Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You Are What You Eat

I resumed my study of the Sermon on the Mount tonight in our midweek worship service. I am still in the beatitudes. My text was Matthew 5:6: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (ESV). I entitled the message, "How Is Your Appetite?"

I addressed three aspects of this beatitude tonight:

  1. The Menu for True Satisfaction: "righteousness"  

  2. The Appetite for True Satisfaction: "hunger and thirst"

  3. The Blessing of True Satisfaction: "they shall be satisfied"

There was a section of the first point that I failed to cover. But I thought it was important. I wanted to explain the different ways scripture speak of righteousness and what I believe Jesus is referring to in this beatitude. Here is the section of the manuscript:

            Scripture speaks of righteousness several different ways. First of all, there is positional or forensic righteousness, which is the sovereign act by which God declares sinners righteous through faith in Jesus’ blood and righteousness. This is not what Jesus is talking about in our text. Unsaved or unconverted people do not desire to be justified unless or until God changes their heart and leads them to saving faith in Christ. And those who have declared righteous need not hunger and thirst for it. Likewise, there is what you call social righteousness, which involves caring for widows and orphans, providing for those in need, and seeking justice for those who have been wronged. As important as social righteousness is, this is not what Jesus is talking about in our text. He is not saying that all who desire to see the world become a better place are blessed and will have their desires fulfilled. What Jesus is speaking of here is what is called personal or progressive righteousness. That is, those who have been justified by God through faith in Christ demonstrate their righteous standing by a sincere and strong desire to have their daily life be conformed to the righteous position. This is what Jesus blesses in this beatitude. He affirms the citizen of the kingdom of heaven who desires his or her life on earth to be marked by continual and increasing conformity to the will of God.

I was moved today as I thought about a line from Ray Pritchard's book, He's God and We're Not. Commenting on this beatitude, Pritchard writes: "Whatever righteous thing you desire in the spiritual realm, you can have if you want it badly enough." Wow! If this statement is true, that means we should live without excuses. We can blame nothing or no one else for our spiritual condition. If this beatitude is true, we can be as close to God as we want to be.

I was glad to be home and in my own pulpit tonight. I was encouraged those who told me that they missed me. It is good to be missed.

Next Wednesday's Message: "A Conspiracy of Kindness" (Matthew 5:7).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 09/27/09

I was in Chicago yesterday to preach the 5th pastoral anniversary services for Pastor Romell Williams and the Lilydale Progressive Missionary Baptist Church.

Romell and I have been friends for some time. I preached for his installation services six years ago. And have preached every year since then, last year being the exception. The day of his anniversary last year was my first Sunday as pastor of Shiloh. He graciously understood. Not every did when my schedule abruptly changed. It was a honor to be invited to be a part of this celebration again.

It was good to be with Romell and Lilydale again. He is a faithful preacher and the good shepherd. I am proud of him and rejoice for all that the Lord is doing in his life and ministry.

I was scheduled to preach for Dr. Steven Thurston’s live broadcast last night at New Covenant Baptist Church. But I was not able to do it. I lost my voice last Wednesday. And I have not regained it yet. It turned into a sore throat over the weekend. And after struggling through two sermons yesterday morning, my body really had all it could take. I appreciate Dr. Thurston’s understanding.

I read of a young Puritan who wore himself out. Literally. On his deathbed, his last words were, “The Lord has given me a message and a horse. I have killed the horse. My God, what shall happen to the message?” I am determined to take better care of my “horse” for the sake of the message the Lord has given me to declare.

I missed being in worship at Shiloh yesterday. But I understand that the Lord blessed the day of worship. Praise God.

Yesterday was only the second time this year that I have not preached at Shiloh on the Lord’s Day. And it continues an unbroken streak of Sunday preaching all year. I do not think that either of these realities is a good thing. The bow that is always drawn soon breaks. I hope to do a better job in 2010 in taking natural and needed break for the sake of prayer, study, and… (Wait for it.) rest.

The fourth Sunday of September last year was my first Sunday as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church. I remember three things about it right of the bat. Natalie was really sick that morning. And Crystal had to take her to the hospital, while I went to preach. Likewise, I preached the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). It was my subtle – or not so subtle – way of declaring right up front what I believe the mission of the church is all about. Thirdly, the congregation received me so warming. They really made me feel that they were glad to have me as their pastor. I am grateful that has not changed.

