Friday, November 30, 2007

The 'Boys Ride on a Thursday Night

Good news!!! The Dallas Cowboys beat-up the Green Bay Packers 37-27 tonight to go 11-1 for the season. Tony Romo is now four touch downs closer to leading the boys to the Super Bowl. How 'bout them Cowboys!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Speaking @ Traveler's Rest in Los Angeles

I am preaching my last revival meeting for 2007. I began three nights last night at the Traveler's Rest Baptist Church here in Los Angeles, where Terrell Taylor is the pastor. Please remember these final two nights in your prayers.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Surprised by Grace

2 Samuel 9

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell in your holy hill?” David begins Psalm 15 with these provocative questions. The body of the psalm answers these opening questions. It describes that character and conduct of the person who pleases God. The last line of Psalm 15:4 tells us that a godly person is one “who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” He keeps his word even when it costs him. She keeps her promises no matter what. The point is that godly people are promise keepers. David teaches that in Psalm 15. David exemplifies this in 2 Samuel 9, which is a part of what scholars call “THE SUCCESSION NARRATIVE OF DAVID.” It is a detailed account of Israel’s transition from Saul’s rule to the establishment of David’s reign. By 2 Samuel 9, David has accomplished great military victories and is enjoying peace, power, and prosperity. And during this period David lavishes kindness on a crippled man named Mephibosheth.

There are two seasons of life that test and reveal a person’s character: (1) seasons of adversity and (2) seasons of prosperity. And this season of success clearly demonstrates that David was man after God’s own heart. And I want us to look at David’s heart as it revealed in his kindness to Mephibosheth so that through it we might see God’s kindheartedness toward you and me. STEVE JONES comments: “Just as x-rays pass through the human body and reveal an accurate picture of the heart to the physician’s trained eye, there are some important ways in which the actions of David revealed the heart of God. We get some of those x-rays in the remarkable story of Mephibosheth.” 2 Samuel 9 is a historical event that functions as a parable to teach us that the grace of God is a wonderful surprise that’s too good not to be true.

In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, PHIL YANCEY writes a friend who overheard an interesting conversation on a bus one day. A woman was reading. And the man sitting next to her asked what she was reading. She told him. It was M. SCOTT PECK’S bestseller, The Road Less Traveled. The man asked what it was about. Admitting she had just begun the book, she answered by reading him the chapter titles from the table of contents. When she mentioned the section on “Grace,” the man interrupted and asked what grace was about. She replied, “I have gotten that far yet.”

The same thing can be said about the Bible. No matter how much scripture you may read, study, or memorize; you have not gotten far into the Bible if you don’t know what is teaches about grace. Without oversimplifying the message of this expansive library of sixty books, I submit that the bible is simply about the glory of the grace of God. The grace of God is everywhere in the Bible. And it is not boring grace. It’s always a wonderful surprise of amazing grace. In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, not only did God not immediately strike them dead (sparing mercy), but he also clothed them in coats of skin to cover the guilt-induced shame of the nakedness (surprising grace). And throughout scripture – all the way through the book of Revelation – God keeps surprising us with amazing grace. Of course, the biggest surprise of amazing grace is the virgin birth, perfect life, atoning death, and glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. And David’s kindness to Mephibosheth illustrates the surprising grace of God that seeks us, welcomes us, and enriches us through Jesus Christ.


2 Samuel 8 describes David as being in a place in his life where he didn’t need anything. But in 2 Samuel 9, the one who didn’t need anything was searching for something: HE WAS SEEKING SOMEONE TO SHOW COVENANT KINDNESS TO. And verse 3 makes it clear that David understood that his kindness was a derivative of the kindness of God. In other words, David wanted to be kind in order to imitate God. Don’t miss that. God is a kindhearted sovereign who is seeking and searching for someone to be gracious to.

