If I complain about anything, Crystal is prone to respond, "Oh, yeah. Well why don't you write a book?" She's eased up a bit lately. Of late, she has been riding me to jus ride a booklet or a pamphlet or to edit on of the sermon series I have already done.

All of this has rekindled my passion for writing. And some of the little things that I have been engaged are actually building my confidence that I cam do it. The issue for me is not really about being published, or any of the things associated with that. Rather, I am driven by the conviction that I have something to say that would be helpful to others in their spiritual walk or ministerial work. Beyond that, I just feel driven to do it. Have you ever felt that way about something? Have you ever had a drive, burden, or passion to do something? Has a goal, dream, and opportunity ever lived with you and wouldn't leave you alone? That's where I am. I'm a frustrated writer. Even as I am praying about what the Lord would have me To do in the coming year, writing continues to weigh on my heart and mind. Of course, saying yes to a personal writing project means saying no to a lot of other opportunities. And that's something I struggle with. I'm still learning that I can say yes to every opportunity, or else I won't be able to to make the most of any opportunity. So, for the moment, I am still a frustrated writing, trying to find expression. Hopefully, I will become frustrated enough about this issue to do something about it!

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Paradox of a Compulsive Preacher

I am not scheduled to preach this coming Sunday. We have a guest speaker from Texas who is headed here today to teach and preach at MSMBC this weekend. Supposedly, I have been waiting for this weekend for weeks. Over the past several weeks, I have been rather overwhelmed, tired, and distracted. But I have pressed through, telling myself, "You have a Sunday off in several weeks. Just hold on until then." And, believe it or not, that thought helps me to hang in there during those weeks when I have to drag myself to the pulpit. So here I am at that long awaited week when I can be sit under the ministry of the Word this Lord's Day in corporate worship. And go figure, I am restless because I desperately wish I was preaching this Sunday morning. I love the God of the Word and the Word of God. I am so grateful that our heavenly Father has seen fit to call me to proclaim the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. And it is one of the great privileges of my life to have the opportunity and responsibility to minister the Word to the congregation at Mt. Sinai. And I strive to preach and teach the Word with faithfulness, clarity, authority, passion, wisdom, humility, sincerity, and excellence. It's a blessed bondage to prepare myself each week. But now that I have been given a weekend pass, I would actually rather be bound to the preaching task. It's the paradox of a compulsive preacher.

Last night, my family and I went "churchin." Dr. J. Benjamin Hardwick and the Praises of Zion Church are celebrating their fiftieth church anniversary. And this week, the celebration is being kicked-off by a three-night revival. The guest speaker is Pastor Donald L. Parsons of the Logos Baptist Assembly in Chicago. I first heard Pastor Parsons when I was a boy preacher. And I thought he was one of the best preachers I had ever heard. Then I heard him again last night, close to twenty years after I first heard him, and I still think he's one of the best preachers I have ever heard. Parsons is not what you would call an expository preacher. And his messages don't have a tightly-organized structure. And he can get rather wordy at times. But, proving again that preaching is truth through personality, God uses Parson's unique blend of gifts and skills in a powerful and compelling way. In fact, Donald Parsons embodies a homiletical point I read years ago but have failed to fully develop in my own preaching. The point is: "The Bible is about people; so let them live." Parsons does this quite well. And I also appreciate his seriousness about the preaching moment. He is not flashy. And is messages are not all sizzle. He's actually cooking something edifying, not just popping pulpit popcorn. And he cooks slowly. The sizzle seems to come naturally. It's was so refreshing to hear him preach again last night. And the specific message he preached addressed the subject Crystal and I were talking about all the way to church. Our discussion was about putting artificial limitations on ourselves (or allowing others to do so) in terms of what God can do in and through us. And Parsons' message really challenged us to live and minister with great expectation that God is fully in control of the circumstances of our lives. He wants to use us. And he will bring to pass all that he pleases to do in our lives, no matter what. Praise God! It was great to hear one of my "homiletical heroes" again. May the Lord continue to use him to preach the Word.

This weekend, MSMBC will have its first Missions Conference during my pastorate. Our guest speaker will be Pastor Randy Vaughn of the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Port Arthur, Texas. He is a godly man with a humble spirit and strong convictions. I am excited about him sharing with us because he will bring a perspective about missions that is often neglected, that of a local pastor and church. Often, world missions are promoted by parachurch organizations, rather than by pastors and churches. But Pastor Vaughn and his congregation are not just sending money to agencies. They are personally and directly involved in reaching the lost and hurting around the world. Specifically, Pastor Vaughn is heavily involved in missions work in Haiti. So I trust that our congregation will be challenged by both his biblical teaching and his personal passion for missions work.