It is hard to believe that a year has past already. Time flies when you're having fun!

I thank the Lord for sending me to the loving congregation of the Shiloh Church. I am more than blessed to serve a congregation who loves the word of God and has a heart to see lost people saved through faith in Christ.

I pray that the Lord is using my leaders, teaching, and service for the spiritual good of the saints at Shiloh. I think it is still way to early to tell. May the Lord help me to persevere in guarding my lifestyle and doctrine to ensure my salvation and the salvation of those who hear me (1 Tim. 4:16).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Burdens within the Blessings

As I wrapped up a phone conversation with a friend yesterday, we exchanged prayer requests. I was hesitant to share my prayer requests, even though this brother is a longtime and trusted prayer partner. I was hesitant, because I did not know how to express what my sense of need is. I have been struggling with that a lot lately.

I concluded that if I could not share where I am with this brother, I wouldn't be able to do it with anyone. So I took a shot at it. And, once again, I rambled.

When someone asks me how am I adjusting to living in Jacksonville and serving the Shiloh Church, I respond affirmatively. I share the things that I find different and what I find to be the same. Moreover, I talk about what I like about where I am. I have to be careful at this point. I do not want to brag or sound obnoxious. But I don't want to hide the fact that the Lord has been good to me, either. My wife and children have adjusted to living in Jacksonville and I can tell it is home for them. And I serve a loving people at Shiloh who have warmly received my family and ministry. I truly have nothing to complain about.


There are some things I could complain about.

As I was talking with my friend, I wanted to find a way to share my concerns without complaining. I also wanted to express my concerns carefully, without contradicting the things that I am grateful for.

With fits and starts, I shared some of these things to give my friend a sense of what to pray for me. And as I tried to find a way to summarize what I was saying, I asked him to pray that the Lord would help me to deal with the burdens within the blessings.

The burdens within the blessings.

That statement stuck with me after we prayed and hung up the phone. There are always and inevitably burdens within the blessings of life. We cannot receive a blessing that does not come with some burden. Yet we must not reject or minimize the blessings of God because they come with burdens - no assembly required. You must received both the blessings and the burdens.

Some burdens come because because you receive the blessing. That is, there are trials you face because of the place where you find yourself. You would not have the trials if you were not at that place. For instance, the married person has some trials the single person does not. But it would be foolish to throw your marriage away because of these trials. Beware, singleness as its own unique trials.

Other burdens come along with the blessing. They are the responsibilities that are a part of the stewardship of the blessing. When God blessings us it is never merely about us. God blesses us to make us a blessings to others. And we must be faithful stewards of the blessing so that we do not rob others of their blessing through you.

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the master blesses the five- and two-talent guys because of their faithfulness. Ironically, the blessing was more responsibility! "You have been faithful over a few things... I will make you a ruler over many things." That's the way it goes.

What should be our response to this reality?

Read 2 Corinthians 12. Paul received the blessing of a heavenly vision. To keep him from pride, the blessing resulted in the burden Paul calls a thorn in the flesh. He repeatedly asked the Lord to the painful situation. But the Lord refused. However, the Lord did give Paul several consolation blessings. "My grace is sufficient for you," the Lord said. "My strength is make perfect in your weakness." (2 Co. 12:9).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Good Meeting at a Familiar Place

The past three nights, I have had a great privilege of preaching for Pastor George Hurtt and the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church.

As I said to the congregation, of the many undeserved honors that have been graciously bestowed upon me, I do not know if there are any that are comparable or as special to me as the invitation to minister again to the church in which I grew up, met Christ, began my ministry, and served as pastor for many years.

George Hurtt is my friend and brother, not just my successor. And I praise God for all that the Lord is doing in and through his life and ministry. I am very proud of him. I rejoice in all that the Lord is blessing MSMBC to accomplish under his leadership. And I pray that their dreams would be greater than their memories.

Over the past three nights, I have preached messages from the Sunday series I am preaching to my own congregation. I think the messages were we received. May the Lord give the increase.

I preached pretty hard each night. By the time I made it to the pulpit Wednesday night, I have lost my voice. But the Lord gave me strength to get complete my assignment.

Beyond the worship services and preaching moments, it was a joy to see family and friends and to have an opportunity to meet new people the Lord has added to the church, as well as renew fellowship with those I have walked with down through the years.

It was such an encouragement to see so many pastors and preachers from around the city who shared in the worship services over the three nights.