Because we can only see reality through the limited perspective of our personal experience, Christians often speak of our conversion to saving-faith in Christ in terms of us seeking God. But salvation actually happens the other way around. Romans 3:10-11 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; n one seeks for God.” Dig you get that? Unrighteous people don’t seek God. Every sinner does what the first sinners did. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, not seek God. And every unconverted sinner is a convicted fugitive on the run from divine justice who is only saved because of the personal missionary work of almighty God. I once read about an entire police force that was mobilized to catch a car thief who had stolen an old, beat-up Volkswagen bug. They even broadcast radio bulletins to find this suspect. These great efforts were made to catch this thief because the owner of the car informed the authorities that there was a box of crackers in the front seat that he had laced with rat-poison to kill some rodents in his house. So the police desperately searched for the man, not to lock him up, but to save his life. And that’s how the grace of God operates. In Luke 19:10, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

GOD REACHES OUT TO US BECAUSE OF WHO HE IS. Nothing forced David to seek out Mephibosheth. And no one pressured him to do it. Something within David moved him to reach out and act in kindness. And it’s the same way with God. Mark it down. God does not owe you anything. More specifically, God does not owe you any good thing. Indeed, God owes each of us divine justice, holy wrath, and eternal punishment. But you don’t want God to give you what you deserve. And this is why grace is such a wonderful surprise. God has not treated us as our sins deserve. Instead, his reaches out to with sparing mercy, saving grace, and steadfast love. Ephesians 2:4-5 says: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

GOD REACHES OUT TO US FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER. The external reason why David sought out someone to show kindness to wasn’t because of Mephibosheth. It was because of Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan. Jonathan and David were best friends. In fact, Jonathan loved David so much that he protected him from Saul’s wrath and supported his ascension to the throne of Israel, even though he was Saul’s son who was next in line to be king. In 1 Samuel chapters 18 and 20, David and Jonathan entered into covenant agreement with one another. David promised to be kind to Jonathan’s house after his promotion and Jonathan’s death. And in 2 Samuel 9, David now seeks out someone from the house of Jonathan to whom he can show the loyal love of God. David was gracious to Mephibosheth for the sake of another – JONATHAN. And God is gracious toward us for the sake of another – Jesus.

In the movie The Last Emperor, the young child who is the last emperor of China lives a magical life of luxury with a thousand eunuch servants at his command. “What happens when you do wrong?” his brother asks. “When I do wrong, someone else is punished,” the boy emperor replies. To demonstrate, he breaks a jar, and one of the servants is beaten. The Lord Jesus Christ reversed this pattern for our sakes: When the servants erred, the King was punished. Isaiah 55:4-6 says, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

GOD REACHES OUT TO US IN SPITE OF US. Ziba was a servant of Saul who was administrating Saul’s estate. And when David summoned him and inquired about the surviving members of Saul and Jonathan’s family, Ziba singled out Mephibosheth – even though there were others he could have mentioned. Interestingly, he does not mention Mephibosheth by name. In verse 3, Ziba introduced Mephibosheth by his condition: “he was crippled in his feet.” When the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan reached the royal family, they fled. 2 Samuel 4:4 tells us that Mephibosheth was just five-years-old at the time. And in the haste to flee, his nurse dropped him, leaving his feet permanently crippled. It seems that Ziba reports Mephibosheth’s condition to say to David that he was not worth David’s time - he could neither help nor hurt the king.

Undeterred by Ziba’s unflattering description of Mephibosheth, David replied, “Where is he?” Ziba then reports that Mephibosheth was hiding out in the home of benefactors who lived in Lo-debar. The name “LO-DEBAR” means “no pasture.” We do not know much about Lo-debar. But scholars agree that its name was meant to indicate that it was a barren, unfruitful, terrible place. Mephibosheth was a crippled man from a fallen dynasty living in a horrible environment. Yet David reached out to him in kindness. Verse 5 says, “Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” That’s grace. It’s what grace does for us. The grace of God reaches out to us in spite of us. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”


No doubt, David’s kindness came as a complete surprise to Mephibosheth. When the king’s soldiers knocked at his door and carried him to Jerusalem, he must have seen his whole life flash before his eyes. Mephibosheth knew how it went. When a new king arose, he would put to death the family of the previous dynasty so there would be no revolts or rebellions later. So Mephibosheth must have entered David’s presence like a cornered enemy. But David embraced him like a long, lost friend. And David’s warm welcome of Mephibosheth teaches us two important things about grace.