This Sunday afternoon, I am scheduled to preach at the Good Shepherd Baptist Church. I first preached there as a boy. I was in my early teens, if not still a pre-teen (I started preached at eleven-years-old). I remember standing there preaching. And they would just look at me, saying nothing. That was a new experience me. Mt. Sinai has always been a response congregation during the ministry of the Word. So I thought I was "dying," because no one was saying anything. But when I finished, young people gave their lives to Christ, the members greatly encouraged me, and the pastor invited be back. And I ended up preacher there for a succession of years. The last time I preached at Good Shepherd was during the March meeting of the Western Baptist State Convention about six or seven years ago. I remember that I was in a series on the Model Prayer at MSMBC. And I preached first five messages of the series that week, as I was working to bring the sixth message in that series the following Sunday. It was a memorable experience. My favorite place to preach is MSMBC, of course. But my second place to preach is any place where I can have the opportunity to be a help to pastors, congregational leaders, and participating church members. So that week was rather special for me. Anyway, Good Shepherd has been going through difficulties in recent days. They lost their pastor earlier this year. And I'm not quite sure what the spiritual vitality or congregational morale is. But I am praying that the presence of Mt. Sinai Church and the ministry of the Word will be a great encouragement to this historic congregation.

By the way, I write a little monthly newsletter for our church every month. And I include a little one-page article in it each month. In the November issue, I wrote on "What is the Anointing?" It's posted on our church website. Click here to read it. And check out the other information that available on the MSMBC website. I trust you'll find something helpful there that will do you spiritual good.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Return of a Backslidden Blogger

Several friends have chastened me about the fact that I have not made any new posts on my blog since 11/4. I have heard your message loud and clear (to the degree I was actually paying attention). I am contrite (sort of). And it won't happen again (until the next time it happens). All jokes aside, thanks for reading my rambling thoughts. It's encouraging to know that people are reading my thoughts... and a little scary. I intended to blog everyday this week. But I failed to get to it every time. But the backslidden blogger has now returned.

I slept most of this day away. I was just plain old tired. The first half of this week has been rather hectic. And I haven't taken a full day off in some time. So, since I don't have to preach Sunday, I stole some time today to catch up on some much needed sleep. I really didn't do too much of anything constructive today, except for editing my sermon from last night a little bit. There are a bunch of unfinished projects left on my desk. And I also brought a some work home last night. But I haven't even really thought about it today, much less worked on it. I think I'll be better prepared tomorrow to catch up on the work I need to get done. Maybe

Last night, I preached a sermon in our Midweek Service with a provocative title: "The Danger of Knowing Jesus Too Well." I'm not really into fancy titles. But I really thought it reflected the message of the text. The text was Mark 6:1-6, in which Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth, but was unable to do mighty works there because of their unbelief. I argued that a false since of intimacy can detrimentally hinder your faith-relationship to Jesus. Simply, the pride of the Nazarenes would not allow them to put their faith in Jesus because they thought they knew him so well. But they really didn't know him, evidenced by their lack of faith. The bottom-line is that you don't really know Jesus unless you trust him. I won't re-preach the whole sermon here, but I was and am very excited about this message. The congregation seemed very attentive last night. I hope they were blessed by the message. And I do look forward to the next opportunity the Lord will give me to preach that sermon again.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Remembering November 5, 1990

In 1990, November 5th fell on a Monday. I was supposed to go to school that day (I was a senior at LA High School). But a longtime member of Mt. Sinai Church had death in the family. And they asked me to bring the message that morning. I don't remember any of the details of the service. But I can't forget the many conversations that I heard and overheard after the service was over. They were about the meeting scheduled for that evening, in which the congregation was to select a new pastor. The church had been "vacant" for about 18-months, since my father's death in June, 1989. Finally, after hearing many different men from across the country, the pulpit committee was to present three "candidates" for the church to vote on. I was not one of those three candidates. And until that day, I had no intentions of even going to the meeting. I expected to be in my bed with the ringers off that night. But the various conversations I heard that morning made me curious about who would be selected that night. So I decided to go.

The church was packed that night for the meeting. I sat in the back, near the ushers' row, as the meeting began. The late Dr. E.V. Hill, a friend of my father's and the pastor of the historic Mt. Zion Baptist Church, led the meeting. When he introduced the pulpit committee, they presented the three candidates to the church (even showing videos of the men's messages at Mt. Sinai). Then, when their presentation was finished, Dr. Hill announced the church's intention that candidates be recommended from the floor. When this process began, an old preacher stood up and yelled to the front of the church, "H.B. Charles Jr." Everybody laughed. This old man, whose name I can't recall, was a good preacher, according to my father. He had a stroke and was unable to preach anymore. But he would be at Mt. Sinai every Sunday, listening to my father preach. I remember that he used to weep during the messages every week. Anyway, Dr. Hill called the meeting back to order. But the old preacher thought Dr. Hill was ignoring him. So he stood up again and yelled to the pulpit, "Dr. Hill, H.B. Charles Jr. is supposed to be my pastor! And you know it!"Again, everybody laughed. Finally, his recommendation was accepted. Two other names were added. It was time for the church to vote.

