Saturday, March 29, 2008

Crystal/Hailey/H.B./Natalie Update

My family is home!!!

I brought Crystal and Hailey home from the hospital this afternoon. Oh, what a feeling!

Crystal has had a long, difficult week. Every day, she would have good periods and bad periods. But she has recovered from the surgery well enough for her doctor to send her home. She will still need to get a lots of rest of the next week or two. Keep her in your prayers.

Hailey is doing fine. No problems, except for a lovesick dad who keeps fussing over her. She is beautiful. And I praise God for adding her to our family.

H.B. and Natalie are doing good. They are really excited to have their mom home from the hospital. And they are really trying to be helpful, even though it concerns them so see their mother moving around slowly. And, of course, they are in love with their new baby sister.

H.B. and Natalie have spent their spring break without their mom and dad. No complaints. No getting into trouble. I rewarded them this evening by taking them out on a date to see, "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who." They enjoyed it. So did I. It's cool to share things from my childhood with them - even though they think everything is new.

What about me? I am glad and grateful to have my family home.

Thanks for your prayers, calls, emails, comments, messages, and gifts. We appreciate your kindness and concern for us.

God bless.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Introducing Miss H.B. Charles

There is a new addition to the Charles family!!!

Crystal gave birth yesterday (3/24) to our new daughter at 3:14 pm.

She is a little early, but both Crystal and the baby are doing fine.

She was born at 7 pounds and 3 ounces, 20 and 1/2 inches.

She looks like... Well, we're not sure who see looks like yet.

The process went smoothly, with no complications. Praise God!

As Crystal was still in surgery, I laid the baby on her chest. And she began to lick Crystal's face.

She was not out of the womb two hours before she found her thumb.

Crystal is still in a little pain, and will have to be in the hospital for several days. Otherwise, "the mother bear" has returned!

Her dad was in the delivery room during the birth, and did not pass out. He even cut the umbilical cord. Who doesn't believe in miracles?!?

H.B. and Natalie are both excited about their new baby sister and concerned about why mommy and the baby could not go home last night.

We have named her Hailey Breanne Charles.

Thank you for your prayers and concern.

Pictures forthcoming shortly.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Power to Reach Your Full Potential

Here is my sermon skeleton from yesterday.

TITLE: "Power to Reach Your Full Potential"

TEXT: Hebrews 13:20

THEME: A benediction and doxology for divine help

POINT: God helps those who trust in Jesus.


I. God has done great things for us through Jesus Christ (13:20).

There are three fundamental reasons why you can trust God to do for you what you cannot do for yourself:

A. God is the God of peace.

B. God raised up our Lord Jesus from the dead.

C. God established an eternal covenant with us by the blood of Jesus.

1. Blood: We are completely saved.

2. Eternal: We are eternally secure.

II. God will do great things for us through JEsus Christ (13:21).

A. Pray for divine equipment.

B. Pray for divine enablement.

1. Depend on Christ for access to God: "through Jesus Christ."

2. Delight in Christ for access to God: "to whom be glory."

Notes from Easter Sunday 2008

- Easter Sunday at MSMBC. It is always a special time. Today was no exception. What a great day!

- Today was the first time in some weeks that I preached multiple services. It is what I have done for years now. And I found myself getting into a groove quite easily, like the whole riding a bike thing.

- This is the third week I have preached with sinus problems and cold symptoms. I have not really felt up to preaching the past several weeks. And it was discouraging to be feeling this way on Easter weekend. But the Lord gave me strength for preaching today. I am grateful.

- I preached today from the benediction recorded in Hebrews 13:20-21. I entitled the message, "Power to Reach your Full Potential."

- I thought it was cool that there were people in attendance today who were all dressed up, while others were dressed down. There was really no emphasis on clothes. I like that.

- Once again, there were many guests in our worship services today. Very encouraging.

- As I was driving home from church, I noticed that the display in my car read that it was 86 degrees. You gotta love that wonderful California weather.

- I love MSMBC. It is a great privilege to serve this wonderful congregation.

- I am very tired.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why The Resurrection Matters

I was looking for a good quote to post today in celebration of Easter. And I found the manuscript to a message I preached about five years ago, entitled, "Why the Resurrestion Matters." It was a part of a four-message series on the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus that I called, "Why Jesus Matters." What follows are the opening paragraphs of the resurrection message:

Let me begin this sermon by telling you the most important and intimate things I can tell you about myself: I am, unabashedly, a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. I wake up every morning with the assurance that my sins are forgiven, my needs are met, and my death is not final. My life has meaning, fulfillment, and abiding joy. I am committed to the Church of Jesus Christ, no matter how ugly she may act at times. As a Christian pastor-teacher, I have the best and most noble job anybody could every have. I am not stuck in the past, preoccupied with my present circumstances, or worried about the future. The world makes sense to me.

