Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Source

I have always been an early riser.  It doesn’t matter whether I go to bed early or late, rested or worn out; I am automatically wide awake at five minutes until six every morning.  You can set your watch by it.

Recently, I flew from Fort Lauderdale to the West Coast where I was to speak at a convention in the San Francisco Bay area.  Sure enough, I awoke the following morning at 5:55 A.M.

The only problem was that I was still on East Coast time.  The little red numerals on the clock radio in my hotel room greeted me with 2:55 A.M.! I tried my best to go back to sleep, to no avail.  Finally, I reached for the television remote control and flicked on the tube.

It doesn’t matter where you are in America or what time of the day or night it might be, there are always two things you can get on television: world championship wrestling and religious programming.  And there they were in living color at three in the morning in Oakland.  (And by the way, the world is asking the same question about them both—“Is it real, or is it fake?”)

Honestly, I could not take either one at that hour, so I got up and went to a desk by the window to work on some projects in my briefcase.  I reached for the switch on the desk lamp and turned it on, but nothing happened.  So I began a little detective work.  I came to the brilliant conclusion that the lamp had only three possible points of connection.

First, I looked at the source.  It was plugged in.  Next I checked the switch.  It was turned on.  There was only one other possibility: the socket.  Bingo!  The bulb was not screwed down tightly into the socket.  I gave it a couple of turns, and there was light.

Life is a lot like that lamp.  Add up all our relationships and they boil down to three dimensions.

First, we have a relationship with God.  This is the upward connection, or the Source.  We have an innate longing to connect with the Source, to be plugged in to the only power that can give our lives meaning.

Second, we have a relationship with ourselves.  This is the inward connection, the switch.  To be happy and effective in life, we must have the proper self-respect and self-love.

Finally, we have relationships with others, in the home, the office, and the social arena.  This is the outward connection, or the socket.  To light up the lives of those around us, we need to be in right relationship with ourselves, with others, and with God.  I like to call it the art of connecting.

Tearing Down Walls and Building Bridges, O.S. Hawkins, Pgs. 3-4, Thomas Nelson Publishers, c1995

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

What a great day!  Admittedly, I was quite uncomfortable, dealing with an apparent strain in my back.  While I dealt with that all day, D’Ani severely strained her foot on Friday leaving work.  She stayed home today, and the boys spent some time with their grandmother.  Fortunately, with the help of meds and staying off her foot, I was pleased to see her getting around a little better when I arrived home. 

Today, we concluded our study in the Beatitudes.  This study has proven to be a great time of growth and ‘stretching’ for me personally and, thus, our congregation.  I hope and pray that these demands given by our Lord to the Kingdom Citizen would continually challenge our people on a private and personal level.  If these eight beatitudes teach us nothing else, they express and reveal that following Christ can be a life of paradox and contradiction.

Title: Happy are the Harassed
Text: Matthew 5:10-12
C.I.T.: God blesses those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake



A.      Opposition and persecution for the kingdom citizen are inevitable.

In John  15:20; In 2nd Timothy 3:12; 1st John 3:13


A.      Physical harm. “persecute” (vs.11)
B.      Isolation.  “revile” (vs.11)
C.      Verbal Abuse. “slander” (vs.11)


A.      ‘…for righteousness’ sake’
B.      ‘…for Christ’s sake’.


A.      You have Proof of Salvation (Galatians 4:29;  John 15)
B.      You have the Presence of Christ
C.      You have the Purity of Life (1st Peter 1:7)
D.      You have Partnership with the Saints (Philippians 3:10)
E.      You have Profit in Heaven (Romans 8:18)

We had a lot of visitors today!  We had one come forward for prayer.  Overall, I’ll have to say it’s been a good day.  The Cowboys won against the Rams in another pre-season game.   The Texans lost to the Saints.  All is well!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Memoriam of Calvin Miller

Yet again, I found myself flirting with a possible doctoral program, this past week. Happening upon one prospect, Beeson Divinity School, I was saddened to learn that my favorite Christian author, Calvin Miller, has died. At the time of his passing on August 19, 2012, he was 75 years of age.

Pastoring churches in Nebraska for quite a few years, Calvin was born in Enid, Oklahoma on Aug. 28, 1936. He graduated from Enid High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree at OBU in 1958. He attended Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri graduating with a master’s degree in 1961 and a doctorate in 1975. In 1959, he married Barbara Joyce Harman. They had a son and a daughter.

I would have to agree with Oklahoma Baptist’s David Whitlock who said a few days ago, “His writing and many books are a gift to Christendom. His teaching has multiplied by the thousands his ministry of outstanding creative preaching.”

