Monday, January 30, 2006

Our January Book of the Month

Here is the note I wrote in last week's bulletin about our January Book of the Month:

In New Testament times, humility was not considered a virtue. In the minds of the ancients, it was a sign of weakness which was the result of being forced into submission by someone who is greater than you. So humility was actually considered a vice, rather than the virtue. And not much has changed in the passing centuries. The world around us does not view humility to be beneficial, commendable, or virtuous. Instead, we look up to the aggressive types, who get what they want at all costs, won’t take no for an answer, and will not allow anyone to get in their way. Even in the church, would-be celebrities are honored, while servant-leaders are marginalized. Consequently, the life, message, and example of the Lord Jesus Christ is just as shockingly offensive to us today as it was when Jesus walked the earth in the flesh. To those who desire to be great, Jesus says, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

This is the message of Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney. Mahaney is the former pastor of Covenant Life Church in Maryland. After serving this congregation as one of its founding pastors for twenty-seven years, Mahaney stepped down last year to allow the young man he had been grooming, Joshua Harris, to lead the congregation into the future. This is a great act of humility. Yet, Mahaney describes himself by saying: “I’m a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God. I don’t write as an authority on humility; I write as a fellow pilgrim walking with you on the path set for us by our humble Savior.” And it is with this personal devotion to Christlike humility that Mahaney writes this biblical, practical, and passionate call to humility. In Isaiah 66:2, God says, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” Affirming the fact that God’s gaze is on the humble, Mahaney calls us to active spiritual warfare against our own pride. He expounds on this point by focusing on how the Lord Jesus both redefined and demonstrated greatness for us. And the final half of the book is filled with practical application to assist the pursuit and practice of true humility. Quoting John Stott, Humility reminds us: “At every state of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.”

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Revival, Women, Anger, India, & Dry Bones

The past several days have been quite busy. Thursday and Friday, I had several meetings, deadlines, and study assignments. On top of this, I had to preach a revival meeting on Thursday and Friday at the New Revelation Baptist Church in Pasadena. The Lord blessed the two meetings. But I was absolutely exhausted by Saturday morning. But there was still work to be done. I had work for Sunday to complete. But before I could get to that, I had to prepare myself to speak at the Women's Fellowship Meeting meeting at the church. It was the first time I had spoken in to our women's ministry group, which has been in for a little over a year. I did an exposition of Proverbs 4:20-27, which I entitled "Developing a Godly Heart." The message was a call to godliness based, primarily, on Proverbs 4:23. The women were very attentive. I pray that the message was helpful.

In my Sunday School class this morning, I taught on "Overcoming Anger." The Bible has a lot to say about anger. And I tried to introduce the class to some of the key texts and central principles on anger. At points, I got very personal. I don't usually do that. But for some reason, I began to share some things about my relationship to my father. I guard those things very closely, and very rarely talk about them publicly. I really can't explain what why I did that today. And I don't know why I felt comfortable about talking about these things in my Sunday School class. I just hope that the testimonies didn't distract from the message. I think I should be more careful in the future about what I choose to share.

We had a special guest in our worship service this morning. His name is Alex Matthai. He leads Hope International Ministries, a gospel outreach to India, which is the place of his birth. A resident of Oklahoma City, Alex has a wonderful testimony of salvation and is doing a great work in India, where he sponsors a school that trains young men to preach the gospel in the villages of India. He spoke to our congregation this morning, which was a great blessing. In the providence of God, today our congregation was asked to give a sacrificial offering for world missions. And his testimony in our service really was a great challenge to our church to prayerfully support the spread of the gospel around the world.

Alex took about 30 minutes in the service. And by the time I got up to preach, it was getting pretty close to noon. Our services start at 10:30 AM and are usually about two hours long. I was pretty nervous, knowing that I would not have enough time to do a full exposition. I was scheduled to preach Ezekiel 37:1-14. And I didn't sense that the Lord would let me off the hook, and save that message for another time. So I took a shot at it. I only preached about 30 minutes. But I think I got across the essence of what I wanted to say. I will have to take a another shot at it some time down the road. The audio of the message is on our website.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Only 160 Verses to Go!

