Sunday, May 31, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 05/31/09

Today was another long but blessed Sunday. The worship services were rich at Shiloh today. Praise God for another wonderful Lord’s Day.

Our Women’s Chorus sung in our two morning worship services. Thank God for all the women who served us by leading us in musical praise today.

I taught our mass Bible Study Fellowship today. I did an exposition of 1 Peter 2:1-3 – “A Call To Spiritual Growth.”

In our worship services, I continued my exposition of Philippians today with a message on Philippians 1:14-18, which I entitled, “Facing Friendly Fire.”

Next Sunday’s text: Philippians 1:19-21.

Praise God for those who were saved and added to the church today.

This afternoon, I spoke at the William M. Raines High School's Baccalaureate Service for the graduating class of 2009. This was a first for me. High schools in Los Angeles do not have these types of services, as far as I know. I was honored to host this service and speak to the graduating class. May the good seed fall on good ground.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Speaking @ Inspirational B.C. in Cincinnati

Last night I spoke at the 2009 Holy Convocation services being hosted by Bishop Victory Couzens and the Inspirational Baptist Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a great worship service. Joe Pace, of the Colorado Mass Choir, is the worship leader of this congregation. And the musical praise was very uplifting. And the congregation was eager to hear the word of God explained. Who could ask for more?

I met Pastor Couzens for the fist time last night. But I was very grateful to see the good work the Lord is doing through him and his congregation. Since his arrival at Inspirational in 2000, the Lord has blessed Couzens (who is still in his early thirties) and Inspirational to experience great growth, spiritually and numerically.

On Easter Sunday, Inspirational worshiped for the first time in their brand new facilities (their second in nine years), which includes a main auditorium, youth and adult Christian education space, an administrative wing, a gym and skate rink for the young people. Built on the site of a former theme park, the congregation even has a miniature golf course on its campus.

The services this week are a part of a week long celebration of God's goodness to this congregation. Bishop Victor Curry from Miami spoke on Sunday morning. Pastor Jeffrey Johnson from Indianapolis spoke on Tuesday night. Pastor Kevin Cosby from Louisville spoke on Tuesday night. And Bishop Greg Davis from Collegeville will close the meeting out tonight.

Please remember Pastor Couzens and the Inspirational Church family in your prayers.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sermons Don't Grow On Trees

I am a husband, a father, and a pastor. These are my primary responsibilities. And these central roles, and all that go along with them, do not include the other responsibilities and opportunities the Lord has entrusted to me. I have a full and busy life. But there is one responsibility that is the more demanding than them all. Bar none. Without question. Sermon preparation! The wonderful privilege and terrible responsibility of weekly preparation is bondage. A sweet, rewarding bondage. But bondage nonetheless.

Most other things in my life are shaped by this primary task. That is, I am convinced that you must live the life of a preacher in order to do the work of a preacher faithfully and fruitfully. Preaching cannot be a "back burner" issue in your life, if you are going to preach with skill and power and diligence. You must have your priorities straight.

When the apostles were forced to deal with an issue of growing pains in the early church; the set a group of godly men over the pressing matter, rather than handling it themselves. The apostles stated their ministerial priorities in clear and simple terms: prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Now it seems that we who are pastors are most concerned about the “table” matters that the apostles sought to avoid. We love to serve, plan, organize, manager, and administrate. And in the process, the ministry of the word is left unattended.

The point I want to make, however, is not really meant for those who preach. I want to say something to those whose task it is to listen to those who preach from week to week. Sermons do not grow on trees! Biblical preaching is hard work. Indeed, there are preachers who do it well and make it look so easy. But in most instances, the good preachers work very hard to make it look easy.

Before I go any further with this, let me admit that sermons do grow on trees for some preachers. Those who find sermon on trees fall into two categories. First, there are those who do not take preaching seriously.

A friend recently told me about a visionary pastor who is doing great things in the community. I was genuinely impressed, until I asked what kind of preacher the guy was. He told me that the guy’s goal is to preach as rarely as possible. I replied, "Don't tell me any more about him." I lost all interest when I discovered this brother did not make preaching a priority in his pastoral work. A pastor who does not preach is an oxymoron. Faithful biblical preaching is my primary, central, and definitive responsibility as a pastor.

