Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sleepless in San Diego

It is late (or early, depending on how you view it). I am in San Diego to preach for Pastor Timothy Winters and the Bayview Baptist Church through Wednesday evening. Crystal and the kids came down with me for the weekend. San Diego is a special place for me and Crystal. So we don't need to have much of an excuse to drive down to San Diego. And the kids just like going somewhere... anywhere. So they were also excited about coming down with me. We got here this afternoon and spent a slow, quiet, and leisurely evening together. We didn't do much of anything in particular, which is just the way we like it. And we all went to bed quite early. However, I woke up some time ago and have not been able to go back to sleep. As I write this post, my family is knocked out sleep. I've been making noise over the past hour, but that has not phased them one bit. They are able to sleep through an earthquake. I am a very light sleeper, who wakes up constantly throughout the night many times. Something woke me up (I'm not sure what the noise was), and I have been awake sense then. I hope to get back to sleep soon. I have to preach twice in the morning, during the 7:45 and 11 AM services at Bayview.

Pastor Winters is a humble man, a great teacher, and a faithful pastor. And Bayview is one of the leading congregations in San Diego. I have been here a few times before. When I first started preaching the citywide revival here some years ago, the evening services were held at Bayview. That's how I met Pastor Winters. During those times I got to see Pastor Winters and Bayview in action, up close. And I have been so blessed and encouraged by their ministry example. On several occassions, Pastor Winters has invited me back to preach various meetings at Bayview. But this is the first time I have ever done a series of meetings at Bayview. Bayview is a good preaching place. And I trust and pray that this will be a fruitful meeting.

My friend, Pastor Q. Chad Foster from Houston, is in Los Angeles to preach at Mt. Sinai for our Lord's Day service. Likewise, this Sunday our congregation will give a special offering to support Missions. These Missions offerings are new for us, and are scheduled for each fifth Sunday of the year. The congregation gave very generously in our last offering in January. I am praying that they will give even more this Sunday. It is our desire to give to a group that ministers to homeless women and children in Los Angeles. Did you know that Los Angeles is the homeless capital of America? And did you know that fifty percent of the people on the streets each night are women and children? This group specifically ministers to this group. And I praise God for the opportunity to support their work. A representative from this ministry is scheduled to speak in our worship service this morning. I pray that the presentation will move the saints to give generously. Likewise, we intend to support our friend brother Alex Matthai of Hope International Ministries, a missonary group that targets the lost in India. Brother Alex is scheduled to go there in the next month to prepare the Bible college he has planted there to preare for its upcoming school year. Our giving will help support that great work, as well. May the Lord bless MSMBC to have a rich day of worship and fellowship, even in my absence.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Preaching Evangelistically

I have just finished reading a book entitled, Preaching Evangelistically (Broadman & Holman Publisher). It is written by Al Fasol, Roy Fish, Steve Gaines, and Ralph Douglas West. I saw an add for this book in a magazine a few weeks ago. And when I saw it in a store somewhere, I immediately picked it up. I wanted to read it for several reasons. First, Al Fasol is in it, writing about preaching. Fasol's book, Essentials for Biblical Preaching, which I have read several times, is a really helpful book on preaching. And his work on sermon delivery, A Complete Guide to Sermon Delivery, is also a very helpful book. I also have his book on the history of Southern Baptist preaching, With a Bible in Their Hands. But I have not read it yet. So when I saw that Fasol had written on some more preaching, I was eager to pick up the book.

I was also eager to read the book because of its subject matter. There are not many books out that deal directly with the dynamics of evangelistic preaching. And, admittedly, I do not think this is an area that I am strong in. That might sound odd, seeing that I preach so many church revivals. But when I am out of my pulpit, I am preaching messages that I have already preached to my own congregation. And the messages I preach at MSMBC are primarily to edify believers. Indeed, I prepare to preach each week with sensitivity to the fact that there will be unbelievers present. And I believe that clear, faithful, and Christ-centered biblical preaching will bear fruit. But it would not be true to say that most of my preaching targets the lost. But I am praying that God would give me and Mt. Sinai a greater evangelistic zeal. And I want that godly zeal to be more evident in my preaching. I want to see more people saved, converted, and transformed by my preaching, even as I strive to faithfully nurture the saints who are already under my pastoral watch.