And here’s why: I am sure that Jesus Christ is alive, well, and at work in the world right now. That is, I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one true God. And I base that conviction on the verifiable fact and historical truth that Jesus actually and physically rose from the dead. I agree with John Irving: “Anyone can be sentimental about the Nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event; if you don’t believe in the resurrection, you’re not a believer.”


Happy Easter. Celebrate Jesus today!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Most Important Word in the New Testament

Once when Swiss theologian Karl Barth was asked what he thought was the most important word in the New Testament, he asnwered, "Huper." Huper is a preposition meaning "on behalf of" or "in place of." So when Barth called huper the most important word, he meant that the most important of all truths is that in salvation Jesus takes our place to bear the punishment for our sins so that "in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). - James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?, p. 102

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Speaking @ Mt. Carmel Indianapolis

I am writing this post from the Indianapolis airport. I have been in town to preach three nights at the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, where Dr. Theron Williams is the pastor.

It has been a tough week of preaching. First of all, I think I became homesick the moment the plane left LAX Monday morning. I have been struggling with cold symptoms all week. And the weather here has been horrible. I (wisely) did not leave my room all week expect to preach.

Although the weather has been cold, I found Mt. Carmel to be a warm congregation. I met Pastor Williams several years ago, as we were both preaching in Oklahoma City. And I had the opportunity to hear him preach, so I knew Mt. Carmel was not a church that was starving preaching. Dr. Williams is a fine, biblical preacher. And the Mt. Carmel Church is doing a great work here. And it has been a joy to worship and fellowship with them this week.

Each night, Pastor W. Jackson from Munsey (I think) spoke on evangelism-discipleship. These were three powerful lectures on (1) the reality of Christ, (2) the reliability of scripture, and (3) reliance upon the Holy Spirit. It was hard for me to preach after Pastor Jackson finished. Each night I literally sat in the service, prayerfully trying to establish what the Lord would have me to preach. And I wouldn't be clear until after Pastor Jackson finished his lectures.

Likewise, I think I preached too long each night. Now, I know that I am a long-winded preacher. Mt. Sinai puts up with it, because I belong to them and they belong to me. However, I try to be more conscious of my time when I am away from home. I try. I tried this week. And I think I missed my off-ramp every night. But the congregation was kind and patient, enduring both me and Pastor Jackson each night.

I believe I preached the messages the Lord would have me to preach this week. And each night, I preached with all my heart. I trust the Lord was honored. And I pray that the messages will continue to be a blessing to the wonderful membership of the Mt. Carmel Church.

Please remember Dr. Williams and the Mt. Carmel Church in your prayers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Man With His Priorities In Order

As a self-appointed "missionary" for Apple's Mac computers, I could not help but report on this news brief from this morning's USA Today newspaper entitled, "Charlie Rose saves laptop, not face":

"Why has Charlie Rose been sporting a black eye and bandage over part of his forehead? On Monday, the PBS host tripped in a pothole while walking on 59th Street in Manhattan. He was carrying a newly purchased MacBook Air laptop and made the decision to protect the computer. Producers say he hit the pavement face first. The MacBook is fine." - by Ann Oldenburg with staff and wire reports


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

(Late) Notes from Sunday...

- This is the second weekend in a row where I have suffered with a sore throat and an aching body. I think I may be fighting off a cold, with varying degrees of success. I pressed through on the previous Sunday. And I really did not want to do it again. But I did. And I was not at my best this Sunday.

- Our children sang in our morning worship service. It was great! Hats off to Phil Placenti, our children's division pastor, for preparing our children to sing.

- A group of the young ladies performed an "interpretative dance" in the service. And they did a good job. This is not something we usually do on Sunday mornings. I have several objections to what these so-called "praise-dancing," for several reasons that I won't detail now. But I guess I am slightly mellowing in my old age!

- There were many first and second time guests in the worship service Sunday, which is always a great thing.

- I preached from 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. I entitled the message, "The Difference Christ Makes." I sought to make three major points in this message: (1) We have a new perspective on life (vv. 16-17); (2) we have a new relationship to God (vv. 18-19); and (3) we have a new assignment for Christ (vv. 20-21).

