Monday, June 30, 2008

Notes from Sunday - 6/29/08

Saturday, MSMBC hosted a community day in which we prepared food, games, and information for our neighbors. I was a good time of meeting guests and fellowship with one another. Hat's off to our Transition Team for your hard and faithful work!

Yesterday, was a long, good day. To be sure, it was full of adventure. But the Lord was gracious to me and helped me fulfill my assignments all day.

I led the corporate singing portion of our service yesterday. I don't sing that often anymore. But I love to sing the praises of God. It is a wonderful privilege to lead God's people in grateful praise to him.

We emphasize missions on 5th Sundays at MSMBC. Yesterday, Norberta gave a testimony about her recent short-term (medical) mission trip to Africa. It was inspiring and challenging. May the Lord raise up more members in our church who have a heart and calling for missions work.

Please pray for my brother and colleague, Pastor George Hurtt, who left last night for a short-term missions trip to Haiti.

God will give you strength as it is needed!

I continued our series on the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount with a message on Matthew 5:9, which I called, "Joining the Family Business."

I don't know what was up in our 8 AM service. It seemed that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I was flabbergasted by it all. And it made it really difficult for me to preach. But I was reminded this morning that when things do go as we plan, the Holy Spirit makes the difference. Then I was further reminded that even when everything goes according to schedule, it is still the Holy Spirit who makes the difference.

The 10 AM service was like night and day from the first service. It was a warm service. The congregation was very attentive. And I was able to relax and preach without some of the distractions that affected the first service.

There was a dynamic at work in the 10 AM service that was a first for me. No comment.

Yesterday afternoon, I preached the 50th church anniversary service for Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles. Dr. Rocellia Johnson is the Senior-Pastor. Dr. L.A. Kessee is the Executive-Pastor. This is one of the great churches of our city, known for its commitment to evangelism. And they completed the building of a new facility about a year ago. It was an honor to be invited to preach this special occasion for.

For some reason, I thought and announced that I was preached Pastor Kessee's pastoral anniversary service. I didn't know it was the church's anniversary until I arrived and looked at the program. Yet another example of how clueless I can be at times.

I preached Psalm 23 - "Living with Confidence in God."

After the afternoon service, I woman introduced herself to me that said Mt. Sinai was the first church she attended after moving to Los Angeles 48 years ago. She told me how much I reminder her of my father. What a compliment!

I got swept by audio equipment yesterday. Microphones - 3/HBC2 - 0.

Of course, when I finished preaching my final sermon last night, I got in the bed and passed out as soon as possible. Good sleep.

One more thing. This morning, I walked the little more than two miles from my home to the church for morning prayer. It was not a marathon or anything. But I am rather proud of myself.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Speaking @ Calvary Baptist Church

Last night, I spoke at Calvary Baptist Church of Los Angeles for the final night of their youth and young adult revival. This is the congregation that was once led by the late Dr. Manual Scott Sr. The congregation is now led by the able Rev. Virgil Jones. And under his leadership, this historic congregation is growing and bearing fruit.

This is the fourth or fifth year that I have done the closing night of this meeting. And services have been a blessing each year. This year was no exception. The participation of the youth in the service was very encouraging. They were quite attentive to the preaching of the word. And as one of my friends says, the Lord got on my back and rode me as I preached.

I preached a part of the Parable of the Prodigal Son parable last night. I sought to argue the primary point of Luke 15: Lost people matter to God! My goodness, what a story! Better yet, what a mighty God we serve!.

After the service, a sister asked me if I remember what message I preached last year. I thought this was kind of an odd question at first. But I did, in fact, remember. When I told her the passage, she said, "Yep, that was it." Then she went on to tell me that she was scheduled to teach a youth conference last year. And there was some confusion about what the teaching material was going to be. So she took the leader of the events the notes from my message that she had taken down, and asked if they would be acceptable. The pastor told her, if the material is from H.B., he trusted it was acceptable to teach. And she said the young people were really blessed by it. I was deeply encouraged my this testimony. I really thought I had missed it last year. But God was at work to bless people beyond anything I thought or imagined. Praise God for the power of his word!