Likewise, sermons grow on trees for those who take preaching seriously, but are not serious about preparation. For some men, the work of preaching is pretty easy because all it requires is that they find someone else’s work to steal. Without a doubt, no preacher is original. And if we are not learning from others, we should not be teaching. I would advise a man to milk a lot of cows, but churn your own butter. But beware. Pulpit plagiarism makes lazy preachers! And it cheats the congregation, no matter how well it is received. Not to mention, it’s unethical!

May we who preach take heed to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, ESV). If you are a senior pastor, or a associate pastor who has weekly preaching duties, make sure you do your best to prepare yourself to rightly hand the word of truth. Plan your preaching. Delegate. And study. Think yourself empty. Read yourself full. Write yourself clear. And pray yourself hot. Then go to the pulpit and preach as a dying man to dying men, as Thomas Baxter said, as never to preach again.

If you are a leader or a member of a local church, do all you can to encourage your pastor to spend the needed time in the study to get himself ready to preach. Pray for him. Thank God for the shepherd God has given you to feed you with knowledge and understanding. Encourage him as you see his diligence in study is evident in his pulpit work. Make sure your pastor has the tools (translated: "books") he needs to do the heavy lifting of Bible exposition. Do not call on him to kill cockroaches (thanks for the line, Tony Morgan). That is, do not consume him with so many secondary matters that he does not have the time or energy to give to the study of the word of God. Consider him worthy of double honor if he labors in preaching and teaching (1 Tim 5:17). Above all, remember that sermons don’t grow on trees!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reaching the End of Psalm 119

Tonight, in our Midweek Worship Service at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, I plan to conclude my exposition of the longest passage in the Bible – Psalm 119.

I began preaching through Psalm 119, stanza by stanza (or eight verses at a time), last September. I had not yet moved from Los Angeles. But I was traveling to Jacksonville to preach the Wednesday night services.

It is easier for me to prepare to preach when I am working through one extended passage of scripture. Moreover, I believe sequential exposition is the most faithful way to preach the word of God. And I knew that my transition process from Los Angeles would require that I land somewhere in scripture and be prepared to stay there fro a while. But I was surprised when the Lord placed Psalm 119 on my heart to preach.

I was glad that I would be preaching through a portion of scripture that I had previous preached through before. And I was even more glad to spend more time in Psalm 119 and to work on the manuscripts I had preached about four years ago. I would love to publish these messages one day in written form. But I still concerned about preaching this psalm as my first extended series at my new congregation.

Why, Lord, Psalm 119?

In retrospect, I think the Lord was using this psalm to further prepare me for the work that is ahead of me here. It was one thing to preach this series after serving in a local church for fifteen years. But it struck me differently to preach these messages as the new guy at a new church in a new town. At some point, I could not avoid the fact that it felt like I was preaching these message to myself more than anyone else.

I believe it is significant that we have started our journey as pastor and people at Shiloh celebrating the total sufficiency of God’s word to save the lost, nurture the believer, govern the church, order the worship, comfort the troubled, guide the confused, and even change the culture. I am totally convinced that the health and growth of a church must be measured in terms of its devotion to the word of God. Likewise, the growth and fruitfulness of every believer is inextricably tied to your devotion to the word of God.

My simple prayer for Shiloh is that we would be a biblically regulated church in every way. This means more that we preach and teach sound doctrine from the pulpit. It means that every area of the life is shaped by the word of God. Indeed, we have a long way to go. So does every church! But I we are going in the right direction. And I pray that the time we have spend together in Psalm 119 would be a means through God is pleased to cause us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Happens to What Happens to You

This Sunday, I continued my exposition of Philippians. I preached from the beginning of the main body, verses 12-14. Here is the sermon skeleton from Sunday's message:

Title: "What Happens to What Happens to You"

Text: Philippians 1:12-14

Sermon Series: Philippians: Partnership in the Gospel

Theme: The overruling providence of God

Point: God is in control of everything that happens in your life.

Transitional Sentence: Look beyond what happens to you and trust that God rules over and works through the circumstances of life.


I. God reigns over the circumstances of life (1:12)

A. God's sovereign providence overrules what happens to you (v. 12a)

B. God's eternal purpose overrules what happens to you (v. 12b)

II. God works through the circumstances of life (1:13-14)

A. God can use your circumstances to influence unbelievers (v. 13)

B. God can use your circumstances to influence other believers (v. 14)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Notes from Sunday - Memorial Day Weekend 2009

I was quite sentimental yesterday. I had spent the week preparing to preach on the ironic providence of God. All the while, I could not forget that it was Memorial Day weekend 2008 when I first met the leaders and members of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. Boy does time fly!

