Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tell the Truth!

I heard one of his best sermons I have heard all year long this past Sunday. Phil Placenti, one of the associate pastors of Mt. Sinai who leads our children’s department, preached his “annual” December sermon. I am usually on vacation the week after my pastoral anniversary. And in most recent years, Phil has ended up preaching for me on the third Sunday in December. So we just consider this Sunday his annual spot. Sunday, Phil preached a message on Matthew 5:33-37 entitled, “Tell the Truth.” It was a clear, challenging, and convicting message taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. And it was both well-prepared and well-presented. Most of all, it was God glorifying. Click here to get to the audio of the message on our church website.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Personal December Holidays

In the midst of all that has been going on these past weeks, I have failed to note several days in December that have a deep personal significance for me.

12/10 – Sunday, December 10, we celebrated my sixteenth anniversary as pastor of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. My friend, Romell Williams, who pastors the Lilydale Baptist Church in Chicago, preached our two Sunday morning services. And my pastor, Dr. Melvin V. Wade Sr., who leads the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Los Angeles, preached the afternoon service. Likewise, some of the “Sons of Sinai,” my brothers, joined us for the celebration. It was a special day. I was refreshed, encouraged, and motivated by all of the events of the day. I thank the Lord for the wonderful privilege of shepherding the loving congregation of Mt. Sinai. And after all these years, through the good and the bad, our dreams are still greater than our memories.

12/12 – Tuesday, December 12, was the eighth anniversary of my marriage to the former Crystal Moreland. Because we were preoccupied with the upcoming trip to Midland, we didn’t plan any thing major. We simply had dinner together at one of our favorite restaurants, which we only get to go to about once a year. We had a long, quiet dinner. We talked a lot and made each other laugh out loud, exchanging stories. We both really needed that. Then we kind of goofed off for several hours. As we went, we thought of things to do. And we just hung out until we started getting sleepy. This was what it was like when we were dating. We never seemed to have big plans. We just kind of did nothing together. But we were really good at it. Thank God that after these years we are still pretty good at just doing nothing together.

12/18 – Yesterday, December 18, was Crystal’s thirty-second birthday. The kids and I took her out to dinner last night. It was also the birthday of a lady sitting near us at the restaurant. She tried to guess how old Crystal was. And, of course, she was nowhere near it. This is typical. Unfortunately, people I meet often think that I am older than I am. But it is just the opposite with Crystal. Many think she is just a teenager. They find it hard to believe that she is a married mother of two children. This is fine by me. Crystal is just as pretty today as she was when we met in high school years ago. And I can’t wait to see how much more beautiful she will be thirty years from now. Happy birthday, Sunshine!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Spiritual Comfort in Personal Grief

The past several weeks have been quite eventful for me and my family, to say the least. The day after Thanksgiving, my father-in-law became ill at our home. And our family went through an almost two-week vigil, praying for his recovery. The reports we received about his condition seemed to change from day to day – one day good, one day bad. Ultimately, the Lord had the last say. And the Lord chose to call dad home this past Friday. This has been a tragic loss for us. But we praise God for dad’s salvation, for which we had prayed for years. We thank God for dad’s faith and hope in Jesus Christ. And for the fact that he is perfectly healed in the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you for those who have covered our family with believing prayer during this period. And thank you for every act of kindness, love, and sympathy. Mt. Sinai, you have been an invaluable source of love and support over these past days. Crystal and I love you very much and are truly grateful to God for blessing us to serve such great people. And to all our loved-ones and well-wishers, thank you. God bless you.

We will be headed to Midland, Texas, this weekend for dad’s funeral service. Please keep me, Crystal, our children, and our entire family in your prayers.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

From my family, to yours, "Happy Thanksgiving!"

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!" - Psalm 100:4

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31

"Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" - 2 Corinthians 9:15

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." - Colossians 3:17

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of GOd in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Seven Reasons for Thanksgiving

I have many reasons to be grateful today - health, strength, family, friends, provisions… But here are seven primary reasons I have to especially give thanks to God for his goodness to me.

Life: I thank God that he has spared and sustained my life through another year. As I grow older (and more mature, I hope), I am experiencing an increasingly greater sense of my own mortality. I am still a young man. And I trust I have many more years to live and serve God. But I am also aware that life is “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14 – ESV). So I am grateful for every day of life God gives me.

Salvation & spiritual growth: I thank God for saving me by his sovereign grace. I praise the Lord that he has not treated me as my sins deserve. Instead, he has given me eternal life through faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And I thank God that he is still at work in me, conforming me to the image of his Son. And he will bring the good work he has begun in me to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

Crystal: I thank God for my wife, Crystal Reanne’ Charles. She is my “Sunshine.” It seems like the Lord transforms her into just what I need her to be, exactly when I need it. It is an amazing thing to experience. To steal a line from a Jack Nicholson movie, she makes me want to be a better man. I love her and thank God for giving her to me.

H.B.III & Natalie Marie: I thank God for my two children. They are gifts of God that give a sense of gravity to my life, keeping me from drifting away in superficialities. I praise God as I watch their continual growth and development. And it’s the coolest thing in the world to be their personal “Jungle Jim.” I just don’t have the words to express what they mean to me. I thank God for them and pray that they would continue to grow as Jesus grew (Luke 2:52).

My call to preach: I thank God that he has called me to be a herald of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. My goals for my preaching are pretty simple. I want to be faithful, clear, and authentic. However, these simple goals are incredibly lofty for a sinner like me. I am still amazed that God would use someone like to do something as important as this. I am truly grateful that the primary task of my daily life is to get ready to preach and teach the word of God. I can’t believe I get paid to do this. And I thank God for every opportunity he gives me to proclaim the scriptures, be it in season or out of season.

MSMBC: I thank God for the wonderful privilege of pastoring Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. November 5th marked the sixteenth anniversary of the day I was selected to pastor this great church. And even though I have been called to spiritually nurture the congregation; they have done just as much to nurture me over the years. The primary human credit for what is good about me and my ministry belongs to the loving membership of MSMBC. I thank God and pray for them in all my prayers (Philippians 1:3-4).

2006: I thank God for all that he has done for me, in me, and through me in 2006. This has been a challenging year for me in some respects. At points, I have been low in spirits to a degree that is not typical of me. But in the midst of it all, God has been faithful. And through the ups-and-downs, the Lord has continued to use me, help me, and bless me. Amazingly, the things that “stick” to me about this year are all positive – that is a reason to be thankful, in and of itself.

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.” – 2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

You Can Trust the Bible

Here is the sermon skeleton from Sunday's message:

Title: "You Can Trust the Bible"

Text: Psalm 119:137-144

Theme: The trustworthiness of the word of God

Point: You can trust the Bible.


I. You can trust the Bible because it is the word of God (119:137-138).

A. The righteous source of scripture is God (v. 137).

B. The righteous substance of scripture is faithful (v. 138).

II. You can trust the Bible in every situation (119:139-141).

A. It is worthy of your zeal (v. 139).

B. It is worthy of your love (v. 140).

C. It is worthy of your remembrance (v. 141).

III. You can trust the Bible to provide what you need the most (119:142-144).

A. It imparts the truth of God (v. 142).

B. It imparts the joy of God (v. 143).

C. It imparts the life of God (v. 144).

Recoving from a another Long Weekend

This past Friday night, the Pastor’s Aide Team of Los Angeles honored me as their “Pastor of the Year.” The service was held at MSMBC. And several pastoral colleagues and sister churches were here to encourage me and others pastors. I deeply appreciated the kind gestures. But, most of all, I really appreciated the presence of Mt. Sinai. I have served this congregation for almost sixteen years. They are the ones who really know what kind of pastor I am, good or bad. But even though I enjoyed the service, it was rather draining for me. Being in those kind of settings take a lot out of me for some reason. There is such a sense of unworthiness that I feel. I am still a young preacher and pastor. I have a long way to go. Maybe thirty years down the road, I might be more deserving of such an honor. But I do really appreciate the encouragement. Mark it down: Preachers need to be encouraged. And, to be honest, many times I am desperate for it. I just want to know that what I am doing is making a difference. So it’s encouraging to have been considered, no matter what else did or did not happen. Thank you, Mt. Sinai, for every expression of your love me and Crystal. We love you.

Well, what do you do after you are honored as “Pastor of the Year”? You go to Disneyland! That’s what you do. Thinking I would be finished with my work, I promised H.B. and Natalie that I would take them to Disneyland Saturday. Crystal told me not to say anything to them. But I had to open my big mouth – the anticipation is just as much fun as the trip itself. So off we went – Crystal and I, the kids, and my pastor’s grand-daughter. It totally wiped me out. And I got sick. My sinuses started bothering me, and my head was aching. Crystal gave me some medicine. And it helped me to rest… to well. I overslept Sunday morning (something I basically never do). And in the rush to get myself ready, I got sick again. I struggled through the first service. Then I went home, ditching my Sunday School class. I intended to go home and stay, but my headache subsided enough that I came back to preach the second service. The Lord gave me strength to lead the service. But I was totally wiped out afterwards. I rested all Sunday afternoon. And I did as much of nothing as I could yesterday. I am back at work today, and I feeling a lot better. Thanks for your prayers and your notes and/or calls of concern.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Embracing the Wonderful Word of God

Here is the sermon skeleton from Wednesday night's message:

Title: “Embracing the Wonder of God’s Word

Text: Psalm 119:129-136

Theme: The wonderful word of God

Point: You can move beyond the common life by embracing the wonder of God’s word.