Calvin Miller is one author who, out of them all, I would often look to see each week if he had a new publication on the shelves. There are a myriad of persons whom I’ve never met personally who’ve touched my life in ways too powerful for words. Calvin Miller tops that list! All of his books are on my shelf, including the ones that are now out of print and reside in virtual book obscurity for many.

His sermons, writings and quotes have touched me and blessed me throughout the years of my life and ministry. The writings of Calvin have always made my mind, heart and soul leap in ways too deep to explain in words. I remember at the age of 16, picking up a book in Corpus Christi at the local bookstore entitled, ‘If I Had Only One Sermon To Preach.’ Admittedly, I picked up the book after being intrigued by the sheer title itself. After purchasing this volume of work, one sermon touched me more than all. Interestingly, it was Calvin Miller, who had already become one of my favorites. How pleased I was to learn that Calvin Miller was apart of this unique publication of sermonic work. He didn’t disappoint! It was there I read his sermon, ‘Seeing Life’s Reversals as Glory’, out of Philippians 1:12-16.

Of my favorite books (though I love them all), I would have to select Into the Depths with God (c2000), That Elusive Thing called Joy (c1975) and The Art of Narrative Preaching. 

I would often hope and wish I had the opportunity to go and meet him, visit with him and spend time with him. However, that will not happen on this side. Be that as it may, his legacy will continue through his many writings, his pupils at Southwestern Seminary and Beeson; and the countless others we may never know.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Be An Original...Well, An Original Copy! (Part Six)

During the course of the E.K. Bailey conference, I was most intrigued and impressed with the up-close-and-personal encounter we had with Dr. Bailey.  At the hotel, we were eating lunch between sessions, and Dr. Bailey came over and sat with us.  I was always impressed by all of the ministers who seemed to know Rev. Miller; and also my father.  

Interestingly, I wouldn’t know until years later that Dr. Bailey was actually the best of friends with my uncle, Rev. Monty Francis, of Waco.  Bailey sat with us for at least one hour or so, sharing his experiences of putting the conference together, his congregational life, T.D. Jakes’ recent move to Dallas, etc.  I found it impressionable how he had no issues or qualms with Jakes’ presence in Dallas; and that he had seen no problems with those who would decide to leave and become a part of his growing congregation.   I couldn’t believe how personal and down-to-earth he was.  As impactful as that experience was for me, nothing during that time matches another experience I had at that particular event.  We were in a general session; and in walks the late Manuel Scott, Sr.  By that time, I had read his two books; and had really grown to love his preaching.  My Uncle Monty, my father and especially Rev. Miller had developed a deep respect, love and closeness to Dr. Scott.  I was amazed at how he seemed to be so genuine, even in that passing and fleeting moment that lasted all but one minute.  I remember, as he walked, he was apparently going blind at that time…he was impeccably dressed in a black suit, white shirt and black tie.  He reached out to touch my head, grabbing my hand and, after asking who I was and following my response, he said, ‘Son…I know your family.  I love you, son.  Don’t you ever forget where you came from.’  That would be the only encounter I would ever have with such a great man and venerable sage, who has proven to be one of my favorite preachers of all time.  It became surreal when, years later, I would stand to preach in the place he proclaimed the word for many years, at the historic St. John Church of Dallas.

By the time I would enter my final year of high school, I had worked up to being a young, itinerant, teenage preacher.  I was preaching regularly in revivals for my mentors, the late R.L. Sanders (of Fort Worth), my uncles...Monty Earl Francis (of Waco, Tx) and Lloyd A. Pullam (of Denton, Tx).

A funny thing would happen to me on that same summer, after attending the Bailey conference.  I was scheduled to preach in revival for my uncle, Monty Francis, at his church in Waco, the Pleasant Olive Church.  As fate would have it, there was also another revival going on down the street, at a neighboring congregation.  The evangelist there was none other than the highly regarded C.A.W. Clark, distinguished Pastor of the historical Good Street Baptist Church of Dallas!!!  I will never forget stoically staring at the Waco Tribune-Herald local column seeing my picture plastered next to the legendary Caesar Clark.  What a humbling (and for me at that moment….humiliating) experience for a 17-year old kid with private insecurities.  One night my uncle took me over to meet Dr. Clark.  Clark had finished preaching, and was standing up front to greet the local parishioners.  I was immediately struck by his height.  He was short in stature, but possessed a quiet serenity and coolness that seemed to shine through taller than a high mountain.  As I approached him, I had the opportunity to ask him to sign my Bible.  I told him that I was in revival down the street; he shared a few words with my uncle, whom he knew.  All he said to me was, ‘….bless you!’  That was enough for me.  It made my day!