Friday, June 27, 2008

When Grace Transforms

Matthew 5:3-12 records the “Beatitudes” of Jesus Christ, which introduce the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). These eight declarations pronounce divine blessings on those who possess the characteristics of citizens of the kingdom of God. Specifically, Jesus blesses the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. These eight brief but potent statements describe what it means to right with God. They teach what it means to be righteous, rather than merely being religious. In a real sense, a clear understanding of the beatitudes is a life-transforming introduction to the practical implications of Christian salvation, growth, and service. In the preface to When Grace Transforms, Terry L. Johnson comments:

In the Sermon on the Mount in general and the Beatitudes in particular we are treated to Jesus’ most complete description of his disciples. Jesus works from the inside out, zeroing in on the heart and describing the behavior that flows from it. What emerges is an individual, and then a community that is radically different. (p. 8)

Without a doubt, one of the most profitable things we can to examine ourselves and to care for our souls is to regular meditate on and study the beatitudes of Jesus. Indeed, there are many helpful resources available you can use as a guide to lead you through the high and rugged terrain of Matthew 3:1-12. But I would like to recommend that you add Johnson’s When Grace Transforms to your collection of resources.

Terry L. Johnson is the senior pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia. And along with his ministry of the word to his own congregation, Johnson has put pen to paper to the benefit of the larger church of Christ. In fact, When Grace Transforms is a part of a trilogy, of sorts, on the dynamic work of God’s sovereign grace. Johnson has also written When Grace Comes Alive (on living through the Lord’s Prayer) and When Grace Comes Home (on how the doctrines of grace change your life). I warmly recommend all three of these works. But When Grace Transforms would be a great place to start reading Johnson.

Published in 2002, Transforms is a newer study of the beatitudes. And in some instances, that would be a bad thing. I have found that when it comes to finding helpful materials on the Sermon on the Mount, the older the better. But Johnson provides a sound, fresh, and compelling treatment of the beatitudes. Though Johnson has obviously studied the classic, he his not merely parroting what has already been said. In Transforms, Johnson combines the skill of a theologian, the precision of an expositor, and the heart of a pastor, to explain what the beatitudes do and do not mean in simple, challenging, and practical terms. I encourage you to change your life by prayerfully reading When Grace Transforms. And I dare you to change your world by sharing this rich, little book with someone else.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

On The Christian Dress Code

My father used to tell of a conversation he had with a man outside of MSMBC one day. The man had overheard the services as he passed by and he said that he would have come in, but he didn’t have any nice church clothes to wear, like the other people he saw. This conversation deeply impacted my father. And it resulted in him designating the month of June as “Old Clothes Month” at Mt. Sinai. When I was a boy, it was actually “old clothes” month. For instance, the men would wear overalls (or, are they called “coveralls”?). It may seem silly. But the church took it rather seriously. My father would retell the story of his conversation and challenge the church to be the kind of congregation that makes people feel welcomed, no matter what they had on.

By the time I became the pastor of MSMBC in 1990, June was still designated as “Old Clothes Month.” But things had changed. Actually, it was just casual month, where there would be no ties and hats, for the most part. There were no more overalls, thank God. And it really wasn’t a big deal anymore. During the early 90’s, the congregation had become a lot more relaxed in its attire and there was a lot less emphasis on “church clothes,” in general. So for many people, June was the month when we officially dressed the way we unofficially dressed the rest of the year. And, frankly, I think that was a good thing. In fact, I think it’s kind of cool that on most Sundays I preach to some worshipers who are dressed in suits and dresses; others in jeans and sneakers.

Now, this is not to say that I am happy with everything I see on Sunday mornings. To the contrary, we still struggle with what’s appropriate to wear to church. So I thought it would be appropriate for me to remind us of the Christian dress code. It can be succinctly stated in one word: modesty. In other words, your apparel should demonstrate your respect for the Lord, for the corporate worship service, for weaker brothers and sisters in Christ, and for yourself. This applies both to those who would wear tight, revealing clothes and to those who would overdress in gaudy, ostentatious “church clothes.” And while I’m here, let me say that the principle of modesty does not just apply to the Lord’s Day. Modesty is to govern how you dress everyday and everywhere you go. Remember, you are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14-16). So we should always strive to dress in a way that reflects reverence for God, self-control, and good judgment.

First Timothy 2:9-10 describes what it means to dress modestly: “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works” (ESV). Of course, Paul is directly addressing women in this verse. However, this instruction to Christian women teaches both men and women the godly standards for modesty in dress. Paul is not trying to enslave women with these pastoral instructions. And he is not simply lashing out against matters of style that he didn’t like. Instead, through the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul confronts three common expressions of immodesty: (1) worldliness, (2) materialism, and (3) sensuality.

Peter co-signs Paul’s injunctions in 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Again, don’t miss the point by focusing too closely on the details. The issue is not about how you wear your hair, if you wear jewelry, or the style of your clothes. It’s about your focus, attitude, and motivations. As Warren Wiersbe has said, “God is concerned about values, not prices.” So we should be more concerned about our spiritual attractiveness than our physical appearance. Or as Proverbs 31:30 teaches: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” And this instruction applies to men, as well.