Transitional Sentence: Embracing the wonder of God’s word will transform your life in specific three ways.


I. The word of God will renew your mind (119:129-131).

Verses 129-131 shows us three attitudes you must in order to experience the power of God’s word to renew your mind.

A. An attitude of reverence (v. 129)

B. An attitude of openness (v. 130)

C. An attitude of longing (v. 131)

II. The word of God will change your ways (119:132-135).

Verses 132-135 record four things you should pray for in order to
experience the power of God’s word to change your ways.

A. Pray for God’s gracious intervention (v. 132).

B. Pray for God’s sanctifying power (v. 133).

C. Pray for God’s mighty deliverance (v. 134).

D. Pray for God’s for divine favor (v. 135).

III. The word of God will break your heart (119:136).

A. Godly sorrow ought to lead you to talk to God about unbelievers.

B. Godly sorrow ought to lead yout o talk to unbelievers about God.

Resisting Empty Homiletics

Early in my pastoral ministry, a wise professor warned me to make sure my preaching was more like roots than like pipes. The water and other nutrients a tree or plant needs are found passes through the roots. And as the roots feed the tree, the roots themselves become stronger. However, water passes through pipes without the water benefiting the pipes in any way. The water helps others, but not the pipes. In fact, the longer the water passes through the pipes, the more rust and decay corrupt the pipes. So those of us who preach and teach the word must vigilantly strive to be roots, not pipes, as we minister the word of God to others.

I face this challenge each week in preaching and teaching. Ninety-nine percept of the time, I am plodding through new scriptural territory. And I am taking in so much that sometimes it is hard to keep up. I also face the fact that Wednesday and Sundays come with blinding speed. For instance, I have been studying Psalm 119 on Wednesdays for the better part of this year. And it has definitely been a challenge, homiletically. First of all, it is one (singular) psalm, with basically the same theme approached from different angles. Likewise, many of the same terms and phrases are used in stanza after stanza, requiring that I keep considering fresh ways to same the same thing. And each stanza is eight verses long. This forces me to think about how to organize the messages differently, so that they don’t sound redundant. In some stanzas, this is rather easy to do – as the outline of the section is obvious. But with others, you have to wrestle with it a little bit to get it to yield. These practical challenges require me to work hard to make sure I am feeding my own soul as I do that nuts and bolts work of ministering to my beloved congregation. I do not want to be a “preaching machine,” in the bad sense of the term. I don’t want to be a pipe that pumps out sermons, without my life being changed by the word that I preach.

Recently, my son told me that when he grows up he wants to writer sermons, just like me. I was surprised and encouraged to hear him say this, seeing my son is usually rather intimated by what I do. But I also found it funny that he did not say that I preach sermons. Most of the time, he catches me in the process of preparation. And it seems like the actually preaching of the sermons is just a momentary blur. But I must remember that my preparation really isn’t about the preaching of sermons. My study is to be for the feeding of my own soul. And the congregation is to receive the fruit of my personal time with God in prayer, meditation, and study. Even though the preaching moment is the most urgent matter; it’s not the most important. The life I live and the work I do between sermons are more important than the sermons themselves. So may the Lord grant that my personal life and commitment to sound doctrine be a system of strong roots from which much fruit grows to his glory.

Monday, November 13, 2006

My Final Speaking Engagements for 2006

This past week, I spoke at the last three meetings outside of MSMBC that I have scheduled for 2006. Tuesday (11/7), I spoke at the Perfect Peace Bible Church in Los Angeles, where Charles Ashley is the pastor. Wednesday through Friday (11/8-10), I spoke at the Union Evangelistic Baptist Church in Chicago Heights, where Pastor James Flint has served for over thirty-five years. Pastor Flint began his ministry under my father, many years ago. And it was an honor to have this opportunity to preach to the warm congregation of the Union Church. I also had the opportunity to meet pastor’s son, James Jr., who serves with his father at Union. Of course, I am always moved when I see fathers and sons serving together in the work of ministry. It was a real joy to be in Chicago Heights (a suburb in south Chicago), until Friday. It was so warm and sunny Wednesday and Thursday. I thought I wouldn’t need all the stuff I brought to bundle up in. But Friday it was cold, windy, and raining (when I woke up from a nap Friday afternoon, I looked out the window and saw that it was raining sideways!). It was Chicago. And I couldn’t wait to get on that plane and get back to civilization.

Saturday morning, I flew to Houston to preach for Dr. A. Louis Patterson Jr. at the Mt. Corinth Baptist Church. I was a teenager when I first heard Pastor Patterson preach. I bought a tape of him in a church bookstore. And two things happened. First, I straight stole that sermon. I preached that thing all over town. In fact, today – almost twenty years later – I can recall that message well enough to steal it again, if need be. (I trust, however, that I have enough of my own work stored up so that I would not have to steal if I was in a jam). The second thing that happened is that Pastor Patterson became another strong link in the chain that pulled me toward expository preaching. Over the years, Pastor Patterson’s manner and ministry has been an example for me in so many ways. And I am overwhelmed by the fact that he has been a source of great kindness and encouragement to me – both he and his dear wife. So when Dr. Patterson asked me to preach for him a month or so ago, the answer way yes even before he asked. I do not usually leave my pulpit on Sunday mornings; but an invitation from Dr. Patterson is an instant and automatic exception.

Yesterday was Men and Women’s Demonstration Day at Mt. Corinth. However, there was only a brief acknowledgement of it. There was no pomp and circumstance connected to this annual day. In this, Dr. Patterson and I are kindred spirits. I preached both morning services. The congregation was attentive, warm, and responsive in both meetings. What can I say? Mt. Corinth is a great church! The members of the congregation reflect a genuine love for Jesus Christ, the scriptures, their pastor, Mt. Corinth, and one another. If there are unloving members of Mt. Corinth, Dr. Patterson must hide them in the basement before I arrive. Much of the spirit of the congregation is the result of the Lord’s work in and through Dr. Patterson. His often speaks of “joy for the journey.” And this is spirit seems to have become contagious in Mt. Corinth. It was a great blessing to worship and fellowship with the Dr. and Mrs. Patterson and the wonderful congregation at Mt. Corinth. The twenty-four hours I was there seemed to fly by. But I was glad to get home to Crystal, H.B., and Natalie last night. Praise God for his continued blessings of strength, guidance, and mercy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Perfect Peace and Union Evangelistic

I spoke at the Perfect Peace Bible Church in Los Angeles Tuesday night. Pastor Charles Ashley asked me to come several months ago, when we saw each other at a convention meeting. But we failed to talk again after that. So there was somewhat of a scheduling conflict. But I was able to speak Tuesday night. Pastor “Scruffie” Shiggs and the Love Lifted Me Church family were also in attendance. MSMBC partnered in ministry with this congregation some years ago. And it is such a joy to see how the Lord is continuing to work in and through this unique congregation.

Last night, I began the first of three nights at the Union Evangelistic Baptist Church in Chicago Heights, Ill. Pastor James Flint, who has served this congregation for 38 years, began preaching under my father in Los Angeles. I am encouraged to see how the Lord continues to sustain the impact of my father’s work, even though he went home to be with the Lord 17 years ago. Pastor Flint serves the Union Church family with his son, James, Jr. And, of course, it blesses me to see a father and son working together in this way. I was so grateful to be in worship last night. Union is a good preaching place. I look forward to the next two nights.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Christianity at its Worst and its Best

Over the past week, America has had a front row seat to see Christianity on display at both its worst and its best. Last week, Ted Haggard, the former pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was confronted with allegations of gross sinful behavior. And though he claims that all of the charges against him are not true, he admits that enough of them are true to warrant him being removed from his various ministry leadership posts. In a letter read to New Life this past Sunday, Haggard described himself as “a deceiver and a liar,” as he confessed his sexual immorality to the congregation he formed. What can I say? It is a bad when leaders fall into gross sin that brings reproach to the name of Jesus Christ. And it is sad that the “celebrity preacher” mindset, which has corrupted Christianity in America, pressures men to pretend to be something they are not. And it sad that we allow a few high-profile preachers to become the “voice” of Christianity, causing the credibility of the church to rise or fall with the statements and conduct of a few “big named” religious personalities. And it is sad that many people have been hurt, disillusioned, and turned off by these events.

Indeed, this scandal has exposed Christianity at its worst. But, at the same time, this situation has demonstrated Christianity at its best. Even though New Life is an independent church, Haggard and his associates apparently organized the congregation with an elaborate system of accountability, in the unfortunate event that something like this would happen. Many congregations that are closely affiliated with associations and denominations do not have this kind of accountability system for its leadership. Haggard’s fate was not in his own hands, or in the hands of his hand-picked staff, but was in the hands four pastors, called “overseers,” who lead churches in different parts of the county. Haggard and New Life gave them full authority to decide when and how the pastor should be disciplined or removed. And that system was followed by all involved. You may not like the system. But at least they had one. And they followed it.