Another reason why I wanted to read this book was because of the other authors. One is Steve Gaines. I have never heard him preach before. But I know that he is the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, who suceeded Adrian Rogers. So I was curious to read him. I was really interested in reading the work of Ralph Douglas West. West pastors the Brookhollow Baptist Church in Houston. His preaching has been a great blessing to me over the years. Even though I don't like the fact that the back cover specifically notes that he is an "African-American" preacher (without speaking of the racial background of the other three authors), I am glad that West's work was added to this book. I pray that he continue writing. I encourage the reading of this little book to young preachers and pastors. You may not agree with everything conclusion in it, but it will certainly encourage your zeal for the glory of God in your preaching and evangelism.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Preaching in Louisville

The Lord really helped me through a long weekend. I continued my series on the "One Another" commands in Sunday School. Yesterday's lesson was on "Serving One Another." I was not able to finish the lesson, so I will have to do a part 2. In our worship service, I concluded our preaching series on the Ten Commandments with a message entitled, "Overcoming Covetousness" (Exodus 20:17). I was not really tired at all, even though I should have been. In fact, after I gave the benediction, you could have easily convinced me to preach again. But that all changed about an hour or so later. Fatigue mugged me. But Crystal and I had given our word that we would attend the closing service of my pastor's anniversary celebration at Mt. Moriah. So we went. Afterward, we came home and hung out at the house with the kids until we all fell asleep.

I had a 6 AM flight through Chicago to Louisville. I am here to preach the opening night of a revival for Dr. Walter Malone at the Canaan Christian Church. I have never Pastor Malone before. And I have never been to the Canaan Church. But we have mutual friends. And I have heard much about the great work Pastor Malone and his congregation is doing here in Louisville. For some reason, I am unusually nervous. But I trust the Lord is going to use me tonight to preach the word. I am not sure who the other two speakers are. But I pray that this opening night will bless, edify, and challenge this pastor and congregation in their ongoing work of fulfilling the Great Commission.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

My First Church Blog

My friend, Tony Rhone, began his first pastorate this past Easter Sunday at the Galilee Baptist Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Prior to agreeing to serve the Galilee Church, Tony served as the assistant to the pastor at the Fairview Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, where John A. Reed, Jr. is the pastor. Tony is also Reed's son-in-law, who has been married to his oldest daughter for over 20 years. Tony is a good friend, a godly brother, a servant leader, and a faithful preacher. Please pray for him, his family, and the Galilee Church. And check out Tony's new blog, in which he chronicles the opening days and weeks of his new pastoral assignment.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Leaving Oklahoma City

Well, the Lord was kind to me last night. I had to preach twice - at both 7 and 10 PM. And the Lord gave me strength and wisdom for both messages. I have recently lost a storage unit. And I had deleted the message I intended to preach at 7 PM after placing the manuscript on it. But after having the storage unit for only a week, I lost it. So I didn't have my sermon. Thankfully, my secretary found a hard copy of the message in my study. She emailed it to me. And I rode to church trying to set my sermon to memory. And the Lord gave it to me. The Lord really blessed the closing message to Fairview Church. And then the Lord blessed me to preach the late night service. The church was filled to capacity. Many pastors that I respect and admire were in attendance. And, admittedly, I was quite nervous. But the Lord helped me to focus on my assignment. And I trust that those who heard the messages were helped, challenged, and encouraged.

