Friday, June 30, 2006

Going to Calvary

Tonight, I am scheduled to preach at the Calvary Baptist Church here in Los Angeles. The Rev. Virgil Hill is the pastor. Calvary is the congregation that was pastored by the late, Dr. Manual Scott Sr. Later, Pastor Jarvis Collier, who now serves in Kansas City, was the pastor. Hill has been at Calvary for a few years now as it doing a great work. Not only is he actively working to develop his congregation, he is also passionate around reaching young people. He leads a college preparatory ministry that is helped many young people in the Southern California area. Hill is also the leader of the Young Adult Department of the Western Baptist State Convention, of which I am a part. He is a kind and warm brother, and a strong preacher in his own right. I am honored to have the opportunity to minister the word to this historic congregation again. This will mark my second or third year doing this meeting for him. If I am correct, it's a youth and young adult emphasis service. Either way, I am excited about Mt. Sinai and Calvary having the opportunity to worship together again. May the Lord be glorified in our time together tonight.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Who of Your How

The Lord richly blessed our Midyear Tune-Up last night. The worship was warm and the testimonies were encouraging. And the Lord used Pastor Terry Brooks to bless us in a special way. The pastor of New Horizon Baptist Church in San Diego, Brooks preached a message entitled, "The Who of Your How," from Lamentations 3:21-24. He reminded us that God is calling the shots and that God can be counted on in every situation. The bottom-line is that you don't have to know how you are going to make it, as long as you know the One who has everything under control. It just seemed to be such a fitting message for our members to hear at this midpoint of the year. And, personally, I just hit the spot. I praise the Lord, indeed, for all that he has done this year. And I trust and pray that the Lord will continue to smile on our lives and body-life today throughout the remainder of the year. God is faithful.

Midyear Tune-Up 2006

Tonight, Mt. Sinai will meet together for a one-night revival that we call our Midyear Tune-Up. At this midpoint of the year, we stop to offer the Lord our grateful praise for all that he has already done for us so far this year. Likewise, we spend time in believing This young man prayer together, asking God's blessings to be upon our life and work for the remainder of the year. It is usually a special time in the life of our congregation. And I expect that tonight will be no different. Our guest speaker will be Pastor Terry Brooks of the New Horizon Baptist Church in San Diego. This young man is a visionary leader and a sound preacher. And the Lord has been granting him greater influence in the Southern California area and in our state convention, since his arrival from Gary, Indiana. I really look forward to sitting under his preaching tonight. If you live in the Los Angeles area, join us. I bet you could use a "midyear tune-up" too. For the rest of our friends around the country, please remember our meeting in your prayers today. God bless.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

One Of Those Days

So I came home this morning to pick something up. I wasn't in the house for five minutes. But when I got back into the car, it wouldn't start. I went back inside and waited a few minutes (as if that would do anything). But it still didn't start. So I called AAA (#1) to come out. The AAA guy came a gave me a jump. I let the car run for 20 or so minutes. And then I headed for the office again. I decided to go to a local bookstore to pick up a book that I wanted. I was in the store for twenty minutes. But when I came out, the car wouldn't start again. So I missed staff meeting, sitting in a parking lot waiting for AAA to come out (#2). I got a chance to read a good piece of the book I had just bought waiting for the AAA guy to show up. And when he did, he gave me a jump. All was well. Then I headed to the church. But the car stopped again. This time in the middle of Sepulvada. So I called AAA again (#3). And this time they didn't send a guy to give me a jump. This time, they sent a tow truck out, who towed me to the car dealership. I was there for quite a while before they got my car processed and gave me a loaner, so I could get to the office. I finally made it to the office and was able to finish my preparations for our church meeting tonight (which went well, by the way). But it had to be the Lord. I was tired, distracted, and frustrated. Nothing seemed to go right today. But the Lord kept my mind and heart on him. I prayed as I waited for the AAA guy(s). I am very excited about that. I had not control over my day. But I had control over my attitude about my God. Praise the Lord for the fruit of the Spirit!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Count Your Blessings