A letter was also read to the New Life congregation Sunday from Haggard’s wife, Gayle. Addressing her comments to the women of the church, she wrote, “I love my husband, Ted Haggard, with all my heart. I am committed to death do us part. ... My test has begun. Watch me. I will try to prove myself faithful” Wow! Claiming “irreconcilable differences”, many people quit their marriages for far less than what Mrs. Haggard is experiencing. I know that many people may think that she should leave him. And, eventually, that may be what she does. But the fact that this was her initial response is remarkable to me. It seems so “Job-like” to me. May she experience the sufficient grace and enabling help of God during this trial.

What was New Life’s response to the news of Haggard’s sin and his admission of guilt? They forgave him. No doubt, this congregation is experiencing hurt, grief, and betrayal, as they have been caught in the crossfire of this controversy. Yet, they have chosen to forgive him. And they have affirmed their continued love for Haggard and his family. And in their worship services Sunday , they prayed for his full restoration and return to public ministry, even though it was said that he would never return to the pastorate at New Life. They even prayed for the gentlemen whose allegations kicked-off this sad saga. This, again, is Christianity at its best. We are people of grace. We forgive, not because people deserve it, but because we have been forgiven. May the Lord comfort this congregation, send them a godly shepherd soon, and continue to use them as a witness for Christ in the days to come.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Way of Salvation

Here is the sermon skeleton from yesterday's message:

Title: "The Way of Salvation"

Text: Ephesians 2:8-10

Theme: The way of salvation

Point: Christians need to understand how we got save just as much as non-Christians need to understand how to get saved.


I. We need to understand the source of salvation: "by grace you have been saved" (2:8a)

II. We need to understand the means of salvaiton: "through faith" (2:8a)

III. We need to understand the nature of salvation: "It is the gift of God" (2:8c)

A. Self does not save: "And this is not your own doing" (2:8b)

B. Works do not save: "not a result of works" (2:9)

IV. We need to understand the purpose of salvation: "for good works" (2:10)

A Recap of a Long Weekend

This weekend, the pastoral leaders and staff of MSMBC met together for our annual retreat, in which we review the previous year and plan for the coming year (and beyond). While I noted that Friday's meeting went well; Saturday was a litter tougher. Our congregation worships at a location where there is no parking (members park a block or so away, behind a supermarket). We do not have much Christian education space either (we also use another building a block away for Sunday School). And our building needs much repair. And as we process the options that we have, it is always difficult for us to reach consensus on what to do, what to do first, and how to do it. Our Saturday meeting reflected this struggle. We did not get accomplished all that I hoped. But we were able to take some good steps forward. I praise God for this. We are trusting God to make room for us - in both place and space. Continue to pray for us about these matters.

I was beat Sunday morning. I think the weekend had caught up with me. I was really movign in slow motion when I woke up. Praise God that I already had my sermon ready before the weekend started (which almost never happens). All I had to do was review my manuscript through the weekend. Yet, I still ended up preaching from the manuscript at the 8 AM service. I read much of it, even though I knew the sermon. I was just tired. I went to the pulpit with it again at 11 AM. But before I read my text, I put my manuscript back in the folder and just went for it. God was faithful to bless the presentation of his word in both services. The message was a contination of study of Ephesians (2:8-10).

Speaking of Ephesians... It my intention to break from the exposition of Ephesians at this point. I am not yet finished with my exposition of Psalm 119. I have 6 more sections to go. And I intend to preach through them on Wednesdays and Sundays, so that I can get it done be year's end. Come January, I would like to start editing the manuscripts for publication. But it would be quite an ambition project. We'll see. I plan to resume Ephesians on Wednesday nights some time in 2007. We have planned several shorter series for the Sunday meetings in 2007. There are some specific subjects that I want to address. I tried to do that this year. But there was a gap between planning and preparation. I trust that will be different this time around. Please remember my pulpit ministry at MSMBC in your prayers.

Yesterday afternoon, we joined the First Goodwill Baptist Church in celebrating their pastor's 4th anniversary. Clinton Smith is my brother-in-law, married to my older sister Tracy. He started preaching here at MSMBC during the early days of my pastorate. And I praise God for the years we served together, and the opportunities I had to see the Lord develop him and his ministry. He was even our full-time Pastor of Christian Education for a period. The First Goodwill Church had faced some challenges, before Clint's ministry began there. Yet, he has had to minister through them. And I am really proud of his diligence, focus, and confidence in God. Please remember this pastor and church in your prayers.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

2006 Church Council Fall Retreat

I am at the 2006 MSMBC Church Council Retreat. Actually, the staff and the pastoral leaders of the church are together this weekend - evaluating the past year of ministry and planning for the upcoming year. This is the fourth of fifth time we have done this. And it is usually a great time of prayer, fellowship, and vision-casting. This year is no different. No, I take that back. It is a little different this year. We have come here with a pretty clear and unified agenda of matters we need to process and made decisions about before we go into 2007. Yesterday was a good start. We were able to address most of the things that we scheduled for the agenda. We were even able to move forward on some of the challenging subjects we have to tackle. This is truly a blessing from God. In the past, it has been much harder for us to work some through issues. And we have used the blocks of time reserved for five different things just to cover one. I am not sure what is making the difference this year. But, whatever it is, I credit God for it. Please pray that today's meetings will be just as productive and will bear much fruit to the glory of God. And pray that God will use us in a greater way in 2007 to win more Christians and to develop better Christians to the glory.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Praying your Way through Mistreatment

I continued my exposition of Psalm 119 in our Midweek Worship Service last night. At this point, I am pressing to conclude this study by the end of the year. That's the plan. I hope I am able to accomplish it. Here is the skeleton from last night's message on the sixteenth stanza of Psalm 119.

Title: “Praying your Way through Mistreatment

Text: Psalm 119:120-128

Theme: A prayer for deliverance from unjust suffering

Point: You can trust God to do what is right even when it seems that everything is going wrong.

Transitional Sentence: In this Ayin stanza of Psalm 119, the writer shows us three things to pray for when we are being mistreated for doing what is right.


I. Pray for personal deliverance (119:121-123).

Verses 121-123 remind us of three attributes of God we can out on as we pray for personal deliverance.

A. God is holy (v. 121).

B. God is good (v. 122).

C. God is faithful (v. 123).

II. Pray for spiritual enlightenment (119:124-125).

The spiritual enlightenment you need to deal with mistreatment will come as you seek the favor and wisdom of God.

A. Seek the favor of God (v. 124).

B. Seek the wisdom of God (v. 125).

III. Pray for divine intervention (119:126-127)

There are two things you must remember as you wait on God to intervene to change your situation.

A. God’s timing is perfect (v. 126).

B. God’s truth is perfect (vv. 127-128).

1. Treasure it (v. 127)
2. Trust it (v. 128)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Burden of Ministry

"If I Should write of the heavy burden of the godly preacher, which he must carry and endure, as I know from my own experience, I would scare every man from the office of preaching." - Martin Luther, The Table Talk of Martin Luther

Monday, October 30, 2006

But God!

Yesterday, I continued our exposition of the book of Ephesians with a message from Ephesians 2:4-7. It was a continuation of the message from the previous week, which focused on verses 1-3. Personally, the study of this passage has been refreshing and reinvigorating. I am so grateful for the grace and mercy of God that has saved me through Jesus Christ. And I praise the Lord that he has chosen me to be a herald of the good news. I am also grateful for the privilege of being the teaching pastor at Mt. Sinai Church. I am blessed to be in a place where the primary pressure in preaching is simply to make sure that I get the text right. I am free to preach my convictions about the scripture. And, for the most part, the congregation is receptive of the truth of God words, wherever it may lead us. I am blessed. May the word of God continue to increase among us.

Here is the sermon skeleton from yesterday's message:

Title: “But God!”

Text: Ephesians 2:4-7

Theme: Divine intervention saves sinners through Jesus Christ.

Point: Only God saves!

Transitional Sentence: Ephesians 2:4-7 explains four dynamics of the divine intervention that saves sinners through Christ.


I. The Good News of Divine Intervention (2:4a)

II. The Motivating Factors of Divine Intervention (2:4b-c)

A. The mercy of God is rich (v. 4b).

B. The love of God is grace (v. 4c)

III. The Saving Work of Divine Intervention (2:5-6)

A. God made us alive with Christ (v. 5c).

B. God raised us up with Christ (v. 6a)

C. God seated us with Christ (v. 6b)

IV. The Eternal Purpose of Divine Intervention (2:7)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Litter Further Up Mt. Everest

Last night, we continued our study of Psalm 119 during our midweek worship service. I have not been there in several weeks. And I really missed the worship and fellowship. This particular section of Psalm 119 was not an easy nut to crack. It begins, in verse 113, with the writer declaring, "I hate the double-minded, but I love your law." I meditated on that statement for days, before I remembered that I had seven more verses to study. On the surface, it seems that this opening statement sets a rather stern tone for the rest of the stanza. But, in reality, the section is not as critical as it first seems. The writer is talking tough about ungodly people in order to warn his own hearts about the consequences of disobedience to God. It really is a moving passage of scripture. Likewise, it is interesting that as the writer gets closer to the end of this psalm, his devotion, resolve, and passion do not wane. They intensify. May that be true of all of us as we come to the close of this year.