Lest I am misunderstood, let me be clear that I am not saying that we should be so unconcerned that we do not bother to care for ourselves. Hygiene, neatness, and grooming have their importance. And there is nothing inherently wrong with looking nice. Yes, you can wear jewelry and honor God at the same time. But we must not be preoccupied with externals. True beauty begins inside. Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” So let’s strive to dress like Christians, spiritually and physically. Here are some tips that may help you guard your witness by dressing with modesty:

1. Remember that you represent Christ and ask him to exercise lordship over your physical appearance.
2. Examine your motives by asking yourself why you are wearing a particular outfit.
3. Remember that corporate worship is not a fashion show or time to attract a date or mate.
4. Strive to make sure that the corporate worship meeting is not distracted by what you do (or don’t) have on.
5. Live to the glory of God (1 Co. 6:19-20; 10:31; Col. 3:17).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Waited Time on God is Never Wasted Time

I preached the 11 AM service at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church on August 5, 1990. My Father, who had led the church for more than forty years, had died fourteen months earlier. And the congregation was deep into its pastoral search. I was not a part of this process. In fact, the pulpit committee met with me the next day to make it plain to me that I would not be a candidate. I had not sought the church. I was just a seventeen-years-old high school senior. But apparently there had been some requests from some of the members to add my name to the list being commended to the church. And the committee wanted me to know, in no uncertain terms, that this would not happen. (For the record, they allowed names to be nominated from the floor. My name was given. And the rest is...)

I had been preaching most first Sunday services at 11 AM throughout much of 1990. But August 5 was the last time they allowed me to preach before the election of the new pastor. They told me that allowing me to preach would only confuse the search process. Three months later, on November 5, the congregation elected me as the third pastor of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.

In the providence of God, the last time I was allowed to preach before being selected as pastor, I preached  from Job 14:14. It says, "If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come" (KJV). I entitled the message, "When God Removes the Hedge from Around Your Life, What Then?" I sought to make three points from verse 14b:

    1. Job had an appointed time.
    2. Job knew the one who appointed his time.
    3. Because Job knew he had an appointed time, and he knew the one who appointed the time, he was resolved to wait.

I know this isn't deep. But what do you want? I was only a boy preacher.

I wanted to be an encouragement to the church that day, as they had already gone more than a year without a pastor - after having the same pastor for over four decades. But as I preached, as often happens, I discovered that I was preaching this sermon to myself more than anyone else. I needed to be reminded to wait my turn.

As I was preparing to go home for the day, Job 14:14 came to my mind. Then I recalled the sermon I preached on this verse, and the circumstances surrounding its presentation. In fact, before I started writing this post, I went to my file cabinet and found the almost twenty-year-old handwritten manuscript of this sermon. As I read through it, Lord preached it to me again. I am struggling with impatience right now. And I really need this reminder that waited time on God is never wasted time.

Are you sitting with me in God's waiting room? Take heart. You have an appointed time. And God's timing is perfect. So wait on him to.... (You fill in the blank).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Preaching is Worship!

Have you noticed how people refer to the singing in church as "worship time," as if the other parts of the service are not part of our worship? This is troubling, because Christians should recognize that prayer, saying the creeds, giving, and especially the sermon, are all part of our worship of God. But I wonder if one of the reasons why people do not know this is that preachers have forgotten to worship God when they preach. We may deliver carefully crafted sermons, but if we ourselves are worshiping God when we do, then that element will be lost on the people as well. On the other hand, when we are preaching primarily for the glory and pleasure of God, we can draw the rest of the congregation into worship with us. In fact, that is just what the best preaching does. - Harry L. Reeder III (with David Swavely), From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church, pp. 110-11

Monday, June 23, 2008

Notes from Sunday - 06/22/08

I took an overnight trip Houston this week. Saturday afternoon, I flew into Houston to preach for Pastor Dennis Jones and the Gethsemane Baptist Church. It was the their Micah Ministry's (Young Adults) emphasis, with various events taking place over the weekend. And the young adults led the services on Sunday morning.

This is my second time preaching at Gethsemane. And I was again blessed and encouraged by the worship and fellowship. Pastor Jones has proven to be a true friend to me since we met. And it is an honor to be invited to minister the word to his wonderful congregation.

I like Houston, Texas.

I hear that George preached up a storm yesterday on the story of Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Praise God for his hard work and the Lord's favor.

The early reports I received are that MSMBC had a good day Sunday. Everything went smoothly and according to schedule in spite of my absence. This is always music to a pastor's ears.

I flew home several hours after I finished preaching. I was home before it was dark. And was still able to spend a part of the evening with Crystal and the kids... until I passed out.