Yesterday, I continued my exposition of Ephesians with a message on 1:3, entitled, "Count Your Blessings." I didn't sleep Saturday night. I was restless because I was very nervous about preaching Sunday morning. I'm not sure why, though. I was very excited about the message. And I was eager to be in worship. But I was very uptight about my message. I had worked hard on it. I even had an extra week to work on it. But I still struggled in preparing it. In fact, about 5:00 AM Sunday morning, it went from a four-point outline to a three-point outline. And I continued tinkering with is until it was time to go into worship. But I don't think my internal "whatever" was very evident in either of the presentations of the message. The Lord really did help me to preach clearly, I believe. And the more I preached, the more excited I became about the message - both times. Here's the sermon skeleton:

Title: "Count Your Blessings"

Text: Ephesians 1:3

Point: Every person who is united to Christ by faith is already richly blessed by God.


I. The Proper Response to the Blessed Life: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"
II. The Exclusive Means to the Blessed Life: "in Christ"
III. The Infinite Scope of the Blessed Life: "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places"
A. We have a sufficient blessing in Christ. "every spiritual blessing."
B. We have a spiritual blessing in Christ: "every spiritual blessing."
C. We have a secure blessing in Christ: "in the heavenly places."

Yesterday afternoon, we fellowshiped with the Rhema Community Church in La Puente, CA. My longtime friend, Ronald Saunders is the founding pastor. The congregation is only three years old. And they have only been in their own facility for about a year now. But God is blessing this young congregation. And I am proud to see how the Lord is continuing to you this young man, who I deem to be - hands down - one of the best young preachers I know. I pray that the Lord would continue to bless this church to grow, both spiritually and numerically. And I pray that God would continue to use Ronald in greater ways. I was glad that we could join in with them in their celebration, which is the first time they have had such a celebration service. And I pray that my message and our presence was an encouragement to them.

Speaking of encouragement, the highlight of the day was the fact that more than thirty members of MSMBC stayed around the church after our morning services to ride together to Rhema Church. We chartered a bus. And we didn't really do it until the last minute. I didn't even announce it until last Wednesday night, and I failed to mention it during either of our morning services yesterday. And I was quite surprised that so many joined us on the bus. I hadn't intended on riding, but George and I decided to at the last minute. I read my manuscript most of the way there. And I gazed out the window on the way back, half asleep. But I can't describe to you how encouraging it was to be with the members of MSMBC on that bus, not to mention the other members who drove out for the service. I call these "post cards for heaven," through which God reminds us that we are still on his mind. God knows I needed one. And he sent it right on time and in a special way. Praise God!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Halfway Up Mt. Everest

Last night, I preached the eleventh stanza of Psalm 119. I am now halfway up this Mt. Everest of the Psalms. I have been richly blessed by my personal study of this passage over the past several months. And even though it has been difficult preparing some of the messages, I have really enjoyed the sermon preparation process, as well. It has kept me on my toes to wrestle through the theme of each of these eight verse sections, while maintain the main thrust of the psalm. And I have enjoyed preaching these messages to Mt. Sinai on Wednesday nights. I have missed some weeks, but every time we pick it back up, the congregation is ready, attentive, and encouraging. May the Lord's blessings be on the remaining studies of this remarkable psalm.

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

Title: "Making it Through the Middle Miles"

Text: Psalm 119:81-88

Point: You can make it through the middle miles of life if you wait on God's perfect timing and walk in God's unfailing love.


I. Wait on God's Perfect Timing (119:81-84)
A. Wait on God's salvation (v. 81)
B. Wait on God's comfort (vv. 82-83)
C. Wait on God's verdict (v. 84)
II. Walk in God's unfailing Word (119:85-88)
A. Walk with spiritual discernment (v. 85)
B. Walk with spiritual devotion (vv. 86-88)
1. The Lord will help you (v. 86)
2. The Lord will sustain you (v. 87)
3. The Lord will revive you (v. 88)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