Here is the sermon skeleton from last night's message:

Title: "Choosing Right and Rejecting Wrong"

Text: Psalm 119:113-120

Theme: Godly determination that overcomes ungodly peer pressure

Point: Your ability to say yes to God is determined by your ability to say no to no to the sins and sinners that hinder obedience.


I. Choosing right and rejecting wrong requires single-mindedness (119:113-115).

A. Single-mindedness towards self (v. 113).

B. Single-mindedness towards God (v. 114).

C. Single-mindedness towards non-believers (v. 115).

II. Choosing right and rejecting wrong requires trust (119:116-117).

A. Trust God to sustain you by his word (v. 116).

B. Trust God to sustain you for his word (v. 117).

III. Choosing right and rejecting wrong requires reverence (119:118-120).

A. You should stand in awe of God for how he deals with the ungodly (vv. 118-119).

B. You should stand in awe of God for how he deals with you (v. 120).

1. Fear the God of the word (v. 120a)

2. Fear the word of God (v. 120b)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Into Ephesians 2

Yesterday, I continued our exposition of Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus. I finally made it into the second chapter of the letter. The passage I am studying consist of verses 1-10. However, I only did the first three verses. I will take me at least two, possible three, more sermons before I finish this passage. I look forward to this being a rich study for me and MSMBC, seeing that this is one of the New Testament statements of the way of salvation: by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to the glory of God alone. Here is the sermon skeleton from yesterday's message:

Title: “The Tragedy of Life without Christ

Text: Ephesians 2:1-3

Theme: The total depravity of the unredeemed human condition

Point: You have absolutely no hope of getting right with God without faith in Jesus Christ.


I. You are dead without Christ (2:1)

II. You are enslaved without Christ (2:2-3a)

A. The unsaved are enslaved to the world (2:2a).

B. The unsaved are enslaved to the devil (2:2b).

C. The unsaved are enslaved to the flesh (2:3a).

1. The flesh is bound to sinful desires.

2. The flesh is bound to sinful deeds.

III. You are condemned without Christ (2:3b).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Congratulations to One of the Good Guys!!!

This past Sunday, I preached the pastoral anniversary celebration for my longtime friend Reginald Payne. He has served the Full Gospel Baptist Church in Los Angeles for thirteen years now. (For the record, the name of the church does not reflect its theology. Reginald is as sound as they come. He has simply chosen to honor the previous pastor and the congregation’s history by not changing the name of the church.)

We were junior deacons together at Mt. Sinai. I was eleven when I preached my first sermon. It was during the youth choir’s musical. Reginald was the president of that choir. When I had someone to preach, my father would send Reggie to drive me most of the time. When my father had to travel, Reggie’s mom and dad would baby-sit me. His mom, Patricia, would make Reggie take me with him if he was going somewhere. We were together with my dad in Dallas, when Reggie acknowledged his called into the ministry. We shared responsibility for the youth department. We endured many Tuesday night preachers’ classes together, along with our other young preacher buddies at MSMBC. We helped each other with our messages, when we got an opportunity to preach. My dad named Reginald as his “special assistant” the year he died, without a complaint from the congregation. Months before, when he expressed the desire to do something similar with me one day, a senior member publicly voiced her objections – during Communion!

Reginald was the one who came to the airport to pick me up the day my father died. During that period, we became the closest of friends. We were together the night I was called to pastor Mt. Sinai. We lived together for several years after that. During that time, he was my right-hand man. We even called him “Ready Reggie,” because he always had a message prepared when I needed someone to preach. We were planning of bringing him on fulltime when he was called to pastor Full Gospel. In fact, he had already taken over preaching duties in our 8 AM service, and had begun a series through the book of 2 Corinthians. The congregation was small and struggling when Reginald arrived. But God has used him over these years to develop this congregation in every way. And Reginald is one of the best of the preachers of my generation in our city (even though, with his graying hair, he looks somewhat older than he is. But hey, what can I say, at least he has hair!). Reginald picked up a lot of my father’s pastoral skills. He paid attention and followed my father’s example, unlike some bloggers who will remain anonymous.

I am proud of Reginald. And I am praying that the Lord would continue to bless his wife and daughter. And I pray that the Lord would use him in an ever greater way to spread the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. I am often complaining about my generation of pastors and preachers. But I hope to spend more time turning on the lights, rather than shouting at the darkness. Why should the “bad guys” get all the attention? Reginald, praise God, is one of the “good guys.” He deserves to be commended for his love for God, his pastor’s heart, and his commitment to sound doctrine. Pray that his tribe increases.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Revival @ Progressive in Seattle

I am in Seattle. Last night, I preached the first of three nights for Pastor Curtis Taylor and the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. The congregation is celebrating sixty-five years of ministry. And this three-night meeting is a part of the celebration, which will continue Friday night and conclude Sunday morning.

I experienced a first yesterday. Of all my travels, it was the first time I had been on a plane with a medical emergency. An older gentleman began to have heart complications. The flight attendants seemed concerned that he was having a heart attack. And the pilots were considering landing, even though we were about and hour and a half away from Seattle. I prayed. But I felt rather helpless. They kept asking if there was a physician on the plane. I wanted to say, “No, but I’m a pastor. And I can pray.” But they asked everyone to stay in their seats. And they did not want other passengers crowding around. So I sat in my seat and prayed. They did not have to land early. And he was able to walk off the plane, with the paramedics help. Praise God for that. I hope he is alright.

Last night’s service was special for several reasons. First, it was a real expression of trust for this pastor to invite me to come to minister to his congregation. I am grateful. Likewise, some of my family members (on my wife’s side) came out to hear me preach. It was good to see them. Somehow, their presence made me feel at home in the service. Finally, three young men from Regent College in Vancouver drove two and a half hours to hear me preach – one brother was from Canada, another from Africa, and one from Florida. They have heard about my ministry from several sources. And they have listened to my messages on our church’s website. So they came out to hear me in person. They were very kind. But I was definitely more honored to meet them, then the other way around. Even though I was wiped out, we all went to share a meal. And it was past midnight before we left our conversation. It was wonderful fellowship. I praise God that the Lord is indeed raising up young men who are committed to sound doctrine. I really needed that reminder. And I appreciate their determination to come and encourage me to keep preaching the word. May the Lord bless those young me as they finish their formal studies. And may he use them in a great way for his glory.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I Finally Made It Back to Ephesians

Yesterday, I resumed our exposition of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians during our Sunday morning workship services. I preached the first part of the passage, verses 15-19, more than a month ago. I did verses 19-23 this time, finishing this opening chapter of the letter. Here is the sermon skeleton:

Title: “God’s Power on Display in Christ

Text: Ephesians 1:19-23

Theme: God’s Power on Display in Christ

Point: Jesus Christ himself is the ultimate proof of God’s power to change your life.

Transition Sentence: Verses 20-23 highlight four ways God’s power to change your life was put on display through Christ.


I. God raised Jesus Christ from the dead (v. 20).

II. God seated Jesus Christ at his right hand (vv. 20-21).

A. The authority of Christ is universal (v. 21).

B. The authority of Christ is unending (v. 21)

III. God placed all things under the feet of Jesus Christ (v. 22).

IV. God gave Jesus Christ as Head of all things to the church (vv. 22-23).

A. Christ is the Head of the church (v. 22).

B. The church is the body of Christ (v. 23).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Reading an Answer to Prayer

During my flight home from Detroit today, I read God, Grits, and More by Dr. R.A. Williams, Jr., who pastors the McCoy Memorial Baptist Church in Los Angeles. He is also the president of the WHW Conference on Bible exposition. I was a boy preacher when I first heard him. I had gone to hear Pastor Melvin Wade speak at a local church. The two were doing the meeting together. But I had never heard of Dr. Williams. And I knew I would not make it back to the meeting. So I bought a tape of Dr. Williams. It was some time later before I actually listened to the tape. But when I did, my mind was blown and heart was stirred. I cannot describe the immediate impact his preaching had on me. And over the years, Dr. Williams has greatly influenced my commitment to Bible exposition, even from afar. And on the rare times I have had the opportunity to be in his company, his kindness has been a great encouragement to this young preacher.

In recent years, I have consistently prayed that Dr. Williams would put something into print. The annual conference on Bible exposition that he leads has been a blessing to me, as it has for many others across the country. But I have been concerned that more African-American Bible “scholars” (and how many of those would you say there are around?) and “expositors” (again, how many true expositors are there around?) publish their work. I hope that this doesn’t sound racist (it is definitely not intended to be). But my life and ministry have been edified by the written works of many “white” pastors and teachers. And as a young preacher, it is grieves me that so few of the men from my culture have published their Bible exposition or their theory of exposition. I can think of many men who have much to contribute. And the model provided by the faithful men among us is desperately needed, with so many bad examples occupying such prominent pulpits. Grits is indeed an answer to my prayers. Sort of.

