Friday, February 29, 2008

How do you think I am doing today?

"How are you doing today, H.B.?" you ask. Well, look at these pictures and then take one wild guess about how this lifelong resident of Los Angeles is doing today during his visit to Detroit.

Happy Leap Day!

I was born in the coolest month of the year. February is the shortest month of the year, consisting of only twenty-eight days. But once every four years, February gets an extra day. It’s called leap year. I am not sure about the reason for this. But I think it’s cool, nonetheless. Enjoy it.

Happy Leap Day!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Speaking @ Greater Burnette Baptist Church

I am in Detroit, Michigan. How am I doing? When I landed yesterday afternoon, it was 18 degrees. It was supposed to have dropped to 8 degrees last night - I was sequestered in my hotel room long before that had an opportunity to happen. And there is supposed to be a slight heat wave today - 20 something degrees. And it is supposed to snow again tomorrow. My daughter told me this morning that I should have watched the news and brought my gloves - never mind that she has never seen my with a pair of gloves ever in her life. But I understand her concern. I am almost tempted to get some gloves. On second thought, no I'm not. I'll just stay in my room until preaching time.

Anyway, I am here preaching Founder's Week Revival at the Burnette Church, hosted by Pastor Nathaniel Caldwell. He is the son of the founding pastor - the late Dr. J. Allen Caldwell. Dr. Caldwell first invited me to preach during Holy Week, 1990. And I have preached at Burnette almost every year since then. Dr. Caldwell went to heaven in 2005, and Pastor Nathaniel is continuing his the great work of this historic church.

We had a pretty good opening night last night. And I am looking forward to these next two nights of worship, prayer, and preaching. And then I am looking forward to getting by to sunny California before I become a "HBcycle."

Pray for me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday Stuff

- It was pouring down raining Sunday morning. I drove to church expecting very few of our congregation to be present. I was pleasantly surprised.

- For the third Sunday in a row, my wife was not able to go to church. I am glad she is getting her rest and that our baby is doing fine. But I really miss being in worship with her. And yesterday, for some reason, it was particularly hard for me.

- I listened to the song, "I will Sing Praises" on an older album I have - "A Change Will Come" by Rev. Ernest Davis Jr.'s Wilmington Chester Mass Choir. Boy did this song hit the spot and help me to get ready for worship.

- I continued my series on "Total-Life Stewardship." It was the next to last message of the series, on "The Stewardship of your Gifts."

- In the afternoon, I preached the 5th pastoral anniversary for Barry Wilson at the New Life Christian Fellowship. Barry and I started preaching together, were ordained together, and have been friends for years.

- I preached one of the petitions of the Lord's Prayer yesterday afternoon. I preached about through the Lord's Prayer about nine years ago. And it has been more than five years, at least, since I last preached from the Lord's Prayer. What a fool i am!

- R.I.P. Omar!!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Stewardship Of Your Gifts

God willing, I will continue my series on "Total-Life Stewardship" this Sunday. I am nearing the end. And it is pretty interesting how this series has been growing on me as the weeks have gone by. Sunday's message will be the next to last in the series. I plan to speak on the stewardship of our (spiritual) gifts.

1 Peter 4:10-11 is the foundational text for this message. It says: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies - in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (ESV)

My goal is to help the congregation under what scripture teaches about spiritual gifts. Then I want to challenge the church to use their God-given gifts in service to one another. Hopefully, I will be able to challenge the church to make a new commitment to Christian service and show them some practical, next steps they can take to become a better steward of their spiritual gifts.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

On-Target Evangelism Conference

I attended the On-Target Evangelism Conference this week in Anaheim. The California Southern Baptist Convention sponsored this event. This was the second time I have attended. I attended several years ago, and I was both challenged and encouraged by the messages that I heard. Unfortunately, I missed last year. But I was able to attend this year. And it was even better than the last time I was there.

Nelson Searcy – Nelson Searcy, who pastors the Journey Metro Church in New York City, gave several lectures on breaking growth barriers. I cannot swallow all that Searcy teaches without spitting out some bones. But I do like the way he has thought through various matters of church life (like stewardship, assimilation, and small-groups) in practical and systematic ways. I found his lectures very helpful, even though I have heard much of the material before.

Ed Stetzer was the main speaker for this event. He has recently written a book entitled, Comeback Churches. He preached during his first session. And the remaining lectures were on his book. Even though it is based on research of so-called "comeback churches," it is a book filled with spiritual wisdom. I read it during my vacation in December and thought it was a good work. And his elaboration of the subject made it even better for me.