When I made it back to my room, it was past midnight. And Pop was to come get me at 4:30 (Central), so I would be able to make my 6 AM flight. I am typing this post from Gate 4 of Will Rogers airport, in Oklahoma City. In a few minutes I will be boarding a flight to Dallas. And I am scheduled to connect there to a flight to LAX that should get me into town a little after 9 AM. The plan is for me to go straight to my speaking engagement this morning. I am scheduled to give a message/lecture on "Killing Sin in Your Life" (Colossians 3:5-9) for the men's conference of LA Bible Training School. Afterward, I intend to spend the afternoon with Crystal and the kids. I have a little more work to do for Sunday. But I am not worried about it right now. I am looking forward to seeing my wife and children. If I don't get to spend some time with them, I won't be in any state to preach and teach in the morning. So may the Lord bless me to get home safely and fulfill my speaking assignment, so I can get down to the "serious business" of hanging out with my family.

Friday, April 21, 2006

My Last Day In Town - OKC

Today is the last of the five days of preaching for me here in Oklahoma City. And it is scheduled to be the longest day of them all. This morning, at 8 AM, the annual prayer breakfast takes places. Dr. L.K. Curry of Chicago is to bring the message. It's a can't-miss situation. I have to hear Dr. Curry. Then, at the noon service, Pastor C. Dennis Edwards of Cincinnati is to bring the message. And that, too, is a can't-miss situation. Now, the two evening services are can-miss meetings, except for the fact that I am scheduled to preach them! I am scheduled to preach my last message for the Fairview Church family and then bring message in the late night service, which begins at 10 PM. Pray for God's great blessings on this final day of worship and fellowship. And pray that the Lord will give me wisdom and strength to preach the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ with faithfulness and clarity.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

OKC Simultaneous Revival - Day 4

When I sat down from preaching last night, a strange feeling came over me. It was that sense of relief I feel after the third sermon I preach in most revivals. It's the feeling that my work is done and it's time to go home. Then it dawned on me that I have three more sermons to preach before I can go home. And relief then turned into fatigue. I am so physically tired, last night I think I could feel every footstep I took. But spiritually, I am being revived, encouraged, and strengthened.

This has been a great week, so far. Since I arrived here Monday, I have been in seven worship meetings. I have preached three sermons, and have four sermons. Well, that's not exactly true. I actually missed the sermon at the noonday service on Tuesday. My ride came to pick me up. But I had changed rooms. And he asked for my room number at the front desk, rather than my name. And so he waited for me in the lobby and I waited for him in my room. Finally, he left me. And I called a cab to take me to church. But the cab didn't know where he was going. And by the time I got to church, the sermon was over. I was so upset (not to mention embarrassed). But I picked up the CD and listened to it as soon as I got back to my room. In all, I have heard messages by Brian Carter (He's the new pastor of Concord Church in Dallas, where the late E.K. Bailey was the pastor). I have also heard messages by Betrain ("Choo Choo") Bailey, David Bullock, and Roosevelt Bradley. I have been greatly encouraged by all of these messages. Every message I have heard, so far, has reflected sound and conservative theology. And these have all been from young men. I praise God for that! God still has many preachers who have not bowed their knee to Baal!

Today, Theron Williams from Indianapolis will preach the noon message. And President Stephen Thurston will bring the late-night message. On tomorrow, there will be four services. Dr. L.K. Curry will bring the message at the breakfast service. C. Dennis Edwards will bring the noon message. And I am scheduled to bring the late-night message. So I am supposed to preach twice tomorrow night. Pray that the Lord will give me strength. Beyond these messages, I have quite a bit of work to get done for this weekend. This Saturday, I have a message to bring at a men's conference, when I get off the plane. Then, I am supposed to close out my series on the Ten Commandments on Sunday, and continue my series on the "one another" commands in Sunday School. My mother has been fussing at me, telling me to miss some of the mass services, so I can get some rest. And I have agreed with her each time. But the fellowship is so sweet, and the preaching is so good, I just can't bring myself to miss anything. And I will not be in any setting quite like this for the rest of the year. As much preaching as I do, it is good for me to sit under the word of God. Preachers need preaching, too!!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