GRACE MEANS THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF GOD’S WRATH. Can you imagine the sense of terror that must have consumed Mephibosheth when he met the king? He feared David. He was scared of being brutally tortured and executed. He was afraid because there was absolutely nothing he could do about whatever was about to happen to him. Imagine his surprise when King David says to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness…” David’s kindness removed Mephibosheth’s fear. And God’s grace does the same for us. So we can confidently sing Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

One day, President Thomas Jefferson was riding horseback cross-country when he and his companions came to a swollen river. A wayfarer stood at the banks as several of the party passed by. But when President Jefferson approached, he hailed him, asking if the president would carry him across the river on his horse. Once on the other side, on the group asked the wayfarer why he selected the president to ask this favor of. “The president,” said the man with surprise. “I didn’t know he was the president. All I know is that on some of the faces is written the answer ‘no’ and on some faces is written the answer ‘yes.’ His was a ‘yes’ face.”

That’s a good definition of grace. Grace is the smiling face of God. Grace communicates God’s acceptance, approval, and affirmation. God’s grace means that we have to fear the judgment, wrath, and condemnation of God. In John 10:28-30, Jesus says: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father’ are one.” Praise God that you don’t have to be afraid of death, hell, and the grave


GRACE MEANS THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF YOUR WEAKNESS. David promised to show kindness to Mephibosheth. David vowed to restore Saul’s estate to Mephibosheth. And David assured Mephibosheth that he had a permanent place as the royal table. Naturally, these royal favors overwhelmed Mephibosheth. And he moved from being surprised by grace to becoming skeptical toward grace. Verse 8 says, “And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?’” One of the most degrading things you could call a person in David’s day was a “dog.” And for a person to call himself a dog would be a great act of self-deprecation that expressed humble submission before a superior authority. But note that Mephibosheth does not just call himself a dog. He calls himself a “dead dog.” That’s how Mephibosheth saw himself. Less than nothing. Worse that the worst. Lower than rock bottom. But that’s not how David saw Mephibosheth. And that’s not how God sees you.

There is a sociological concept that is called “the theory of the looking-glass self.” The idea is that we have a way of seeing ourselves through the eyes of other people – so much so that we incorporate their views of us into our own self-concept. This is why so many of us have such a perverted view of life. We only see ourselves through the lens of other people’s opinions – parents, siblings, lovers, teachers, the media, church folks, etc. But grace leads us to look at ourselves through the mirror of God’s amazing grace. And there, we don’t have to be afraid of what we see. Faith is God’s grace is simply about accepting God’s acceptance of you. I know you are crippled. And I know that you are may be in Lo-debar. But I have good news for you. God loves you. There is nothing that can make God love you more. And there is nothing that can make God love you less. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Verses 6-8 record David’s conversation with Mephibosheth. Then verses 9-11 record David’s conversation with Ziba about Mephibosheth: “Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.’ Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, ‘According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.’ So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.” These verses illustrate three ways in which the grace of God lifts up the fallen.

