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.