Monday, August 15, 2011

Notes from Sunday - England Edition

I am writing these words from London, where it is Monday morning. When I finish typing this post, I will help to the airport for my flight home.

I had a great day of worship with the Loughborough Baptist Church in Loughborough. The city is about an hour’s train ride outside of London.

Saturday evening, I stayed with Michael and Katie in their home. Michael is the secretary for the church.

Michael and Katie were wonderful hosts. They have been married for 47 years, having met at a Christian youth camp. I enjoyed the conversation.

Michael and Katie were shocked that I did not use milk in my tea. I was equally shocked that they did.

Their home was built in 1740. Of course, it has been fully refurbished. It was beautiful.

Across the street from their home was a sign commemorating the fact that John Wesley had preached in that stop from his horse. Way cool.

Gert Sassius is the pastor of the Loughborough congregation, where he has only served for nine months. But the congregation is very excited about the prospects for the future under its new pastor.

Several members of the congregation had watched the streaming of our services at Shiloh over the past several weeks. So they had a sense of what to expect from my preaching.

When I asked how long I should preach, the answered was, “It is not for me to say. We are here to hear the word of God. It is not our place to say how long or short the ministry of the word should be.” The best answer to that question I have every heard!

I preached from Psalm 23, hoping I would be able to connect through a familiar passage. My exposition of the passage seemed to be received well.

I quoted Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John R.W. Stott – two famous English pastors/preachers – in the introduction. The congregation smiled.

Though very quiet during the sermon, the members were eager to share with me how they were helped by the message after the service was over. There were many specific references to thoughts in the message. It was obvious they were listening well.

There was no choir. Only congregational singing. Rich hymns. It was great!

There was no invitation to discipleship extended in the service, even though the church obviously has a commitment to evangelism. I did not ask by what means new members are received into the church.

They thought it was novel that we have Sunday school for adults, as well as children.

The congregation has a pipe organ that was donated to the church by Dale Carnegie in 1908. The congregation celebrated its centennial in 2008.

Several members expressed how troubled they were by the riots that had been taking place in London. Different perspectives; mutual concern.

I really missed being with my congregation today. It was the first Sunday I have not been at Shiloh all year.

Brodes Perry preached at Shiloh on “Friends Don’t Let Friends Die Lost” (Mark 2:1-11).

Over the evening, I received several reports about how great the service was. Praise God!

I met up with several colleagues here who had preached in different places. All seemed to have had a good experience. Very encouraging.

Ready to go home.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Unique Preaching Opportunity

I am writing this post from London. The Proclaimer’s Place preaching conference in Oxford ended yesterday. Part of the conference this year a festival of African-American preaching, in which preachers from the conference have been assigned to preach in local Baptist churches in the area.

It will be my privilege to preach in the morning at the Loughborough Baptist Church in Loughborough, where Michael Tebbatt is the pastor. It is about 150 miles away from where I am presently. So I will be taking the train there soon to preach in the morning.

Please remember me in prayer as I prepare for this unique preaching opportunity. Likewise, this is will really be the first time I have travelled here by myself. And I am chronically “directionally challenged.” This should be interesting.

Over the past day or so, we have traveled freely around London. But we have not encountered any of the riots firsthand. However, there are constant reports and warnings about the riots breaking out in different places. And there is some obvious level of anxiety in some places.

Please pray for this city. And thanks for your prayers for our safety.

I cannot wait to go home!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Proclaimer's Place 2011

I am in Oxford, England, participating in the Proclaimer’s Place, led by Dr. Joel C. Gregory. It is four days of study for preaching, with about twenty-five ministers from around the United States participating.

Each day, we take a text of scripture and study it together, with a view toward preaching. Yesterday, we studied Exodus 13-17-22. Today we will study 1 Thessalonians 2:1-11. Malachi 3 and Luke 1 will follow in the days to come.

I am being refreshed by the study and the fellowship.

In baseball, hitters take batting practice and constantly work on their swing. The same is true in golf. Unfortunately, preachers can go to the pulpit week after week, without taking time to work on our swing, so to speak. So I am finding this time to be very refreshing.

As you can imagine, my body is in Oxford. But it is still acting like it is in Jacksonville. All of my patterns are thrown off.

