Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Strange trip from Canaan to Ephesus

Every year, I go through my "annual homiletical crisis" – in which I really, really struggle in my preaching. For some reason, this year "crisis" (termed this purely on the basis of how I feel going through it) is taking place much earlier - it usually takes place well into the second half of the year. And it's taking on a weird form this time around. I have been struggling to determine what to preach. When I land on a text or subject, my personal study time has been great. But I have also been struggling with turning my personal study and meditation into pulpit-ready messages.

Leading up to the first quarter of 2007, I was able to prayerfully produce a "sermon card" for the church, in which I was gave the title and text for every message that I was schedule to preach at MSMBC from January through March. It was a first. And I was really looking forward to it becoming a new trend in my sermon preparation. However, since April, I have not been able to focus that clearly or think that far ahead. During this same time period, we have been in a relocation process as a church. And some of the pressure related to this season of our congregation's life may be causing my homiletical clumsiness. Other than that, I don't really have an explanation.

This week, the struggle has taken an interesting turn – from Canaan to Ephesus. Since the beginning of April, I have been planning to begin an exposition of the Book of Joshua. I have given several starting dates. But I have missed them both. And this week marks the third time I have missed a planned starting date for Joshua. Last Sunday, I preached a passage out of Exodus with the intention that it would be my introduction, of sorts, to Joshua. And I have been working this week of Joshua 1:1-9. I even ordered several more commentaries this week to help my studies. And I was working on Joshua as late as yesterday afternoon. But once again, my work just came to a halt. I stopped and prayed. Then I began to read through and study a passage from Ephesians. I began preaching through Ephesians last year. But I broke the series during the summer, intending to get back to it at some later date. I guess Ephesians was on my mind this week because I am scheduled to speak at a men's retreat Friday and Saturday, and I am planning to do three expositions from Ephesians. And earlier this week, a member asked me I was going to resume Ephesians. I thought it was ironic. Well, that's what I am not working on for Sunday. Really, you can't go wrong preaching about Jesus and our salvation in him. But these twists and turns have made it difficult to prepare to preach. Please pray for my sermon preparation work and preaching schedule. And pray that I am able to come out of whatever this is I am in – soon!

God bless.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Winning Spiritual Battles

This past Sunday, I preached on Exodus 17:8-16. I had been studying this passage and meditating on it for several weeks. Several things attracted me to this passage. First, the theme of spiritual warfare attracted me. This battle that the Israelites fought against the Amalekites illustrates the spiritual battles we as Christ-followers face against the flesh, the world, and the devil. I feel like some of the things the members of MSMBC are going through in their personal lives is the direct result of spiritual battles that need to be fought and won. Likewise, some of the things we are going through as a church are spiritual battles. I wanted the church to understand this. Second, this passage calls for dependence upon and confidence in God. I believe my congregation needed to hear that. I know I do, too. There are things that we are praying for that require great faith if they are to come to pass. And I wanted to challenge the church again to trust that there is nothing too hard for God. Finally, this passage introduces us to Joshua, Moses' assistant and successor. It is my intention to begin preaching the book of Joshua this coming Sunday (Please, please pray for me!!!). And there was something I wanted to say about him out of this passage. I believe that this battle at Rephidim prepared Joshua for leadership in Canaan. And it thus warns us not to be negligent with our present responsibilities. Our present responsibilities are spiritual preparation for future opportunities. Here is the sermon skeleton from Sunday's message:

Title: "Winning Spiritual Battles"

Text: Exodus 17:8-16

Theme: Divine help in spiritual warfare

Point: The Lord is able to give you the victory in every spiritual battle you face.


I. Depend on the power of God (17:9-12).

A. The importance of prayer is seen in the effect it had on the battle battle (v. 11).

B. The importance of prayer is seen in the effect it had on Moses (v. 12).

II. Fight with confidence in God (17:10, 13).

III. Remember the faithfulness of God (17:14).

A. Remember God's faithful power in your past.

B. Remember God's faithful promises for your future.

IV. Give all the glory to God (17:15-16).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Memorial Day

Today, we remember the American soldiers who have died in military service. And we pray for those who continue to serve in harm's way in different places around the world. God bless.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Speaking @ Phillip’s Temple in Dayton

I am writing this post from Chicago's O'Hare airport. I am waiting for my connecting flight to Dayton (OH), where I am scheduled to begin a three-night meeting at the Phillip's Temple C.M.E. Church. The pastor, James Washington, has a large vision for strategic ministry and a solid commitment to biblical preaching. This is my second time preaching at Phillip's Temple. And I can say that it is the strangest C.M.E. (Christian Methodist Episcopal) church I have ever preached in. Okay. It's the only C.M.E. congregation I have ever preached in. But from everything I hear about the denomination, this is not your typical C.M.E. church. From its worship style, to its ministry innovations, to its congregational structure, this church seems to break the norms of its surrounding community and denominational structures. But with its commitment to sound doctrine as its foundation, this is a thriving congregation that is touching many lives with the good news of Jesus Christ. I have good memories from the meeting I did there last year. And I trust the Lord will richly bless this meeting, as well. Please remember me and this meeting in your prayers over the next several days.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

About an Hour. Not!