- I challenged the church to memorize 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 this week. I also issued a 3-1-6 challenge: that they would pray for three unsaved/unchurched people once a day for the six days of this week. I also encouraged every member to bring one guests with them this coming Sunday.

- Sunday night, I went to hear my assistant pastor, George Hurtt, preach at Christ Second Baptist Church in Long Beach. My father served this church before he came to Mt. Sinai. George's message was stellar. As his pastor, I was so proud of him. As his colleague, I was flat out impressed - I have preached the same text and missed half of what George saw. And as his brother in Christ, I was challenged and encouraged to trust that God is in complete control of all circumstances and can use me in spite of seemingly limiting circumstances (Phil. 1:12-14).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Anthony Kidd Speaking @ MSMBC

Last night, Anthony Kidd, who pastors the Westside Bible Church, ministered the word in our Wednesday Night Midweek Service. Over the past year, Pastor Kidd and I met and began a new friendship. And I have developed a great deal of respect and admiration for him in the short time we have known one another. Likewise, Westside Church meets at the school a few blocks away from our new location. So it was important to me that we quickly establish a fellowship between our two congregations, especially with both congregations being like-minded evangelicals.

Pastor Kidd brought a message on James 1:21-25. The message emphasized the importance of heart preparation before you hear the word, a sense of expectation as you hear the word, and personal obedience after you have heard the word. It was a challenging word and an important message for our congregation to hear, including me. Sometimes, Bible preaching/teaching churches think more of themselves than they should because they are committed to the scriptures. And they even look down on other congregations that do not place a premium on Bible exposition. But just because the pulpit preaches the Bible does not necessarily mean that the church is a biblical church. There are other factors to consider. What is our heart disposition when we gather to hear the word? Do we listen to the word with faith, expecting it to make a difference in our lives? What do we do with what we hear? Pastor Kidd confronted us with these vital questions. And I pray that our congregation will be the better as we wrestle with these vital spiritual matters.

Please remember Anthony Kidd and the Westside Bible Church in your prayers. They are doing a great work for the Lord. May the Lord grant that they would be even more faithful and fruitful in their devotion to God and service for Christ.

May MSMBC be a church that humbly prepares to hear the word, joyfully receives the proclamation of the word, and diligently lives out the life of the teachings of our faith, so that we may be blessed and God may be glorified.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Secret Sex Wars

In 2006, I had the opportunity to speak in the annual men’s conference hosted by the Los Angeles Bible Training School. I was asked to present a message that I had preached in my exposition of Colossians at Mt. Sinai Church, where I serve. The message was based upon Colossians 3:5-9. I entitled it, “Putting Sin to Death.” In this message, I try to challenge the church to be intentional, strategic, and militant in the battle for godliness and against sin - particularly sexual sin. It is a very important message that I really worked hard on. But when I finished preaching it, I filed all of the work away, not expecting that it would ever see the light of day again. But a local pastor, Robert Scott, visited our congregation that sunday while he was on vacation. He passed the audio of the message on, I guess. And I was invited to preach it during the LABTS men's conference, which focused on calling men to sexual purity.

Last year, Robert Scott, who pastors the Los Angeles Community Bible Church, initiated a project for the publication of some of the messages presented in recent LABTS men’s conference. Lift Every Voice, a subsidiary of Moody Publications, commissioned the writing of this book. And Pastor Scott graciously invited me to contribute my message on “Putting Sin to Death” to the book.

There are many books for men on sexual purity. Why another? Well, this book really is unique in that it primarily consists of expository messages on specific biblical texts. While there are many helpful and popular books available on godliness and sexual purity, few are written based on biblical and practical preaching of specific texts. Likewise, very few works like this are written by African-American pastors for the discipleship of African-American men. And the messages are presented by godly men, loving pastors, and faithful expositors, like by Paul Felix, Carl Hargrove, Anthony, Victor Sholar, John Kennedy, among others.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this new book. It is written primarily for men, but all can profit from its sound and clear teaching. The book is entitled, Secret Sex Wars: A Battle Cry for Purity, edited by Robert Scott. It is scheduled to be released on May 1, 2008. Please pray for the men who have contributed to this important work – including me, especially me. And pray that this book will be used by God to equip and encourage many Christian men to fight the good fight for sexual purity. May our homes, churches, and communities will be impacted for Christ through this book.