There were tables set up in the entrance for members to check-in. And if your name was not on the membership list, you were not entitled to vote. When the voting began, that list moved from the back to the front. Alphabetically, they would call the names of eligible voters. The voter would come up front and fill out a ballot. Well, it didn't take too long to get to the letter "C." And when they called my name, I came forward to cast my vote (I won't say who I was voting for. But I will say that I was not voting for myself). While I was casting my ballot, a deacon stood up and raised an objection. I was not eligible to vote! In a prior meeting, the church had apparently decided that you had to to be 18-years-old to vote. I was three months away from my eighteenth birthday. Dr. Hill was dumbfounded. He really didn't know how to handle this. So he asked me to sit up front, while he and some of the church leaders went to the back to discuss how to handle this situation. As they met, the deacon came up to me to tell me that his objection wasn't personal; rules are rules. "I understand," I said. "Baloney!" I thought. It seemed like an eternity before they came out from the back. And when he did, he publicly announced that I was not able vote, because I was only 17. Then he lectured the congregation about that rule and insisted that it should be immediately changed. So I got up to go back to my seat. I was a little embarrassed (My wife says that I get embarrassed too easily. And I am starting to think she's right.). But as I turned to go down the aisle back to my seat, Gayle (a godly lady and member of the pulpit committee that I had - have - much respect for) grabbed me by the arm and whispered into my ear, "Don't worry about it, Junior. The Bible says, 'The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.'" She was quoting Matthew 20:16. I had never thought about that verse before then. But I haven't forgot that verse since then.

As I walked down to the aisle, I decided to leave out. I beckoned by buddies Reggie, Barry, Tracey, and Clint (all fellow younger preachers at the church), and we herded out. On the lobby, someone stopped me and begged me not to leave the meeting. I assured them that I was not leaving. I was just going to walk to the store to get some snacks. When we returned, I sat quietly and watched the church vote. Of course, I couldn't tell what people were voting. But I was sure of one thing. People were writing, rather than just checking a box next to one of the original three candidates' names. Soon, it was time for the votes to be counted. It took a long time. But barely anyone left. When the counters returned, a pastor who had accompanied Dr. Hill pointed back to me as he entered into the room. I didn't know what that meant at first, but I would in just of few minutes. When Dr. Hill announced the results, to everybody's surprise (and that includes me), I had handedly won the election. There was a shocked silence, until a deacon jumped up and raised an objection (Yep. It was the same deacon who had earlier noted that I was too young to vote.). According to the bylaws, the winner had to win by 3/4 percent of the vote for the vote to be official.

Dr. Hill recommended that there be another vote, which would only include the two names that received the most votes. He also recommended that, for the sake of time, it would be a standing vote. Both recommendation were accepted. And I won again, receiving all but about twenty-five votes. Dr. Hill announced and affirmed that H.B. Charles Jr. had been selected as the new pastor of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. Then he launched into an impromptu sermon. And when the folks had finished shouting, he called me forward for prayer. I knelt near the platform. And the rest of the congregation came forward and did the same. As he prayed, I remember a hand being on my shoulder. When he finished praying, I opened my eyes to see that it was that deacon who had raised the two objections earlier in the meeting.

After the meeting, the guys and I went to eat some eggs and talk about the incredible act of divine intervention we had just witnessed. When I got home, I called the young lady I had been seeing. We had plans to see each other that weekend, and she asked me about them. But I kept telling her that I didn't know what would happen, because Mt. Sinai had "called" me. She didn't get what I meant. So I kept saying it, as often as I could. Finally she asked me, "What do you mean, Sinai called you? Called you to do what?" My answer was followed by the same kind of shocked silence that I had witnessed earlier in the meeting. After fifteen years, I believe "shocked silence" was and is the most appropriate response to what happened that night. The events of that night, and all that has transpired in my life and ministry since then, simply cannot be explained in human terms. God alone deserves all the glory! I do, indeed, praise him for his goodness, faithfulness, and mercy. And I am more confident than ever in the sovereign providence of God, who works all things according to the counsel of his own will.