I had an eye exam yesterday. And I was given a new prescription. The doctor has been monitoring a potential problem with my eyes for several years now. And the situation hasn't gotten any worse. Praise God! But at the same time, the problem has not really changed. So I was told again by the people who specialize in doing glasses in about an hour that it would take 8-15 working days to get my prescription done. Go figure. There's a sermon illustration there somewhere, I just have to find it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Speaking @ Word Fellowship

I am in Greensboro, North Carolina, preaching for my friend Keelan Atkinson. A little less than a year ago, Keelan organized the Word Fellowship Reformed Baptist Church. And I have the honor of preaching their first revival. This is my third time coming to Greensboro to preach for Keelan. So there is a level of familiarity with Keelan's ministry, which makes it a pretty relaxing atmosphere to preach in. The Word Fellowship congregation loves the word. And I have really enjoyed preaching to them these past two nights.

The place where the meeting was to take place was unavailable Wednesday night. So Pastor Jeff Smith and the Clifton Road Baptist Church family graciously opened their doors to host this meeting. And it has ended up being a joint meeting between the two congregations. Pastor Smith has only served Clifton Road for a little less than a year. But the Lord's blessings are obviously on the ministry of this congregation. Pastor Smith has been kind and gracious. And the members of Clifton Road have been hospitable and encouraging. It has been a joy to worship with and minister to these two congregations. Please pray for the final night of this meeting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Adding Knowledge

I am teaching a new series on Tuesday nights. (Have I mentioned yet that our midweek service moved to Tuesday nights?) I am calling it, "Saved for Sure." And it is based on 2 Peter 1:5-7. In 2 Peter 1:3-11, Peter exhorts his readers to make their call and election sure. And in verses 5-7, Peter gives seven spiritual qualities that you should add to or supplement your faith with for assurance, growth, stability, and fruitfulness in your Christian experience. After several weeks of introduction, I have plunged into the seven qualities. We studied "virtue" last week. And last night we studied what it means to add "knowledge" to your faith (verses 5-6). I thought it was good work, and was really excited about teaching it. I trust that the congregation found the study beneficial.

Next Tuesday - God willing - we will study what it means to supplement your faith with "self-control." Please remember this series in your prayers.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Her children rise up and call blessed; her husband also, and he praises her; "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. - Proverbs 31:28-30 (ESV)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Speaking @ Morning Star in Grand Prarie

This evening, I will preach my final of three messages at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Grand Prarie (TX), where Christopher Taylor is the pastor. I have preached this meeting for Pastor Taylor a four or five times over the years. And all I can say is that Morning Star is a great place to preach. Last night, I preached a message that I really didn't intend to preach outside of my own pulpit. But I felt such freedom in preaching at Morning Star, that I took a shot at it. And I believe it was received well.

There have been quite a few pastors and preachers who have shared in the services each night, which has been very encouraging. And I have had the opportunity to fellowship with Pastor Reginald Reid of Texarcana, for whom I am to preach later in the summer. It's been good getting to know him. Likewise, as I stood to preach last night, I saw a woman sitting in the congregation and I said to myself, "Wow, that lady looks just like..." - a member of our worship team and a lead singer in our choir at MSMBC. But I immediately dismissed the thought and tried not to stare at her. Come to find out, it was who I thought it was. She is in Texas for work, heard that I was in town, and came out to support her pastor. My wife, Crystal, warmed me to take this as a reminder to be on my best behavior wherever I am. She's right. It's a small world. But I thank God for familiar faces in strange places.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Rare Two for One Sunday

Today was a rare (translated "weird") day of preaching for me. I worked all week on a message on Genesis 25:29-34. But when I went to bed last night, I was not comfortable with it. I felt (and still feel) it needed more work before I preached it. So I went to bed with plans to preach a message from Philippians 1:19-21. It was a older message from the exposition of Philippians that I did some years ago. I had been thinking about this text this week, as well - especially as we prepared for the National Day of Prayer. So it was kind of natural for me to consider preaching it, which is exactly what I did in our 8 AM service. But after the first sermon, I felt that I should preach the other message I prepared in the 11 AM service, which is exactly what I did (with some internal debate with the Lord, I must admit). But the Lord blessed both messages to be a help to our congregation, I believe. It's been more than ten years since I have preached two different messages on a Sunday morning. And barring some strange event, it may be another ten years before it happens again.