Today begins a pretty busy work week for me. Please remember me in your prayers.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

On Generational Curses

I was introduced to the subject of “generational curses” some years ago in a strange way. I was sitting in the pulpit of the church I serve, listening to an encouraging sermon by an out-of-town friend. He ended the message with a personal testimony of divine healing. He had been very sick. And the only explanation for his recovery was that God had healed him, for which I rejoiced.

I had no problem with his testimony of healing. But I did have a problem with his explanation of how he received the life-threatening disease. He claimed that it was a generational curse that the devil had passed down from his grandfather to his father to him, he said. What I would have called a hereditary disease, he called a generational curse. And what began as a testimony of providential healing ended with a lesson on spiritual warfare, as he claimed that the devil was not going to take his life. When he finished, I stood and made it clear that our church did not embrace what had just been taught. For the record, this is one of the few times in my pastoral ministry that I have found it necessary to publicly comment on a message this way. But I could not pray in good conscience for those who had come forward without clarifying what we were praying.

When the service was over, my friend and I had a long talk about what had just happened. I am not sure if we finally agreed with one another. But it was an important conversation. And I believe that it is a conversation that needs to continue. Consider what follows a conversation starter.

The term “generational curses” has become a common part of the church’s vernacular. It’s not rare to hear high-profile preachers warn against them with passion and promise deliverance from them with confidence. But there is very little biblical exposition given on this intriguing subject. All too often, the facts about these so-called curses are assumed, rather than explained. I have even heard gross sin explained (or explained away) with this theory of generational curses. I really don’t know how this can help those who are struggling with sin. Of course, I am not suggesting that the sinful ways these preachers are addressing are not serious. I just believe that the diagnosis of the problem and the prescriptions for deliverance are wrong, unhelpful, and dangerous.

Got Scripture? The Bible does not mention generational curses, as such, one time. And not only is the term not there, the concept is not there, either. Obviously, passages like Exodus 20:5 and 34:7 speak of God as “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (ESV. Also see Num. 14:18; Deut. 5:9). But we must be careful not to build a doctrine on Old Testaments that we have taken out of context. These passages are calls to trust and obey God, which include both promises to those who respond and warnings for those who rebel. Likewise, they are statements made by God to Israel, specifically. They are stipulations of the unique covenant relationship God had with Israel as a nation. And such statements are not made in the New Testament. The New Testament teaches that believers have been save from the penalty of sin, are beings saved from the power of sin, and will ultimately be saved from the very presence of sin. And I submit to you that any rigorous and study of what the Bible teaches about what it means to be in Christ will not leave any room for generational curses.

God curses people. Over the years, I have looked up this subject of generational curses in various Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works. And generational curses are not mentioned. Isn’t it a bit odd that most biblical scholars ignore such a serious subject? Anyway, I eventually searched for the subject on the Internet. And most of the results sent me to sites or articles about Satan, demons, or spiritual warfare. But the biblical passages used as proof-texts actually have nothing to do with the devil. They are about God and Israel. Apparently, the proponents of this teaching have failed to see that scripture teaches that God curses people, not Satan. The sinful patterns they are so concerned about are not matters of bondage by Satan. They’re matters of guilt before God. Satan doesn’t need to be bound for people to be set free from sin. God’s righteous demands need to be satisfied. And they have been satisfied in Christ (1 John 2:1-2).

Guilt is personal. The Bible affirms the universal guilt of mankind because of original sin. But the emphasis of divine punishment is always on the individual. And this is not just a New Testament perspective. Ezekiel 18:1-4 says: The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?’ As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine; the soul who sins shall die.”

Did you get that? The soul who sins shall die. This means that guilt is personal. Now, let me be clear. I do not believe in generational curses. But I do believe in generational consequences. Certainly, our lives affect the generations to come. But while the consequences of sin may be far reaching, the object of punishment is always the sinner who sins. Galatians 6:8 says, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” The New Testament makes it clear that when God places the guilt of one on another, it is when he places the believer’s guilt on Christ in salvation (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We are made new in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” One of the greatest terms used in the Scriptures to describe the believer’s position in Christ is the word “new.” When a person receives Jesus Christ, a total transformation takes place. It is a change in one’s standing before God. And it is also a real change of the heart, the inner man, the spiritual nature. Vance Havner used to say, “Christianity is not an Old-Adam Improvement Society.” And he was right. The good news is that you are automatically delivered from any curse that may be on your life when you are saved by grace through faith in Christ.

Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” So if you are saved, you have already been set free from all curses. Thank God for that great act of deliverance (Col. 1:12-14). And walk in it with confidence. If you are not saved, I plead with you to come to Jesus. Run to the cross. Receive the Lord Jesus as the Forgiver of your sins and the Leader of your life. And you will live the blessed life declared in Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” No curses! Just blessings!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Natalie Graduates Kindergarten Today!!!