GOD’S GRACE GIVES UNDESERVED RICHES. That’s what David did for Mephibosheth. He restored to him all the land of Saul and Jonathan. David didn’t have to do that to keep his promise to Jonathan. He could have just put Mephibosheth on a kind of royal “welfare system” and kept Saul’s estate for himself. But David gave it all to Mephibosheth. And it was apparently so great that verse 10 says it would take Ziba’s fifteen sons and twenty servants to care for all that land. With one decree of sovereign grace, Mephibosheth went from living in someone else’s house in Lo-debar to owning his own royal estate. This is what grace does. God’s grace enriches us. Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 says: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

GOD’S GRACE GIVES UNCONDITIONAL FAVOR. Four times in this chapter – verses 7, 10, 11, and 13 – we are told that David gave Mephibosheth a permanent place at his royal table. This gracious act was definitely not a subtle form of house arrest to keep an eye on Mephibosheth. And it was not a royal handout to meet his physical need for food. David had already given Mephibosheth so much land that it would take more some thirty-five people to care for it. So this was not about food. It was about favor. Verse 11 says that Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. In a real sense, David adopted Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was not just a guest at the royal table. He was a member of the royal family. Verse 13 says, “So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.” Mephibosheth remained crippled. But his crippled feet were hidden under the king’s table. That’s what grace does. It covers us. Romans 5:20 says, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, graced abounded all the more.”

GOD’S GRACE GIVES UNENDING SECURITY. 2 Samuel 21:1-7 illustrates David’s ongoing protection of Mephibosheth. Saul had waged an unjust war against Gibeonites. But the punishment for Saul’s sin didn’t fall on Israel until David’s reign. A three-year famine struck the land. And when David prayed about it, God told him about Saul’s sin. So David went to the Gibeonites to make restitution. And the Gibeonites demanded that David hand over seven of Saul’s sons that they may hang them. And David agreed. But 2 Samuel 21:7 says that David would not give them Mephibosheth.

A certain man sought to adopt a troubled teenager. As the process of adoption was going on, the young girl did a terrible thing to break the man’s heart. And all of his family and friends warned him that he should immediately end the adoption process. “After all,” they argued, “she’s not really your daughter.” But the man resolutely replied, “I know. But I told her she was. And I am not going to change my mind.” This is how the grace of God treats us. Lamentations 3:22-23 says: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

How should you respond to grace and goodness of God? Let me answer by telling you about another episode from Mephibosheth’s life. It’s recorded in 2 Samuel 19:24-30. David’s kingdom was threatened by a political and military revolt led by his own son, Absalom. And during this conflict, David became a refugee in exile from his beloved city of Jerusalem. Ultimately, David prevailed. Absalom was defeated and killed in battle. And David finally returned to Jerusalem. Upon his arrival, he had to settle some issues with several people. One of them was Mephibosheth. When David fled Jerusalem, Mephibosheth remained behind. Ziba told David that Mephibosheth stayed behind because he had turned against the king and sided with the enemy. But when David returned to Jerusalem, he was met by Mephibosheth who had not bathed or shaven since David’s departure. And in this apparent state of mourning, Mephibosheth gave his side of the story. Ziba left him. And being crippled, he had no other means of fleeing. David, not knowing whose story to believe, decided to split Saul and Jonathan’s estate evenly between Ziba and Mephibosheth. But in 2 Samuel 19:30, Mephibosheth says, “Oh, let him take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home.” Did you get that? We ought to be willing to give our all back to the Lord who has given so much to us.



Friday, November 23, 2007

Other Important Thanksgiving News

The Dallas Cowboys beat down the New York Jets 34-3 yesterday to go to 10-1 for the season. How 'bout them Cowboys!!!

Happy Thanksgiving

It is the end of a long, good day. I am winding down now, preparing for bed. At this point, it’s been more than twenty-four hours since I have slept. I pulled an all-nighter last night to finish my message for our Thanksgiving Day service this morning. My message was on the story of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. I was going to call it, “Surprised by Grace.”

I did not get to preach my message this morning. Our Thanksgiving service is the one service of the year our congregation has open-floor testimonies. The past several years, I have been careful to limit how much time we spend on this part of the service, because I have had guest preachers. But I was not as attentive to the time today. Plus, there are members who have had to trust God through many trials this year. And I thought it would be best to give them time to testify. Consequently, our testimony period went for more than forty-five minutes – essentially taking all of my preaching time. I could have either rushed through the message or I could have plodded through and kept them much longer than normal. I decided to turn the service into a prayer meeting, saving Mephibosheth for Sunday morning – when I can preach it all!