Voddie Baucham – Voddie Baucham, who pastors Grace Family Baptist Church near Houston, preached the opening night. I have heard much about him and was looking forward to hearing him in person. His message was stellar, even though some of the people sitting around me were definitely not pleased. Baucham preached the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20). But throughout the message, he challenged us with the practical implications of our mission and confronted a lot of “sacred cows” we have in the church. In many ways, his messages crossed paths with some of the earlier messages. But I think this was a good thing. I felt like the different messages about how to do church in practical terms were important. No one has it absolutely right.

Local Pastors – Throughout the second day of the meeting, local pastors from different parts of California talked about what was working and not working in their local churches. Their testimonies were honest, refreshing, and encouraging. God really is doing great things in different ways in many churches.

Rick Warren –Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church, closed the meeting. Honestly, I was tempted not to say, thinking I already knew what I was going to hear. But I was absolutely surprised. For more than an hour, Warren just sat on a stool and challenged us pastors about our personal, spiritual growth. He had a printed outline. But he didn’t follow it. He just talked to us about the fact that we cannot really expect our churches to grow if we are not growing. He landed with an exposition of 1 John 2:15-17. It was fantastic. I was so convicted and have begun to think through some personal changes I need to make in my own life.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sunday Stuff

I continued our series on “Total-Life Stewardship.” My message was on the stewardship of speech. I tried to tackle it in terms of three relationships – God, self, others. My major points were: (1) God is listening to what you say; (2) your words tell on you; (3) your tongue has powerful effects on others.

Among our guests Sunday, there was a young man from Detroit. Pastor Tolar Morgan, whom I preached for several years ago, pointed him to our church. There was also a young man in town for business from Houston. Pastor Ralph West had pointed him to our church. Cool.

This was the second week that my sermon manuscript was nine pages long. I try to keep them down to seven pages. Eight is long. Nine is an eternity. And I think it has really showed in the past two messages. I need to work harder at editing down my messages.

I was praying for my friend, Pastor Romell Williams to feel better.

Sunday afternoon, we worshiped with the Redeemer Baptist Church of Los Angeles. Pastor Curtis Monroe was being honored for 10 years of pastoral leadership at Redeemer. I brought the message. I preached from Romans 8:28. I know that this was a strange text to take for a pastor’s anniversary service. But this really was what was on my heart. I wanted to say a word of encouragement.

There was something different about this service. Rather than each choir singing, the various musicians and choirs met together and sung together as one group. I don’t know if I have seen that happen before. It was encouraging. However, it didn’t make the service any shorter.

I was glad that many members of MSMBC attended the service, our first church outing of the year.

Crystal and I spent five hours at the hospital Sunday night. She was in quite a bit of pain. So we went to the emergency room. She was having early contractions. But she was not going into labor. Praise God. We have about five more weeks to go. And we want this little one “in the oven” to finish cooking.

A Really Nice Birthday Surprise

My wife, Crystal, managed to give me a surprise dinner for my birthday this past weekend. She called me Friday afternoon and told me she was hungry and what she wanted to eat and that it was time to come home. So I did. Hey, my wife is pregnant and I’m not crazy.

We arrived at the restaurant and had to wait a while for a seat. So we went across the way to the bookstore. When we returned to get our table, the wife and daughter of one of our pastors came out of the door. Then it clicked – but only then. Several leaders and their families showed up and we had a wonderful time eating and laughing and talking. It was great. I was so grateful to my wife for organizing this, even though she didn’t feel well. And it was really special to have this time together with the guys in their families – engaged in the holy work of doing nothing together.

Here are some pictures.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Stewardship of your Speech

On last Lord's day, I continued my series on "Total-Life Stewardship." The message was on the stewardship of the body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I sought to make two major points in that message: (1) We should strive to be healthy, and more importantly, (2) we should strive to be holy.

God willing, this sunday I will preach on the stewardship of our speech or our words. The Bible is clear that words matter to God. And our words matter to God. There are many reasons why what we say matters. But maybe the most important reason why we should be on guard about what comes out of our mouths is because the words we say reveal the condition of our hearts (Matthew 12:34b). Or as the old saying goes, "What's down in the well will come up in the bucket."

Words are powerful (Proverbs 18:21 - I hope to take a moment in the message to address what this verse does and does not mean). And we should use our words for good and not for evil (James 3:1-12).

This is a hard subject, because none of us can say that we have totally mastered our tongues - even though that would be a great thing to do (James 3:2). But the good news is that God is able to change the way you talk. If you confess your sins, the Lord will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). And the Bible gives a lot of practical instruction for how to bridle our tongues.