I remember meeting with various leadership groups that Saturday. Later that evening, I talked to Crystal about how my day went. She asked, "Well, what do you think?" I replied, "I think I have two sermons to preach in the morning. And then I am coming home to get back to my life and work." Oh well. God had other plans.

I do remember how many of my stereotypes about Shiloh were shattered that weekend. I met many kind and loving people. The leaders I met were serious and prayerful. And the worship services were warm and uplifting. I would lie if I denied that I sense a real connection with the congregation. But I mentally wrote it off as the Lord just blessing me to have a good day of worship and preaching. Oh well. God had other plans.

I am truly grateful that the Lord ignored my plans and accomplished his own plans in my life. I desperately miss my family and friends in Los Angeles. But I will not dishonor God by complaining. God has been too good to me. He has sent me to a loving congregation and craves the word of God, is willing to follow leadership, and strives to accomplish great things for God. Of course, there are challenges here. There were challenges in Los Angeles. And there will be anywhere the Lord sends. So with all that God is doing in my life, family, and ministry, I can't complain. Can a man be more blessed?

Our youth choir and young adult choral (which is only several months old) led the musical praise in our morning worship services. I am grateful for their service and participation. May the Lord bless these two groups to grow, both spiritually and numerically, to make a vital contribution to our desire for God-intoxicated worship at Shiloh.

I walked into our 8 AM service, I saw a familiar face. But I said to myself, "That could not be him." So I stopped and asked, "Brother, do I know you." It was who I thought it was, Dr. Jackson, pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Chicago. I went over to speak and asked what he was doing in town. He said, "Dr. Curry and I..." "Dr. Curry is here?" I interrupted. When he answered in the affirmative, I thought to myself that I would not be preaching that service.

Dr. L.K. Curry is the Pastor-Emeritus of Emmanuel. And he is one of the great preaching voices in the country. At 83 years, he is still going strong. And his life of integrity, service, and preaching is a great witness to the faithfulness of God. I just could not rob myself or my congregation of the opportunity to hear this great man of God.

By the time Dr. Curry made it into the room, the service had already begun. During the fellowship period, I went down, spoke, and told him to get ready to preach. Less that five minutes later, Dr. Curry stood and blessed us with a powerful word from God. What a blessing! After hearing Dr. Curry, who is one of Crystal's favorite preachers, she announced her day was already made! I agreed.

Praise God for all the guests who were present in our worship services yesterday.

I did not teach my New Members Class yesterday. Thanks Deacon Brinkley for filling in for me.

In our 10 AM, I continued my exposition of Philippians. I preached a message on Philippians 1:12-14, entitled, "What Happens to What Happens to You."

I plan to preach Philippians 1:15-18 this coming Sunday: "Facing Friendly Fire."

Thank God for those who were saved and added to the church in our worship services.

The Orlando Magic defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers last night 99-89 to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. Come on, Lebron. What's the deal?

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Praying for God's Best

This past Sunday, I continued my exposition on the book of Philippians with a message on the prayer report of Paul recorded in Philippians 1:9-11.

Here is the sermon skeleton.

: Praying for God’s Best

TEXT: Philippians 1:9-11


THEME: A prayer for spiritual growth and maturity

POINT: Pray for God’s best. (God accomplishes his best with our partnership through believing prayer.)

TRANSITIONAL SENTENCE: Philippians 1:9-11 teaches us three ways to pray for God’s best.


I.    Pray that love may abound (1:9)

     A.    True love goes beyond the boundaries: "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more"
     B.    True love stays within the boundaries: "with knowledge and all discernment"

        1.    Love should be governed by knowledge.

        2.    Love should be governed by discernment.

II.    Pray that excellence may prevail (1:10)

    A.    God wants you to know what is best: "so that you may approve what is excellent"

    B.    God wants you to do what is best: "and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ"

        1.    Live with sincerity

        2.    Live with integrity

III.    Pray that fruit may grow (1:11)

    A.    The priority of the fruitful life: "filled with the fruit of righteousness"

    B.    The power of the fruitful life: "that comes through Jesus Christ"

    C.    The purpose of the fruitful life "to the glory and praise of God"

       1. We are to exalt the majesty of who God is: "glory"

       2. We are to exalt the power of what God has done: "praise"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 05/17/09

At the end of last year, I put on the church calendar for us to celebrate the 134th church anniversary of the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church on May 17. With so many things going on recently, I was not able to properly plan for it. I even failed to mention it yesterday. May the Lord help me make up for that next year. No, I am not into traditional church anniversary celebrations. But I am really into celebrating the faithfulness of God. Each week, churches around America shut their doors for the last time. And the fact that the Lord has sustained the ministry and witness of this local church for more than one hundred years is truly something a good reason to pause and rejoice in the Lord. Praise God for his faithfulness to SMBC. May the Lord be pleased to continue to use this great church to advance the kingdom of heaven in the world until Jesus comes again!