I have found it absolutely impossible not to think about my father today. H.B. Charles Sr. was my father, my pastor, my hero, my mentor, and my friend. I succeeded my father as pastor of the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, which he served for better than 40 years. The Lord took my father home to glory in June, 1989. I was only 17-years-old at the time. And I cannot begin to explain how devastating that was to me. However, over the years, I have been able to recognize the invisible hand of divine providence at work in this. And I am able to thank the Lord for knowing and doing what was best for me. But that doesn't change the fact that I miss my father terribly. I didn't preach Father's Day for about ten years after his death. I think the thoughts of my father were too much for me to concentrate on a preaching assignment. In fact, it was only after I have a son of my one that I dared to press through to preach on Father's Day. I have done well over the past few years. But this year I really miss him. Interestingly, none of my thoughts about my dad today bring me the pain of loss that I used to feel. It is just one of the days where I am thinking much about him. At this point, more than half of my lifetime has passed since my dad's death. But it doesn't feel like it has been that long. And there is even a sense in which it feels like is still with me. Of course, I don't mean that in any mystical sense. I only mean that my life is filled with so many memories of my father that it is virtually impossible to forget him.

My father was a whale of preacher. He was not a student of exposition. But he was a faithful preacher. His style was more textual. And his presentation style was similar to the other orator's of his day. He didn't really "whoop," either. And he couldn't stand the fact that I, as a boy preacher, was determined to "shut it down"! My father used to regularly warn me that I was not going to get far with all that "whooping and hollering," as he called it. My father was an avid reader who had an extensive library. In fact, his was larger than mine is now. And he would regularly push me to read. If I would ask him a simple Bible question; he would send me to a book, rather than giving me the answer himself. I thought this was ridiculous. And I didn't understand the significance of all those books. I would readily traded in a book for a tape of Jasper Williams, Donald Parsons, or C.A.W. Clark. Unfortunately, I didn't learn to love books until after my father died. After his death, I received less than a hundred of his books. So I have had to build my own library over the years. But I have done so, trying to take advantage of the many things my father tried to teach me. I hope he would have been proud of the man and preacher that I have become.

My father was also a good pastor. I am still amazed by how many different people are convinced that they each were my father's dearest member. He just never met a stranger. And he loved the people of Mt. Sinai passionately. I was the son of his old age. And by the time I began preaching (at age 11), my father was basically finished with revivals, conventions, etc., even though he maintained some participation in these areas of ministry. But his focus was Mt. Sinai. And I greatly benefited from that. And so did the church. My father was a disciplined student. And he would teach the Monday night Sunday School Teacher's Meeting each week, after having taught the exposition of the Sunday School lesson at the Minister's Conference earlier that day. He would meet with us preachers each Tuesday night. And he would preach two different messages at 8 and 11 AM on Sundays, rarely repeating himself. This did not include all of the pastoral care and visitation, counseling and meetings, and local political matters my father was involved him. Yet he did it all with an unforced rhythm.

Lastly, my father was a good father. Certainly, he was a flawed man. And in my short time with him I saw him make many mistakes. Yet, he was quick to admit when he was wrong. And he was willing to make changes when he needed to. He trusted people very easily. And though this would result in him getting burned many times, he never really held it against the next person who sought to win his trust. He was a very busy man. But I never felt that I was in competition with his ministry work. I don't know how he pulled that off. But I praise God for it. He was a strong man who could be as stubborn as steel, at times. Yet, he was also a very gentle man who could sit and read the scriptures and weep for hours over the joy of spiritual discovery. He loved clothes. But he gave away just as many as he bought. Even to this day, I meet preachers who tell me my dad gave them their first pair of nice shoes or their first nice suit. Somehow, I was an expert at getting under his skin. I didn't do it on purpose, most of the time. But I would really frustrate him. I think I should have listened more and questioned him less. But as mad as he would get at me; his primary form of disciplining me was to withhold affection. That was the most painful thing he could do to me, at a point. And even to his death, my father would hug and kiss me. It meant a lot to me, communicating the things that he didn't say with actual words. But he also knew how to use words to communicate his love, as well. He gave most of the people in his life a nick-name. And I was no different. He called me "Bish" (Long Story!).