I have prayed that Dr. Williams would write. But I expected that he would write something on preaching. Or that he would write something from the various sequential expositions he has done over the years. This work is definitely not that. It is a more autobiographical piece that addresses the formative experiences and influential people in Dr. Williams’ life. The stories are certainly encouraging. And it’s refreshing to read this pulpit personality share so openly about the matters of his heart. Boyhood challenges, severe poverty, and the passing of loved-ones have directly shaped Dr. Williams into the person he is today. Yet, Dr. Williams writes with confidence that the invisible hand of divine providence has been at work in all of these things to nurture his faith and guide his ministry. Admittedly, this is not what I expected to be reading from Dr. R.A. Williams. But it’s a start. And I praise God for it. And I would encourage you to purchase this book. Read it. Share it with others. And pray that the Lord would continue to lay on Dr. Williams’ heart a desire to set his thoughts, insights, and experiences into print for the benefit of next generation.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Revival @ Oakland Avenue in Detroit

Last night, I began three nights of preaching at the Oakland Avenue Baptist Church in Detroit. Pastor Larry Walker is my host this week. He is kind and generous. And it always a joy to be with around him. This is the third straight year I have had the privilege of ministering to this congregation during the annual Christian education institute and church revival. Dr. William Burwell is doing the Bible institute. He is a provocative teacher, who is zealous about sound doctrine. I am always inspired and challenged when I hear him speak. Please pray for the next two "watches" of this meeting.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Getting Even God's Way

Yesterday, I preached one more message on our "Getting Connected" theme before I return to exposition. It was basically a sermon on forgiveness from the story of Joseph and his brothers. Here is the sermon skeleton:

Title:Getting Even God’s Way

Text: Genesis 50:15-21

Theme: Confidence in God that enables forgiveness of others

Point: Your faith in God is authenticated by your complete forgiveness of others.

Transitional Sentence: Joseph’s response to his brothers' appeal for forgiveness teaches us three ways to get even God’s way.


I. Don’t play God (50:19).

II. View life through the lens of God’s good providence (50:20).

A. Come to grips with the reality of evil (v. 20a).

B. Trust in the overruling providence of God (v. 20b).

III. Treat those you have forgiven as if they have truly been forgiven (50:21).

A. Do not give them any reason to be afraid of you.

B. Give them assurance that you have truly forgiven them.

C. Express your forgiveness by doing what you can to help them.

D. Remember that God has completely forgiven you because of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Happy Birthday H.B. Charles III

Today in my son's seventh birthday. Seven years ago, when he was born, I was on an overnight trip to Atlanta. He was born six weeks premature. I guess he was in a hurry to get here and to get on with things. And I don't think his attitude has changed. This weekend, he informed me, "I am seven now. So I am almost a man." Well, not quite. But he is surely on his way. For months, he has been asking me when he will be able to shave. I told him it will be a while. But I recently bow him a toy shaving kit. When I returned home from work, his kit was in my bathroom - right next to mine. When I asked him about it, he gladly announced, "I am you daddy!" In fact, he regularly offers me a trade: "Daddy, from now on, I'm H.B. Charles Jr. And you be H.B. Charles III." No deal. I keep reminding him, "You are not me." But, secretly, it is really cool that my son wants to be like me. I hope I do not do anything to mess that up. And I pray that the God would saved him and bless him to grow as Jesus grew: in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

From Macon/Warner Robbins to LA

I am at the airport in Atlanta, awaiting my flight home. I have been in Georgia the last two days, with Pastor Maurice Watson. His congregation, Beulahland Bible Church (one church, two locations - Macon & Warner Robbins), is in revival this week. And Pastor graciously asked me to bring the message for the Wednesday night service. First of all, Pastor Maurice Watson is one of the best Bible preachers in this country - hands down. And the Lord is doing a great work through him at Beulahland. The Tuesday night service was held at the Warner Robbins location. Last night's service was held at the Macon location.

The service last night was rich. The music department of Beulahland Church are a joy to hear, and they really set the atmosphere for preaching. And the congregation of Beulahland is a good house to preach in. The congregation was warm, attentive, and receptive. I took my best shot at preaching. I trust and pray that the Lord was pleased with the message, and that it will bear fruit in the days to come. The meeting ends tonight with another California preacher: Dr. Clayborn Lea. Remember this meeting, Pastor Watson, and the Beulahland Church in your prayers. The church needs more positive examples and faithful preachers like Maurice Watson. May his tribe increase.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Revival at Beulahland

I am in Atlanta. I am here to preach Wednesday night for Pastor Maurice Watson at the Beulahland Bible Church in Macon. This is an unscheduled trip for me. The scheduled speaker for Wednesday night was not able to come. So Pastor Watson asked me to fill in. All he had to do was ask. And here I am. Pastor Watson is a homiletical hero, a pastoral mentor, and a dear friend. And I am honored that he asked me to come and share the word with his congregation.

I flew in a day early to hear the Tuesday night speaker: Dr. William Curtis, who pastors the Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Pittsburgh. I have heard recordings of Dr. Curtis. And I have been richly blessed by his preaching. I was eager to hear him in person. And he did not disappoint. He preached an obscure text of scripture. But his exposition of that passage was clear, powerful, and challenging. The Lord really used him tonight. I was a great worship experience. Pray for me that the Lord would use me to preach the word in Wednesday night's meeting.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Are You Determined to Live for God?

Here is the sermon skeleton from tonight's message:

Title: “Are You Determined to Live For God?”

Text: Psalm 119:105-112

Theme: The steadfast determination of a sanctified life

Point: Your commitment to scripture must go from desire to determination in order to live for God.


I. Be determined to follow the guidance of God’s word (119:105-106)

A. The spiritual nature of biblical guidance (v. 105)

B. The proper response to biblical guidance (v. 106

II. Be determined to trust the sufficiency of God’s word (119:107-108)

A. You can give God your burdens (v. 107)

B. You should give God your best (v. 108)

III. Be determined to obey the wisdom of God’s word (119:109-110)

A. Don’t forget the wisdom of God’s word (v. 109).

B. Don’t stray away from the wisdom of God’s word (v. 110).

IV. Be determined to enjoy the reward of God’s word (119:111-112)

A. God's word is a heritage (v. 111).

B. God's word is a reward (v. 112).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blessed to be Busy

I have been quite busy since my last post. Wednesday through Friday of last week, our church hosted a series of "revival" services in connection with our church anniversary. We were blessed to sit under the preaching of Pastor Tellis Chapman of the Galilee Baptist Church of Detroit for three nights. His messages truly ministered to our congregation each night. Saturday morning, I flew to Chicago to preach. My friend, Romell Williams was celebrating two years as pastor of the Lilydale Progressive Baptist Church. I preached the two morning services. And then went to two afternoon services, one at 3:30 and one at 5 PM. Monday morning, I flew home to get ready for our quarterly congregational meeting, which took place Monday night. And yesterday, our church staff had an all-day meeting to get a kick-start to our end of the year planning process. Afterward, our Worship Planning Team met to outline the corporate worship services for the month of October. In the midst of all of this, I have been preparing myself to preach tonight. I intend to continue our study of Psalm 119, with a study of verses 105-112. I will spend the entire day finishing my preparation.

I have been busy. But it has all been a great blessing to me. I don't know if a man could be more blessed than I am, having the privilege to shepherd God's people and minister God's word. I once read of one of the American forefathers, whose name slips my grasp this morning. Anyway, he had worn himself out with his work. And his doctor recommended that he take some time to rest. His wife encouraged him to get away. But he claimed that he didn't know where to go. So she recommended that he sleep on it and that he get up and go to whatever place was most on his heart. The next morning, he did. He went back to his laboratory! I think I feel the same way. Don't worry, my schedule after today will be rather light for the rest of the week. And I intend to take full advantage of that. But, in the meantime, I am not complaining. I am blessed to be busy doing the work of the Lord!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Be Careful How You Build

This past Sunday, I preached a message from 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. It was intended to a warning and challenge to the church to keep the main thing the main thing. I was also preaching to myself. Once again, I struggled to organize my thoughts for preaching. And I felt the weight of that struggle in presenting the message. If the Lord would have allowed me, I would have preached something else during the second service. But I had an assignment that I could not shake. So, with fear and trembling, I stood and admonished the church (and myself!!!) to be careful how you build. Here is the sermon skeleton:

Title: “Be Careful How You Build”

Text: 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

Theme: Divine accountability for Christian ministry in the local church

Point: The Lord Jesus Christ will judge the church growth strategy you practice.


