Monday, September 24, 2007

Speaking @ Lilydale in Chicago

I spent this past weekend in Chicago with my friend, Romell Williams, who was celebrating his third pastoral anniversary at the Lilydale Progressive M.B.C. I had the privilege of preaching during Romell’s installation celebration. And I have been with him each year during his anniversary celebration, preaching in his two morning services.

I met Romell when he was the youth pastor of a large church in suburban Chicago. A mutual friend hooked us up, commending Romell to me as one of the best young preachers in the country. And upon meeting him and hearing him, he backed that up. Romell bleeds preaching. It’s just in his system. And over the past several years, his keen preaching mind has been married to his sharp pastoral vision. And the Lord is using him to do a great work at the Lyllydale Church.

The worship services were held at a local high school gym, as the Lyllydale Church building is undergoing an extensive renovation of its main auditorium. I had the opportunity to see the designs and graphics for the renovated building. And they are absolutely beautiful. And I am greatly encouraged by sense of faith, prayerfulness and unity with which this pastor and congregation are undertaking this massive project. Please remember Romell and the Lillydale church in your prayers over the coming weeks as this project is completed.

As the afternoon service for Romell was concluding, I rushed out heading for the New Covenant M.B.C. Dr. Steven J. Thurston, who is also the president of the National Baptist Convenion of America, found out I was in town and invited me over to preach his live Sunday evening broadcast. By the time I arrived at New Covenant, it was time to preach. I was totally spent, and I felt the physical strain as I was preaching. But the Lord gave me strength to get through the message. I was just grateful to be there. Dr. Thurston has been very kind to me over the years. And this invitation was just another example of his big-heartedness.

Dr. Clay Evans, retired pastor of the Fellowship Baptist Church and the “Godfather” of Chicago Baptist preachers, was in attendance at New Covenant. I had not seen him in some time. And it was good to be with him in worship and to hear him sing, even though he only teased us with a verse or two. Dr. Evans and my father were friends. And I praise God that his friendship with my father has resulted in his kindness to me.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lessons from a Self-Conscious Preacher

Last night, I continued our study of the book of Ephesians. We are at Ephesians 3:1-13, which is a rather difficult text. My original tension was to divine the text into two parts. There are, indeed, two themes in the text: (1) the ministry of Paul and (2) the mystery of the gospel. But it seems to me that these two themes are interwoven throughout the entire passage. So I was really struggling with how to divide it. I finally decided not to. And my congregation patiently endured my exposition of all thirteen verses. It's a great, difficult, challenging text. And I know I only stratched the surface of it. But it was a rich study for me. And I trust the congregation was helped.

By the way, I am really enjoying getting back to preaching on Tuesday nights. I am slowing getting the hang of going from Sunday's message to Tuesday's message. And I am really being blessed by studying Ephesians. I pray that the Lord's will continue to bless our times together on Tuesday nights.

Here is the skeleton from last night's message. I know the outline is long and extensive. I hope the message was not as laborious as this outline seems to be!

TITLE: Lessons from a Self-Conscious Preacher

TEXT: Ephesians 3:1-13

THEME: Understanding the ministry of the mystery of the gospel

POINT: Faithful ministers are careful about how the Lord sees them, how others seem them, and how they see themselves.


I. Paul was a prisoner for Christ Jesus (3:1, 13)
A. Notice how Paul viewed his situation (v. 1)
B. Notice how Paul wanted the church to view his situation (v. 13)
II. Paul was a steward of God’s grace (3:2-6)
A. The source of the mystery (vv. 2-3)
1. Grace (v. 2)
2. Revelation (v. 3)
B. The secrecy of the mystery (vv. 4-5)
1. It was concealed in the Old Testament
2. It is revealed in the New Testament
C. The statement of the mystery (v. 6)
1. We are fellow together in Christ.
2. We are members together in Christ.
3. We are partakers together in Christ.
III. Paul was a minister of the gospel (3:7-13)
A. The means of gospel ministry (v. 7)
B. The attitude of gospel ministry (v. 8a)
C. The focus of gospel ministry (vv. 8b-9)
1. We are to point people to Christ (v. 8b)
2. We are to point people to the church (v. 9)
D. The goal of gospel ministry (vv. 10-11)
1. The church is the place where the wisdom of God is displayed (v.10).
2. The church is the place where the purpose of God is accomplished (v. 11)
E. The benefit of gospel ministry (v. 12)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy 65th Birthday MSMBC

