Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Midyear Tune-Up Tonight at Shiloh

The Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church family will meet together for its Midyear Tune-Up Service tonight at 7 PM.

We will praise God together for all that he is done for us – personally and corporately – during the first half of 2011. And we will pray for God’s guidance, strength, and favor for the second half of the year.

Our guest speaker will be Dr. A.B. Sutton, Jr., who is the Pastor-Teacher of the Living Stones Temple in Birmingham, Alabama.

If you do not have a commitment at your church, please join us for this for this special time of worship. Or join us online at

Monday, June 27, 2011

Notes from Sunday - 06/26/11

Last week, I participated in the National Baptist Convention USA Inc.’s Congress of Christian Education in Indianapolis. It was the first time I have participated in the meeting for the full week. I had the opportunity to teach in the Laymen’s Department each day and to speak in the general session Wednesday afternoon. I was an exhausting but enriching week. Grateful to Harold Simmons, president of the Laymen, for all his kindness.

Our new Car Care Ministry began this past Saturday! More than twenty men will volunteer their services to do free basic car repairs for seniors and single mothers in our congregation. Shout out to Pastor Letson for his oversight and Donald Brooks for his leadership.

We had a great day of worship at Shiloh yesterday.

I taught a new lesson in our new members class – a new version of “What Shiloh Expects From You.” I really enjoyed the time with our new members.

Our ensemble led the music Sunday. And, as usual, they did a great job.

Thanks to all of our Greeters and Ushers for your service. You make it happen!

We had quite of few guests in worship Sunday. After the services, I had the opportunity to meet several families who have recently moved to Jacksonville and are looking for a church home. They were blessed by the service and said they would consider returning. Very encouraging.

I am praying for our many members who are on vacation. May God’s blessings be on them and bring them home safely.

I preached from James 5:7-11. I called the message, “What to do in the Meantime.”

James 5:7-11 teaches three disciplines to practice when you are forced to spend time in God’s waiting room:

1. Be patient (5:7-8).
2. Do not grumble (5:9).
3. Follow godly examples (5:10-11).

For some reason, I did not say much of what I mapped out to say and ended up saying much that I did not map out.

I have three more sermons to preach to conclude my study of the Epistle of James.

Next Sunday’s message: “Tell It Like It Is” (James 5:12).

Praise God for those who were added to the church yesterday. (Particularly, thank God for adding Brodes and Danielle to our church family.)

We had a pretty quiet evening. Just the way I like it. Now for a busy week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Testimony: My Journey to the ESV

The Bible has always been a central part of my life. And the translation of my youth was the King James Version. My home church was not “King James Only.” But the KJV was the only translation we were exposed to. I had a children’s story Bible that I loved. But I knew it was not THE Bible. The KJV was. I assumed it was the Bible Jesus and the apostles read.

My father – who was my pastor – studied and preached from the KJV. But he often read devotionally from the Moffat Translation, I later discovered. It was the default version from which he would quote Psalm 23:1: “The Eternal shepherd’s me, I lack nothing.” This introduced me to the world of multiple Bible translations.

Then I got a copy of Kenneth Taylor’s Living Bible paraphrase. I was fascinated that it was written to help his children understand scripture during their family devotions. And I understood that it was a paraphrase, not a translation. But I enjoyed reading it. On one occasion, I was studying Psalm 1. I knew the psalm by memory. But I struggled to make sense of it for preaching. So I pulled down my Living Bible. The first verse read: “Oh how happy are those who do not take advice from ungodly people.” That paraphrase caused things to begin to click for me and showed me that different translations can help you see a text with fresh eyes.

I remember in the early days of my pastorate, I was in a jam and stole a sermon from a book. It was called “Other Little Ships” based on Mark 4:35. Jesus was on the ship, but there were other little ships with him… like worship, fellowship, discipleship, and stewardship… Get it? I thought I nailed it. But after the service, a member showed me her Bible, which read “other little boats.” I was embarrassed. And I determined not to steal again (Until the next time!) and not to have a sermon trumped because I did not compare translations.

At some point, after young people and new believers kept mentioning their difficulty in understanding the KJV, I started using the New King James Version. It was basically the KJV, with some words translated more accurately and the archaic language updated. It used “You” rather than “thee” and “thou.” And it did not use any words that end with “eth,” like “maketh” or “cometh.”

I used NKJV for personal study and public teaching for about ten years. But I constantly read from various translations. For an extended period, I would study from the NKJV and do my devotions from the New International Version – memorizing scripture from both translations. But this proved to be more than I could maintain.

One day, I drove out to my favorite Christian bookstore. I slowly perused every section of the store, looking for anything new or of note that I had not read. Scanning the Bibles section, I picked up the English Standard Version. As I began to read it, I was hooked. It had the accuracy of the New American Standard Bible, the readability of the New International Version, and yet maintained much of the poetry of the King James Version/New King James Version. It became my personal Bible, even though I was still preaching from the NKJV.