Last week, I preached the citywide revival in Buffalo, New York - preaching five sermons and teaching three lessons on preaching in five days. It was a wonderful meeting. I truly didn't expect to be so enriched. The worship and fellowship was just what I needed. And I left town with new friends. I did not, however, get to see Niagara Falls, which was twenty minutes from my room. But I was so glad to get home Saturday evening. And I was even more glad to be behind my prayer desk at Shiloh to preach the word to my beloved congregation. God has smiled on me to assign me to shepherd a flock that so loves the word of God.

Last week, our New Members Class did not meet, because there was a mass session for the women during the Bible Study Fellowship hour. I resumed our New Members Class with a lesson today on "How To Pray Effectively." As always, I had a great time in fellowship around the word with the new members of SMBC.

The musical praise led by our music department and choir was wonderful.

By the way, Mike Rodgers starting singing "O Happy Day" with the choir before the 10 AM service! What would Edwin Hawkins think?

I continued my exposition of the book of Philippians with the message from the prayer of Paul in Philippians 1:9-11. I labeled the message, "Praying for God's Best."

I love preaching on prayer. And I have found the prayers of Paul in the New Testament are great examples of prayer and instruction on how to pray. My message only scratched the surface of all that I had learned from studying this prayer report. If you want to jump start your prayer life, read, meditate on, and study the prayers of Paul.

I was also moved by the fact that Philippians 1:9-11 is the record of a pastor praying for his people. The work of a pastor involves many things. But there is no way a pastor can study the New Testament without being confronted by the centrality of prayer to pastoral ministry. With all the responsibilities that I have as a pastor, may I not compromise the biblical priorities of prayer and the ministry of the word.

Praise God for those who were saved and added to the church in our worship services.

My son has started helping the media ministry after church. And he now discusses my sermon with me in terms of how many CD's it did or did not sell after church. I thought America did not torture!

Minutes after Crystal pulled away from the church, I was fast asleep in the car. Tired.

As I took my Sunday afternoon nap, the Los Angeles Lakers slipped into the NBA Western Conference Finals. We shall see if the Denver Nuggets will be able to do what the Houston Rockets could not do.

The Orlando Magic put down the Boston Celtics in the second game 7 of the day. I really didn't have a feeling one way or the other. I just feel sorry for the Magic. The Cleveland Cavaliers will make quick work of them.

I wonder if I am the only one who enjoyed the thunderstorm we had in Jacksonville last night?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What Made You Move?

“What made you move?” is the provocative question I was asked this afternoon. “I heard you mention that you recently relocated,” he continued. “What made you do it?”

The inquirer did not know me personally. He has heard me preach and teach over the past several days, I presume. At the least, he had just listened to me lecture for an hour and a half, during which I compared my pulpit work in Los Angeles to my new work in Jacksonville several times. And without knowing anything about my story, he was curious. So he asked. He went on to explain where he was going with the question. And he told me a bit of his own story, which made the question relevant to him. And he confessed that he was just curious.

I was only able to give him a sixty-second answer. About a minute into my response, several brothers approached with questions and comments. And we were unable to finish our conversation. But after we parted ways, the question was still on my mind. What made you move? And a larger question emerged. What practical steps should one take in seeking to discern the will of God in an important decision?

My situation is unique. And you should never follow the advice of someone just because it is they way they did it. But there may be some helpful principles you can glean from my experience and process of decision-making, as I was considered a major relocation of my family and ministry.

Admittedly, I was not conscious of most of the things I will mention as they were occurring. It is only now, some months removed from these events, that I can begin to make heads or tails of some of these things. If you didn’t know, I am a retro-prophet. I have no power to foresee or foretell. But I can predict yesterday with great accuracy.

Here is what I would recommend to someone who desires spiritual direction for an important decision.