May the Lord use his word to help us to become better stewards of our words.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Key to Effective Preaching

At the end of Rediscovering Expository Preaching, John MacArthur answers the question: What is the ultimate key to effective preaching? His answer is: “Very simply, stay in your study until you know that the Lord will gladly accept what you have prepared to preach because it rightly represents his word” (p. 348). MacArthur then follows this advice with a plan for making a preacher out of your pastor, written by an unknown parishioner (pp. 348-49):

Fling him into his office. Tear the “Office” sign from the door and nail on the sign, “Study.” Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and broken hearts and the flock of lives of a superficial flock and a holy God.

Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God. Throw him into the ring with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he’s bruised and beaten into a being a blessing.

Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he breaks the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley.

Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him exchange his pious stance for a human walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets.

Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God!

Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political-in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a change haunting him with it night and day – “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day’s superficial problems, and manage the community’s weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can.

Command him not to come back until he’s read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard wit his own prestige. Corner him with questions about god. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he’s back against the wall of the Word.

And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left – God’s Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but gut give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he’s burned out by the flaming Word, when he’s consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he’s privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Plan a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Website Oops

There were some problems with the sermons on our website this weekend. But it has been corrected and you should be able to find many messages from the pulpit of Mt Sinai on our website.

Again, hats off to Pastor G. Hurtt for addressing this problem.

Go H.B. It's You're Birthday!

Today is my 35th birthday. It is a quiet day for me. No special plans. But it is nonetheless a special day. God has been good to me in my life. He has saved me. He has called me to preach his word and the testimony of Jesus Christ. He has blessed me with a wonderful family - my wife, Crystal, and our children, H.B., Natalie, and the one "in the oven." And the Lord has given me a great job - to lead, teach, and minister to the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church of Los Angeles. These blessings are more than any man deserves or could ask for. Yet beyond all of this, the Lord has and continues to pour out his kindness in abundance to me.

Some people keep getting older but never grow up. I don't want that to be my story. And I am grateful that I am maturing as I am getting older. May the Lord help me to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

There is another big milestone today. Today marks the 18th anniversary of Buster Douglas' shocking upset of Mike Tyson for the heavyweight championship of the world. This soured my birthday then. And I don't think I have been able to get over it yet. The Douglas-Tyson fight is the greatest upset of my lifetime - including the Giants upset of the Patriots.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom - Ellen Charles

"Happy Birthday! We love you." - H.B., Crystal, H.B. (III), Natalie, and your granddaughter "in the oven."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Mt. Sinai Website Updated

The Mt. Sinai Church website has been updated. Browse around it and learn more about our church when you get the opportunity.

The most important feature I want you to know about it is the audio messages that you can listen to for free. Actually, this is one of the primary reasons why we updated the site – so that we will be able to put more material on the website more easily... for free. Approximately two years of teaching and preaching is in the "sermons" section. And you should be able to subscribe to our messages as podcasts, as well. We plan to update it with new messages each week. In the coming months, we hope to add video and live webcasts to the website.

Browse, enjoy, and be blessed.

Hats off to Pastor George Hurtt for his leadership and hard work on this project.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Pastor's Public Ministry

I have just finished one of the most helpful and challenging little books on pastoral ministry that I have ever read (For the record, it always seems that whatever I just finished reading is the most important book I've ever read.): The Pastor’s Public Ministry by Terry L. Johnson (published by Reformed Academic Press). Terry Johnson pastors the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, Georgia. I first heard of Johnson when I was given a free book he had written at a conference I attended several years ago (Footnote: For a bibliophile like me, there are few things in the world that are more wonderful than receiving free books!). Afterward, I picked up several other works Johnson had written.

Johnson has written a series of books that I really appreciate: When Grace Comes Home (which explains the practical implications of Calvinism for Christian living), When Grace Transforms (on the Beatitudes), and When Grace Comes Alive (on the Lord’s Prayer). And when I found an article on public prayer Johnson had co-written on public prayer in the February 2008 9marks newsletter (click here for article), I began digging for more material by Johnson. This is how I got my hands of The Pastor’s Public Ministry.

The Pastor’s Public Ministry is the publication of a series of lectures Mr. Johnson delivered, which were later published as magazine articles. In this short book (only 82 pages), Johnson carefully and passionately exhorts pastors to make a renewed commitment to three basic, fundamental pastoral responsibilities: (1) leading corporate worship, (2) leading prayer in worship, and (3) biblical preaching. I have read quite of few books on pastoral ministry over the years. (In fact, I have already read four books on pastoral ministry from cover to cover so far this year.) But so many books that are written by pastors for pastors really have nothing to do with what it really means to be a pastor. I think this one of the reasons why I found Johnson’s Public Ministry to be so refreshing – even revolutionary. So many – too many – so-called experts promote various, competing programs, techniques, and gimmicks for pastors to use in church growth. Of course, “church growth” is usually measured in purely numerical terms of bodies in the seats or dollars in the plate, rather than developing fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18-20).