First Night in OKC

Last night, I began my series of messages at the Fairview Baptist Church. The attendance was strong, the worship was warm, and the message was well received. The Lord gave me strength to preach, even though I battled with my sinuses all afternoon. I bumped into my brother in the hotel lobby on the to church. And I saw my mother, aunt, and cousin at church. It was a good evening. Afterward, I came back to the room and talked to Crystal for a while, then went to sleep. I needed to the rest. I am feeling much better this morning. Praise God!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Monday

What is "Easter Monday"? I heard newscasters use that term last night and this morning. I had never heard it before? What does it mean? Anyway, it's "Easter Monday." And I am at LAX (again), waiting to get on a flight to go somewhere to preach (again). Yesterday was a good day. I was feeling sick all day Saturday, with a cough and congestion adding to my sinus problems. And I really didn't feel like preaching/teaching. I had finishing touches to put on the message that I wanted to preach Easter. But I was unable to get anything done. So I selected a message that I wrote a few years ago and preached it instead. It was on John 14:6, called, "How to Get to God." It's a strong message that I get really excited about. But I wasn't feeling well. So I struggled through it in both services. Attendance was good. Worship was warm. And the Lord moved several people to respond to the message. Praise God! Sunday School was also good. I am teaching on the "One Another" statements of the New Testament. And I taught on "Forgiving One Another." It's a touch subject to deal with. But the class was really attentive and responsive to the lesson. I have the best Sunday School class. They are a great joy to teach each week. After church, I spent the evening with Crystal, while the kids went out on the "play dates." We didn't do much of anything. We just hung out together - we are really good at that. And I needed the time alone with her.

So, here I am waiting for my flight to Oklahoma City. I am on my way to preach for Dr. John A. Reed, Jr. and the Fairview Baptist Church. And this meeting is a part of the larger Simultaneous Revival taking place in OKC. There will be some thirty different churches in revival at the same time. Each church will have their own services at night. And their will be mass services at noon and late night (10 or 10:30 PM, I think) each night. I am preaching five nights at Fairview (the only 5-nighter I will do all year). And I heard that I am scheduled to preach the late night service on Friday night, but I am not sure about that.

When I was a little boy, my father did this revival at Fairview each year. Dr. Reed and my father were dear friends. Pastor Reed would do my dad's revival each June (even though my father never called it a revival. He called it "Homecoming week.") And my dad would do Reed's revival each year, the week after Easter. I remember that my dad would preach all day on Easter. We would change clothes and get something to eat. Then we would get on the road, driving to OKC. My dad would heave LA after church on Sunday and be in OKC in time to start the revival at Fairview on Monday Night. It's enough for me just to get up Monday morning and get on a place for several hours! Anyway, the year after my father passed, Dr. Reed invited me to do the meeting, kind of in honor of my dad. And I have been doing the revival ever since. I think I have only missed maybe two years since I was seventeen.

I really enjoy preaching at Fairview. It is a lot like preaching at home. I feel a great sense of freedom in preaching there. If I preach really hard, they appreciate it. But if I get into my "Charles Stanley mode," and lecture without raising my voice too much, they appreciate the message just the same. I love it. I don't really feel much pressures about the congregations expectations related to style, when I preach at Fairview. It is really refreshing. I have probably preached in Fairview's pulpit more than any other, besides Mt. Sinai. Pastor Reed is my "adopted dad." Before my father died, he was "Uncle John." But since my father's death, he has been the paternal figure in my life. And he has been there for every significant moment in my adult life. I love him more than I can express. And I love his family and the Fairview Church. It will be a joy to go to my second "home." OKC is home to me for another reason. My mother lives there. And all my family, on my mother's side, is there. So I will get to see my mom and my grandma while I am in town. I should also get to see some my aunt and cousins and my siblings who live there. In fact, my brother Kevin, who pastors in Memphis, will also be preaching during this meeting. So I will get a chance to see him as well. I hope I get the chance to hear him preach, as well. It should be a good week. I don't know how much work or rest I will be able to get done this week. But I am trusting God to help me to manage my time as best as I can. Pray for me.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Good Friday - Easter