I. Build on the established foundation (3:11).

II. Build with quality materials (3:12).

A. Choose materials with spiritual excellence.

B. Choose materials with an eternal perspective.

III. Build to pass the inspection (3:13).

IV. Build to receive a reward (3:14-15).

A. Work that passes the inspection will be reward (v. 14).

B. Work that fails the inspection will be destroyed (v. 15).

Monday, September 18, 2006

MSMBC's 64th Birthday

Following are the notes that I wrote for this past Sunday's bulletin, as Mt. Sinai Church celebrated its 64th church anniversary:

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!” – Lam. 3:22-24 (KNJV)

Today, we celebrate sixty-four years the Lord God has faithfully blessed, sustained, and utilized the ministry of MSMBC to his glory. At this point, only God knows how many souls have been saved and how many lives have been changed through this congregation’s witness for Jesus Christ. And we wouldn’t be able to name all the people the Lord has used in a special way to build up the body of believers here at Mt. Sinai. Likewise, many can testify to the various ways this church has been “light” and “salt” to influence our surrounding community (and beyond) for the kingdom of heaven. But as we reflect on the rich history and legacy of this church, one thing must be remembered: God did it all! So it is only appropriate that we pause today, not to congratulate ourselves, but to praise God for all that he has done, is doing, and will do through Mt. Sinai Church.

Mt. Sinai Church exists to win more Christians and to develop better Christians to the glory of God (Matt. 28:18-20). And because this “Great Commission” is executed by the authority of Christ, and with his presence, we have every reason to expect the Lord to do great things in and through us in the days to come. We are truly grateful to God for all that he has already done. But our dreams are even greater than our memories. There are many more souls to win, peoples to reach, and need to meet. That’s why we’re still here. God has much more work for us to do. We must not “be at ease in Zion.” We must steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord. After all, the Lord does not need us – any of us. We are mere trophies of his amazing grace. Praise God for it. And may we be faithful stewards of the opportunity we have given to spread the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Soli Deo Gloria.

H.B. Charles Jr.
September 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Falling in Love with God's Word

Thanks for praying for me as I finished my preparation for our Midweek Service yesterday. I was finally able to organize my thoughts for preaching, and type them out. The Lord helped me to write myself clear. And the Lord was with me as I preached the message to the congregation. Here is the sermon skeleton:

Title: “Falling in Love with God’s Word

Text: Psalm 119:97-104

Theme: The wisdom and walk of one who loves the word of God.

Point: To know the word of God is to love the word of God.

Transitional Sentence: In verses 98-104, the psalmist gives three major reasons why you ought to intentionally fall in love with the word of God.


I. The word of God will make you wise (119:98-100).

A. It will give you more wisdom than your enemies (v. 98).

B. It will give you more wisdom than your teachers (v. 99).

C. It will give you more wisdom than your elders (v. 100).

II. The word of God will keep you from sin (119:101-102).

A. It will keep you off of the wrong path of life (v. 101).

B. It will keep you on the right path of life (v. 102).

III. The word of God will give you joy (119:103-104).

A. It will give you a holy appetite for scripture (v. 103).

B. It will give you a holy aversion to sin (v. 104).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Getting Ready for Midweek Service

There is both an art and a science to sermon preparation. It's a science, in that there are rules and principles you should follow in order to get it right. But it's also an art. More specifically, it's a mystery. Ultimately, it's a God-thing. I am being reminded of that this week as I prepare for our midweek service tonight. I am working on Psalm 119:97-104. I was planning to preach it last week. But I just didn't have enough time to work through it. So I preached a message on prayer from Philippians 1:9-11 last week. And you would think that the extra time I have had with this text would make my work easier this week. Nope. This reminds me of something that a friend of mine says, "You've got to do whatever the Lord says do in order to be ready to preach" Or something like that. But I thank God for the time I have spent with this passage. It's about the wisdom and walk of one who loves the word of God. And I have been challenged and convicted by the testimony of the psalmist. May the Lord use me as a mouthpiece for the text tonight to call our congregation to intentionally fall in love with the word of God.

Monday, September 11, 2006

My 9/11 Message

"Jesus’ Response to a National Tragedy" (Luke 13:1-9)

I had been up late struggling to prepare myself to preach the next night. And it was early morning before I finally passed out on the couch. But it wasn’t long before I heard the phone ringing. I ignored it. But moments later, the ringing began again. And, again, I ignored it. But when the ringing began a third time, I rolled over. But I didn’t get up. I just laid there starring at the phone sitting on top of the television. I was thinking, “This had better be good.” And it was. When the phone stopped ringing, my eyes dropped to the TV screen. There was an unfamiliar CNN reporter standing on top of a building. And smoke was rising from a building in the distance behind him. It was the World Trade Center in New York City. I jumped up to grab the phone. And when I got back on the couch, the anchorman was reporting that the Pentagon in Washington D.C. was likewise on fire. I quickly checked the called I.D. It was my mother who had been calling. So I called her back. And we talked and prayed. And after our conversation, I went to the bedroom to wake up Crystal and tell her what was going on. But she just grunted something in an unknown tongue and then rolled over. So I went back to the front room to get more of the report. And by this time, the second tower of the WTC was on fire. And at this point it was clear: America was under attack.

I’m sure that since September 11 you have heard many stories like this one, as we rehearse for one another where we were and what we were doing when we discovered that our nation was under attack. And certainly our national conversation about this shared tragedy helps the healing process. But I submit to you that there is no hope in our personal testimonies, presidential speeches, political commentary, intelligence reports, or military briefings. Church, the only hope for our world today is God. No, not the trivialized God of the televangelists. The sovereign, triune, holy, wise, and good God of the Bible. We need to know where God was and what he was doing when nineteen men high jacked four planes and began to pilot them toward prominent national cites. The only way we will find anything redeemable in the 9/11 tragedy is if we look at if from the perspective of the God who sits high and looks low. And Luke 13 gives us this divine perspective as it records Jesus’ response to an ancient tragedy.

According to 13:1, some self-appointed journalists report a tragedy in the temple to Jesus. Apparently, Pilate (the Roman governor over Palestine) sent soldiers into the temple to kill some Galilean worshipers. And they report this blasphemous act with a tabloid flavor, noting that when the soldiers where finished, the blood of both the worshipers and their sacrifices flowed together in one common stream. And this tabloid-like footnote is a hint that they were not giving this report with objective indifference. Their report was loaded with preconceived theological notions. And without commenting on the personal lost, political significance, or legal implications of Pilate’s blasphemous act, Jesus chose to directly respond to the theological assumptions that lay beneath the surface of the tragedy. Notice 13:2-3: “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

And just in case they missed the point, Jesus himself plays journalist and reports to them another incident that was in the news. It was not the political powder keg that Pilate’s murder of the Galilean worshipers was, but it was no less tragic. Eighteen people were killed when a tower near the pool of Siloam collapsed. And Jesus responds to this incidental tragedy inn the very same way he responds to the infamous tragedy of Pilate’s blasphemy. Notice 13:4-5: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Jesus’ response to the tragedies of the text can be succinctly summarized in one word: “Repent!” He didn’t sympathize. He didn’t analyze. And he didn’t criticize. He sermonized. He used the tragedy as a pulpit from which he preached to those who had escaped the tragedy. And I believe the message Jesus gave these self-appointed journalists is the message he has for us today: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” And he declares this message loud and clear through a parable about a useless tree, a frustrated landowner, and an intervening vinedresser.

Listen to 13:6-9: “He also spoke this parable: ‘A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ but he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’” This Parable of the Barren Fig Tree gives us three (3) reasons why the tragedy of death should be viewed as a divine call to personal repentance:

I. The Holy Justice of God

The landowner in this parable is meant to represent God. And the landowner’s order to his vinedresser is meant to represent the holy justice of God. Listen to him again: “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” This frustrated landowner orders the severe, immediate, and total destruction of this fruitless fig tree. And it is a sound business decision. This tree was worse than useless. Not only had it failed to produce fruit, but it also occupied space that could be put to better use. And by means of its strong roots, it was drawing moisture and minerals from the soil that was needed by other plants. “Cut it down!” That’s the landowner’s solution for the problem of fruitless trees. And the holy justice of God requires the same punishment for fruitless human beings: “Cut it down!”

The people who reported the murder of the Galilean worshipers held to the traditional assumption that good people succeed in life and wicked people suffer. And so this catastrophe in the temple indicated to them that there must have be some really bad about these victims for God to let them die in such a heinous and horrible manner. It’s the theology of Job’s friends who said to him, “Job, you might as well confess your sins. We know that you can’t be as godly as you appear, because you wouldn’t have the trouble you’re facing if you were right with God.” It’s the Jerry Falwell going on TV and blaming the sins of gays, feminists, and ACLU members for the tragedy of 9/11. But Jesus responds to this notion by saying, “Yes. God is a God of holy justice. But in light of that reality, you can’t afford to judge anybody else. You need to look at your own tree and examine whether your own life is bearing fruit to the glory of God. Did you get that? You are that barren fig tree. God has taken pleasure in you. God has planted you. God has provided for you. God has protected you. And God has been patient with you. And yet you continuously fail to live up to God’s holy standards.