"This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I hope in him.' The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him." (Lamentations 3:21-25, NKJV)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Duty Calls

For my safety, and the safety of innocent poles everywhere (LOL), my wife drove me to work this morning. She even bought me some pancakes on the way to work (one day I'll write about the "healing power" of pancakes - and waffles too!). Frankly, I would rather be in my bed right now (There's also "healing power" in long naps!). But duty calls. I never made it to bed last night. I fell asleep on the couch, watching Pardon The Interruption. Then I got up to finish some work I needed to complete for tonight's Midweek sermon. I am planning to preach on Acts 6:1-7. I'm labeling it, "Ministering through Growing Pains." May the Lord help me to give a clear, faithful, and challenging exposition of the Word.

Tonight will be my first time preaching our Midweek Service in several months. I had the month of August off. We went dark in September. And we had our Guest Lecture Series in October. We'll break again in mid-December. I intend to preach several passages that I have bee looking for an opportunity to preach. In January, I am planning to begin preaching through Psalm 119 on Wednesday nights. For those who don't know, it's the longest "chapter" in the Bible. And it's a glorious celebration of the Word of God. It will be a challenge to through the twenty-two stanzas of that psalm. In fact, one pastor, whose preaching I greatly respect, is calling his series on Psalm 119, "The Mount Everest of the Psalms." Years ago, I read a statement that said difficult texts make good preachers. So I trust that this series will make me a better preacher. And may those who hear these messages become more passionate about the scriptures, to the glory of God.

My First Real Car Accident

I just had my first real car accident tonight. It was at a gas station. It was with a pole! (Feel free to insert your own exclamation at this point). I was on my way home from work. And I had no gas in my tank. I stopped at the gas station to fill up. And when leaving, I tried to exit on the busy side of the street. After a moment, I determined this was not the safe thing to do. So I decide to go out the other exit. And as I am backing up, bang!!! I hit something behind me. I got out to see the pole that I hit and the back of my car damaged pretty bad. Thank God I wasn't hurt and no one else was involved. I pulled out of the lot, turned down a side street, cut the car off and begin to cry. I am not sure why I was crying. Or, maybe I am. I was (am) embarrassed. I was (am) more than a little rattled by what had just happened. And, unfortunately, I had just found the wrong way to end a very tough day.

I called my wife, Crystal. And she held the phone while I drove home. She has now gone back to bed. I am sitting at the kitchen table typing this post. I am totally drained. But now I am too... something... to go to lay down. I don't know what to say. I am tired. I am embarrassed. I don't have a good excuse or explanation for what just happened. There it is. I don't think there's a real point to this post. I am still in shock that I just had a car accident with a pole in a gas station. I'm shocked. I need to pray.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Dignity in Life and Death

This morning, I attended the funeral of Dr. Earl C. Cotton. He was the founding pastor of the Liberty Baptist Church. And he served the congregation as its pastor for some 48 years, until he retired about a year ago. He was one of the well-respected pastors of this city, and rightfully so. He was a caring shepherd, a faithful preacher, and a wise leader. I especially respected him for having the foresight to lead the congregation to select a new pastor, when he became ill. I know some pastors who are just not able to let go of their work. Consequently, they spend the final years tearing down what the spent 20 or 30 years to build. It's always tragic to watch a church die because a pastor can't see the future of the church beyond himself. Thank God, Dr. Cotton was not one of those men. As his health declined in his final hands, Liberty Church was and is in the good hands of Terry Brown. He's a godly man and a good preacher - a potent combination. I preached for him several times at his Fifth Ward congregation. And it was a great work. And I trust that the Lord is going to use Terry greatly here in Los Angeles.

The funeral service today had a great sense of dignity to it. But that did not surprise me. It was the way Dr. Cotton lived. That's the thing I remember about him the most. He was a very dignified man. He conducted himself with humility, sincerity, and respect. On several occasions, I heard him complain about the conduct of the younger generation of preachers, of which I am a part. And his complaint, in essence, was that we were not dignified. And he was right. Many of us younger preachers do not respect the dignity of the pulpit or the seriousness of our calling. Even though I did not know Dr. Cotton that well personally, I had much admiration and respect for him. I pray that the Lord will comfort his wife and family, that God would bless Pastor Brown and the Liberty Church, and that the legacy Dr. Cotton left would be continued and strengthened to the glory of God.

Dr. A. Louis Patterson Jr of the Mt. Corinth Baptist Church in Houston brought the message. Dr. Patterson is also one of the men whose life and ministry has meant much to me over the years. I am always excited about hearing him speak. He was one of the men that the Lord used to introduce me to expository preacher, as a teenager. It was not until years later that I was actually able to meet him. But from the moment we met, Dr. Patterson has been a consistent encouragement to me and my ministry. He has blessed me in more ways than he will ever know. Today, he preached a very clear, powerful, and encouraging message from Job 30:23. I felt like shouting. I always get excited to hear about the Christians hope beyond the grave. And the message was clear that our times are in God's hands, our deaths our in God's hands, and our eternity is in God's hands. Praise God!