I had a rather long flight home yesterday from Detroit. It was scheduled to be almost five hours. But we were delayed in leaving Detroit, because of the weather. And it was a turbulent flight the whole way here. And once we neared LAX, we were diverted because of weather and air traffic. So the flight went way past five hours. It was exhausting. And my sinuses were bothering something terrible. When I landed, I took something for my sinuses, and it put me to sleep (as usual). By the time I woke up, it was 5 PM. And I wasn't feeling better. But church was less than two hours away. I got up, shaved, and headed for chuch. But I wasn't feeling well.

Our Good Friday service was well attended, even though it was raining. There were many guests in attendance. And we have a special mime group that performed, which was a first for us. We also had communion together, in remembrance of the Lord's Passion. I preached on "A Place Called Gethsemene," from Matthew 26:36-46. I really did not feel up to preaching last night. I was still groggy from the medicine I had taken. I was tired. And my sinuses were still bothering me. It was really hard for me focus, remember, and concentrate. I am sure that the presentation of the message was not as clear as I had prepared it. But as I was preaching, I started to feel better. And things started to come back to my mind. And so I think I was kind of jumping from place to place in my message. But I did the best I could under the circumstances, with God's help.

Today, I am hanging around the house as much as I can. It's just be and Trey here now. Crystal and Natalie are out doing "girlie" stuff. But I trust we will all do something together this afternoon. I still don't feel well. And I am trying to get as much rest as possible. Tomorrow will be a long day. We will meet for worship at 7 and 10:30 AM. I am supposed to preach those two services. And I also have to teach my Sunday School class at 9 AM. I am looking forward to it. I pray that the Lord really blesses our day or worship and fellowship. Then, Monday morning, it's back on a plane for another meeting.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Holy Week @ Burnette Baptist Church

I am in Detroit, Michigan. I "lost a day" yesterday. It was a little after 8 AM when I got on the plane at LAX. And it was close to 5 PM when I got off the plane in Detroit. It was a long, bumpy flight. But, thank God, it landed. That's all that matters. But flights like that drain my energy and leave me kind of sore. I got something to eat. Checked into my room. Shaved and showered. And it was time to go to church.

Last night, I began three nights at the Burnette Baptist Church. I first preached there when I was 17 years-old. Dr. L.A. Kessee was scheduled to do their Holy Week services in 1990. And because of illness, he was not able to attend. So he recommended me to Dr. J. Allen Caldwell. And Dr. Caldwell invited me, without knowing anything about me, based on Pastor Kessee's recommendation. And he kept inviting me, right up to the last year of his life in 2005. Dr. Caldwell is one of the men who adopted me, as it were. He kindness, wisdom, and encouragement has been an immeasurable blessing on my life and ministry. And the Burnette Church is family to me. Dr. Nathan Caldwell, Dr. J. Allen's son and co-pastor, now leads the church. And from every report I have received, he is doing a great job. Last night, I was able to see for myself. And I praise God that this great congregation is growing again and continuing its wonderful legacy of faithful ministry.