Pray. James 1:5 says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (ESV). This is an important and faithful promise that too many believers fail to take advantage of. But I would encourage you to start here as you process important decisions. Do you need wisdom? Ask God for it. Tell the Lord all about the situation. Pray for his guidance, leadership, and direction. Then trust that God will keep his word to give you wisdom with generosity and without chastising you for asking.

Trust the providence of God. I am not one of those persons to whom God reveals what’s coming way down the road. I cannot see what is around the corner. And I don’t have a sense of what is on the other side of the present obstacles. The Lord usually deals with me by simply directing me to the next step I should take. And when I have taken that step, he reveals the next step. And it is only over time that I am able to look back and see where I have come from or look ahead and get a sense of where the path will end. This is how it was for me as I was considering the possibility of relocation. If you would have asked me flat out if I was going anywhere, I would have told you no. But I was pretty clear about the next steps I should take. And at some point, I could tell that things were going in a certain direction.

Likewise, there is a sense in which I was putting God to the test. I do not recommend this. And there have been only rare occasions in my life when I have prayed like this, typically when I did just did not know what to do. I would say to God, “Lord, if you are in this, do this or don’t do that.” And each time, God did it. And it is as if he would say afterward, “Okay. Now what?” And I would find another condition. And every time I came out of the huddle, I would look up and God had moved the ball down the field. Let me be clear. I do not recommend that you deal with God this way. But this is what happened in my situation. I was Peter in a storm, asking the Lord, “If it is you, bid me to come to you on the water.” And he did.

Know your Priorities. I had a lot of voices with many different opinions, as I was considering if and/or how to proceed with the possibility of a call being extending by the Shiloh Church. I would have been absolutely dazed and confused, without a personal anchoring point. And you should be careful of armchair quarterbacks, who know how the game should be played, because they are fantasy football champions. It’s a whole different matter when you are actually on the field and the defensive linemen are charging after you. You need to have a game plan that reflects who and what and where you are.

For me, there were several key priorities for me to factor in as I processed things. But there was one most important personal priority, after the ultimate goal of doing what is pleasing to the Lord. Crystal Reanne Charles. More than any human being, my wife Crystal knows me. We have spent a decade together as husband and wife. And we share three children together. Crystal knows my strengths and my weaknesses. She has great respect for me but is not impressed with by me as the same time. She is honest with me and forces me to be honest with her.

God has entrusted Crystal and my children to my spiritual oversight. My family is my congregation, if I do not pastor anywhere else. So Crystal’s view of things was paramount. If she was not on board, that was the decision. But as we would talk about it, she kept saying, “For some reason, I think you should remain open to this.” After Shiloh voted, I was still not sure what to do. I bought a ticket to go meet with the leaders, looking for an excuse… I mean reason to tell them I was staying in Los Angeles. But I was still not sure. I reached my decision as I was flying to Jacksonville. Crystal’s affirmation was an important element in my being able to reach that decision. We really didn’t say anything to each other on the way to the airport. But as I was getting out of the car at LAX, she kissed me and prayed and told me, “Whatever decision you make, you have my full support.” I cannot tell you how that simple statement cleared away some many clouds that were hanging over my decision.

Get godly counsel. Along with Crystal’s vital input, I was blessed to have a multitude of godly counselors (Prov. 11:14; 15:22). My pastor’s advice was invaluable. (By the way, if you do not have a pastor who’s counsel you respect, I pity you.) I also have several mentors and colleagues whose advice I trust. I talked to family members and friends. I even sought the advise of several people in my life who are not into the things of God, but who care about me. However, I did try to avoid talking to people who would respond to the situation emotionally. For instance, anyone who I felt was going to talk to me about what my dad would think was someone I avoided. That kind of emotional pressure would not have been helpful to me.

Interestingly, most of the people I talked to did not try to tell me what to. They listened. They gave their opinions. And they talked to me about the situation in light of what they know about me. Most encouraging were those who told me they were confident that the Lord would continue to bless my ministry if I decided to stay in Los Angeles or move to Jacksonville. But even those who had a specific opinion of what I should do, one way or the other, thought enough of me to state their viewpoint carefully, rather than acting like they had the final word of what the Lord wanted me to do. What a blessing!