With all the books, conferences, and websites promoting different theories of pastoral work, it’s easy for pastors to become confused about what a pastor is to be and do. For the reason, Public Ministry is a much needed call for pastors to be actually be pastors – not CEOs, administrators, motivational speakers, or any other worldly offices imposed upon unsuspecting churches. The title of John Piper’s book for pastors says it well: Brothers, we are not professionals! We are pastors. And our public ministries should be concerned about ensuring that the worship assemblies of our congregations focus on the ministry of the word. And not just at preaching time, but also in the music that is sung and the prayers that are offered.

Johnson not only calls pastors to renewed diligence in overseeing the music, prayers, and preaching of our worship services, but he makes a sound and compelling argument – from both scripture and church history – that these are the proper priorities for the pastor’s public ministry. And he fills each section with practical advice for starting where you are and taking small but definite steps to watch out for your congregation’s souls in and through corporate worship. I warmly commend this volume to every pastor and every congregational leader and member who truly desires their church to be a biblically functioning community of believers.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

My First Message at our New Location

Last night, our congregation met at our new location for the first time. Three congregations are going through a transition at the same time in this process – Mt. Sinai, the congregation purchasing our facility, and the congregation whose facilities we are purchasing. And to do our part to accommodate everyone, we have switched our midweek service from Tuesdays to Wednesdays. And we have begun meeting at our new location on Wednesdays. We hope to be fully moved into our new location over the next several months.

For most of the members who attended last night’s service, it was their first time in the new building. Of course, there was the curiosity factor that I think most of us were going through. I was more nervous than usual. In fact, “panic” may be a better word to describe what I was experiencing. I parked down the street and sat in my car for about ten minutes, trying to get my composure before I went in. As always, the Lord gave me strength as it was needed. And the Lord richly blessed the worship service. It was really a special moment in the life of our church. And I trust that the Lord was glorified. Here is the skeleton of the message that I preached.

TITLE: Great Expectations for a New Beginning

TEXT: Psalm 126

THEME: A Song of Divine Restoration Experienced and Anticipated

POINT: You can face life’s turning points with confidence that the Lord has done it before and the Lord can do it again.


I. Look back and consider what the Lord has already done (126:1-3).

A. The Lord has been good to us (v. 1-2a).

1. The Lord has turned our dreams into reality (v. 1b).

2. The Lord has turned our sorrows into joy (v. 2a)

B. The Lord has done great things for us (vv. 2b-3).

1. Lost people should acknowledge the great things the Lord has done (v. 2b).

2. Saved people should acknowledge the great things the Lord has done (v. 3).

II. Look ahead with confidence that the Lord can do it again. (126:4-6).

A. God’s sovereign authority is acknowledged in a prayer for help (v. 4).

1. The petition (v. 4a)

2. The picture (v. 4b)

B. Our personal responsibility is acknowledged in the principle of the harvest (vv. 5-6).

1. Look past the sorrow of sowing (v. 5).

2. Look forward the success of your sowing (v. 6).

Monday, February 04, 2008

2008 State of the Church Address

I usually give a “State of the Church Address” each year at Mt. Sinai, during the first midweek service resumes. We call it our “Vision Night” service. But I chose to delay that message this year, not really knowing if I would ever actually get to it. Our congregation is in the midst of a relocation process. The Lord has been answering our prayers and doing great things on our behalf. But these first weeks of the new year have also been rather challenging. We delayed our final planning that would have been completed in October or November, trusting that there would be more clarity in the new year. Well, the new year came. And things have remained very fluid. So I questioned whether or not I should do the state of the church message this year. But I decided to do this message yesterday, in our Sunday morning service, to help give our congregation a sense of direction amidst all that changes that are taking place.

I was quite nervous about doing this “special message” yesterday. I believe that Sunday mornings are times for preaching. So I really didn’t know how comfortable the congregation would be with me doing so different. But the Lord helped me in a great way. I was able to share my heart, cast vision, and point the congregation to several passages of scripture that have meant much to me in this process. And our congregation received the message warmly. I was very encouraged to hear members share with me how it provided the clarification, direction and confirmation that they needed to go forward. God be praised!

The title of my message yesterday was “Great Expectations.” And it accurately reflects my attitude toward the days to come. I am blessed to pastor a great church! It is my joy to minister to them and serve Christ with them. Mt. Sinai has a great history and legacy. But our dreams are even greater than our memories. We confidently expect great things from God. And we are committed to attempt great things for God. Please pray for us that the Lord will fulfill every holy desire we have and fulfill every deed prompted by faith to his glory.