My six-year-old daughter, Natalie Marie, will graduate from kindergarten this morning. And I could not be more proud of her. In fact, this is he only reason I am even in town. I was supposed to be in Washington D.C. preaching this week. But there was a big mix-up on the date of the graduation.

Crystal and I had decided that I would go do the meeting to keep my word. And that I would just make it up to Natalie when I get home (which was supposed to be tomorrow). But when we told Natalie these bright plans, she nodded yes while crying inconsolably. Crystal promised what I would do for her when I got home. Natalie argued she didn't want anything but her daddy to be there. So I had to stay home to be with Natalie. Period. (I deeply appreciate the kindness and understanding of my friend Pastor Garfield Burton and the Macedonia Baptist Church.) I trust and pray that there will be other revival meetings. But my little girl will only have this day once.

I pray that this will be a special day for Natalie. And I pray that she would continue to grow as Jesus grew - in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).

On another subject, the "underwear scandal" was funny. But "The Man of Steel" resisted the temptation to jump into the conversation.

One more thing... Sorry Lakers fans. Not. Bring on the summer!

These are pictures I took of Natalie before we left this morning for the graduation. Hopefully, I will be able to add more pictures of the ceremony this afternoon.

The Prayer of a Minor Prophet

I am reading A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett. I have greatly benefited from Tozer's published writings over the years. And I am excited about all that I am learning about the man and his ministry in this gripping biography. I am being reminded that God uses human beings, not pulpit superheroes. I strongly believe that we need Tozer's story today, maybe more than we need his wise and helpful books. He was not a religious celebrity, a megachurch pastor, or an ecclesiastical powerbroker. Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963) was an humble man with a great passion for God.

I was just reading about Tozer's ordination, which took place on August 18, 1920. After the ceremony, Tozer slipped away to pray about the solemn calling and great responsibility the Lord had given him in assigning him to gospel ministry. Tozer later wrote out his recollections of this prayer. He called the article, "For Pastors Only: Prayer of a Minor Prophet." Here are several exerts from the article that caused me to stop reading and start examining myself:

"Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, is popularity or the amount of its yearly offering... Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from the bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house... Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ." (pp. 66-67)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The ESV Study Bible Is On It's Way

I have been doing my personal Bible reading and memorization of the Bible from the English Standard Bible for about four or so years. I have been preaching and teaching from it for about three or so years. And I love it. It has the accuracy of the New American Standard Bible, the readability of the New International Version, and much of the poetry of the King James Version and/or New King James Version.

When I began using it in my public ministry, I was really just trying it out. I was not sure how it was going to be embraced - both within my congregation and in the larger Christian body. But it has established itself quite well as reliable Bible translation. And it seems that its influence is increasing. One of the ways I measure this is by the reference resources that are being developed for it (concordances, study Bibles, etc).

Naturally, I was please to find out that the ESV Study Bible is in the works and is set to be released in October, 2008. I have and regularly use the Reformation Study Bible, edited by R.C. Sproul, that is based on the ESV. But it is welcomed news to me that Crossway is publishing a study Bible for this great Bible translation. I encourage you to pick up a copy of the ESV, if you have not already. And keep an eye out for the study Bible in the Fall.

Click ESV Study Bible for more information.

By the way, I have some links to Bible study resources in the right panel. But if you know of any other helpful sites with Bible resources, please share them with us.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pictures from Father's Day

The Window in your Heart

This is one of the greatest utterances in all the Bible. It stretches over everything else revealed in scripture. The theme of purity of heart being necessary to see God is vast and infinite and draws in almost every biblical thread. – John MacArthur, Kingdom Living Hear And Now, p. 119

Yesterday, I continued my series of the beatitudes of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 5:3-12, with a message on Matthew 5:8. Here is the sermon skeleton.

Title: "The Window in Your Heart"

Text: Matthew 5:8

Theme: The blessedness of purity of heart

Point: God blesses the pure in heart.


I. What does it mean to be pure in heart?

    A. God is looking at your heart.

    B. God is looking for purity.

       1. Purity of heart is not sinlessness.

       2. Purity of heart is a sincere devotion to God

       3. Purity of heart is a single devotion to God

II. What does it mean to see God?

    A. The natural eye cannot see God.

    B. The pure in heart can see God.

       1. The pure heart will see God in heaven one day.

       2. The pure heart can see God on earth right now.

Notes from Sunday - Father's Day, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

I have been thinking about my father all day. I miss him. And I thank God for his continued influence in my life and ministry.