Here is my sermon skeleton on the second stanza of Psalm 119 from Wednesday night's Midweek Service:

Title: "How to Clean Up Your Life"

Text: Psalm 119:9-16

Theme: The Purifying Power of Scripture

Point: Holiness is the result of your devotion to the word of God


I. God’s word purifies the person who is sincere (119:10-11)

A. Seek the Lord with all your heart (v. 10)

B. Store up the word in your heart (v. 11)

II. God’s word purifies the person who is submissive (119:12-14)

A. Praise (v.12)

B. Proclamation (v. 13)

C. Passion (v. 14)

III. God’s word purifies the person who is steadfast (119:15-16)

A. I will mediate on your precepts (v. 15a)

B. I will fix my eyes on your ways (v. 15b)

C. I will delight in your statutes (v. 16a)

D. I will not forget your word (v. 16b)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Monday Morning Quarterback

Yesterday was a blessed day of worship at Mt. Sinai. I have just begun a series of lessons in my Sunday School class on the "seven deadly sins." I'm calling it "Overcoming Sinful Attitudes." Yesterday, I finished the first lesson on "overcoming Pride." It is my intentional to teach through each lesson in one class session. But I was not able to finish this lesson in the hour I had. I hope this does not become a pattern for the rest of the lessons. I have not taught this class since the summer of last year. But I am glad to be back with them. I really do enjoy teaching this Sunday School class. I have an attentive class that comes to learn. We ought to call it "The Berean Fellowship" (Acts 17:11).

I led the opening songs yesterday in our worship service. I love to sing praises to the Lord. And I enjoy leading times of praise in our church services. I don't do it that often any more, however. And that's probably a good thing. I may be good that I do it even less, I'm not sure. Anyway, I preached on "The Rich Fool" yesterday.(The audio of the message is on our church website.) It was a challenging message to preach, as it called the church to declare war on greed. But I think it was clear. As always, I hope it was helpful. Only time will tell.

I am preparing to continue our study of Psalm 119 for our Midweek Service this coming Wednesday. I am studying verses 9-16. I am tentatively calling the message, "How to Clean Up your Life." Thursday and Friday, I am scheduled to preach at the New Revelation Baptist Church in Pasadena. For the past several years, they have begun the year with a 31-day church revival. This will be the second time I have participated in this meeting. Then, Sunday, I plan to do an exposition of Ezekiel 37:1-14. It will be the first time I have ever preached on Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones. I don't know how anyone can consider me a real preach, in light of the fact that I have preached on the "dry bones in the valley." So, hopefully, this Sunday I will earn my ordination by preaching this great text. Along with much study, I have quite of few meetings to scheduled for this week. And I have several writing assignments to complete. Pray for me.

The Rich Fool

This morning, I preached a message on Luke 12:13-21, the parable of the rich fool. Here is my "sermon skeleton."

Title: "The Rich Fool"

Text: Luke 12:13-21

Theme: Jesus issues a warning against covetousness

Point: Declare war on greed in your life before it's too late (12:15)

Outline: In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus issues to stern warnings against covetousness.

I. Jesus warns us about the focus of covetousness (12:16-19)
A. Selfishness (vv. 16-19)
B. Materialism (v. 18)
C. Pleasure (v. 19)
II. Jesus warns us about the folly of covetousness (12:20-21)
A. It is foolish to ignore the limitations of your time on earth (v. 20)
B. It is foolish to ignore the limitations of your treasures on earth (vv. 20-21)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Honoring a Faithful Soldier

Last night, Crystal and I attended the retirement banquet for Dr. Clarence J. Davis, Jr. It was a special event. And we were both honored to have been present. It was a "black-tie" event. I don't have a tux, and didn't think really be that dressed up. I was wrong. And I felt very under-dressed. It was a good thing we were seated toward the back of the room. Dr. Davis entered the room behind the rhythm section of the USC marching band, who made a special appearance to honor Dr. Davis. The MC for the evening was assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas. He did a good job of moving the service along (even though it was after 10 PM when we left, and they had at least 30 more minutes to go). I didn't he had such a sense of humor. There was good music, warm fellowship, and Christ-centered celebration. I was honored to just be there.