Yesterday, we celebrated 65 years of God's faithfulness in and through the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. Our guest speaker was Paul Felix, who is a professor at The Master's Seminary and the president of the Los Angeles Bible Training School. Prof. Felix delivered a challenging and powerful message from 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15, calling on us to heed the six exhortations in those two verses, that we might be a "healing community." Stellar preaching! He also led a mass study during our Sunday School hour, calling on us to make a new/deeper commitment to personal Bible Study. I was personally helped, convicted, and devastaded by the messages. I praise God for Prof. Felix and his commitment to the Lord Jesus and the word of God. It was truly a great day!

Following is the little article I wrote for our bulletin this past weekend:

Today, we celebrate the sixty-five years of God’s faithfulness in, to, and through the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. Over six decades, with only three pastors, the Lord has used this local congregation as a sign, a herald, and a foretaste of his present but not-yet kingdom. And many lives have been changed to the glory of God. It’s amazing to me. Just this year alone, as I have ministered across the city and around the country, I keep meeting people whose lives have been dramatically impacted by Christ through the witness and ministry of Mt. Sinai. Of course, many people fondly remember the ministry of my father and predecessor, H.B. Charles, Sr. But I also hear the names of so many other members of this congregation – deacons, worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, and others – who have been used by God to touch lives. To God be the glory!

In Joshua 4, the Lord commanded Joshua to erect a stone memorial at Gilgal, so that the present and future generations would not forget how the mighty hand of God brought the children of Israel over the Jordan River and into the promised land of Canaan. This reminds us that it is important to remember the times, ways, and people God has used to bring us to where we are. So let us stop today and praise God together for God unwavering and continued faithfulness to MSMBC. We praise God alone because, although he has used different people to plant and water the seed, God alone has given the increase.

But let us not just look back today; look around. God is not through with us yet. Most of those who have played such a pitivol role in the development of this congregation have moved off the scene. But the Lord has raised up new models, ministers, and messengers to carry on the witness of the church. And it is a great joy for me to have the opportunity to serve the Lord Jesus in and among the wonderful congregation of saints at Mt. Sinai. Indeed, we have a long way to go in our process to maturity. Be I am convinced we are going in the right direction. We are a church that is committed to winning more Christians and developing better Christians to the glory of God. Prayer and the ministry of the word are our primary tools. And a very real and growing bond of peace and love is evident among us. So let’s look forward with faith and hope. In the days and years to come, as leaders and locations may change, may our mission remain the same: changed lives! Together, let’s claim new territory for the kingdom of God with confidence that the one who has begun a good work in us will complete it on the day of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who need the church, anyway?

This past Tuesday night, I continued our study of Ephesians in our midweek service. I preached the closing paragraph of Ephesians 2, verses 19-22. It is about the nature and the importance of the church. I was most concerned about presenting the text clearly. And I did not spend as much time in application as I would have liked. So I fear the message become somewhat of "data-dump." I trust the Lord will make up for my weaknesses in preaching.

The subject of the church burdens me. I love the church. And my love for the church is an expression of my love and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. I am convinced that you cannot have one without the other, you cannot exalt Jesus and reject the church at the same time. At the same time, I am not blind to the sin, hypocrisy, and weakness of the church. I know that many people have been hurt, and the name of the Lord Jesus has been reproached, by foolishness that has taken place in the church. My heart breaks as I hear the news of high-profile religious leaders in the news the past weeks. And I also am grieved by the way my own congregation falls short of the Lord's expectations of us. I believe we are going in the right direction. But I know that we have a long way to go. And sometimes it seems like the progress of the church is two steps forward, three steps back. But be clear, none of these things change my mind and heart against the church. I believe in Jesus. Therefore, I believe in the church. I agree with the late Vance Havner, who used to say that you can't drown with your head above the water. And maybe that's the key. Maybe we need to be more inentional, strategic, diligent, passionate and focused on the supremacy of Jesus Christ. We should win people to Christ, not the church. And if I read my Bible right, a true devotion to Christ will result in participating membership in the church.