Admittedly, last night was a little strange for me. I came into the auditorium and was really captivated with all that had changed since last time I was here. Some of the changes were major; others were minor. But when you add them all up, it was all pretty overwhelming for me. I could feel Dr. J. Allen's absence, if that makes since. I could see all the progress that he had made. I saw so many familiar faces; yet, many new faces. Even the style of music had changed since last time I was here. There was a praise team leading the service! The platform was arranged differently. When I got up to preach, I had to work hard to concentrate. But I got through it. As I started preaching, our mutual familiarity with one another began to put the message in a certain "comfort zone," and made it rather easy to preach. I was like being at home again. I have two more messages to preach, tonight and tomorrow night. Then I will be headed back home to be with my own congregation for our Good Friday Service. Pray for the remainder of this meeting.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Palm Sunday

It was good to be back in my own pulpit this past Sunday. In my Sunday School class, I finished the opening lesson of my new series on the one another" commands of the New Testament. The lessons was on "Loving One Another." This coming Sunday, I intend to continue to the series with a lesson on "Forgiving One Another." In our worship service, I preached the ninth part of my series on the Ten Commandments: "Tell the Truth" (Exodus 20:16). I plan to preach the final message of this series on the fourth Sunday, after we get past Holy Week. I am working on a message on Matthew 26:36-46 for Good Friday. And I am working on a message from John 20:24-29 for Easter.

Today, I am in the office catching up on work and preparing myself to get on a plane in the morning. I have staff meeting this afternoon. And then I plan to spend the evening with Crystal and the kids. In the morning, I will be headed to Detroit to preach three days at the Burnette Baptist Church, where the late Dr. J. Allen Caldwell was the pastor. His son, Dr. Nathan Caldwell, is now the pastor. It will be my first time there since Pastor J. Allen's funeral last summer. I hear, however, that the church is going strong under Pastor Nathan's leadership. That is good news to here. I look forward to getting there and seeing for myself how God is at work in the life of Burnette Church.

Friday, April 07, 2006

From LR to LA

I am between flights, on my way home from Little Rock. Last night I finished three nights of preaching at the St. Peter Baptist Church, pastored by Robert Townsend. It was a good meeting. St. Peter is a good preaching place. They were attentive, patient, and receptive. This is a reflection of their pastor, R. Townsend. He himself is a strong Bible preacher, so I don't think his congregation expected him to bring in a preacher to feed them "popcorn."

This was my second time preaching at St. Peter. Last year, before my arrival, Pastor Townsend sent me an information packet about the doctrinal convictions and ministry philosophy of St. Peter. There were statements in it about the church's position on women in (pulpit) ministry, Charismatic theology (isn't that an oxymoron), and prosperity teachings. Honestly, I had never received a packet like that. And he immediately won my respect, before I even met him or arrived in Little Rock. And having spent time with him these past two meetings, my respect for him has grown all the more. In fact, I leave Little Rock considering myself to have gained a new friend.

If the Lord allows me to get home safely, I plan to check into the office and finish up some work I have to do to prepare for my Church Council meeting in the morning and for my Sunday morning assignments. After that, I intend to hang out with my wife and kids as much as I can this weekend. I miss them a lot and look forward to seeing them this afternoon. I really do think my family is the champion of making up for lost time. We play hard! And I can't wait.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. But because of schedule restraints, I will press on with my series on the Ten Commandments. I am at the the ninth commandment, recorded in Exodus 20;16: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." I am calling the message, simply, "Tell the Truth." In my Sunday School class, I am scheduled to finish up the lesson I began last Sunday on "Loving One Another." Last hour, I talked about the call to love one another. This Sunday, I intend to talk about both the importance and practice of loving one another. I really do look forward to being in worship with my own church family and ministering the word of God to my beloved congregation. I pray that it will be a great day of worship and fellowship.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Confidence in the Faithfulness of God

I listened today to an 9 Marks Ministries interview with Mark Dever and Phillip Graham Ryken of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in downtown Philadelphia. Dr. Ryken quoted Sinclair Ferguson about the faithfulness of God. In essence, the statement went like this: "Our confidence in the faithfulness of God is not just expressed in our thankful praise for what he is done in the past. It's also expressed in the works we endeavor to do for the Lord that require us to trust him in the future." I know that was not how the quote went, exactly. But that's the gist of it. And to that thought I have two words to say: "Wow!" and "Amen!"