Dr. Davis pastored the historic Calvary Baptist Church in Santa Monica from 1969-84. In 1985 he organized the Mt. Hebron Baptist Church, where he has served until his recent retirement. Receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Davis is a bona fide scholar. But his preaching is theology is on fire. Yet, he is such a humble man. He is kind, gracious, and full of life. He heard me preach on January 2, at Mt. Moriah's "Prayer Bowl." I was so honored by the fact that he stayed for the rest of the meeting, in order to shake my hand and thank me personally for the message. Dr. Davis was friends with my father. And the fact that he has some level of respect for my work is very affirming.

The tributes to Dr. Davis were very special. Dr. Charles Walker, who pastors the 19th Street Baptist Church in Philadelphia, spoke of his longtime friendship with Dr. Davis. Dr. Walker succeeded Dr. Davis in the pulpit of 19th St. Church. And it's rare to find two men to share the same pulpit to be so close. Along with several ministerial colleagues, friends Dr. Davis has made over the years from different walks of life spoke in tribute to him. Finally, his daughter gave a moving tribute to him on the behalf of herself and her three siblings, who were all present with their families. And the gifts and remembrances of the Mt. Hebron members testified of a faithful and loving pastor. Dr Davis' wife, LaVerne, went all out in planning this banquet. And it was a wonderful way to end this season of full-time pastoral ministry for such a great man of God.

Pastor L. Daniel Williams, who is the President of the Baptist Ministers Conference of LA, was the keynote speaker. He rightly lamented the fact that there are very few sound models for us young preachers to look up to. And many of us young preachers are foolishly looking to the wrong models to emulate. Dr. Davis is a serious thinker, compassionate leader, and faithful preacher. I pray that God will help me to follow godly models like him. And that the Lord would help me to be a leader worth following until he calls me to my great retirement celebration in glory.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

My Sermon Skeleton on Psalm 119:1-8

This is the "Sermon Skeleton" of the opening message on Psalm 119 I preached last night in our Midweek Worship Service.

Title: "Living by the Book"

Text: Psalm 119:1-8

Theme: The blessedness of devotion to the word of God

Point: The word of God is totally sufficient to meet every spiritual need in your life


I. The Delight of Living by the Book (119:1-3)
A. God blesses sincere devotion to his word (v. 1)
B. God blessed steadfast devotion to his word (v. 2-3)
II. The Duty of Living by the Book (119:4-6)
Verses 4-6 gives us three ways to develop and maintain a life of obedience to God's word:
A. Acknowledge God's authority (v. 4)
B. Confess your transgressions (v. 5)
This exclamation teaches us three elements of true confession:
1. Honesty
2. Desire
3. Petition
C. Remember the consequences (v. 6)
III. The Display of Living by the Boook (119:7-8)
Verses 7-8 gives us two characteristics of true devotion to God's word:
A. A true devotion to God's word is marked by praise (v. 7)
B. A true devotion to God's word is marked by prayer (v. 8)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Climbing Mt. Everest

This evening, in the Midweek Worship Service at MSMBC, I will begin a verse-by-verse exposition of Psalm 119, "the Mt. Everest of the Psalms." It is both the longest psalm of the Psalter and the longest chapter of the Bible. It contains 176 verses, divided into twenty-two eight-verse stanzas. And the sections of the psalm are poetically arranged into a beautiful acrostic using each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The theme of this psalm is the total sufficiency of the word of God in the life of the believer.