It Used to be My Day Off

I used to like Mondays. Monday used to be my day off. I would get up early and go to 6 AM morning prayer at the church. I would talk to my buddy for a while, then finally go home and go back to sleep. I would wake up some time in the afternoon, catch me a movie, and go the a book store. Those were the good old days. Now, I have to wake up on Monday mornings and hit the ground running. Because I preach on Wednesday nights now, I have to get going on Mondays to be ready for Wednesday nights. Likewise, staff meetings are now on Mondays. So I have to get Sunday out of my system and start prayerfully thinking about the next Sunday within twenty-four hours. I used to resign every Monday. Now, I have to renew my contract with the Lord every Monday, so I can be on good terms with the "Boss" and get done that he wants me to do each week. So here's to all of you who drug yourself out of bed this morning to do the Lord's will.

Yesterday was a long but good day. I was up tightening up my sermon from 1:30 AM to 8 AM. I couldn't sleep. So I kept refining the manuscript (I am a manuscript preacher, sort of. I write them out word for word. But, most often, I don't take them to the pulpit. I don't quite memorize them, either. Somehow, I just kind of absorb the message in the process of writing, revising, and editing.) Thank God I didn't have to teach Sunday School, too. I would have been in trouble. We celebrated Reformation Sunday, with elements of our service committed to remembering and affirming the 16th century Protestant Reformation. We even sang Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is our God." It's different from the songs and hymns we normally sing. But it was great to hear the voices around me lifting praises to our God with the rich words of this hymn. It was also our new minister of music's second Sunday. But the choir sounded great. And the songs selected seemed to fit right in, even though they were different in style from the hymns we sang. I continued my exposition of Colossians. I did 4:5-6 and called it "Evangelism as a Way of Life." I tried to give two reasons why we should embrace evangelism as a way of life: (1) You walk is being watched (4:5); and your words are being heard (4:6). I think the congregation received it well. But all of that is a distant memory now. It's Monday - time to go at it all over again!

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Beginning of a Long Weekend

I have just finished a writing assignment that I was a day late on. But I don't really have a chance to feel good about it. I just have to strike it off of my to-do list and get to other things that I am still late on! This is the beginning for what will be a long weekend for me. This morning, I will be attending the funeral service of Rev. Storm Evans, a nineteen-year-old preacher here in Los Angeles who passed away last week. Even though I am confident in the sovereign purposes of God, it hurts to be going to the funeral of a young man committed to Jesus Christ whose life was filled with so much promise and potential. I trust that the Lord knows what's best.

This afternoon, I have a "all hands of deck" staff meeting, as we are continuing to prepare ourselves for the end of this year and the beginning of next year. Later this evening, I will be attending the annual banquet for the Los Angeles Bible Training School, where Paul Felix is the president. In between all of this, I still have work for Sunday to conclude. I also have to finish my preparations for our men's fellowship meeting that I will be leading in the morning. It's my plan to summarize the major points of Jerry Jenkins' book, Hedges. And I want to challenge the men to guard their hearts and minds from temptations. Reading that book was very challenging and convicting for me. I hope that my message will be able to have a similar impact on the men of MSMBC.

There is an event for the youth that will be held here at the church tomorrow evening. And one way or the other, my evening will be shaped by that. And then there's Sunday's teaching times that I have. Then, Sunday evening, there will be a memorial service at Liberty Baptist Church for its founding pastor, Dr. Earl C. Cotton, who passed away this week. The actual funeral service will be Monday morning. In the midst of all this work related stuff, I have to spend some time with my wife and kids this weekend (not for their sakes, but for mine!!!). Likewise, my little sister, Donetta, made it home from the hospital yesterday. And I am hoping to spend some time with her. Plus, it was my plan to get a head start on deadlines I have to meet, messages I have to present, and meetings that I have to attend next week. So, there's a lot going on this weekend in my little world. Pray for me that I will put first what the Lord would have me to put first when he would have me to put it first.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sanctify Wherever You Are!

I am writing this post from my "other office." It's a cafe' not far from the church. When I'm in town, I usually come here about once a week for breakfast; even though the last several times I've been in here, it was lunchtime. Either time, though, it's usually busy and crowded in here. Often, I get a ringside seat to see rather heated exchanges between pressured waitresses and impatient customers. Sometimes it's funny; most times it is not. Anyway, I am yet to have an incident here, praise God. I come in with my books, computer, and iPod. I usually order the same thing. In fact, they usually order for me, just checking in with me to make sure nothing has changed. After that, they pretty much leave me alone and let me turn one of their tables into the makeshift office, some times for more than several hours. And I've been able to get a lot done here.