Pardon my rant. Here is the skeleton from Tuesday's sermon.

TITLE: “Three Pictures of the Church”

TEXT: Ephesians 2:19-22

THEME: The importance and nature of the church

Point: To be in Christ is to be in the church.

Probing Question: Why the church?

Transitional Sentence: In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul explains what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ with three word-pictures.


I. We are citizens of God’s kingdom

A. Kingdom citizen involves rights.

B. Kingdom citizenship involves responsibilities.

C. Kingdom citizenship involves relationships.

II. We are members of God’s household

A. God is our Father.

B. Jesus is our Elder Brother.

C. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.

1. We should be present when the church meets.

2. We should participate in the life of the church.

3. We should protect the reputation of the church.

III. We are living stones in God’s temple (2:20-22)

A. The apostles and prophets are the foundation (v. 20a).

B. Jesus Christ himself is the cornerstone (vv. 20b-22).

1. We are being joined together in Christ (v. 21).

2. We are being built together in Christ (v. 22).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Remembering God

I resumed my study of Joshua yesterday in our morning services. My text was Joshua 4. I did not preach through the entire outline in either service. But I was able to get out the key points I wanted to make. Here is the sermon skeleton.

TITLE: “Don’t Forget to Remember”

TEXT: Joshua 4

THEME: The importance of remembering God

POINT: God commands you to remember who he is and what he has done for you.

PROBING QUESTION: Why is it important to deliberately and constantly remember who God is and what God has done?

PURPOSE: The purpose of this message is to challenge the hearer to take deliberate steps to continually remember the Person and Work of God.

TRANSITIONAL SENTENCE: The memorial stones Israel set up after crossing the Jordan teaches us three reasons why we should remember God.


I. The Lord commands us to remember what he has done for us (4:1-9).

A. You need spiritual reminders for where the Lord is taking you (vv. 2-3).

B. You need spiritual reminders of where the Lord has brought you (v. 9).

II. The Lord has done too much for us to forget his work on our behalf (4:10-19).

A. God fulfills his promises to us (v. 14).

B. God provides a way out of no way for us (vv. 15-18).

C. God completes what he has begun in us (v. 19).

III. The Lord is glorified when we remember him (4:20-24).

A. The next generation needs to meet our God (vv. 6-7, 21-23).

B. The unbelieving world needs to know our God (v. 24a).

C. You and I need to recognize how great our God is (v. 24b).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Good News for Life's Dead Ends

Here is the book review I wrote in our church newsletter for our August book of the month.

I have some books that have shaped my life in powerful and significant ways. I also have some authors who have shaped my life – with practically every book they write or have written. Ron Mehl is one of those authors. In fact, I consider Mehl a good friend who I have only met through his writings. I was introduced to Ron Mehl some years ago through his book, "God Works the Night Shift." Honestly, I bought the book just for its provocative title. But in reading it, I made a friend for life. I immediately found, bought, and read Mehl’s "Surprise Endings." Then I eagerly waited for Mehl’s next work to be released. Finally, "Meeting God at a Dead End" was published, and I quickly devoured it. And I was not disappointed – except for the fact that I had to wait again for Mehl to write another work.

The late Ron Mehl was the pastor of the Beaverton Foursquare Church in Colorado until his death in 2003. And his writings were the overflow of his ministry to his beloved, Beaverton congregation, which he and his wife founded in 1973. This is one of the reasons why I appreciate Mehl’s writings so much. He wrote with a pastor’s heart – God-centered, scripture-based, and faith-building. And his writing style was clear, practical, and engaging. But I think I was most touched by the fact that Mehl’s writings were “real-world” (for lack of a better term). His writings really helped me to forge a real-world’s faith. This was because Mehl did not just write and preach about pain – he lived through it. In 1981, Mehl was diagnosed with incurable lymphocytic leukemia, which required him to undergo extensive chemotherapy. And in 1996, he suffered a heart attack that limited his activities. Yet, through it all, Mehl continued to display stubborn faith and to pursue his ministerial calling – which included his writing.