I intend to preach through the psalm stanza by stanza (or twenty-two messages). I will start tonight with 119:1-8. I am calling the message "Living by the Book." I pray that the the Lord would cause my devotion to be deepened, strengthened, and intensified as I study this glorious exaltation of God all-sufficient word. And, as pastor of Mt. Sinai Church, I pray that the Lord would cause the word to become even more central to our fellowship, service, and witness of our congregation. And I pray that for you, too - whoever you are that may read this. May God so work in your life that your personal testimony becomes "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!" (Psalm 119:1, ESV)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Helpful Resources on Psalm 119

Here are some Bible study works that I have found helpful in my study of Psalm 119:

1. Living by the Book by James Montgomery Boice - This is a book developed from the late Dr. Boice's expository messages through the book of Psalms. The same material is found in the third volume of Boice's commentary on the psalms.

2. A Guide to the Psalms by W. Graham Scroggie - Helpful introductory material on Psalm 119. Scroggie's expositions of the psalms are consistently helpful.

3. The Treasury of David (Vol. 3) by Charles Haddon Spurgeon - This is a part of CHS's classic work on the psalms. A must for any serious expositor.

4. PSalm 119 by Thomas Manton - A three-volume exposition of Psalm 119, with each volume containing more than 500 pages. Enough said.

5. An Exposition of Psalm 119 by Charles Bridges - It contains a sermon for each of the psalm's twenty-two stanzas and was issued in 1827 when Bridges was only thirty-three years old.

5. Psalms: A Devotional Commentary by Herbert Lockyer, Sr. - A new work I have discovered by the the author of the famous "All" Series (e.g. "All the Miracles of the Bible" and "All the Parables of the Bible")

7. Trusting Thy Word by Jimmy Draper - Twenty-two expository, homiletical, and practical sermons on Psalm 119

Also I have been greatly helped by the audio of the expository sermons on Psalm 119 by Dr. Steven J. Lawson, pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, AL. You can find them at

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Sanctity of Human Life

Following is the little note I wrote for our church bulletin this past Sunday:

Today, many Christian congregations across America will observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. It’s a time when followers of Jesus Christ affirm the centrality of God’s role in the important issues of life, sexuality, pregnancy, abortion, adoption, family, and children. In the providence of God, this year’s observance is taking place at the conclusion of Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito, the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court. For those who hope, pray, and labor for Roe vs. Wade to be overturned, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in this country, the selection of conservative minded justices is vital. But it is disappointing that many believers seem to have no passion for this issue beyond overturning Roe.

We live in a country with a democratic process that allows and expects us to be a part of the governmental process. And this is certainly a blessing from God. So it would seem to me to be irresponsible if we did not support godly political and judicial leaders and strive for just laws to be established. However, we deceive ourselves if we think that passing the right laws or electing the right people will automatically change this godless society we live in. The Prohibition Act of the 1930’s, noble as it may have been, is proof that you cannot legislate morality. And even after civil rights movement led to certain racist laws being changed; it didn’t change prejudiced attitudes. Likewise, overturning Roe would not change the sinful mindset that causes many children to be killed in their mother’s wombs. In fact, I fear that it may make things worse. Our sinful flesh is determined to have its own way. Just ask the men of Sodom who continued their attempts to break into Lot’s house to molest the new men who had come to town, even after the angels had struck them with blindness (Gen. 19).

What America needs is a God-sent, Gospel-driven, life-changing revival. Then, as Christ transforms fallen souls into new creations, we will see change in our society. So, above all, what we should do to bring about a change is pray. Pray that lost people will be saved. Pray that the church will be the church. Pray that the Lord will change the hearts and minds of this sinful society so that God’s will shall be done, sexual purity promoted, individualism exchanged for community, children viewed as a blessing, and a true sense of family is embraced. Remember, God does need us to be lobbyists in order for him to do something great among us. 2 Chronicles 7:14 outlines what he needs us to do: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (ESV).

The Great Sermon Chase of 2006

I had a rather strange experience this week as I prepared for today's message. I simply could not determine what to preach this morning. I worked on about five different texts this week. I started the week with Psalm 139 on my schedule to preach. Today is "Sanctity of Human Life Sunday." And I thought that Psalm 139 would be an appropriate exposition. But when I got to work Monday morning, I knew that would not be what I preach. I don't think I am ready to do an exposition of a psalm with twenty-four verses in one setting. I know my limitations. So I passed on that one.