My my called me to wish me a happy Father's Day. She reminded me that she loves me and is proud of me. It was really special for me to hear that from her today.

H.B. and Natalie picked out my Father's Day gifts for the first time. I can tell which ones their mother did not help them select. But I loved the gifts they selected and the fact that they made the effort to get me something special.

Today was Hailey's first Father's Day. She is the most special gift to me today.

Some of the members used today as an excuse to do something nice for me. I am very grateful.

I continued our series on the beatitudes of Jesus with a message on Matthew 5:8, which I labeled, "The Window in Your Heart."

I am really enjoying preaching the beatitudes. Too bad I only have two left. May the Lord the remainder of our study of the Sermon on the Mount.

We had dinner with my pastor, Dr. Melvin Wade, and his family this afternoon. It was a good meal and great time of fellowship.

Tiger Woods is a beast.

The Lakers refuse to lay down and die. But they will not win two games in Boston. Will they?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Provocative Thought on Sermon Illustration

My week is being devastated by Chris Erdman and his book, Countdown to Sunday: A Daily Guide for those Who Dare to Preach. This series of brief essays pokes holes in so many foolish assumptions about preaching - from matters of technique to issues of purpose. While I do not agree with everything Erdman writes, I am enjoying the conversation (sometimes argument) about what it means to host the text on Sunday mornings in such a way that you allow the mischief of God in the text to do its missional work in the life of the gathered congregation.

Here is a thought about sermon illustrations that I just read that I couldn't resist the urge to share. I think it will be leaning over my shoulder as my prepare my sermons for weeks to come, especially when I began thinking about how to illustrate the message of the text.

By the way we engage in this business of sermon illustration you'd think we don't believe that the Bible's very interesting. By the way we illustration, we preachers seem to be saying that this old, embarrassingly distant, hard-to-understand text requires us preachers to mine its gold, discover a useful theme, and then hammer it into a trusty form for delivery. "Three points and a point." Or to update the phrase, "three points and a video clip." (p. 111)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pictures from June 1

Here are some pictures from June 1, our first Sunday in our remodeled auditorium.

Thanks, Venus, for the pictures. They are great.

H.B. leading some part of the worship service.

The saints in worship.

The congregation.

My sisters - Tracy, Donetta, and Harriette - with me and Hailey

The family. Apparently H.B.3 is too cool now to smile.

The church sign.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Conspiracy of Kindness

"It is immediately apparent that if the implication of the fifth beatitude were put into practice with greater zeal and consistency the preaching of the gospel would be far more effective! What a blessing for mankind this would be!" - William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 276

Here is the sermon skeleton from Sunday's message:

Sermon Title: "A Conspiracy of Kindness"

Text: Matthew 5:7

Theme: The blessedness of being merciful

Point: God blesses those who are merciful.


I. The blessedness of mercy extended (5:7a)

    A. The definition of mercy: compassion in action.

    B. The demonstration of mercy

        1. How: The manner of mercy

          * It is to be practical (Matt. 25:31-46).

          * It is to be continual.

          * It is to be humble (Matt. 6:1-4).

       2. When: The moments of mercy

           * When the hurting need sympathy.

           * When the poor need generosity.

          * When the guilty need forgiveness.

II. The blessedness of mercy experienced (5:7b)

    A. This is not a legalistic blessing.

    B. This is a midway blessing.

       1. We are merciful because we have received mercy.

       2. We are merciful because we will receive mercy.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Notes from Sunday - 06/08/08

It was good to be home after several days away.

I was rather tired Sunday, probably still adjusting time zones again. But the Lord gave me strength to preach.

We have our first baptisms in our remodeled auditorium during our second service. Hallelujah!

I continued our series on the beatitudes with a message on Matthew 5:7, which I called, "A Conspiracy of Kindness."

I feel like I am finally getting into a rhythm with this new series of messages. And I can't wait to get to the pulpit next Sunday to preach on Matthew 5:8 - the pure in heart.

There was quite a bit of walking during the second service. And several times in the message, I totally lost my train of thought. Arrgghh!

Over the past weeks, I think I have been preaching shorter than normal. But the messages yesterday lengthened out to get out most of what I wanted to say. I am getting more relaxed in preaching again. Praise the Lord!

The choir was hot in both services. But in the second service, I was moved to sing a little. I led the congregation in a piece of two hymns before the message: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and "Even Me, Lord." You just can't beat those old hymns.

H.B. and Natalie ditched us Sunday afternoon. So Crystal, Hailey, and I went out to have a quiet meal after the services. However, we picked a place filled with church folk we know from around town. So much for the quiet meal.

I had a long, refreshing Sunday afternoon nap. Do you believe in spiritual warfare through long naps? You should.