Click here to learn more about the book and its authors.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sermon Skeleton on Psalm 23

Here is my sermon skeleton from yesterday's message on Psalm 23. The audio of the message should be on the MSMBC website some time this week.

Title: "Living with Confidence in God"

Text: Psalm 23

Theme: A song of confident trust in the Lord

Point: God is worthy of your trust.

Purpose: The purpose of this message is to exhort end encourage the hearer to live with confidence in the Lord, because he is worthy of our complete trust.


I. The Lord watches over those who trust him (23:2-3)

A. The Lord watches over the physical needs of those who trust in him (v. 2)

1. The Lord provides nourishment (v. 2a)

2. The Lord provides refreshment (v. 2b)

B. The Lord watches over the spiritual needs of those who trust in him (v. 3)

1. The Lord gives restoration to those who stray away (v. 3a)

2. The Lord gives guidance to keep you from straying away (v. 3b)

II. The Lord walks with those who trust him (23:4)

A. Your trust in God will not keep you from going through the valleys of life (v. 4a)

B. Your trust in God will keep you from living in fear of the dangers that threaten you in the valley (v. 4b)

1. The Lord is present to help you.

2. The Lord is prepared to help you.

III. The Lord welcomes in those who trust him (23:5-6)

A. You can live in the abundance of God's generous hospitality (v. 5)

1. Look at my enemies (v. 5a)

2. Look at my head (v. 5b)

3. Look at my cup (v. 5c)

B. You can live with the expectation of God's continued hospitality (v. 6)

1. God's hospitality continues everyday (v. 6a)

2. God's hospitality continues forever (v. 6b)

Notes from Sunday... 03/09/08

- I was not feeling well today. I am battling the early symptoms of a cold. And I found it hard to pull myself together. But at no point this morning did I feel that I should not preach today, even though I was not feeling up to it.

- Crystal did not rest well last night. But she felt strong enough to attend service this morning. I am always more relaxed (in contrast to anxious) when Crystal is present when I am preaching.

- There seemed to be quite a few guests in worship today. I saw many new and unfamiliar faces. This is always encouraging.

- I preached Psalm 23 today. I called the message “Living with Confidence in God.” I argued that the Lord watches over (vv. 2-3), walks with (v. 4), and welcomes in (vv. 5-6) those who trust in him.

- I seemed to have a lot of quotations in my sermon today. My studies notes were quite extensive. And it seemed like of my reading slipped into my sermon manuscript.

- For the fourth week in a row, I have written a sermon manuscript that was more than nine pages. My sermon manuscripts are typically seven or eight pages long, single-spaced. But for some reason, I have done a poor job of editing them down over the past few weeks. I will have to work harder at this in the weeks to come.

- I preached with a sore throat today. But, by God’s goodness, the more I preached the less it bothered me. God be praised.

- Today was a beautiful day. While the news reports of snow and storms throughout the country, today was a typical sunny day in Los Angeles.

- The final episode of one of the few TV shows I like aired tonight. I am sad.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Don't Forget to Spring Forward

I know. I died. I thought last week was Daylight Savings Time. Oops.

But, for real, this time, don't forget to spring forward one hour tonight. You don't want to be late to church in the morning, do you?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Living with Confidence in God

I am working on an exposition of Psalm 23 for this coming Sunday. And it has been rough going, for several reasons.

First of all, I am in a citywide revival meeting this week in San Antonio. It's a five-day meeting. And there are day and evening services. And I have been preaching on a rotating system, morning and evening. I miss my family. I have been trying to keep up with MSMBC stuff. And I have been fighting off cold symptoms all week, as the weather here keeps changing. The bottom-line is that it has been a long week. Even though it has been a great week of worship and fellowship, I am exhausted. This, I'm sure, has had some impact on my preparation this week.

Likewise, I preached through Psalm 23 about nine or so years ago. It was a line-by-line series, containing sixteen messages. And, strange as it may sound, this has made it hard for me to prepare this single message on the entire psalm. I did a completely new study of the psalm, so it would be fresh in my heart and mind, and so that I would get a better feel for the psalm as a single unit of thought. But before I left Los Angeles, I packed about ten of the sermon manuscripts from the previous series to review. I am not sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. We'll see.

Regardless, I am determined to press through in my preparations to be ready to preach Psalm 23 this coming Sunday. I really wanted to preach something this week to both challenge and comfort our congregation. And I was drawn to this passage in my devotional time. And I really think it is appropriate for where we are as a congregation. I trust it will be helpful to those in our congregation who are going through some difficulties right now. And, to be candid, I really think I need the message of this psalm - that you can live with confidence in the Lord's faithful oversight of your life. In fact, that's my working title for the message at this point; "Living with Confidence in God."