The staff usually knows what I plan to preach for the entire month. But when we began to review our plans in Monday's staff meeting, I was still uncertain. I had planned to do an message on Matthew 11:1-6, during our "Vision Night" service on Wednesday. But during staff meeting, I decided that I was going to do a "State of the Church Address," and do the exposition of Matthew 11 today. But by the time I had to give my full attention to Sunday on Thursday morning, I had decided to do an exposition of Mark 5:25-34, the story of the Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood. But when I woke up Friday morning, I knew that I would not be preaching Mark 5. Friday morning, the heat was on. I had to land on something to give myself enough time to fully prepare. I had these several passages that I had done work on. I just needed to land somewhere. Eventually, I began to study Psalm 131, a short three-verse psalm of David. I spent all of Friday studying it, even though I had a feeling that it would not be what I would preach. Late Friday evening and early Saturday morning, I finalized a "Sermon Skeleton" on Psalm 131. A "Sermon Skeleton" is a framework that I organize before I actually write out my manuscript. It consists of my title, text, theme, point, transitional sentences, and outline. I try to make sure I have this complete before I start writing, so that I have a sense of where I am going when I begin my actual writing of the manuscript.

I had a Church Council meeting Saturday morning. When it was over, I had a long afternoon lunch with my wife, Crystal. I wasn't feeling well, so I took a long nap after lunch. It was late evening when I finally woke up. Still not feeling well, I simply went back to sleep - sure that I was to preach, but still unsure of what I would preach. When I woke up early this morning, I was pretty clear that I was going to preach Romans 5:3-5! I had been meditating on this passage all week. I knew all week that it was an option for me to preach, but it was not high on the list. I first preached this text when I was 18-years-old. I think I called it, "Problems with a Purpose." So I knew the text. So I just organized the main ideas of the message and preached it this morning. The message was not as tightly or obviously organized as I usually strive for. And I don't think my presentation of it was the most compelling, even though I do think it was clear. I hope, trust, and pray that the congregation was helped by the message.

Thus ends the "Great Sermon Chase of 2006." I don't usually have weeks like this. I am usually very clear about what I am going to preach. In fact, as I write this post, I am clear about what I going to preach this coming Wednesday and Sunday, if the Lord allows. I don't know what was up with me this week. I just pray that I don't have another week like this again any time soon, if ever. My plan to get into a sermon series in February should help. Should I have preached today? Should I have just stuck with one of the other passages I was studying and saw it through to its completion? What caused me to finally land on Romans 5? Good questions all. So good that I don't have any answers to them. I am confident, however, that the providence of God has been been in full control of these matters this week. May the sermon chase me to the pulpit this week, rather than the other way around.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Still Trying to Get into a Rhythm


It's a new year. And I am motivated, excited, and focused. But it has hard for me to get into a rhythm. I am still getting done the things that I need to do. But I am not yet in a "groove" in terms of how I am governing my time. I think my problem is that I am fighting off the early stages of a cold. I have been taking medicine, which always makes me drowsy, no matter what the box says. And when I have not been feeling well, I have been trying to just lay down. Rest is usually the only thing that really works for me. I hope to win this battle with these cold symptoms. I really don't want to start my new year this way.

This past Sunday, I took a shot at the sin of anxiety. I preached from Matthew 6:25-34. I called it "What Are You Worrying About?" (The audio of the message is on our church website.) It seemed to be a very timely message for many people in our congregation. Yesterday, we had our "Vision Night" service. This is the time when I usually give my "State of the Church Address." I review the previous year of ministry and do some "vision casting" for the upcoming year. Last night, I didn't really give the address, even though I had the message right in front of me. As the old-folk used to say, "I felt the prayer-wheel turning." So I just gave the the major points that I wanted to make, challenging the church to "Get Connected" to one another in the coming year. Then we spent time in prayer with and for one another. It was a good meeting.