This was not always possible for me. There was a time when I had to be in my study with my desk and books and all that is routine for me, in order to get anything accomplished. My study is my "private praying ground." Much of my personal devotions, exegetical studies, and ministry work takes place there. But as I have grown up and grown older (I hope both are true), my personal schedule and responsibilities have put me in a position where I am not always able to be in my study when I would like to be. And with the largest staff I have ever had, there are times when I am not able to concentrate when I get to my study (Note: I try to make it a practice to call my office "my study," to remind me of the primary work I am supposed to be doing when I get there).

The bottom line is that I have had to learn how to sanctify wherever I am. Sometimes it's a crowded restaurant. Sometimes it's the uncomfortable setting of a hotel room (It's something not right about having to study at a desk that is less than five feet away from a bed!). Sometimes it's at my wife's kitchen table, where I struggle to read and type with my kids trying to sit on my lap or climb on my back at the same time. That's my life. I'm not always able to get to my praying ground. But I learned how to turn wherever I am into praying ground. And I encourage you to do the same. Your work may be different than mine. But I think the principle still applies. You should have a private time and place for prayer and worship. But you will inevitably find it difficult to stay focused if your times with God are limited to that time and place. I challenge you to make your office, garage, kitchen, classroom, or commute a time and place to meet with God. "Steal time" with God whenever and wherever you can. Hey, if David could pray in a cave... if Samson could pray in enemy territory... if Daniel could pray in a lion's den... if Paul and Silas could pray in a prison cell... if Jesus could pray while dying on a cross... you can sanctify wherever you are!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Opportunity of the Overwhelmed

I am overwhelmed. This is my first full week in the office in several weeks. And, of course, there are various things that I have to catch up on. Likewise, I am in the midst of the preparation process for end-of-the-year ministry stuff and the planning process for beginning-of-the-year stuff. Today alone, I have a bunch of emails and phone calls to return. I have three meetings. I have to prepare for a lesson tonight that I was not scheduled to teach until about twenty-four hours ago. There are also a few soul-feeding books that I am trying to work my way through. My personal reading is a vital part of my routine that helps me maintain my focus and keeps my heart soft and mind open to the Lord. So when I don't get the personal reading time that I need, my soul gets a little frustrated. There is much study to do, as always. And there is some other work that I have to finish. The rest of the week is going to be even busier for me than today. And in the midst of all these task-oriented stuff and the study oriented work I have to do alone, I have to be open, ready, and intentional about my time with other people. There are many needs in Mt. Sinai. And it's a challenge to just keep up with them all, much less minister to everything you hear about. It's all a bit overwhelming.

As I think about all that is ahead of me, my flesh is tempted to become frustrated, discouraged, and anxious. But I am learning to view these times when I am overwhelmed as opportunities to trust God and draw closer to him. For instance, there is no way I am going to be able to accomplish everything that is on my to-do list today. So I have two options. I can try as hard as I can to get as much done as possible. But, not matter how much I accomplish; I will end the day with much undone. Then my ride home will be miserable. My evening with my wife and kids will be dampened. My rest will be disrupted. My flesh will get engaged. And it will be hard to get out of bed to have to do it all again in the morning. So I am choosing to "veto" that bill. Instead, I choose to abide in Christ today. I will strive to be open to his leadership in every way and do what he wants me to do when he wants me to do it. I want to trust him wholeheartedly, lean not on my own understanding, and acknowledge him in all my ways; so that he may make my pathway straight today (Prov 3:5-6).

In short, I want to view the fact that I am overwhelmed as an opportunity to pray more, lean harder, wait patiently, praise intentionally, and serve humbly, knowing that all my help comes from the Lord. My sufficiency is in him, not myself. And I want to do my work today in a way that reflects my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I recommend that you do the same. I'm sure you have your own extended to-do list today (Hey! If we're so busy, what am I doing writing this post? And what are you doing reading it?!?!). Today is an opportunity for you to stand on the promises of God, trust him for wisdom, strength, and peace, and strive for joy in him. Don't miss this golden opportunity!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Filling in for a Friend