I thank God for my father today. I also praise God for my "Sunshine" - my wife, Crystal. And I deeply grateful to God for the two precious children he has given us - H.B.3 and Natalie Marie. And I thank God for all the blessings of our life together. God is a good God.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A New Beginning

Do you ever have times in your life when you feel like you just need a fresh start or a new beginning? That's how I feel in this season of my life. I am not sure why I have been feeling like this. And I am sure that these feelings are right, which is why I really haven't responded to them. Yet, I must admit, that these feelings for me real, and they have been pretty hard to shake. My life has been richly blessed by God. And I really don't have any legitimate reasons to complain. But there is an internal restlessness that I cannot explain, and that I cannot explain away. These feelings may be nothing more than the natural response of one who has reached the "middle miles" of ministry, having served my present pastorate for more than fifteen years now. So I keep running the marathon that the Lord has set before me.

Recently, I have described my feelings to a few friends in boxing terms. In boxing, there are knock-out artists, who can take you out with just one punch. I have faced some of those in my ministry, and have proven to have a pretty good chin. But in boxing, there are also those technical fighters who don't have big punching power, but they can take you out with an accumulation of punches over the course of the fight. I feel like I have been on the receiving end of quite a few jabs, at this point. But what do good fighters do in these situations. They keep fighting. And that's what I intend to do, with the help of God.

I know that this post is way more personal than anything I have ever written on this blog. Or, it feels that way, at least. I usually try not to write a post when I am thinking this way, lest I sound cynical. For the record, I am not. I do write this post with a vulnerable sense of candor, hoping that someone who reads this will be encouraged to keep fighting through the championship rounds. God is faithful.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Humanity of Preachers

Preachers are human beings! This may seem to be an unnecessary statement of the obvious. But it's not. It's something that need to be remembered by both people in the pew and people in the pulpit. Preachers are only human beings. They are not super-saints, preaching machines, or holy angels (By the way, I do not think the letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 are grounds for calling pastors "angels."). We are just plain old men. Or plain young men, in my case. (And, by the way, I am being intentionally gender specific). We are men. This is something that we preachers seem to forget. I have often said that pulpit ministry can breed hypocrisy, if you are not careful. God uses preachers in a unique way to exalt the Savior, edify the saints, and evangelize the lost. But sometimes we allow the fact that God uses us to make us think that we are more than what we really are. People hold us in high esteem. And we allow that to cause us to act like we have reached a level of spiritual maturity that we, in fact, have not. And in some instances, we are just be sensitive to the fact that we ought to be examples of what we preach. And knowing that we fall short, we sometimes fall into the trap of being phonies, rather than being authentic. And then some men have leaders and members who are just looking for a way to attack them. Believe me, for the few pastors who are "celebrities"; there are hundreds more who faithfully labor for the Lord under excruciating conditions. And they are fearful of letting people around them see any kink in their armor. So they live out an image of what people think the preacher's life is supposed to be, rather, than being who they really are, by the grace of God.

So I thought I would just remind us all that preachers are human. We have good weeks and bad weeks just like you. We are loving and mean, just like you. We have circumstances in life to kick us around sometimes, just like you. If you faithfully attend corporate worship, there are times when show up even though you don't feel like it. Well, guess what. There are some times we preachers don't feel like showing up, even though we are the ones who are supposed to deliver the message of God. We are human! We face challenges with our faith, obedience, health, finances, mates, children, self-image, etc. just like every one else. So, members, please stop treating preaching like sanctified celebrities. And, preachers, let's stop acting like we are sanctified celebrities. Pray for humility, openness, and diligence in your spiritual walk, so that the work of the Lord doesn't come before the Lord of the work. Invite others to pray with and for you. Take a risk. Be yourself. Trust that God is faithful. And rejoice that God uses weak, sinful, limited human beings for his glory!

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." - 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Thanks For Your Prayers

I preached in Tyler, Texas, last Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday morning, my wife called me while on I was on my way to DFW airport to catch my flight home. When she told me what was going on, I called on my coworkers to the house to take her to the hospital. A few hours I landed to bad news. I don't feel comfortable going into detail. But the good news is that Crystal is doing better. She has been home resting and recuperating. And she is feeling much better today. Thank you to all of your who have called, sent card, emails, and flowers, or have come by to check on Crystal. I really do appreciate it all of your love and kindness. All is well. But please continue to keep me and my family in your prayers.