When I woke up, I discovered that the Lakers were losing. No, they were getting beat down. Sure, they had a good fourth quarter. But that only means that they worked harder to lose. Will a game 5 even be necessary? Let the church say, "Sweep!"

Sunday, June 08, 2008

My 450th Blog Post

I wrote a post this morning as I was preparing to fly home from Newark. And when I published it, I noticed that it was my 449th blog post. So I thought I would write number 500 today to say, "Wow, I have written 450 blog posts!"

About a week ago, someone wrote a comment to me about something I wrote in June, 2006. When I read the comment, I was a little surprised. It had not dawned on me that I had been writing this blog that long.

This occasion caused me to do a little reflection. Here is a random collection of my thoughts and feelings about writing this weblog.

I think the name of this blog, HBlogCharlesJr., is hilarious. No one has ever mentioned it to me. But there are times when I read it and just crack up.

I decided to try blogging after reading Dr. Ray Pritchard's blog for months.

I love to write. I use the word "love" only because I cannot think of a stronger word to describe my passion for writing. I love words and sentences and grammar and editing and ideas. I love to write. And writing this blog is giving more confidence that I can and should put some of my work in book form soon.

I read books on blogging. And, yes, if I was in high school, I would be sitting with the geeks and nerds at lunch.

Yes, I write all of my own blog posts. I do not have any "ghost-bloggers" writing stuff for me. However, I would like to publish some guest blog posts in the future.

Blogging really doesn't take up much of my time. I am a husband, father, pastor, and dog-owner. And time is one of the most precious commodity that I have. So I wouldn't be able to let this blog consume too much of my time. So sometimes I write everyday. Other times I write several posts at a time and publish them at a later date. And when I don't feel like it, I don't blog at all.

The time a post is published does not necessarily reflect when it was written.

I try not to blog when I am in a bad mood or am having negative thoughts. I don't want my writing to be cynical. So there are some times when I go several days without posting in order to give myself some time to get out of a funky mood.

I do not write about politics.

It is really cool to meet people around the country who keep up with me, my family, and my ministry through this blog. Please, keep reading.

I have absolutely no idea how many people read this blog. And I don't think I want to know.

I read every comment anyone makes on my blog. But I do not respond to them as much as I would like to. I will try harder to start some stimulating conversations and then actually participate in them to help keep them going.

As much as it seems that I share a lot of personal stuff on this blog, I am actually a rather private man. Go figure.

I think it's groovy that more pastors and preachers are taking up blogging. And, yes, I used the word "groovy."

Do not trust anything that I write about sports. I am a passionate sports fan. And, like most sports fans, I have strong opinions about everything. They are usually wrong. (Oh, by the way,  "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!")

I hate it when mean people use blogs to vomit their negativity on other people. You should never say something about a person on a blog that you wouldn't say to that person's face.

It is wrong to post other people's material as your own. If you think someone has written something that your readers should read, then you should make a link on your blog to the original post and let people read the work in the context of the original author's own site. This is proper "blog etiquette."

If you were to ask me what my blog is about, I would probably respond with a blank stare. I really don't know. My blog is about everything and nothing. Yeah. It's the Matrix.

In the future, I hope to post a serious article on various subjects each week. My plan is to publish these articles sometime on Thursdays. I also plan to post a sermon manuscript on the blog each week, as soon as I can figure out how to do it.

I am really into music, especially Gospel music. And I have been planning to regularly write a review of Gospel CD's. But I am still a little uncertain about it. To be honest, there is so much bad but popular music out there, it's difficult to find a whole CD I could freely recommend. To be fair, there is just as much bad preaching these days. These two villains conspire together against the life and health of the church

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessary express the views of my wife, my children, my family, my friends, or my congregation. However, my dog Lido fully agrees with everything I write.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Heading Home to Promote Mercy

I am writing this post from the Newark airport. In about an hour, I will be heading home to my family in Los Angeles. I have preached three messages at the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, where my friend Barron Wilson is the pastor. I preached some of my "get fired" sermons - messages that I preach and then don't get invited back. But the Mt. Calvary received the messages prayerfully and attentively. And Pastor Wilson asked me to come back next year!

I also had the opportunity to spend some time this week with my boyhood friend, Joe Carter, and my fellow-blogger, Lance Mann.

I am going home physically exhausted, but spiritually refreshed.

I miss my family!!!

God willing, in the morning I will continue my series on the beatitudes with a message on Matthew 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Meditating on this verse this week has been stimulating, challenging, and somewhat burdensome. I think this statement of Jesus addresses the reason why the Christian church in American is not more fruitful in winning the lost, changing lives, and transforming the culture. Unfortunately, we are so busy being right that we have forgotten to be merciful.