If you have watched the news, you know that there are riots in London. I am not scheduled to be there until this weekend. I pray things will quiet down before then. Last night, we received warnings that there may be riots here in Oxford. But that really did not come to pass.

Thanks for all your prayers.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Notes from Sunday - 08/07/11

What a great day of worship today at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville!

I had a good time teaching my new members class today. I have “ditched” teaching the past few weeks. It was great to get back into the saddle.

It was our privilege to deliberately remember the Lord Jesus Christ through the celebration of the Lord’s Table today.

I led the corporate singing in our services today. We sung “Glory to His Name” and “There is a Fountain.” Two of my favorite Communion hymns!

As always, grateful for all of our guests who joined us in worship today.

The choir sung one of my favorite songs – “I’m Encouraged,” by the late Thomas Whitfield. I would have loved to get me some of that song. But it would have only made it harder for me to preach. Next time!

I concluded my three-part series on 1 Peter 1:3-9 that I called “Real Hope for Difficult Times.”

Today’s message was on 1 Peter 1:8-9: “The Believer’s View of the Unseen Christ.”

I outlined for marks of a true relationship with Jesus Christ:

1. Personal devotion: “Though you have not seen him, you love him.” (v. 8)
2. Abiding trust: “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him…” (v. 8)
3. Abundant joy: “and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (v. 8)
4. Confident assurance: “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (v. 9)

I have really enjoyed preaching through this section at 1 Peter. I am tempted to go just keep going in 1 Peter. But I will resist that temptation. Other subjects beckon me.

And I really, really enjoy preaching to my congregation. What a church!

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

I regularly pray for members after the services. It was so encouraging to have members praying for me today.

I was basically on my feet on morning long. Thank God for granting me physical strength and physical energy today.

Just think, our Sunday afternoons will be soon filled by National Football League. How ‘bout those Cowboys?!?!

I am writing these notes from the JAX airport. I am on my way to Oxford, England, for the Proclaimer’s Place preaching conference. And I am scheduled to preach in London next weekend. Please pray for my travels. And remember my family and church in your prayers.

As I was writing this, they just updated my flight information. My flight to Dallas is now one hour and ten minutes late. It will be interesting to day if I make my connecting flight to London.

Pray saints!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Reflections on Preaching through the Epistle of James

Several weeks ago, I completed a verse-by-verse exposition of the Epistle of James for my congregation at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. My faith was enriched by this personal study. And I trust my congregation was built up in their faith, as a result of hearing these messages.

I have been thinking about this series over the past several days - not necessarily the spiritual experience of studying James, but the practicalities of preaching through it. Here are some of my reflections.

Why James? I love the Epistle of James. I think it is James’ “in your face” style of writing that endeavors me to this letter. I have read it countless times devotionally. I have memorized sections of it. And I have preached several messages from it over the years, mostly from chapter 1. But I had never done a complete study of James. Likewise, I find portions of James challenging – both spiritually and homiletically. So I wanted to take up the challenge. And, above all, I believe that it would be a good study for our congregation. That belief proved true.

Preaching long sermon series. I was recently in a setting where the argument was being made that people will not listen to long sermon series anymore. When the discussion got to me, I admitted that I was preparing to preach my final sermon in James. It would be twenty-second sermon!

The prevailing notion is that a sermon series should be between 4-6 messages, no longer than 8. But many of my preaching heroes are men who preach long series, consecutively through books of the Bible. Rather treating this idea of short series as an inviolable law, I think it should be emphasized people adapt to what you feed them. I am grateful to serve a church that is willing to endure long series through Bible books.

Stop-and-go through James. If I had followed my schedule, I would have completed James months ago. But toward the end of 2010 and in the beginning of 2011 I found myself facing congregational pressures. With God’s help, I was able to preach each week. But, admittedly, it was all I could do to drag myself to the pulpit. Some weeks I pulled a file of sermon I had preached before. Other weeks I preached from passages that I found encouraging. But many of those weeks I just did not feel like talking about faith without works is dead. Or the power of the tongue. Of whatever was next in James. So I worked through James in fits and starts. But the congregation was very patient and understanding through this. Only once did anyone say anything to me about abandoning James. I was preaching through a storm. And the congregation did not mind what I was preaching, as long as it was the word of God. Praise God!