When I finished a book series I was preaching, I decided to try out the ESV for a few weeks. I have been preaching and teaching from it every since. I never made an announcement of my change. I just would just state the translation I was using before I read my text, which I had always done and still do. Many followed me to the ESV, in order to have the same Bible the pastor was preaching from.

I continued to compare translations. And I am sensitive to the fact that there are many different translations sitting in people’s laps when I stand to preach. But the ESV has proven to be sufficient for my personal devotions, in-depth study, and public ministry. And the growing number of reference resources linked to the ESV only increases my confidence in it as a fitting Bible for both personal and corporate use.

I actually think that there are too many translations on the market. Publishers are producing new Bible versions for economic gain rather than spiritual benefit. Thankfully, there is a “survival of the fittest” dynamic that renders unworthy translations extinct. But it is my prayer that the ESV will gain readership and influence among Bible readers and students. May the Lord use this wonderful translation to spark a revival of love for the word of God!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Notes from Sunday - Father's Day 2011

Friday night, a large group of us traveled to Savannah, Georgia, to worship with Pastor Matthew Odom and the Temple of Glory Community Church. It was great bus ride with our members. Our choir really showed out! And I finally got to preach a sermon that has been on my heart for several weeks now.

Note: Whenever someone reads a long bio about me before I preach, I feel like at sitting in my own funeral as someone is readying my obituary. I am just waiting for them to say, “He lives behind to mourn his passing… and a host of family and friends.”

Saturday morning was our annual All-Male Round-Up. Our theme was “Finishing Strong.” I taught on the theme from Hebrews 12:1-2. We had sessions on health, marriage, parenting, and financing, as well as classes for our boys and young men. Then there was plenty of food and fellowship! It was a great day. Thanks to Mitch, our Men’s Ministry team, and all the brothers (and sisters) who volunteered to make it a great day. You make it happen!

Yesterday was a great day of worship and fellowship at Shiloh.

Throughout the day I was grateful for the blessing of a great father – H.B. Charles, Sr. – and for the blessing of three great children – H.B. III, Natalie, and Hailey.

Grateful for all of the guests who were in worship with us, including the members of the Rebault High School Class of 1991.

The Bakers, friends from New Jersey, dropped in for worship at 10:15. I had just asked a mutual friend about them last week. And there they were. It was good to see them.

Sister Mildred Brown was present yesterday for worship. If I am correct, she is our oldest member. She turned 101-years-old today. What a blessing!

Special thanks to all who serve on our Security Ministry.

Praise God for those who were baptized yesterday in faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Women’s Chorus led in musical praise, giving the brothers the day off. Thanks for your service, sisters.

Before the sermon, they choir sung “There Is No Way.” I love this song. And the choir really blessed us with it in both services.

I ditched my study of James this week and preached a Father’s Day message from Ephesians 6:4 – Why Fathers need to be Spirit-Filled.

I endeavored to give three reasons why fathers need to be Spirit-filled:

1. Fathers have been placed in a special role: “Fathers”
2. Fathers must practice self-restraint: “do not provoke your children to anger”
3. Fathers have been given a special responsibility: “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

I said some big things to and about fathers. But I hope that my tone was not too harsh.

Yesterday was actually the first time I had preached a Sunday morning message on the family since I have been at Shiloh. I need to rectify this situation soon.

Next week’s message: “Be Patient” (James 4:7-11).

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

Between services, I came up with the bright idea of giving free copies of the message to all of the fathers who were present. It was a blessing to the fathers. But it was a nightmare for the media workers. Yet they served our men graciously and patiently. Thanks to all the media/tape room team members who helped out. You make it happen!

Of course, I got in trouble for giving CDs away to the fathers, because I did not do the same for the mothers last month. I knew that was coming.

By the way, in about two weeks, more than 2,000 people have downloaded our new church app. Way cool!

I had a great dinner with my wife and kids. I don’t remember much after that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Remember H.B. Charles Sr. (Father's Day 2011)

It has been a long weekend for me. And I am not just talking about my hectic schedule over the past several days. I am referring to my consuming thoughts about my father.

My father was funeralized Father’s Day weekend, 1989 – twenty-two years ago.

I trust I will see my father again in glory. This is a comforting assurance for me. Yet there are still times when I still grieve his passing. It happened to me again this weekend.

I think being at my grandmother’s funeral this week did it to me. There was a slide show at the end of the service. And there was a picture of my dad, standing outside my grandparents’ house. There were several other people in the picture. But I did not pay attention to them enough to tell you who they were. All I saw was my father’s big smile. I have been consumed with thoughts of my dad the rest of the week.