Crystal cooked. Family came by. And we spent a slow, leisurely afternoon enjoying one another’s company. We ate. We talked. We watched some television. We told old stories. We laughed a lot. We thanked God for his goodness. Our guests are gone now. We have finished cleaning up – under compulsion from Crystal’s threats! And it will not be long before we are sleep. But before I turned in, I just wanted to say “Happy Thanksgiving,” even though the day has come to an end. The holiday is over. But the occasion has not change. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18, ESV)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Make haste slowly."

I listened to a lecture from the late Dr. James Montgomery Boice this morning. It was the first part of a series of messages he delivered at a pastor's conference hosted by John Piper's Desiring God Ministries in February, 1991. Dr. Boice, a great Bible expositor and commentator, led the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for more than thirty years. I encourage my pastoral colleagues to go to to find and listen to this great man of God lecture on biblical preaching.

At the end of the lecture, Dr. Boice fielded questions from the floor. A young man asked him what to do as he led a church that was not really committed to doctrinally-sound, gospel-saturated, Christ-centered preaching. Dr. Boice simply told the young man to "make haste slowly." This is great advice. The problem with too many of us young pastors is that we aim too low and try to get there too fast. Brothers, it takes time - not months, years... maybe decades - to build a healthy church. Conversely, it doesn't take long at all to build a prominent name, a large crowd, or a new building. All over the country men (and women) are doing that quickly and successfully. The question is whether these are monuments to strong and gifted personalities or are these places where the saints are growing up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13).

If a man's goal is to just be the "hottest church in town" (whatever that is), than the centrality and primacy of biblical, Christ-exalting preaching and teaching will not be important. Just packing them in, making them shout, and getting their money will suffice. But nurturing a healthy church that wins more Christians and develops better Christians to the glory of God requires faithful preaching - in season and out of season - that rebukes, reproves, and corrects with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Family on the way to Worship

Crystal and the kids (including the one in the "oven") this morning as we were leaving for church

Preaching @ Metropolitan in Altadena

I preached today for Pastor Tyrone Skinner at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Altadena. It was their "Men's Day" service. I am not often out of my own pulpit on Sunday mornings. But Pastor Skinner is one of the men I am willing to make an exception for. Pastor Skinner is a godly, kind, and humble leader. And the Lord is blessing him to do a great work in the Altadena/Pasadena area. I have preached for him on several occasions throughout the years - from church anniversaries, to pastoral anniversaries, to church revivals. And the eagerness of the congregation to hear the preaching of God's word is always encouraging. Today was no different. Please remember this pastor and congregation in your prayers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm not tired yet... but almost.

I have been on the go since my last post.

Last week, I was in revival at New Pleasant Hill in Los Angeles - Pastor Melvin Hill. And it’s always harder to preach a meeting at home. If I am away, I can order my day for preaching. But when I am home, I almost have to get ready to preach around the regular stuff that I have to do throughout the day.

I preached Wednesday and Thursday nights. But Friday afternoon, Crystal called me at my office and told me to come home. She was not feeling well. We called our doctor and he sent us to the hospital. And that’s where we were for most of the night. Praise God Crystal is feeling better. And our baby is doing just fine. (By the way, we are at five months. And… it’s a girl!!! Lord, help.) I really appreciate Dr. Hill’s concern and understanding that I was not able to be with him Friday night. I hear the closing night went well anyway. God is faithful.

Sunday, I continued our series on the power of Jesus. I preached on the woman with the issue of blood from Mark 5:25-34 – “Trusting Jesus When All Is Spent.” Later that afternoon, I preached for my brother-in-law, a son of MSMBC, who was celebrating his fifth pastoral anniversary at the First Goodwill Baptist Church.

