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.