Tomorrow night, I will have to fill in for my friend Pastor Terry Brown, who was scheduled to give the closing lecture during our first Guest Lecture Series at MSMBC. Monday night, the founding pastor of Liberty Baptist Church here in Los Angeles, Dr. Earl C. Cotton, passed away. He was a well-respected pastor here in our city. Pastor Brown is the current pastor of Liberty Church and is rightly giving his attention to caring for his grieving congregation. So I will be filling in for him tomorrow night. I will be both the host and the "guest lecturer"! That's fine with me. It will give me another opportunity to teach our congregation about evangelism-discipleship. And I will also have the opportunity to lead the congregation in prayer for the wife and family of Dr. Cotton, for Pastor Brown, and for the Liberty Church Family. Please remember them in your prayers.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Saturday... er, Sunday, Shout-Outs

I know. I know. There were no Saturday Shout-Outs yesterday. I blame it on the entire airline industry. I almost missed my flight from Kansas City to Salt Lake City. A big shout-out to the unnamed Delta employee who saw the desperation on my face and let me onto the flight, even though I arrived less than 20 minutes before the plane's departure. When I arrived in Salt Lake, I rushed to the other side of the airport to make my connecting flight to LAX. I made it. We left the gate. Then sat on the runway for more than an hour ("mechanical difficulties"). So by the time I made it home, Crystal got me some eggs, took me home, and I fell hard to sleep. It was hours later before she made it home with the kids. And I was in the same place she left me. I got up and we had dinner together. Then I stayed up for the rest of the night to sharpen the two messages I had to deliver this morning.

This was a tough day. It was one of the strange days when I feel like I didn't have the congregation's attention. I don't feel that way very often. But I did today. And I worked really hard on this message. It was on Colossians 4:2-4. I called it, "Continue Steadfast in Prayer." (That's the words of 4:2a. I'm not really into fancy titles.). But it didn't really seem like I ever connected with the congregation. I am not sure I was being clear. I couldn't tell if they were getting it or disinterested or what. I don't think I was looking for any particular response. But I was very excited about the message and the opportunity to teach on the subject of prayer. And I don't think they were excited as I was about it. These are the kind of Sundays when I especially thank God for the sovereignty of God at work in the mystery of preaching. Oh well, I hope I live to fight another day.

My ministry trip to Kansas-Missouri was refreshing. I like Pastor Slack. And his congregation was very kind to me and my preaching. I pray that the Lord continues to bless this growing congregation.

A young preacher in my city, Storm Evans, passed away this week. He was only about 19 years-old. But he had been preaching since he was a boy. And he could also play the organ and piano. He was a good kid. He loved preaching and preachers. He had been sick for some time with a rare form of cancer. Please pray for his family and church that God would give them comfort, strength, and peace during this time.

My mom, Ellen, is in town. I haven't got to see much of her. She has been here to take care of my younger sister, Donetta, who has been ill. My mom was in church to hear me preach this morning. I was nervous having her sitting there in front of me on the second row. She's proud of every thing I do. That encourages me. I love her and miss her. And I look forward to spending some time with her before she goes home to Oklahoma City (another city that has to affirm itself by putting the word "city" in its name - LOL).

Today was the first Sunday our new Ministry of Music, Shirley, led in our worship services. It was different. And I think a new person leading was somewhat awkward for the church. But change is good, inevitable, and beneficial. And I really like Shirley. Her attitude toward the the Lord and worship is refreshing. Continue to pray for this transition in the life of our church.

It is only because I am deliriously tired that I am still at my desk and writing a post after I just finished preaching. Anything off the wall that you have read here, blame it on the fact that I am suffering from a severe case of Post Ministry Syndrome.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I made it to Kansas-Missouri

So I finally made it safely to Kansas City. Pastor Slack got me something to eat. I checked into the hotel. Changed shirts. Then went to preach. I wasn't really sure what I was going to preach until I went to my room to put on my tie. This can be a rather scary feeling, I must admit. Many times I go to preach and have a clear schedule in my mind and heart for what to preach. Then there are other times when I have no clue from night to night. Those times make me kind of nervous. There are even some times when I don't know what I am going to preach until I am actually in the worship service. Every congregation is different. Every preacher is different. And every worship service is different. So sometimes I have to kind of get a feel for the room, so to speak, before I have clarity about what I should say. It's all a part of the great mystery of preaching. I try to be prepared and make myself available for whatever the Lord wants to do through me.

Hopefully, I will be able to spend most of this day finishing my preparations for Sunday. I am a little behind. And I am planning to preach only part of a paragraph (Col. 4:2-4), even though I am studying the entire paragraph (Col. 4:2-6). Maybe being behind this week will put me ahead for next week. I have one more sermon to preach here (And, yes, I don't know what it is going to be yet). I am scheduled to fly home tomorrow. And I am scheduled to get into LAX early enough that I will have most of the day left. That's cool. I may take my children out on a date while Crystal attends her Women's Fellowship meeting. I hope to also resume my "Saturday Shout-Outs." Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I Talk Too Much!