Consider what fits you. I would have never considered the pastoral opening at Shiloh had it not been for several respected friends who told me that they thought it would be a good fit for me. I remember responding to the first three people who told me this by laughing. Long and hard. In fact, I responded to the first person that said this to me by saying (after I stopped laughing), “You would be a better fit than I would!” But after hearing this from so many different people, Crystal and I concluded that it was something we should at least consider and pray about. At this point, I cannot tell you how many people have said to me that they think me and Shiloh are a good fit as pastor and people. When I hear this, I inwardly smile, considering how God has a way of showing others things about you that you cannot see for yourself. This is why you should not make major decisions in a vacuum. You need people who know you well to serve as rear view mirrors for you to help you see the things that your blind spots prevent you from seeing about yourself and your situation.

Follow the sense of divine calling. I had no reason to leave Los Angeles and every reason to stay. Crystal and I had just had our third baby. And MSMBC had just purchased new facilities, something we had been praying for and working toward for several years. As we moved, I was convinced that the Lord was putting my roots deeper in the ground at MSMBC. Looking back, I think it may have been the direct opposite. I think the decision to move would not have been something I would have been able to consider if the church was still at 1800. Too much attachment. But the Lord forced me to deal with that before Shiloh was ever in the picture. I think I was divinely set-up. But only God knows.

Anyway, after we moved, I prayed a prayer that I regularly prayed over my almost eighteen years at MSMBC. I would offer God my resignation, as it were, and give God his church back. It would go something like this: “Lord, I am your servant. You are in charge of my assignment. And this is your church, not mine. Do whatever you want to do with me and this church. But do not let me forget that I am yours and this church is yours.” I am not sure. But I think this effort to be open to God helped me to be ready to discern the call of God when it was time to move.

I remember the day I met with the pulpit committee at Shiloh. I said to the deacon who was escorting me that I thought this was a complete waste of time. He stopped in the hallway and pleaded with me not to play the Jonah. Defiantly, I replied that I could not be Jonah, because the Lord had not told me to go anywhere! But less than three months later, when I was convinced that I was to go to Shiloh, I refused to play the Jonah. Honestly, I felt the Lord was sending me on a suicide mission. I did not want to go. And I could not understand why the Lord was doing this to me. But none of that mattered. I finally knew that it was the will of God that I move. And God already had my “Yes.”

A pre-commitment to say, “Yes.” Throughout this entire process, I had to deal with confusion and uncertainty and doubt. But as I prayed my way through, I regularly began my prayers with a statement of commitment. I would pray, “Lord, before I say or ask anything about this situation, I want you to know that you already have my yes.” Then I would pray about whatever was on my heart and mind. I had my concerns. But I was not trying to negotiate with God. More than anything, I did not was to miss God. I could not afford to miss God. Who cares if I looked foolish to people in any of this? I just wanted to make sure I did what was pleasing to God. God does not reveal his will for entertainment purposes. God reveals his will to those who had a precommitment to obey. So I wanted the Lord to know that whatever way he led me, my answer was yes. And I am so glad I said yes.

What’s your answer?

Speaking @ the Buffalo Citywide Revival

I am in Buffalo, New York. I am preaching the citywide revival hosted by the local Baptist Minister's Conference. President Daniels extended the invitation to me, after hearing me preach the Faith Seminary graduation at the WHW Expository Preaching Conference in Los Angeles some years ago. Isn't amazing how God works through us even when we have no idea what he is doing and who he is touching?

The first three days have been great meetings. One of the local pastors, Pastor Blackburn, has been lecturing each night on saving our youth. There has also been a citywide mass choir that has lifted us up in worship each night. And it has been a pure joy for me to minister the word to this assembled congregation each night.

The men also asked me to teach on preaching Tuesday through Thursday in the afternoon. And the past two days have been great. I didn't expect the men to come out to here this upstart teach them anything about preaching. But when I came into the room, several pastors, who have been preaching longer than I have been alive, were already sitting there with pens and pads waiting to study. The past two days, I have endeavored to share with them my process from text to sermon. And our discussions about preaching and pastoral work have been very stimulating. I can talk about preaching all day long! I love it.

I have one more session with the brothers this afternoon.

I am always encouraged when pastors work together for the spiritual benefit of the cause of Christ and reaching their communities. And I am glad to see the attendance of the pastors, and their cooperation with one another, and their desire to see their memberships edified by the word of God.

I am truly having a good time with week in worship and fellowship. But I am homesick. I really missed being in my own midweek worship service last night. But I praise God that the Lord blessed the service in my absence. Likewise, a five-night meeting is... five nights. I think I preached so hard last night out of instinct, as it would have been my last night in town in the typical revivals that I preach. But I am confident that the Lord will give me strength.