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

St. Peter B.C. in Little Rock

I am in Little Rock, preaching the "Vision Conference 2006" for Pastor Robert Townsend and the St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church. And you can call me "The Rainman." It has been raining much of the past week or so in Los Angeles. And I came here expecting it to be very cold. But when I arrived yesterday, it was in the seventies. My son called me and told me it was raining. I laughed and told him the sun was shining here. But I might have spoke to soon. When I woke up this morning and opened the shades, their was rain on the ground. So I have concluded that I must be the "Rainman." I think it's following me around.

Last night was a good opening night. I flew all day and arrived in Little Rock in the afternoon. I had lunch with Pastor Townsend. And when I got to the room, I didn't have much time before I needed to begin to get myself ready for church. The service was warm and the congregation was receptive to my preaching. I did this meeting last year, so I think some of the people present remembered me from last year. So they willing to wait for me to get where I was going. I trust they were helped by the message.

Pastor Robert Townsend is a good man. He is two years older than I am. But he seems to have a lot more maturity than his age would suggest. Sometimes, as he is talking I forget that I am talking to a young man. (I wonder if that's how people feel when they talk to me.). I really do appreciate his humility, kindness, and authenticity. I don't like a lot of pretense. So I feel right at home around him. And he is doing a great work here in Little Rock. He pastors the church his father served (another thing we have in common). And his father, now retired, is there assisting him. And he is presently leading the church in a capital stewardship campaign, with the goal of becoming totally debt-free in the next three years. The congregation meets in a beautiful facility that is a little over ten-years old. There is plenty of parking. And they also use their old facility, which is on the other side of the parking lot, for their youth ministries. Pastor Townsend is even the president of the Baptist Ministers' Conference of Little Rock. Wow! I am still in shock about that one. And he is a strong preacher. I have not heard him in person before. But when I was here last year, he gave me a several tapes from the series he was preaching. They were all very good messages. So I know that his congregation is not starving for preaching. But I do hope that the Lord will use my preaching to further nourish this wonderful congregation this week.

LABTS Chapel

Monday night, I have the privilege of speaking in the chapel service of the Los Angeles Bible Training School. This training school is doing a great work, as it comes alongside local churches and assists in trains ministers and "lay people" to study, understand, and teach the word of God. One of the pastors of our church, George Hurtt, teaches a class on the Gospel of Matthew there. And two other of our pastors, Anthony Thompson and John Scroggins, attend classes there. The costs are minimum; but the rewards are great. The teachers are trained men who are committed to sound doctrine. I pray that the school will increase in influence and fruitfulness in the days to come.

I had a thirty minutes to preach, give or take. This made me very nervous. In most settings I preach in, I start when I begin and quit when I'm finished. Admittedly, I can be long-winded. But I try to be sensitive to how much the congregation can take, even though I don't do that well at times. The problem is that the way I prepare my messages, usually by writing out a verse-by-verse exposition in a homiletical form, causes them to be a certain length. Over the past several years, my manuscripts have been getting shorter (from an average of 11 pages to an average of 7-8 pages). But I don't think that shows in my preaching yet. Anyway, preaching in the chapel service was a good learning experience for me. When I got into the message, I have less than 30 minutes to preach. The chapel service is during a break between the classes. So they have to get out of chapel and get back into their classes. And I was never able to get into a preaching rhythm. I was consciously editing the message in my mind as I preached. And I think it made my presentation rather choppy. And my wife said that I was talking really fast and using a lot of set-up lines, rather than just saying what I wanted to say. She was probably right. All I know is that I didn't feel as if I was at my best. I was very nervous. And afterward, I was spent. And it showed. So much so, that my kids (6 and 4, mind you) told me on the way home that they thought my sermon was good. I guess my need for some encouragement was that obvious. But, again, you never know what God will do through the preaching of his work. I trust and pray that someone was helped, challenged, and edified by the message.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The First, Eighth, and Thirty-First