As I read the Gospels, I see that sinful and outcast people were attracted to Jesus. And he received them lovingly, without compromising his spiritual priorities. But it seems that the church today is more like a convention of Pharisees, rather than followers of the Lord Jesus. We don't want to be deals with sinners and they don't want to deal with us. Where is the ministry of mercy?

I believe that revival and reformation in our day require that we both proclaim the truth about Jesus and demonstrate the love of Jesus. Did you get that? It's both/and, not either/or.

May the Lord help me to confront and encourage the members of MSMBC with the subversive politics of the kingdom tomorrow morning by declaring the blessedness of extending and receiving mercy.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Me and Crystal at Saturday's Wedding

Crystal and I walked out of the house Saturday, without bringing our camera. So we were unable to take any pictures at John and Vanessa's wedding. But here is a picture Suzan took of me and Crystal after the ceremony. Thanks Suzan for the picture.

Speaking @ Mt. Calvary Baptist Church

I am in New Jersey to preach a three-night revival, which is a part of the 57th Church Anniversary for Pastor Barron O. Wilson and the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church of Jersey City. This is my second year doing this meeting. Last year, we worshiped in another part of the building, as the main auditorium was being remodeled. But the congregation was able to resume their services in their auditorium this past Sunday. So it is all the more wonderful for me to be here to celebrate this special time with Pastor Wilson and the Mt. Calvary family.

When I checked my bag in yesterday, I was informed that my flight was delayed because of air traffic issues at the Newark airport. So I sat and read. Then I checked my emails. Then I returned some phone calls. Finally, my stay-busy activities were interrupted with news... The flight was delayed again. And once we were able to board the plane, we sat on the runway for an hour before we departed.

Amazingly, the pilots were able to make up most of the time in the air. And I arrived in Newark about 7 pm. I got my bag, checked-in to the hotel, put on a tie, and went to preach.

Just another day in the "glamorous life" of a traveling preacher.

There was a specific message that was on my heart to preach last night. And as I preached it, I had the weird, reoccurring sensation that I was preaching this message to myself more than to anyone else. After the service, I listened as various people told me that the message was just for them. I was glad and grateful to hear it. But I kept thinking to myself, "It was for me, too!" It's funny how the Lord works.

Please pray for the two remaining nights of this meeting and for the Lord's continued work in the life and ministry of Pastor Wilson and the Mt. Calvary Church.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Some Pictures from Sunday

Here are a few pictures from this past Sunday. My wife and kids took most of the shots with my camera. But they were so excited that we didn't get very many pictures. I should have more pictures to post soon.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Notes from Sunday - 6/1/08

I have been in post-Sunday recovery today. It was a long, good weekend.

My entire family went to church together for the first time - all five of us. Oh, what a feeling!

I have never been a part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony before. So I don't know if I did it right. I just cut the ribbon, said, "Praise the Lord!" and rushed in to our remodeled auditorium so that we could worship God together.

There were many guests, friends, and well-wishers present in both of our morning services. Always encouraging.

I led the singing in our worship services yesterday. It has been a while since I have done that. But it was a wonderful privilege to lead the congregation in worship on this special day. I actually went longer than I was supposed to at the first service. It was great for us to lift our voices together in grateful praise to God.

I was so nervous and excited and grateful. I did not think that I would be able to preach. But, as always, God was faithful to help me to carry out my assignment.

I continued my series on the Sermon on the Mount/Beatitudes with a message on Matthew 5:6, which I labeled, "How Is Your Appetite?"

Hailey heard her daddy-person preach for the first time. She is still reserving judgment about my preaching until she can hear how consistent I am over the next couple of months.

After our morning worship services, we had an open house, so that the members could look around our new facilities. Several members mentioned how nice it was that my study had gone from the basement at our old site to a second-story "Upper Room" study at our new facilities.

Yesterday afternoon, I preached for my friend Nathaniel Hailey's 11th pastoral anniversary at 1st Antioch Baptist Church. I preached a message from a passage I have been meditating on quite a bit lately: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. I called it, simply, "Don't Be Discouraged." It is funny how you can be preaching a sermon that you believe others really need to hear, only to discover midway through it that you are preaching to yourself!

Last night, the was a benefit service for a local pastor who is sick. This is one of the things I love about the pastors of Los Angeles. When a brother is in need, the pastors of this area always rise to the occasion. My pastor, Dr. Melvin Wade of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, preached the message. He talked about "What To Do When All Hope Is Gone," from the story of Jairus' daughter in Mark 5. What a message! I needed this wonderful reminder that there is nothing too hard for Jesus.