Please remember the last days of this meeting, that God would be glorified, the saints will be built up in their faith, and lost people will be won to Jesus Christ by the grace and power of God.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Perseverance of the Saints

I preached on the perseverance of the saints (eternal security) this past Sunday from Philippians 1:6. Here is the sermon skeleton.

SERMON: “The Perseverance of the Saints”

TEXT: Philippians 1:6


THEME: The perseverance of the saints

POINT: The perseverance of the saints is enabled by the preservation of the saints by God.

TRANSITION SENTENCE: Philippians 1:6 highlights two sovereign acts of God that guarantee the perseverance of the saints.


I.    God has begun a good work in you.

     A.    It is a work of God.
     B.    It is a good work.

     C.    It is only the beginning.

II.    God will finish what he has started in you.

     A.    We have divine assurance in Christ.
     B.    We have eternal security in Christ.

     C.    We have great confidence in Christ.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Notes from Sunday - Mothers Day 2009

Sunday was my family's first Mother's Day in Jacksonville and at Shiloh. And we were blessed to have a good day together as a family.

I am sure Crystal had a good day. She bossed us around all day and totally had her way. Happy Mother's Day, Sunshine!

I know all these mentions of "firsts" may seem redundant. But I can't help it. I am still easily shocked that I live in a new city and pastor a different church, even though I have been here for months. A year ago, I was just settling into our new facilities at MSMBC in Los Angeles. And I have never met anyone from Shiloh. Much has changed in a year. I praise God for God knows what is best and he is in charge of my assignment. And I am glad to be where God wants me to be.

Our Men's Chorus led the musical praise in both of our morning services. it was great to have the brothers leading the congregation in praise to our God.

The women had a mass Bible Study yesterday during our Bible Study Fellowship hour. My New Members Class was consequently canceled. Boy did I miss teaching that class. I look forward to resuming my time with the new members this Sunday, God willing.

Our Children's Choir sung in the 10 AM service. They did an excellent job, as usual, and made the day of worship even more special.

I preached from Philippians 1:6 on the Perseverance of the Saints. It is a doctrine that brings me great comfort. I pray that the Lord would cause the church to find this doctrine to be a source of comfort, not controversy.

I was a little nervous about not preaching a Mother's Day sermon, even though I was confident that I was preaching what the Lord had given me to preach. But once I started preaching, those concerns quickly evaporated. And I was able to get on with the business of the day.

Security came and napped up Hailey during my sermon at 10 AM. About time. LOL!

I am looking forward to preaching on Paul's prayer for the church in Philippians 1:9-11 this coming Sunday.

Praise God for those who were saved and added to the church yesterday.

The McKissicks were kind enough to invite us to dinner Sunday afternoon. Their generosity and concern for us has been a great blessing for which we are grateful.

News Flash: The Los Angeles Lakers were stomped down by the Houston Rockets. Stomped down, I say. Wonderful.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Supersizing the Church

The hard truth: God cares more about the holiness of a congregation than He does the size of the congregation. Using numerical benchmarks to somehow size up the blessing God pours out on a congregation or to evaluate members' ability to stay faithful to the guidelines of Scripture lacks spiritual maturity and reveals our reliance on human understanding in our vain attempts to build the kingdom of God through our own methods. -Thomas White & John M. Yeats, Franchising McChurch, p. 63

Why has the church bought into the lie that only big churches can win in the battle against our culture? What victory is it if we accomplish an incredible feat with massive budgets, slick advertising, targeted marketing, and the newest programming? Do we miss out on the greatest experience of God working through the "least of these" to impact all of eternity when we spend our effort more on marketing tactics than prayer? In fact, some of the great movements of God in history have come from small churches that decided to get right with God. As He moved in their midst, their small clay pots, torches, and trumpets become the sharp swords God used to bring salvation to hundreds if not thousands. - White & Yeats, McChurch, p. 68

The church is not a business; its pastors and leaders are not CEOs. The gospel is not a commodity that can be bought and sold, no matter how you want to package, market, or sell it. The church is not designed to be a purveyor of good feelings or emotional experiences like some kind of amusement park or vending machine. We can stall all of this, but the reality is that many churches evaluate themselves by asking the same type of questions mentioned above. Do the people have buy in? Are our ministries cutting edge? Do we utilize the best technology? Are we growing numerically? At the end of time, your congregation will stand before God. He will evaluate your ministries according to the hallmarks of success He put into place for the church, not human inventions. In fact, God's investment strategy is often exactly opposite to the measurements of the world. -White & Yeats, McChurch, p. 70

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Speaking @ First Baptist Church on Mandarin

Dr. Gary Williams is hosting a church institute May 5-7 at the First Baptist Church of Mandarin, a suburb of Jacksonville. And he has graciously invited me to be the keynote speaker for the opening session tonight.