Technical difficulties. I read several solid introductions to James before I began my studies. But they did not prepare me for the textual difficulties I encountered. Many weeks, I would be faced with challenges in the Greek over which the scholars sharply disagreed. And I would have to make an interpretative judgment call. This forced me to prayerfully work through the texts with my thinking cap pulled down tightly on my head. Of course, I tried not to bring these matters to the pulpit. I believe that the sermon should reflect the fruit of your studies more than the process of it. So I did not share most of these challenges with the congregation. But being forced to consider them stretched me. Difficult texts make strong preachers!

My favorite commentaries on James. I have collected quite of few commentaries on James over the years. And I picked up a few more before I started my study. And a few more over the course of my study. My favorite, above all, is D. Edmond Hiebert’s commentary on James (Moody). It is everything a commentary should be. I also appreciated Peter’s David’s commentary. I surprised myself by using the NIV Application Commentary by David P. Nystrom throughout the study. I consulted Ralph Martin’s well-respected commentary on James. But it was not one of my favorites.

I read the Holman NT Commentary religiously each week. And, of course, I read John MacArthur and R Kent Hughes and Warren Wiersbe every week. They are old friends. I had to consider what they thought about the text. I likewise listened to audio messages by Kent Hughes, John MacArthur, Gary Inrig, and Alistair Begg each week. I also read some popular works on James by O.S. Hawkins, David Jeremiah, Tony Evans, and Joel Gregory. I found them all useful in seeing how preachers handled the texts of James.

A lot of weeks I kept reading late into the week, when I should have stopped and started writing the sermon. And it put me behind in my sermon preparation. I think this hurt the quality of some of the sermons. But at least I knew the text well.

Texts I enjoyed preaching. I enjoyed studying and preaching every text of James. Really. By the time I got out of chapter 1, I was convinced that no matter how difficult the text seemed at first glance, it would yield great treasures. I was not disappointed once. And it just got better as the study progressed. I praise the Lord for James and for the privilege of spending months immersing myself in its message.

The Lord be praised for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Notes from Sunday - 07/31/11

Saturday morning, I taught a seminar at our church on “How to Study the Bible for Yourself.” It was well attended. And it was great to see the enthusiasm of the members about study the word of God. In typical H.B. fashion, we did not complete half of the twenty pages of notes I prepared. So we will plan a follow session for sometime soon.

My family returned home from Los Angeles Saturday afternoon. Yes! The suicide watch is over. Thanks for your prayers.

We had a great day of worship at Shiloh yesterday.

Our Men’s Chorus led the music in both services. It was great to have our men leading in worship.

Our Bible Study Fellowship group meets did not meet yesterday. During our BSF hour, we have a mass baptism service.

I actually got in the water, for the first time in at least 15 years. Or more.

We baptized more than 40 new members.

It was my great privilege to baptize my two oldest children – H.B. & Natalie. I praise the Lord that my children have made a profession of faith in Christ. And it was a speechless privilege to baptize them this morning.

I could not help but think today about the day my father baptized me, when I was six years old. I remember my baptism and am grateful to God for saving me.

Shout out to Pastor Mike Rodgers for his assistance during the baptisms. I am not sure I would have been able to do it alone.

As always, I am grateful for the guests who were with us in worship. There was a special group that joined us from Savannah. I am glad they chose to worship with us and pray they were blessed.

I continued a brief, three-part series on 1 Peter 1:3-9 that I am called, “Real Hope for Difficult Times.”

I preached from 1 Peter 1:6-7: “The Truth About Your Trials.”

I sought to make five points about the trials of life we face as Christians:

1. The proper response to your trials (1:6a)
2. The limited duration of your trials (1:6b)
3. The spiritual necessity of your trials (1:6c)
4. The painful reality of your trials (1:6d)
5. The intended results of your trials (1:7)

It is not often that I attempt to a five-point outline, for obvious reasons. I have enough trouble as it is preaching a three-point outline in a reasonable amount of time.

I am preaching this series out of my pastoral desire to say something encouraging to my congregation. I pray that these messages have been comforting and encouraging so far.

Next week’s sermon: “The Believer’s View of the Unseen Christ” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

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

Slow afternoon. Really slow afternoon. No complaints. Needed the rest.

Breaking News: Football is back!