Please continue to remember George Hurtt and the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in your prayers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Speaking @ Mt. Sinai in Los Angeles

I am on my way to Los Angeles to speak for three night at the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, where George Hurtt is the pastor.

Yesterday, the Mt. Sinai congregation celebrated its 67th church anniversary. My brother, Kevin Willis, who pastors the New Life in Christ Church in Mississippi, was their guest speaker. The celebration continues tonight with three nights of worship and the ministry of the word.

I am honored to have been excited by Pastor Hurtt to be the guest speaker for this meeting. Pastor Hurtt is one of my best friends. And Mt. Sinai is the church in which I met the Lord Jesus Christ and was called to preach the gospel. I also served as MSMBC's senior pastor from 1990 to 2009. So this entire congregation is family to me. And it is a privilege to be invited home again for this special time of worship and fellowship.

Please remember this meeting in your prayers. And pray that the Lord would use me to exalt Christ through the faithful exposition of the word of God.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 09/20/09

My Saturday morning bled into my Sunday morning. Not a good thing.

It was a rainy morning here in Jacksonville. But I glad that many saints of SMBC pressed their way to worship anyway.

The musical praise in worship today was very uplifting. I am grateful for all who serve the Lord in our music department and worship team.

As I taught my new members class this morning, my mind and heart were on the importance of speaking the truth in love among brothers and sisters in Christ in the body-life of the local church.

Praise God for the one who was baptized today.

I preached from Philippians 3:10-11. A called the message, “A Consuming Passion to Know Christ.”

This is the second week in a row my entire sermon outline has changed between Friday and Saturday. I don’t know what the deal with that is. But I am glad that I pressed on again to find a way to say it that I was most comfortable with. For the records, sermons are always unfinished products.

I lost my voice ten minutes into my 8 AM sermon. That has not happened in months. I did what I always do in such situations. I kept preaching.

Praise the Lord for those who were added to our membership today.

This Sunday, a year ago, was my last Sunday as pastor of Mt. Sinai Church in Los Angeles. I grew up in Mt. Sinai. And I have the privilege of serving as their pastor for almost eighteen years. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” (Phil. 1:3, ESV)

Happy 67th birthday Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church!

Go cowboys!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Unafraid to Preach

The modern obsession with "user-friendly" ministry has stoked the fear of preaching into a pervasive phobia. Seminaries these days train men to be storytellers, entertainers, and motivational speakers - and discourage them from dealing with profound of difficult theological concepts from the pulpit.

Suddenly "too much Scripture" is deemed a greater homiletical faux pas than a whole sermon with no reference to Scripture whatsoever! Seriously, in some circles it is perfectly acceptable to give a motivational lecture of comedy routine practically devoid of any biblical content, but a verse-by-verse exposition of Scripture would automatically be deemed too weighty and (this is the unpardonable sin) insufficiently "relevant."

Meanwhile, real preachers, men willing to stand in the pulpit, open the Word of God, and proclaim it with authority and conviction, are in seriously short supply. It seems the whole church is seized with a fear of preaching.

- John F. MacArthur Jr. (in Whatever Happened to the Reformation, edited by Gary L.W. Johnson & R. Folwer White, p. 270.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ray Pritchard Speaking at Shiloh Tonight

Dr. Ray Pritchard the President and featured speaker of Keep Believing Ministries is our guest speaker tonight at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Dr. Pritchard, the former pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park (Illinois), is a prolific author, a busy conference speaker, and a well-known blogger. I have benefited greatly from his his teaching, writings, and friendship.

It is a great honor to have Dr. Pritchard here to share with our church family. At 6 PM, he will speak to our married couples on, "Love Is Blind, But Marriage is an Eye-Opener." He will also bring the message during our midweek worship service at 7 PM.

If you live in the Jacksonville area - and do not have a local church or a previous commitment to your own local church - we welcome you to join us for worship tonight at Shiloh.

If you are unable to join us in person, you can also catch the service through our live internet feed by going to

Please remember our service in your prayers tonight.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lay Your Religion Down!

Last Sunday, I continued my study of the book of Philippians. I covered the first portion of Paul's testimony, in which he discusses his conversion from Judaism to Christianity.

What a text!

Here is the skeleton from Sunday's sermon.

TITLE: “Lay Your Religion Down”

TEXT: Philippians 3:4-9


THEME: The dynamics of Christian conversion

POINT: Lay your religion down!