Most of my weekend has spent studying and preparing myself to preach. And it has made me think much and long about how my father taught me to love books.

I do not think that my affinity for reading and research came naturally for me. I made friends with books trying to be like my father. He was an avid reader, with a library that consisted of thousands of books. We moved several times over the years. And I remember the biggest priority was always whether a potential home had a suitable place to store his books. I think he would be impressed with the library I have developed over the years.

I do not know what happened to most of my father’s books. But I still have my father’s Bible. It is filled with the study notes in the margins. When I see it, I think about the countless hours my father sat reading and studying that Bible. And it challenges me to spend much time in the word of God.

One evening, I asked my father to help me find a scripture. I quoted it to him: “If my people, who are called by my name, would humble themselves…” I knew the verse. But I did not know the reference. He told me to go get a book off his desk called a “Concordance.” He told me he would show me how to find the verse. I did not want to do that. I just wanted him to tell me the reference. He gave me a choice. Either I could get the concordance of his desk and let him show me how to find the verse or I could get his phone book off his desk and call to ask his assistant pastor, Rev. Russell Banks, where it was. I chose to call Rev. Banks. But I was rebuked by how patiently my father dealt with his prideful son. I later asked him to show me how to use a concordance. And it began a friendship with reference books that has taught me the word and help me to prepare to teach others.

My father taught a minister’s class on Tuesday nights. One night, before class, I showed the other guys several new books of sermon outlines I had bought. He sat and listened. Then he started the class by warning the other guys not to be like me. He says that I was looking for short cuts and that guys were making money writing sermon outline books for lazy preachers like me. I was challenged to dig my own wells so that I won’t have to steal other people’s water.

As I was preaching my early service this morning, I thought about how my dad used to tell people that raising me was like raising a champion horse. He was trying to discipline my ways without breaking my spirit. I do not know if he died with a sense that he succeeded. But I hope he would be proud of the man, Christian, husband, father, and minister that I have become.

I truly miss my father. And I thank God for sharing him with me as long as he did. And I pray that the Lord will keep me from dishonoring the good name my father passed on to me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Grandmother's Homegoing

I attended my grandmother’s funeral yesterday in Oklahoma City. I was in town for less than 24 hours. And it felt like I was in the air – coming and going – longer than I was on the ground. But I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend and be with my family during this important time.

Eula B. Sheffield, my mother’s mom, lived a long, rich, and full life. She was a free spirit, a straight talker, and a relentless lover of her family and friends. She had a tough exterior. I cannot remember one occasion when I was in her presence that I was not nervous. But she had a soft heart. When she said, “I love you,” you knew she meant it. And she would back it up.

My grandmother had been sick over the past few years. In fact, my mother moved back to Oklahoma City from Los Angeles, a few years ago, out of concern for my grandmother’s failing health. And the last year or two had been really difficult for grandmother. So I am glad that her days of sickness and suffering are over. She is at peace. She is at rest. And she is at home with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eula B. was my last living grandparent. My maternal grandfather died when I was six-years-old. And I never had the opportunity to meet of my paternal grandparents. This reality weighed on me when I arrived at grandma’s home yesterday morning. This has been the family home for decades. And there are some things in the house that are just the way they were when I was a little boy. It was a little bit overwhelming. But thank God for precious memories.

People were coming into the house that I did not know. I spoke and introduced myself, only to discover these were cousins and relatives that I had not seen for years. It was great to see everyone. My brother, Renaldo, was there. My nephew, Jasten, is now a grown man. My cousin Ronnie just had a new baby. We are definitely not kids anymore! Psalm 90:12 was on my mind all day: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

The service was very uplifting. The presence of local pastors was very encouraging. My little sister, Donetta, sung, “Amazing Grace.” Pastor Bradford preached a comforting message from my favorite psalm – Psalm 23. I was on program to give remarks. I asked out of this responsibility. I was there to join my family in paying our respects to grandmother. But my Aunt Debbie insisted. And I am glad she did. It was an honor to speak in tribute of my grandmother and to offer words of comfort to my family.

As we sat and chatted at the repast, it was time for me to head to the airport for my flight home. It all went by so fast. And I miss everyone already.

Thank you for your prayers, condolences, and expressions of love for my family during this period. It means more than you can know. And thanks in advance for your continued prayers.

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thank God for Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr.

I am happy.

I came home from work, there was a package on the porch waiting for me. I knew what it was. And I had been waiting on it. It was my copy of the new biography written by Iain Murray and published by Banner of Truth: “John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock.”

I was introduced to the ministry of John F. MacArthur Jr. early in my pastoral ministry. I was being confronted with claims of Charismatic experiences in my congregation. And I needed a better understanding of the matter. Somehow – I think it was through a magazine advertisement – I heard about MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos.