· And so rather than asking why other people have died, you should ask why are you still here.
· Rather than asking why those people died in the temple, you should ask why your life was spared.
· Rather than asking why the tower Siloam fell on those eighteen people, you should be asking why a tower hasn’t fallen on your head.
· Rather than asking why those thousands of people died on 9/11, you should be asking why you weren’t cut down with them.

Let me give you a hard word here. Here me out. One of the reasons why we are so shocked, angry, and frightened by the events of 9/11 is because we have low or no reverence for the holiness of God. Think about it. We rightfully mourn the deaths of those who were killed. However, we sinfully use their deaths as sufficient reason to bomb and kill those who we deem responsible. And we view this as acceptable behavior because we have this godless idea that those who died were “innocent.” Now, from a human standpoint, those who were killed did not deserve to die as they did. They were minding their own business. They were just going to work. They were just flying home. However, from a divine standpoint, they were all guilty sinners who got what they deserved. Now I know that’s heard to hear. Believe me, it’s even harder for me to say. But that’s exactly what the Bible says in Romans 6:23a: “For the wages of sin is death…” And the fact that you would be offended by me saying that those who died on 9/11 got what they deserved indicates that you fail to recognize the fact that what they received is also what you deserved. If we are sensitive to the holiness of God, when we think about those who died we’ll ask ourselves, “Why am I still here?” R.C. Sproul, in his book “The Holiness of God,” writes: “In two decades of teaching theology I have had countless students ask me why God doesn’t save everybody. Only once did a student come to me and say, “There is something I just can’t figure out. Why did God redeem me?”

Mark it down: Until Jesus comes again; everyone dies. Guilty sinners die. And forgiven sinners die. In fact, this sinful world is so offensive to God that not even his own Son, who was holy, perfect, sinless, could live through it without dying. That’s life. People die. But Jesus is teaching us here that the issue is not how you die. The issue is if you die right now, would you be ready to meet God with the assurance that all is well with your soul. I declare that our nation’s tragedy should lead us to repent in light of the holy justice of God. We should remember that with our first sins we have forfeited the right to the gift of life. In fact, that we woke up this morning is an act of divine mercy. God owes us nothing. We owe him everything. If he allows a tower to fall on our heads this today, we cannot claim injustice. Romans 3:10-12 puts it bluntly: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.”

II. The Undeserved Mercy of God

In this parable, the landowner orders the fruitless fig tree to be cut down. It’s his vineyard. It’s his tree. It’s his right to cut it down. And the tree deserves to be destroyed. So he gives the order. But there’s something standing in the way. The keeper of the vineyard, though just a mere underling, steps in on the behalf of the useless tree. And in response to the landowner’s order, this vinedresser issues his own order. Respectfully yet firmly, he says, “Sir, let it alone this year also.” Notice the audacity of the vinedresser. He requests that the landowner’s judgment be overturned. And he makes this request without denying the guilt of the useless tree. They tree had failed to bear fruit. Yet, the vinedresser seems to expect the landowner to give the tree another chance, just because he asked him to. And just in case that didn’t work, the vinedresser promised his personal involvement and investment in the tree: “Let it alone this year, also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.” And notice how the defiant concern of the vinedresser is expressed in 13:9: “And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.” Get that. The vinedresser seems to suggest that if the tree fails to bear fruit in the coming year, he would let the landowner cut the tree down. But he himself wouldn’t do it.

Here’s the point: The fact that you are still alive has nothing to do with any goodness, holiness, or righteousness on your part. You are a sinner who deserves to perish. But there has been something standing in the way, restraining the wrath of God that your life may be spared. The biblical word for it is mercy. Mercy is when God chooses to withhold the trouble, judgment, or evil that you rightly deserve. Yes. Not only should we repent because of the holy justice of God, but we should also repent because of the undeserved mercy of God. Think about it. It should have been us who died on 9/11. And, it could have been us who died on 9/11. And yet here we are today. That’s mercy. The only reason we are here today is because God is a God of mercy, grace, and longsuffering. Psalm 100:4-5 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Bt thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

One more thing. The vinedresser is the Christ-figure in this parable. And it is because of his intervention alone that the landowner chooses to be merciful. Think about that. The landowner is not at a conference table where a group of his workers give him agricultural advice.
· Only the vinedresser is in the presence of the landowner.
· Only the word of the vinedresser carries any weight with the landowner.
· Only the intervention of the vinedresser saves the tree.
· Only the ministry of the vinedresser can change the hopeless situation.

And as Christ-figure, the vinedresser is a reminder of the exclusivity and sufficiency of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is, only repentance of sin and faith in Christ can make us right with God. This is a significant reminder in light of the pluralistic religiosity we have been exposed to during these days of crisis. Mark it down: Our times of national prayer are nothing more than empty rituals and sentimental therapy, if we do not approach God based on his self-revelation of himself in Jesus Christ. Yes. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam can be grouped together in that they are the three great monotheistic religions of the world. That is, all three religions claim that there is only one God. But the connection stops there because Christians, unlike Jews and Muslims, believe that this one true God is rightly named Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we believe that the only way to get this one God is to receive his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus only is heaven’s wonder, hell’s worry, and humanity’s way out of sin, death, and hell. And so don’t let anyone deceive you. Remember that terrorism is not Islam. Indeed, true Islam is a religion of peace. And terrorism is nothing but a wicked perversion of the Islamic faith. But don’t let that reality lead you to give Islam a level of legitimacy it does not deserve. Yes. Terrorism is not true Islam. However, we must also remember that Islam is not the truth.
John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No once comes to the Father except through Me.”
Acts 4:12 – “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
1 Timothy 2:5 – “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Jesus Christ.”

III. The Sovereign Timing of God

Acts 17 records Paul’s message in the pagan academic setting of Athens. He began by telling them. You are some very religious people. Everywhere I look, you have an altar to every conceivable God. You even have an altar ascribed to “An unknown God,” just in case you missed one.” And he went on to tell them, “I come to tell you about this “unknown God.” He created us all. And it is in him we live, move and have our being.” And Acts 17:29-31 records the climax of the message. Paul says, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Mark it down: God has appointed a day of judgment. Every one of us will one day have to stand before God and answer to him for we have lived our lives. Hebrews 9:27 puts it this way: “And it is appointed for me to die once, but after this the judgment.” Yes. We each have a date with death and judgment. The day is coming. And, worse than that, we don’t when the day is. Some of us will get old or sick and be able to anticipate the day of death. But others of us will die unexpectedly like those people who died in the temple, like those people who died under that tower, or like those people who died on 9/11. God orchestrates our times and seasons according to his sovereign schedule. And he does not always give us a warning before death. And so since we cannot bank on tomorrow, you should get right with God now. That’s what Jesus is saying in this parable: “Repent, while you still have a chance!”

Notice how Jesus illustrates the urgency of repentance in this parable. He leaves it open-ended. The vinedresser intercedes on the behalf of the tree with a request for mercy, forbearance, and longsuffering. But immediately after the request is made, the lights come on. The actors disappear from the stage. And the curtain falls. That’s it. Jesus goes no further than that in the parable. And he leaves us hanging in the suspense of our unanswered questions. Did the barren fig tree ever bear fruit? Did the special care of the vinedresser accomplish anything? Was the tree cut down or spared? We are not given the answers to any of these questions. This is not the way you end a story, but that’s exactly what Jesus does. He never tells us what happens to the tree. And here’s why: The story is not about the tree! It’s about you. Only you can fill in the blanks. You must answer for yourself:
· Why am I still here?
· Am I just taking up space?
· Am I bearing fruit to God’s glory?
· Am I right with God?
· Do I need to get right with God?

Listen. God is patient. But his patience does not last forever. Grace is not infinite. God is infinite and gracious. We experience the grace of an infinite God, but grace itself is not infinite. God sets limits to his mercy, patience, and forbearance. This grace period will not last forever. The God of the second chance is also the God of the last chance. And you don’t know how must time you have to get it right. Yes. God is slow to anger. But if you are slow to repent, that slow anger will catch up with you. One day – and God alone knows when that day will be – the opportunity to be saved will be withdrawn. And the procrastinator will die in his sins and be lost forever. Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” And Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

You’ve probably heard that the legend about Satan plotting with his demons, hosts, and imps on how to take as many people to hell with them as possible. Someone recommended, “Let’s convince them that there is no God.” But they ultimately concluded that wouldn’t work. Only a fool would say in his heart there is no God. Someone else recommended that we should sell them on evolution. Make them believe that they came from monkeys… that there is no creation. But they concluded that wouldn’t work either. They heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament his handiwork. Then someone said, “Let’s convince them that Jesus is a fraud.” But they concluded that wouldn’t work. For in him dwells are the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And believers are complete in him, for he is the head of every principality and power.” And so they debated, argued, and wrestled with the issue for some time. Finally, someone gave the perfect recommendation. “Let’s not deny any biblical truth. In fact, let’s affirm all the truth that is essential to man’s salvation. But, let tell them that they don’t have to be in a hurry to make a decision. Let’s make them think that they have more time than they really have.”