I talk too much. My post yesterday discussed the fact that I am supposed to be headed to Kansas City to preach tonight. It's my last flight out of the state to preach this year. And all that other high drama it wrote. And wouldn't you know it. I missed my flight this morning. My flight was scheduled to leave LAX at 6:20 AM. So I packed last night before I went to bed. And right before I fell asleep, I jumped up and set my alarm for 4:30 AM. It was 5:46 when I woke up and looked at the clock. So I got up and began to determine what should happen next. When I finally looked at my alarm; sure enough, it was set for 4:30. 4:30 PM!!!

Last week, the pastor I was preaching for in Detroit was setting what time he would pick me up to take me to the airport. I told him that the earliest possible time was better. "Over the years of my travel," I bragged, "I haven't missed any flights leaving home to preach. But I have often missed the flight going home." Actually, I have missed one flight before. But it was a scheduling mix up with the church I was preaching for. Anyway, me and my big mouth are sitting here in the airport writing this post, waiting for my connecting flight from Salt Lake City to Kansas City (You know that you're not much of a city when you have to put it in the title of your name to affirm yourself! - LOL). So here is another "I have never..." I have to take off of my mental trophy case. And the rest of them are falling fast. Maybe I should just learn to keep my mouth shut in the future.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My Last Out of State Trip

If the Lord wills, I will fly to Kansas City in the morning. I am scheduled to preach Thursday and Friday for Pastor Donald Slack at the New Hope Baptist Church of Independence Missouri. It is the last out of state preaching event I have scheduled for 2005. I still have other meetings I am scheduled to preach outside of Mt. Sinai. But they are local events. This is the last time I will be getting on a plane in 2005 to go outside of California to preach. And I am glad about it. I miss my wife and children so much when I am on the road preaching. I also miss sleeping in my own bed, studying at my desk, and going about my normal routine. And I definitely miss being with and ministering to my own congregation, Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. So why, you may ask, do I travel so much to preach?

Let me offer several answers to that question. First of all, and this is honest, I don’t know. When I reflect on what I wrote in the previous paragraph, I really don’t know why I travel away from home as much as I do. Likewise, I would answer that question by saying that I am compulsive about preaching. I have a burden to proclaim the Word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ that I just cannot shake. Woe unto me if I do not preach! So I try to take advantage of the opportunities I have to preach, without being negligent of other responsibilities God has given me. Another thing that motivates me to travel so much is my passion to encourage pastor-teachers, edify the church, and evangelize the lost. I love preachers. I love the church. And I love lost people. And any opportunity I have to do them spiritual good in the proclamation of the Word is a fulfilling blessing to me. As MSMBC grows, and I am able to “go without going” through more and various media outreaches, I trust that my travel schedule will decrease. In the meantime, I have to go by actually going. Another thing is that I feel a definite sense of compulsion to go and preach.

Personally, there is no better place in the world to preach than Mt. Sinai Church. I am the “proud” pastor of MSMBC (hopefully, in the non-sinful sense). And I trust that they are proud to have me as their pastor. They take good care of me and my family, so that I don’t have to do anything out of a false sense of pressure. I am not wealthy; but I don’t have any needs, either. My congregation takes care of me so that I am free to pray, read, study, think, and preach. And Mt. Sinai deserves whatever human credit is deserved for my ministry. Sorry folks, but I do my best work for MSMBC. In 15 years of pastoral work, I have only preached two sermons away from 18th and Gramercy that I hadn’t first preached to MSMBC. One was during my first year of pastoring, 15 years ago. And the other was last year, when I preached the pastoral anniversary of a “son of Sinai.” My labor in the Word is for my own devotion and the building up of the congregation that I am called to oversee. Praise God if and/or when other congregation reaps some of the fruit of my ministry work at MSMBC.

A member once asked me if I traveled to preach because of the money. Laughing, I responded, “If you would have been with me the past several trips, you wouldn’t ask me that. You’d know that I’m not in it for the money.” I was amused; but I was serious. I don’t put a price on my ministry like that. And I don’t have any screening process that guarantees I will preach to a packed house, increase my ministry profile, or come home with a big honorarium. Most of the time, none of those things happen. Honestly, there are some places that I have been this year that I really regret going to; but it had nothing to do with what I got out of it. It was because of how I perceived my ministry was received. Some people don’t take the ministry of the Word seriously. They view preaching in terms of an exhibition, rather than exposition. That bothers me. But even in those instances, I trust that God was at work through his Word. And I have seen God do it enough times that it compels me to keep preaching in hope. Pray that the Lord continue to open a door for the Word. And may the Lord help me to walk in wisdom, as I make the most of every opportunity.