Pray for me.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Speaking @ San Antonio Citywide Revival 2008

I am in San Antonio. I am preaching in their citywide revival. This is the second year I have been a part of this meeting. Last year, I preached with Pastor Dennis Jones of Houston. This year, I am preaching with Dr. C.E. McLain, who pastors the Little Union Baptist Church in Shreveport. It is the church his father served. And he has been there for some seventeen years. Dr. McLain is one of the noted preachers of our country, who has had a great ministry in several cities over the years.

I heard Dr. McLain in person for the first time last night. But I have a tape of him from 1980, recorded at the L.K. Williams Institute in Dallas. He preached a message entitled, "Standard Equipment for the Ministry," from 2 Timothy 1:7. It was a powerful message that continues to ground me after all these years. So it was a joy to hear him in person last night. It was a great word from Exodus 14. He called it, "What to do When you are Trapped."

The auditorium was almost full on Monday night. But it was half empty last night. Last night was the Texas Two-Step - primary and caucus. Many people went to caucus last night and the lines were reportedly so long all over town that many were not able to make it to the worship services. Dr. McLain, a seasoned preacher, went to work without it troubling him at all.

I have three more messages to preach before I head home. Please remember me, Dr. McLain, and this citywide revival in your prayers.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Go Natalie, It's Your Birthday!!!

Today is my daughter's - Natalie Marie Charles -sixth birthday. Soon, Crystal will give birth to our second daughter. And my household will then official be overrun by women. But I suspect that Natalie will have no "middle child" issues to deal with. She will always be my first daughter... and first diva! Our new baby will have to establish her own identify, because Natalie is in a class by herself and is an impossible act to follow.

It is with great joy that I have the privilege, along with my wife, of shaping this little "image bearer." And I also have a front row seat to watch her ongoing and rapid development. I am very proud of Natalie. And I pray that she will continue to grow as Jesus grew - in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Happy Birthday, Natalie.

Your daddy loves you little girl!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Notes from Sunday

- I died. I thought Daylight Savings Time was to spring us forward this past weekend. I was a week early. Oops.

- The L.A. Marathon has altered its route. And my family and I were able to get to church with absolutely no complications. And it did not hurt our worship attendance, either. Cool.

- My wife was able to go to church for the first time in several weeks. She has been feeling better and has been able to move around a bit. I was so happy to see her in her typical spot. I had to work at points not to stare at her.

- I finished my series on "Total-Life Stewardship" with a message on the stewardship of your witness. If was the seventh message of the series, even though it feels like it has been much longer than that. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

- I cannot wait to get back to doing verse-by-verse exposition of passages, even though I was just getting into a rhythm of preaching thematic (verse-with-verse) messages.

- I have been preaching really long sermons on the past several weeks. I am a long-winded preacher. But I think I have been piling it on the past few weeks. I need to work on that. I am glad that the congregation has been patient with my preaching.

- I love when we celebrate the Lord's Supper in our worship services at MSMBC!

- There were quite of few guests in worship with us Sunday. Some have been visiting for several weeks, and I was able to finally match a name with a face. It was very encouraging to hear how our congregation is helping people who are taking steps of faith toward Christ and the church.

- I was great to be able to announce that we had closed on the properties we are purchasing. God be praised!

- For the record, I have not jumped on the Lakers bandwagon. And I will not. I still don't like them. Deport me if you must!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Stewardship of your Witness

I am scheduled to complete my series on "Total-Life Stewardship" this Sunday. It will be the seventh message of the series. My focus will be on the stewardship of our Christian witness.

In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Paul says, "This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy." I hope to teach the church about what it means to be a stewards of our witness. And I want to challenge the congregation to do four things: (1) know what you believe, (2) defend what you believe, (3) live what you believe, and (4) share what you believe.

We have two things working against us this coming Sunday. First, the annual Los Angeles Marathon is running this Sunday. And, secondly, time will spring forward one hour Saturday night. I hope and pray these will not be detours - or excuses - that keep the members of MSMBC from being marked present for the corporate assembly of worship on the Lord's Day. We have much to celebrate this coming Sunday. As we share the Lord's Supper, we will celebrate together the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the spiritual bond we share in him. Likewise, escrow closed this Friday on our new facilities. Praise God for his faithfulness, goodness, and power!