Indeed, the story is make-believe. But the point is absolutely true. And countless souls have died and gone to hell, because they bought the lie that they said, “You don’t have to get repent right now. You can wait until later.” And I plead with you; don’t be one of them. James 4:14 is the truth: “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” The call to repentance is urgent. You should get right with God now. For Jesus says, “But unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
· Come to Jesus, right now.
· Only trust him, right now.
· He will save you, right now.
· He is willing, right now.
· He is able, right now.

There was a time I know, when in the book of heaven
An old account was standing, for sins yet unforgiven
My name was at the top, and may things below,
But I went to the Keeper, and settled it long ago.

So now –

When at the judgment bar, I stand before the king
And He the book will open, He cannot find a thing
Then will my heart be glad, while tears of joy will flow;
Because I had it settled, and settled it long ago.

Long ago, I settled it all –
Down on my knees, I settled it all
Yes, the old account was settled long ago
And the record’s clear today, for He washed my sins away
When the old account was settled long ago.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Working on Labor Day

The National Missionary Baptist Convention is meeting in Los Angeles this week. My pastor, Dr. Melvin V. Wade, is the president of this convention. The meeting was kicked off today with the S.M. Lockridge Gospel Bowl, an all-day meeting of prayer, praise, and preaching. Even though I am not a part of this convention, I was asked to speak in this service today. I was scheduled to be on of the early speakers. So I expected that I would get there in time to hear one sermon, give my message, then go home to lay my burden down and recover from a long weekend. However, when I arrived at 10:30 AM, I discovered the service was moving behind schedule. And the first preacher hadn't spoken yet. I further discovered that I was no longer one of the first preachers. Instead, I was to give the next-to-last message.

Five preachers spoke before me. And they all swung for the fence. By the time it was my turn to preach, it was past 3:30 PM. And I was absolutely exhausted. But the Lord helped me to preach. After my message, there was one more speaker. And it was after 4:30 when the benediction was given. I was totally wiped out. But when I got home, Crystal asked me to run some errands with her. I changed and went out with Crystal. And when we got home about 7 PM, we changed again and went to the consecration service for the convention, which was held at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, where Dr. Wade is pastor. And I heard another good message. But I am out of gas and it is only Monday. And I have to get at it early in the morning to catch up on office work and pastoral care. Likewise, I have to get ready for the resumption of midweek service this Wednesday, where I intend to continue to my exposition of Psalm 119.

Happy Labor Day!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Getting Connected: Building Relationships & Getting Involved

This weekend, we began our month-long ministry involvement emphasis at MSMBC. As we celebrate our 64th church anniversary this month, we will challenge every member to join a Bible study fellowship group and getting involved in a place of service. Biblical community is one of the clearest evidences of authentic Christianity (John 13:34-35). So throughout this month, we will use various means to encourage the membership of Mt. Sinai to get connected to one another and the body-life of the church. I began this emphasis month today with a sermon on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Here is the sermon skeleton:

Title: "Two are Better than One"

Text: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Theme: The importance of fellowship and the benefits of partnership

Point: Two are better than one.


I. Two are better than one when you go to work (v. 9).

II. Two are better than one when you fall down (v. 10).

III. Two are better than one when you are left in the cold (v. 11).

IV. Two are better than one when you are being attacked (v. 12)

In the 11 AM message, there was an important idea from verse 11 that I forgot to make. When Solomon says that two lie together in order to keep warm, this refutes the common idea that says, "I need my space." There are some things you cannot survive if you insist on having your "space." You need others who will get close to you and provide the warmth of encouragement. And you cannot wait until life leaves you in the cold to find people who will lie with you. Intimate friendships require time, truth, and trust that must be nurtured before life leaves you in the cold. And when you get connected to others, you can walk this journey of faith with confidence that there will be those who will lie with you when life leaves you in the cold.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Update from Vallejo

I preached my second sermon in the Vallejo citywide revival last night. It was the fifth night of meeting. But the congregation was warm attentive, and receptive. I still don't think I was at my best. In fact, I struggled about what to preach all afternoon. I wasn't even sure what I would preach until I sat down in the worship service. But the Lord helped me to preach. I am convinced that I said what he wanted me to say. May the Lord give the increase. Today, Crystal and I are going to take the kids to a local amusement park, Six Flags Marine World. Of course, after we finish our day, I have one more sermon to preach. So it should be a pretty long day. But I am looking forward to it. I am really glad to have my family with me this week. We have had a good time together. And President Allen Douglas and the local pastors have been extremely kind to us. They have made this a special week for us. Pray for our final night here.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Citywide Revival in Vallejo

Tuesday night, I had the privilege of preaching at the Three Oaks Baptist Church in Los Angeles for Pastor Raymond Chandler. Pastor Chandler and I kind of grew up together as young preachers in the Los Angeles area. And he is now in his third year at Three Oaks, where he is doing a fine work. This is the second year I have been invited to be a part of their summer revival series. It was a good meeting. Members of our congregation were present. And the Lord helped me to preach. Afterwards, we had to pack to get ready for an early morning flight to Oakland. My son sat next to me on the plane and asked a million questions about everything. And it made me think. I never road on a plane with my dad. When I was a boy, we always traveled by car. So it was special for me to be on that short flight with my family, answering my son's ten million questions.

This is my third year preaching the citywide revival here in Vallejo. The past two years, I did the opening three nights. This year, I am closing out the meeting. And, boy, is it a tough position to be in. A young man from Oakland, a Pastor Ivy, preached Sunday night. And I understand that the Lord really used him to kick-off the meeting. And Dr. W.T. Glenn from Fort Worth preached Monday and Tuesday nights. And he was stellar, as usual. After we arrived yesterday, Crystal and the kids settled in at the room. And I went to the noon-day service. Dr. Frank Ray, who is preaching the citywide in Oakland, came over to preach the service. It was definitely the "Noonday Special." Dr. Ray preached so hard that I wanted them to put me back on a plane a send me home. It has been a whole lot of good preaching and teaching going on this week. Last night was okay. I didn't feel like I was at my best. I am not sure if it was because I was tired or what. But I never felt like I was in a rhythm. It was hard to concentrate. And I don't think I was being as clear as I would like to be. I am trusting that the Lord used his word in spite of the weaknesses of this vessel. I have two more nights to go. Pray that the Lord will smile on the remainder of this week and that the Lord would be glorified as lives are changed in Jesus' name.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Writing for the Soul

I didn't really take Jerry Jenkins seriously when I first heard of him. It was a rush to judgment. All I knew about him was that he was the co-author (he would say "author," no "co-") of the Left Behind series (It was Tim LaHaye's idea; but Jenkins' writing). But then I read Jenkins' book Hedges. It was good reading and spiritually enriching. But I did not expect that I would end of reading another book by Jenkins. Ever. Primarily, he writes inspirational novels and contemporary biography. I don't read much of either one of the genres. So while I have enthusiastically recommended Hedges to many people, I didn't expect to read him again. But that was before I stumbled upon Writing for the Soul.

The other weekend, my son and I spent the afternoon together. We did something he wanted to do (We went to a movie.). And we did something I wanted to do (We went to a bookstore.). As I browsed the new releases, I saw Writing for the Soul. I noticed the title before the author. But when I saw that it was written by Jenkins, I was sure to buy it. I started reading it as soon as we got home. And I took it with me virtually everywhere I went until I finished it. Jenkins is intentionally easy to read. He strives to write for the pedestrian, not the intellectual. So his writing is accurate, brief, and clear. I learned a lot of helpful writing tips from both his example and his advice. Writing is a pretty complete overview of the writing process. Jenkins gives counsel on subjects ranging from choosing projects, to getting started, to overcoming writer's block, to writing clean prose, to getting published. By the way, Jenkins doesn't believe in writer's block. He recommends a "seat-in-chair" strategy that keeps pressing on until you meet your deadline. Jenkins gives counsel that I disagreed with and/or didn't understand, at times. But even then, I still appreciated the candid insights of a veteran writer.

Toward the middle of the book, Jenkins turned his focus on writing fiction. I plodded through this section, even though I am not interested in either reading or writing fiction. And Jenkins' writing continued to keep my attention with his clear and insightful recommendations. At times, Jenkins would pull over and gives side notes to those writing nonfiction. But even where the focus was clearly on fiction, Jenkins challenged me to always strive to be creative in writing. And the various challenges to would-be writers were numerous. In fact, Jenkins often encourages by trying to discourage. He is honest and realistic about the work of writing. And he warns that if you should not consider writing if you are not up for the hard work and unique challenges. Jenkins does this to help the reader clarify his/her sense of calling to write.

Writing for the Soul is about exactly what its title promises. Whether it be fiction or nonfiction, Jenkins encourages "inspiration" writing, as he calls it. He believes that writing is a sacred task. God has revealed himself to humankind through his written word, the scriptures. Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is referred to as "the Word" in scripture. Much of the teaching in the New Testament consists of actual letters from apostles to particular individuals and congregation. And church history has clearly proven the spiritual impact that the printed page can make. And in this information age, and with the high-profile success of recent inspirational titles, there is a great opportunity today to reach the soul through writing. May the Lord raise up many faithful men and women in this generation, who will use the printed page responsibly to spread the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.