I. Paul’s past confidence in his flesh (3:4-6)

A. Paul boasting about his confidence in the flesh (v. 4)

A. A confession (v. 4a)

B. A challenge (v. 4b)

B. Paul basis for confidence in the flesh (vv. 5-6)

1. Paul’s confidence was in who he was (v. 5)

2. Paul’s confidence was in what he had done (vv. 5-6)

II. Paul’s powerful conversion to faith in Christ (4:7-9)

A. What Paul gained (vv. 7-8)

1. The extent of Paul’s loss (vv. 7-8)

2. Paul’s estimation of his loss (vv. 7-8)

• Paul made a definite decision (v. 7)

• Paul made a daily decision (v. 8)

B. What Paul gained (vv. 8-9)

1. Paul gained the knowledge of Christ (v. 8)

2. Paul gained the righteousness of Christ (v. 9)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 09/13/09

Thank God for another Lord's Day at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Saturday morning, I spoke at our monthly men's prayer breakfast for the first time. I taught on "What Every Man Needs to Know about Temptation" (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). I enjoyed the time with the brothers of SMBC. And I look forward to next month's breakfast.

In my new members class, I taught on "Why the Church?" I was not able to finish the lesson. As I discussed the three marks of a true church, I got caught up in the discussion of the faithful proclamation of sound doctrine. The new members their new pastor "rant" for the first time. But I pray they were challenged to be committed to truth and to be on guard against error - even as they listen to their new pastor!

Our children's choir led us in song during the 10 AM service. I praise God for the participation of our children in our corporate worship.

I preached on Philippians 3:4-9. I entitled the message, "Lay Your Religion Down!"

I was tempted to call the sermon: "The Testimony of an Ex-Religious Fanatic."

I did not get to quote a new verse that I memorized this week for this sermon. But I thought it summed up the problem with trying to approach God on the basis of religious merit succinctly: "There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed from their filth." - Proverbs 30:12

Between Friday and Saturday, my sermon outline changed completely. It forced me to work longer and harder on Sunday's message. But I am glad I hung in there to write out my flow of thought more clearly.

I have a lot of growing to do. Please pray for my ongoing spiritual growth and ministerial development.

Next week's text: Philippians 3:10-11.

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

Cowboys 31 - Buccaneers 21. Let the church say, "Super Bowl!"

The Jacksonville Jaguars are now 0-1.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Power Under Control

I continued my new study of the Sermon on the Mount. I am presently through the Beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5:3-12. What a challenge it is to wrestle with the demands of Jesus. My soul is being stretched and my mind is being renewed. I pray the congregation of SMBC is being blessed by the study so far.

Here is the sermon skeleton from last night's message:

Title: "Strength Through Meekness"

Text: Matthew 5:5

Series: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

Theme: The blessedness of meekness

Point: God blesses the person who lives with confidence that God is in control.


I. What is meekness?

- Meekness is not weakness.

- Meekness is power under control.

- Meekness is self-control rooted in confidence that God is in control.

II. What is the blessing of meekness?

- Jesus calls the meek blessed because of their inheritance.

- Jesus promises that the meek will inherit the earth.

* This is a promise for tomorrow

* This is a promise for today

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Blessing of Brokenness

Last week I started a study of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in our midweek services at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.

The first section of the message records the Beatitudes of Jesus (Matt. 5:3-12), in which Jesus announces those who exhibit certain kingdom attributes blessed.

Last week, we studied the first beatitude on “the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). Last night, the blessing Jesus announces on those who “mourn” (Matt. 5:4).

Here is the sermon skeleton from last night’s message.

TITLE: “The Blessing of Brokenness”

TEXT: Matthew 5:4

SERMON SERIES: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

THEME: The blessedness of godly sorrow

POINT: God blesses those who mourn.


Consider what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:4 about the sorrow and the comfort of the mourners.

I. The sorrow of the mourners (5:4a)

A. The place of natural sorrow

1. Natural sorrow can be evil.

2. Natural sorrow can be beneficial.

B. The priority of spiritual sorrow

II. The comfort of the mourners (5:4b)

A. God comforts the mourners through repentance of sin.

B. God comforts the mourners through faith in Jesus Christ.

1. Christ comforts believers by his atoning blood.

2. Christ comforts believers by his Holy Spirit.