Go Spidey!

My son, H.B., and I were among the throngs who went to see Spider-Man 3 this weekend. And we officially give it two thumbs up. Go spidey!

Speaking @ Peace Chapel

This past Friday, I spoke at Peace Chapel Baptist Church here in Los Angeles. Their pastor, DeAntwan Fitts, has only served the congregation since October of last year. But the Lord is already at work in this congregation in obvious ways. The meeting was the opening night of their youth revival, which will take place each Friday night in May. I was honored to be invited by this new pastor. And I was encouraged to fellowship with this young brother who is determined to lead his congregation with sound doctrine. And I was glad to be invited to preach a "youth revival." Even though I am still a young man (I think), I don't get invited to do too many youth meetings anymore. Our music team joined me. And they were great. And the congregation was graciously patient with my preaching. I trust that the word will bear fruit in the days to come. Please remember this pastor, congregation, and meeting in your prayers. And pray for my associate pastor, George Hurtt, who is scheduled to preach this meeting on May 18.

The Ultimate Prayer Partner

This past Thursday, we observed the National Day of Prayer at MSMBC with a special prayer meeting. This is the third or fourth year we have had this service. We worship together. And we spend time in prayer specifically for the government, media, education, church, and family. Then I bring a message. I almost didn't preach this year, though. I was debating whether or not we should just keep on praying. We don't have too many meetings like this where we just pray. So I thought that maybe I should just save my sermon for another time. But I finally determined that it would be best for me to go on and preach the message that I prepared. And I am really glad I did. God used the message to comfort and encourage many people who were present. Here is the skeleton from that service.

Title: "The Ultimate Prayer Partner"

Text: Romans 8:26-27

Theme: The Intercessory Ministry of the Holy Spirit

Point: You can pray with confidence because the Holy Spirit is praying with you and for you.


I. The Holy Spirit intercedes to help you in your weakness (8:26).

A. The Spirit helps us (v. 26a).

B. The Spirit intercedes for us (v. 26b).

II. The Spirit interceds in harmony with the will of God (8:27).

A. God the Father knows the intentions of the Spirit (v. 27a).

B. God the Father agrees with the intercession of the Spirit (v. 27b).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Confessions of a Pastor

Our Book of the Month for May is Confessions of a Pastor, by Greg Groeschel. Groeschel pastors the Life Church, a multi-campus congregation in Oklahoma. I really didn't know much about Groeschel when I purchased the book. I had seen an advertisement for Confessions in a Christian magazine. And it piqued my interest. While in a bookstore in Chicago last year, I saw it and bought it. The chapter titles were quite provocative, such as "I Can't Stand a Lot of Christians," "I Have to Work Hard to Stay Sexually Pure," and "I Hate Prayer Meetings," etc. I was really curious about how Groeschel would address these subjects. Would this be a reality-TV type treatment of a pastor's personal life? Was he serious? What was this book really about? I couldn't wait to read it. And I wasn't disappointed.

Once you get past the provocative way in which the book is presented, Confessions is a sound, clear, and helpful guide for those who want to have a more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. Groeschel does make confessions about each of the things he mentions in the various chapter titles. And he is rather candid about his spiritual struggles, which was both shocking and refreshing. But, as you dig into each chapter, you soon discover that Groeschel is not just talking about himself. He's talking about you, as well. You begin to see yourself in the discussion. And then Groeschel turns to scripture to address what the Word of God has to say about the subject. And his handling of the texts he uses is both faithful and helpful, providing both a better understanding of scripture and practical guidance for drawing closer to God.

I heartily commend this book to you. It will, as its subtitle says, help you to drop your pose and get real with God. And yourself. It's about 200 pages long. But it's very readable. Groeschel's writing is clear, thought-provoking, and even entertaining. I read a lot of theology, exegetical works, and commentaries that are written with a lot of technical language. So I like to read books like this that are, well, readable - deep thoughts packaged in fresh language. I trust that this book will be a good read and a spiritual benefit to you. Likewise, my fellow preachers and teachers will find some good illustrative material in it. Let me know.