Monday night, I preached for Dr. William Thurmond at the Park Windsor Baptist Church. I haven’t preached there since I was about sixteen-years-old. It was good to be with them again. And it was really cool that so many people remembered me from that “Youth Day” almost twenty years ago.

Tuesday, I did nothing but hang out with Crystal. She was feeling well enough to get out. So I spent time with her. I missed being at my Tuesday night service. But I really needed some rest and the opportunity to spend some unrushed time with Crystal and the kids.

I am now in Monterey Bay, California. I am preaching their citywide revival through Friday night. The Lord blessed the opening night. And I am looking forward to the next two nights. This is my last trip away from home to preach for the year. It has been a good year. But it has wiped me out. I don’t think I have ever preached this much away from home. Ever. Indeed, I am grateful for every opportunity. But I am praying that the Lord will help me to be better at saying “no” this coming year. Last night, the choir sung, “I’ve been running for Jesus a long time. I’m not tired yet.” I couldn’t stop smiling the whole song. On one hand, I perfectly understand what the song means. And I am determined to stay in the race. But at the same time, I would have loved to still been in the bed! Praise God for his strengthening grace.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Remembering November 5, 1990

Here is a note I wrote in our November church newsletter about my pastoral anniversary.

It was a Monday night. It was a church business meeting. It was a vote to decide my father’s successor. These were all good reasons for me go to bed early, as I had planned. But I decided to go to the meeting anyway. I had even determined the person I was going to vote for that night. Several hours later, I left the meeting as the newly elected pastor of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. I was only 17-years-old. I was in the senior year of high school. I was absolutely clueless about what the next seventeen years of my life would bring. But here I am, by the grace of God.

At this point, I have served as pastor of MSMBC for more than half of my life. This is literally the only job I have ever had! And I praise the Lord for it. After my salvation and my family, I am most grateful to God for giving me the privilege of serving this wonderful congregation. If God wills, we will celebrate together these seventeen years God has blessed us to serve him together as pastor and people next month (12/7 & 9).

I pray that the Lord will bless this time of celebration to strengthen and encourage us for the coming days of ministry. May the Lord grant us the most fruitful season of ministry this congregation to the glory of God. And continue to pray that God will make me into the man that I need to be to lead this congregation both to and at its next season of growth and fruitfulness.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Speaking @ New Pleasant Hill in Los Angeles

This evening, I will begin a three-night meeting (Wed.-Fri.) at the New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Los Angeles, where Dr. Melvin Hill is the pastor. Please join me in pray for power for preaching, the salvation of souls, and the building up of God’s people.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Speaking @ the Paradise State Convention

I am in Tucson, Arizona. I am here to speak tonight for the Progressive Missionary Baptist State Convention Fall Session and Revival. Pastor Ricky B. Harvey is the president of this group. And his congregation, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, is hosting the services. Pray for me.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Difference Jesus Makes

First, an update. Joshua scored a TKO over me in the fifth round! I spent the first half of this year getting to preach through the book of Joshua. Honestly, I have never had so much trouble getting out of the starting gate with a book like I did with this one. I spent the past several months trying to get through Joshua. I'd get a message ready. Then It would take me several weeks to get to the next one. Ultimately, I never made it to chapter 5. I don’t know what went wrong. Honestly. I was just not able to concentrate enough to work through the passages and prepare them to preach. And I was getting so discouraged, that it was getting hard for me to study. So I through in the towel - before we were able to see the walls of Jericho fall down flat of see the sun stand still for Joshua. God willing, I will challenge Joshua to a rematch some at some point down the road.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been preaching a short series on the miracles of Jesus recorded in Mark 4-5. I’m calling it “The Difference Jesus Makes.” On the last Sunday in October, I preached the Mark 4:35-41 (the power of Jesus over the natural elements) – “Trusting Jesus in a Storm.” And yesterday I preached on Mark 5:1-20 (the power of Jesus of demonic forces) – “Trusting Jesus to Set Your Free.” I plan is preach this coming Sunday on Mark 5:25-34 (the power of Jesus over “incurable” diseases) – “Trusting Jesus When all is Spent.”