I am scheduled to speak at 7:30 PM. And the service is open to all.

Please remember tonight's meeting in your prayers, as I stand to preach the word. And remember this entire institute in your prayers.

Partnership in the Gospel

Here is my sermon skeleton from Sunday's message. It is the second in a yet-to-be-determined series of expositions through the book for Philippians. This message is based on an introductory section on the letter, in which Paul offers thanksgiving to God for the church at Philippi.

: “Partnership in the Gospel”

TEXT: Philippians 1:3-8


THEME: Partnership in the Gospel

POINT: The church of Jesus Christ ought to be lovingly bound together in partnership in the gospel.

TRANSITIONAL SENTENCE: Paul’s thanksgiving in Philippians 1:3-8 teaches us three dynamics of partnership in the gospel.


I.    The affirmation of gospel partnership (1:3-5)

     A.    Affirmation with thanksgiving (v. 3)

     B.    Affirmation in prayer (v. 4)

    C.    Affirmation because of partnership with the gospel (v. 6)

II.    The assurance of gospel partnership (1:6)

    A.    God has begun a good work in you.

    B.    God will complete what he has started in you.

III.    The affection of gospel partnership (1:7-8)

    A.    Affection rooted in Christian love (v. 7)

        1.    The place of Christian love

        2.    The basis of Christian love

        3.    The extent of Christian love

    B.    Affection rooted in Christian longing (v. 8)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 05/03/09

Can you believe it's May already?

We had a wonderful Lord's Day celebration at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church yesterday. I believe the Lord was glorified. And I believe his people were blessed.

I am truly grateful for the many members of SMBC who serve in various ways to honor God, encourage one another, and welcome the saints. May God bless you richly for your selfless service. And may your tribe increase!

In New Members Class, I taught on the hindrances to effective or answered prayer. I listed five "prayer-busters":

    1. Prayerlessness (James 4:2b)
    2. Unconfessed sin (Isaiah 59:1-2; Ps. 66:18)

    3. A lack of faith (James 1:6-8; Heb. 11:6)

    4. Selfishness (James 4:3)

    5. Broken relationships (Matt. 5:23-24; 1 Peter 3:7).

Praise God for the celebration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Table that we celebrated together in our 10 AM service.

The choir's song of preparation was a medley, "Victory in Jesus"/"O, Sweet Wonder." Praise God! I appreciate the obvious work the music department put in to prepare that number.

I continued our exposition of the book of Philippians. My text was Philippians 1:3-8. I labeled the message with the words of verse 5 - "Partnership in the Gospel."

I am strongly considering going back to preach verse 6 by its self this coming Sunday. It is one of the key verses for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and worthy of an exposition of its own.

Of course, I could not study or preach Philippians 1:3-8 without thinking about the precious and beloved congregation in Los Angeles with which I partnered in the gospel for some 18 years of pastoral ministry.

I need to learn to focus more on what the Lord puts on my mind and heart to say during the sermon, and not worry so much about the things I studied and prepared but did not get to say.

On that same note, the fact that I am reading more than 50 commentaries and references on Philippians is probably not helping the situation. After all my reading, it is difficult to organize and edit down my thoughts for preaching. I trust that, as I press my way through Philippians, I will determine the commentaries that are most helpful and forsake those that are just rewording other people's thoughts. Ray Pritchard is right. I need to learn to learn faster.

Weekly sermon preparation is a wonderful privilege, a stimulating adventure, and a horrible burden. But I wouldn't want to do anything else in the world!

Praise God for those who were saved and added to the church in/through our worship services.

For those of you keeping score, Crystal finally won one. Hailey made it through 8 AM service. Barely.

Manny Pacquiao knocked out Richy Hatton in the second round Saturday night. Unfortunately, I didn't see it. I was still working on my sermon manuscript. But I plan to catch the replay this weekend.