I did not go to midweek this past Wednesday. I stayed with Crystal. And I really did go into the office for the rest of the week, except to pick up my mail, find a few books in my study, and to attend an early morning prayer meeting. I was not sure I would be able to attend church Sunday. When I was clear that I would be able to be there, I immediately knew what I was going to preach. I preached the sermon I was intending to preach at midweek, from Psalm 119. I was preaching to myself. But I trust that others were encouraged and edified by the message. Yesterday, was also the second week of our second service. And I also had an afternoon service to preach. But the Lord was faithful. I really wasn't tired all day. But when I got home, I passed out as soon as I laid down. Today is my first day back in the office. I feel a bit overwhelmed, trying to catch up on everything that I missed. But I am glad to be able to get back to work. Pray that the Lord will bless my work this week.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Return of a MIA Blogger

I am in Tyler, Texas. Tonight, I will preach the the second of two sermons at the Liberty Baptist Church, where Mark Hood is the pastor. God willing, I will fly home in the morning to be with Mt. Sinai for our midweek service. I am working on a message from Psalm 119:65-72 entitled, "How Has the Lord Dealt With You?"

It has bee more than a week since my last post. And boy, what a week. First of all, my wife had received news that her father was sick. So she went to check on him in Midland, TX. It turns out that his situation was not as dire as was first communicated to her. But I am still glad that she went to personally see how he was doing. Crystal makes countless sacrifices for me, our kids, and may work. So when she said she wanted to go to Midland, there was absolutely no way I was going to object. Last week, I was scheduled to preach Tuesday through Thursday for Pastor Garfield Burton at the Macedonia Baptist Church in Washington D.C. We had prepared for a babysitter to watch the kids, with both of us being away. But Tuesday the closer the time came for me to leave, the more uneasy I was about leaving. Finally, late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, I decided that I had better stay with the kids. Pastor Burton, a true friends, was very understanding. I owe him a big one. And I pray that he did my absence was not too detrimental to his work. There are many times I do not want to get on a plane to go preach. But this is one of the rare times I have cancelled a meeting in the last minute. The last time was about ten years ago. So it was hard for me to make that phone call to Pastor Burton. But I am sure that I did the right thing.

The kids took it easy on me last week. And it was really good being with them, even though we missed Crystal a lot. At the same time, I was getting for our second service, which began this past Sunday. And I was also getting ready to begin two new series this past Sunday - Ephesians in our worship services and "Membership Matters" is our mass Sunday School hour. I also seemed to have a lot of pastoral care and administrative things to come up last week. I wasn't even supposed to be in town. So you would think I would have had a relatively easy week. But That was not the case. I ended up with a lot on my plate. And it was very taxing on me. I thought about blogging everyday. But I just couldn't get to it.

Sunday was a great day. Our new 8 AM service began. Our congregation gave a "new commitment" offering. And the Lord blessed my message on Ephesians. When I begin an epistle, I like to start off with an overview of it. So I preached a message covering the entire six chapters of Ephesians. This is not how I usually preach. But I thought the Lord helped me to summarize the content, themes and movements of Ephesians. This Sunday, God willing, I will pick up the study with the "Hymn of Grace," recorded in Ephesians 1:3-14. During the month of June, I am teaching our updated new members class to the entire church at the Sunday School hour. Sunday was the first lesson. I think it went well. I look forward to the rest of the series. We also made some structural changes to our services and add some new procedures for follow-up and assimilation. I think there was some awkwardness to it, being the first week. But I pastor such gracious and patient people. I am really grateful for their willingness to follow my leadership. Oh, yeah. It was really hot during the second service! We are having more electrical work done on our building. It's another chapter in a long story. And the stage of the work this weekend prevented us from using our AC system. Yet, the congregation fought through it and were quite attentive to the message. That is, those who did not have the "spirit of sleep" jump on them.

Well, that's it. That's a (somewhat) brief summary of what I've been up to the past week. Thanks for the calls and emails, checking on me. All is well. Blog you later.