I am still recovering from yesterday. I feel like one pastor who I heard say, "I spend four months in church every Sunday." Most Sundays are long days for me. But yesterday was unusually so. For starters, my Saturday did not go as I planned. That's my fault. But my anxious Saturday followed my into Sunday. And I really wasn't as mentally alert as I usually am. In fact, I locked myself into my office an hour before Sunday School and typed out notes for myself to take to the pulpit. I write out my messages word for word each week, but I usually do not take any notes to the pulpit with me. When I do, I don't think I handle it very well. And I don't think my congregation does, either. So I have begun to type out notes to myself on half-sheets and stick them into my Bible, when I really need them. And I really needed them yesterday. My mind was just not focused enough for me to stand there comfortable without any notes in front of me. But, all in all, God blessed us to have a good day of worship and fellowship.

In my Sunday School class, I began a series of lessons that I am calling, " True Community through Mutual Care." It's basically a series on the "one another" statements of the New Testament. Yesterday, I did the first lesson in the series on "Loving One Another." I actually did not get passed the first point of the lesson. It may have been a result of my trouble concentrating, but I my mind kept drifting to passages that discuss the love of God for us. Of course, God's love for us is often given in scripture as the motive for our love for another. I was just supposed to make that point and move on. But I ended up spending the entire hour on the point, basically. So I will finish up that lesson next Lord's Day, God willing.

In our corporate worship service, I continued my series on the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). I preached the eighth commandment: "You shall not steal" (Ex. 20:15). I called it, "Get it Right!" The presentation of the message was kind of difficult for me, having the notes in front of me. I am not used to having notes with me, so I kind of just preach as if they are not there. But then when I need them to remember something, I have to do some scanning to find what I wanted to say. And if the Lord doesn't keep my mind during all of this, I can totally lose my train of thought. The Lord was faithful. And I was able to get out most of the key points that I wanted to say, even though I don't think I said it was clearly as I would have like. But the congregation was attentive and responsive. I trust they were helped by the message.

Yesterday afternoon, we joined Mt. Moriah in celebrating Pastor Melvin Wade's 31st pastoral anniversary. Our kids left us after the morning service. And I was not scheduled to preach. So Crystal and I goofed off together. I got out of the wet clothes I was in. And we took a long drive to a restaurant Crystal likes. There was a time when she would have to drag me to this restaurant kicking and screaming. But now, I like the place too. We had a long, leisurely meal. Then I talked Crystal into driving us to church, while I took a nap. About 10 minutes away from the church, my phone started ringing. I turned off the ringer and went back to sleep. But Crystal's phone began to ring. She answered it. And it was for me. The news was that Dr. R.A. Williams, who was scheduled to speak, was not feeling well. So they needed me to preach. I laughed. Told them I would be there in a few minutes. And went back to sleep. I really did think it was a joke. But it wasn't. I was "drafted" to bring the afternoon message. And in the middle of my message, a woman became ill in the service. I freaked me out. The congregation was distracted. My instincts were telling me to stop and pray. And the men in the pulpit were telling me that they had it under control and to keep preaching. So I kept on preaching. But I never recovered my focus in the message. The congregation was very gracious and prayerful. But I gave them a highly edited version of the message and got into my seat as quickly as I could.

Today, I took the morning off to get some rest and spend some time with my wife. We had breakfast together and ran a few errands, before she dropped me off at the office. I have staff meeting shortly. Then I am going to go home to have dinner with my wife and kids. Then I have to get ready to preach the chapel service at the Los Angeles Bible Training School. Then I have to pack and get ready myself ready for my flight to Little Rock in the morning. I will be preaching for Pastor Robert Townson at the St. Peter Baptist Church Tuesday through Thursday. Please remember to cover me and my family with believing prayer as I travel to preach over the next several weeks.