I have really needed these message. I just feel myself at a place where my own faith needs to be reminded that there is nothing too hard for the Lord. Jesus. And I trust that the messages have also been a blessing to the members of MSMBC.

Please remember my personal study time and sermon preparation in your prayers.

Friday, November 02, 2007

What Was I Thinking?

Here is the book review I wrote about a month ago for our church newletter.

Steve Brown introduces his book What Was I Thinking? with an illustration: “One Time Mark Twain’s wife got furious with him and did something she rarely, if ever, did. She started cursing. Twain started laughing, and that, of course, made her even angrier. She asked him what he thought was so funny. ‘My dear,’ he said through gales of laughter, ‘you know the words, but you don’t know the tune!’” This humorous story is Brown’s explanation of where he is in his walk with Christ and what he seeks to accomplish in Thinking?.

Steve Brown is a former pastor, a seminary professor, a prolific author, a radio broadcaster, and a much in-demand speaker – for starters. But it seems that Brown’s biggest concern in What Was I Thinking? is the fact that he is also religious, very religious. To be clear, Brown is orthodox, evangelical, and Reformed. In essence, he believes the Bible is true – all of it. Yet, he is striving to shake off the religiosity he contracted as he reached his settled, biblical convictions. He is trying to take off the shackles of religion to fully enjoy and experience the scandalous grace of God. And What Was I
Thinking? describes his journey and invites the reader along for the ride.

Actually, this “anti-religion spirit” is the tone and goal of most of Brown’s books. He is constantly seeking to get past the thick fog of religious error, ritual, and tradition in order to see God the Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ more clearly. And he may be at his best here in Thinking?. Brown writes: “Theology (no matter how orthodox), a belief statement (no matter how biblical), and propositions (no matter how exact and correct) are all useless if they don’t lead us to the reality which is God and to the astonishment that ought to be a regular occurrence in the believer’s life” (p. 2). I fully agree with this statement. But it’s more powerful for me to read it from someone who is absolutely and unwaveringly committed to theology, belief statements, and propositions.

In the twelve chapters of Thinking?, Brown discusses what he has been learning about subjects that he thought he fully knew. And these are pretty major subjects – God, Jesus, The Bible, spiritual warfare, and obedience to God, for instance. Brown tackles the subjects by, first of all, admitting that he really thought he already knew everything he needed to know about these subjects. Then he moves to explain what he has been learning about these subjects since he decided to learn the tune, not just the words. The chapter titles are headlines of Brown’s spiritual discoveries:

• God is a lot bigger than I though he was.
• Jesus is a lot more radical than I thought he was.
• People are a lot worse than I thought they were.
• People are a lot better than I thought they were.
• Self-righteousness is a lot more dangerous than I thought it was.

Steve Brown’s What Was I Thinking? is sound, provocative, and controversial. And I love it. And I happily recommend it as our September book-of-the-month. Read it. Share it. Share it with believers and unbelievers. And pray that the Lord Jesus would transform us from being people who just know the words to people who know the tune. And dance!

2007 Church Council Retreat

This weekend, the pastoral leaders and staff of MSMBC are together in downtown Los Angeles for our annual retreat. This is when we do the heavy lifting for our plans for the upcoming year. This is about this sixth year in a row we have met together in this way. And this is about the fourth year we have met at this hotel.

We are finishing up dinner now. And we will take on work for a couple of more hours, before we quit for the night. We will start again early in the morning, and go through tomorrow afternoon.

Please pray for us as we pray and plan together. And pray for our time of fellowship together, that the Lord would draw us closer together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for our time-management. We are a rowdy bunch, and can easily get distracted to chase down... whatever. And pray for my strength.