"Meeting God at a Dead End" is one of my favorite books. Filled with godly wisdom, scriptural insights, and practical illustrations, "Dead End" is an enjoyable, encouraging, and edifying read. Mehl makes it clear that every one of us will face dead ends. We will all find ourselves at points where life closes in on us as we deal with painful setbacks, crushing disappointments, family problems, health concerns, financial difficulties – or whatever it may be that causes you to think and feel that you cannot go any further. But the good news is that when you find yourself at a dead end in life, God always has a way of showing up to meet you there to manifest his character, strength, and purpose for you in fresh and new ways. That’s the point "Dead End" makes over twelve wonderfully compelling chapters. In the opening chapter, Mehl writes: “It’s about coming smack up against a brick wall and seeing no gates whatsoever – or even any loose bricks. It’s about coming to the end of our wisdom, the end of our strength, the end of our ideas, the end of our options, the end of our coping skills, and the end of our cherished dreams. It’s about standing in that dark, hopeless place and discovering – beyond all logic, against all hope – that God is very much alive and can fill our little cup to overflowing” (p. 21). Amen.

I am excited to commend my friend, Ron Mehl (whom I have never met!), and his great work Meeting God at a Dead End, as our August Book of the Month. Read it and be blessed. Share it and be a blessing.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

He himself is our Peace

Last night, we resumed our Tuesday night worship services. And I picked up our exposition of the Epistle to the Ephesians. Here is the sermon skeleton from last night's message.

TITLE: “God’s Plan for Peace”

TEXT: Ephesians 2:14-18

THEME: Reconciliation with God and one anther through the Person and work of Jesus Christ

POINT: Jesus Christ is the only way you can peace with God, self, and others.

PROBING QUESTION: Is true peace possible? If so, how can it be attained?

PURPOSE: There are two points of application the listener should leave this sermon with:

1. For unbelievers: You cannot be at peace without Christ.

2. For believers: We must be at peace because of Christ.

TRANSITIONAL SENTENCE: Ephesians 2:14-18 gives three reasons why you should look to Jesus Christ alone for peace.


I. Jesus Christ is our peace (2:14).

A. There is peace in the Person of Christ (v. 14a)

B. There is peace in the Work of Christ (v. 14b)

II. Jesus Christ made peace for us (2:15-16).

A. The law is the power by Christ has made peace for us (v. 15a).

B. The cross is the place where Christ made peace for us (v. 16a).

C. The church is the proof that Christ has made peace for us (v. 16b).

III. Jesus Christ preaches peace to all (2:17-18).

A. We receive the message of peace through Christ (v. 17).

B. We enjoy the privilege of peace through Christ (v. 18).

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Notes on a Preacher's Labor Days

We will resume our Tuesday night worship services tonight, after being "dark" on Tuesdays for the past two months. Throughout the summer I have been thinking about what I would teach when we resumed. And I decided several weeks ago that I will pick up our exposition of Ephesians that I had started earlier on Sundays. I plan to preach Ephesians 2:14-18 tonight, and finish chapter 2 with verses 19-22 next week. I look forward to getting back at it. Please pray for us.

Sunday. Sunday. Sunday.

What can I say?

I had been working on Joshua 4 for weeks. But when the weekend came, I still didn't feel ready to preach it. Between Friday and Sunday morning, I struggled to put my study in some preachable form. But it just wasn't clear in my mind. And, as the saying goes, if there is a fog in the pulpit, there will be a fog in the pew. So about 7:00 Sunday morning, I gave up. I preached an exposition from Matthew in our 8 AM service, did questions and answers during out mass Bible study hour, and then did an exposition from Isaiah in the 11 AM service. It was a different kind of day.

Anyway, my plan (at this point) is to finish Joshua 4 this week to preach this coming Sunday.

I read an article yesterday that said we shouldn't make preaching harder than it is. As I was reading the paragraph, I fully agreed. But later, I begin to think to myself, "What if it really is harder than me make it?" The bottom-line is that biblical preaching is hard work. And I don't think I'd have it any other way!