This Sunday, I am working on a exposition of one of the miracles of Jesus. I'm telling you, I need to get into a series soon. I am not good at deciding week-to-week what I am going to preach. There are too many texts that grip my mind and heart and attention for preaching. I have friends who can't understand how I select a series that charts my preaching a year in advance. In contrast, I can't understand my friends who have to figure out what they are going to preach each week. I am too busy, passionate, and undisciplined. I have to know where I am going from week-to-week, so that can actually spend my time studying, not figuring out what I am going to study.

This Sunday, I will also resume teaching my Sunday School Class. I plan to teach a series on the so-called "seven deadly sins." I am calling the series, "Overcoming Sinful Attitudes." I intend to start this Sunday by teaching on overcoming pride. Next Wednesday, I am scheduled to begin our verse-by-verse exposition of Psalm 119, which I will preach during our Midweek Worship Services. And on next Thursday and Friday, I will preach my first "revival" of the year. So my plate is pretty full. So I must get into some kind of rhythm quick, fast, and in a hurry. Pray for me.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Preaching in the New Year

I began the new year by preaching, preaching again, and preaching some more! And I have absolutely no complaints. Saturday night I preached the Watch Night Service at New Philadelphia AME Church in Carson, where my friend Sherman Gordon is the pastor. When Crystal and I arrived, they were introducing a "Christian comedian. " One day someone is going to have to explain the difference between a Christiand and a non-Christian comedian. For the record, the guy was pretty funny. I think I would have laughed a lot harder if I didn't have to preach after this guy was done with his set. I guest the laugh was on me! When he finished, there was a mime group that performed. Then there was a poetry reading. Great stuff all. Again, my only complaint is that I had to preach after all of this stuff. I think it's pretty hard for people to transfer the minds from entertainment to exposition. But I shot my best shot at it. I really do appreciate Pastor Gordon and his ministry. And I am grateful that he invited me to minister the word to his congregation. I hope and pray that my message was beneficial.

Sunday morning, I was dead tired. Crystal and I didn't get home from church until after 1 AM. And when it was time to get up, it seemed like we had just gone to bed. I was absolutely bushed when I got to Mt. Sinai. But it didn't matter. I was so grateful to be in worship on the first day of the year. And I was glad to have the opportunity to minister to my beloved congregation on the first day of the year. I attempted an exposition of Matthew 14:22-33, which I called "Following Jesus beyond Your Comfort Zone." I had two big points I was trying to make: (1) Trust Jesus enough to get into the boat, and (2) trust Jesus enough to get out of the boat. It was a enriching and encouraging time of worship. I trust the Lord was glorified. And I pray that the message will be reality for MSMBC this coming year.

Yesterday, I attended the annual "Prayer Bowl," hosted by Pastor Melvin V. Wade and the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church of Los Angeles. I rained hard here yesterday, which is the equivalent of a blizzard somewhere in other parts of the country. So the attendance was down at the meeting. But the guest speakers all swung for the fence. And I trust that God ministered to those who weathered the elements to worship. I preached a message that I had been eager to preach again since I presented it at Mt. Sinai about a month ago. I am not sure that the message fit the occasion. In fact, I don't really think that my Watch Night or Prayer Bowl sermons were "occasional" messages. But they were what the Lord put on my heart. And beggars can't be choosers. I think the Lord honored by attempts to be faithful to him.

Now, it's back to the lab. For the rest of January, I plan to preach some various texts that I have been on heart. Then in February, we will have a ministry emphasis month. And I intend to preach on Christian service for the entire month. Our midweek services resume on January 18. And I intend to begin an exposition of Psalm 119. I plan to go through the psalm stanza by stanza, so it be take me at least twenty-two message to get through it. I look forward to it. I difficult texts make good great preachers, I should be a better preacher after this exposition. Please remember me in your prayers that the Lord will help me to devote myself to prayer and the ministry of the in a greater way in 2006. And may he do the same for you, as well. God bless.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." - Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)