I went to a local Christian bookstore to find Chaos. When I asked the young lady behind the counter if they had the book in stock, she replied, “Yeah. But I wouldn’t recommend it. He doesn’t believe in the gifts.” I was shocked. I have never had a bookstore employee to discourage me from buying a book. It made me all the more eager to read the book. Honestly, I thought the MacArthur was harsh at points. But the book settled my convictions. And they have not changed. Chaos also deepened my passion to know the truth and strengthened my confidence in the sufficiency of God’s word.

I then began to pick up everything I could find by MacArthur. If he wrote it, I read it. I regularly listened to his “Grace To You” broadcast. And when I found out where his church was – about a thirty-minute freeway drive from where I lived – I would drive out to pick up tapes of his recent sermons.

During the first extended vacation time I took as a pastor; I spent my first Sunday off at Grace Community Church. This began my regular attendance in MacArthur’s Sunday night services. I remember with fondness the messages he preached through Romans 8 on Sunday evenings. Hearing them joyfully settled my convictions about Eternal Security, once and for all.

I knew that I was in love with Crystal when I invited her to join me for a Sunday evening service at Grace Church. I had never attended a service there with anyone before. I kind of viewed it as my own time to have my faith fed. Thinking that Crystal would one day be my wife, I wanted her to visit the church that was having such a profound impact on my doctrinal convictions and philosophy of ministry.

After the service, we were in the “Book Shack.” As we saw all of the books and tape series, we talked about the discipline required to produce this kind of work. When we were making our purchases, Crystal asked the young man what Dr. MacArthur was teaching on Sunday mornings. He answered 2 Corinthians. She asked was he in a series. He answered that Dr. MacArthur had been in 2 Corinthians for the past 3 or 4 years. I can still see the shocked look on Crystal’s face.

Some years later – being married with children – I was able to briefly continue my formal studies at The Master’s Seminary, which is on the campus of Grace Community Church and where Dr. MacArthur is the president. Though only there a short time, my understanding of scripture was deepened and my vision for pastoral ministry expanded.

I have never met John MacArthur. But he has been a dear friend to me for many years now. His example has challenged me. His preaching has nurtured me. His courage has inspired me. His books have taught me. His commentaries have aided me. His congregation has blessed me.

As I heard the news that Dr. MacArthur has recently completed preaching through the entire New Testament – verse-by-verse – I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for this faithful servant of the word. His defense and confirmation of the truth is formidable. Sure, there are times when I disagree with positions that Dr. MacArthur takes (It seems that most who read or listen to him give this qualification). But even when I disagree with him, I cannot easily dismiss him. He has done his homework on the text. And he forces me to do mine.

I know that it may not be best to write a biography on a subject while he is still alive. All of the evidence is not yet in. But I am grateful for the providential orchestration of circumstances that have caused this new biography of MacArthur to be written. And I am looking forward to reading the story of this man of God and his commitment to Christ, the scriptures, and the church.

Thank God for Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Notes from Sunday 06/05/11

Great day of worship at Shiloh yesterday.

God be praised for all of our volunteers who serve in various ways during our Lord’s Day services. You make it happen. Thank you.

We celebrated the Lord’s Table in both of our worship services, which is always a special time in the life of our congregation.

Grateful for the guests who joined us for worship.

Our choir sung a song called, “I Never Lost My Praise,” before I preached. It blessed us in both services.

I am convinced that if you can praise God in the midst of whatever you are going through, you already have the victory.

I preached from James 5:1-6 – “A Warning to the Rich.”

I have finally made it to the final chapter of the Epistle of James, after many fits and starts of the past few months. I am looking forward to the last four messages I have scheduled from James 5.

James 5:1-6 is a difficult text. It is said that difficult texts make good preachers. If that is true, I am a better preacher for having worked through this challenging but important passage.

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

First Sundays mean I get to teach the first lesson in our new members class series: “The Good News of Jesus Christ.” I love teaching the message of the gospel!

Yesterday afternoon, I spoke at the baccalaureate service for the graduating seniors of William H. Raines High School. I am so grateful for the privilege. And I pray the young people and their families were blessed by the message.

Later in the afternoon, I spoke for the 11th Pastoral Anniversary celebration of Pastor Herb Anderson at the Emmanuel Baptist Church. Pastor Anderson is a “Son of Shiloh,” a strong preacher, and a faithful shepherd. It was a joy for Shiloh family to be present to encourage him.

Our Youth Choir sung during the afternoon service at Emmanuel. They did a great job. I was so proud of them.

After teaching five times, I was ready to do it again… until I got home and ate a bite. I don’t remember anything after that.

As I slept, my Miami Heat defeated the Mavericks 88-86 to go up 2 games to 1. Two more wins to go!