I most enjoyed preaching at my home church, St. John 1st in Corpus Christi, at Friendship (where Rev. Miller served as Pastor), and for my preaching mentor, Earl Jackson, in Kingsville, Tx. and the late E. Thurman Walker, of San Antonio, Tx.  These men, among many others, willingly allowed me to share from their pulpits, even when I often failed to do the best.

Their kindness, advice, counsel and confrontations are something I’ve never forgotten; and always consider to be a mark of God’s own faithfulness to me.  So many of these ‘servants’ and ‘angels’ were a blessing to me spiritually and monetarily.  Not just these men; but many others with whom I would encounter along the way.  Just one example of this came just before my sophomore year in high school.  My parents and I were traveling to take my elder brother, Keith, to Prairie View, for his freshman year of college.  Staying over in Houston on Saturday and Sunday, I simply had to go by and see the preacher I had grown to admire, Gary (G. Emerson) Scott, of the Trinity Fellowship Church.  He had left a congregation in Houston and planted his own church, in the Southeast section of Houston.  As a result, it was difficult to locate where he would be on Sunday.  However, my Dad (in some way) found his church, and there we were!  He and his congregation were meeting at a Holiday Inn in Houston.  We were late; but simply being there made me feel like a kid at Disney World.  After service, Pastor Scott took us to his little portable office in the hotel, and personally let me see all of his books.  I was quite astonished to see that he liked many of the same authors I was reading at that time, namely Max Lucado, Frederick Buechner and Paul Tillich.  He then asked his secretary to write me a check for $150, and instructed me to invest in my ministry, but to also pick up a Greek Lexicon published by Baker.  I was on cloud 9!  This continued throughout my young ministry; and has never failed to impress upon me a desire to invest in the lives of young ministers that follow.  
I really enjoyed my senior year of high school.  Though in a relationship that somewhat put a damper on the experience, I must admit that I had a great year!  My experience at the Bailey conference solidified my growing desire to be a student of ‘expository preaching’.  In addition, I knew one thing up to that point: I had to go to school.  At that time, I had the plan of attaining my doctorate by the age of 30, no later than 35.  By this time, I had begun to communicate on a regular basis, in written communication, with Cleophus J. LaRue, a native of Corpus Christ who had become quite successful in the world of Academia and, by then, had become adjunct professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.  My entire plan included one day attending Princeton as a graduate student.  By my senior year, I had already envisioned my purpose, calling and the route I desired to take in life: to preach, to teach preachers, to teach in seminary, to write and to pastor.  I had no desire to do anything else.  That was it!

Over the course of my senior year, my major disappointment came in April of ’97.....

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Be An Original...Well, An Original Copy! (Part 5)

Following our mid-winter board, the Summer prior to my senior year of high school, in 1996, my Dad and Rev. Miller took me and one of my high school classmates, James Mosley (also a preacher) to Dallas for the annual E. K. Bailey conference.  At that time, I knew very little about Bailey.  I just knew that, in all of the sermons on those tapes my dad would bring home from the convention, those preachers would often mention 'E.K.', either in a quote, acknowledge his presence in the audience (he was in the same convention) or some word of respect and adulation.  I had come across his messages, but never really connected with them.  I thought he was old and irrelevant.  Its amazing how things can change!  To say the least, he wasn't a favorite of mine.  Little did I know that he would one day be my college pastor, and I would cry for days after his passing, often thinking of him now before I mount the pulpit.

One thing I did know - that preacher Bailey (whomever he was) knew how to put together a first-class conference. I will never forget the level of excellence, detail, manpower and preaching lineup, which included many of the preachers I had both read and heard.  Warren Wiersbe was there. Gene Getz and A. Louis Patterson were there.  Tony Evans was there.  And a preacher who had become one of my favorites, Melvin Von Wade, was there in the flesh!  I had come to learn that Wade and Bailey were best friends; and that it was Wade who, on the campus of Bishop College, introduced Bailey to his future wife, Sheila.  I remember in the conference, getting on the elevator at the Fairmont Hotel, E.K. Bailey stepped on the elevator as well.  I never will forget he said, 'Young man, I'll give you a run for your suit!'. That was it. He stepped off, and that made my entire day!  As conferences go, I was going to my room, reading voraciously.  I really wanted to see where those guys (especially Patterson) got all of his information from.  By then, I had already become a very voracious reader, especially in the languages.  I loved to read a guy named Calvin Miller, and also Max Lucado and Charles Swindoll.  And while at the conference, there were many names dropped from all of the preachers who spoke.  One of my Dad's favorites (John MacArthur) was often mentioned, along with John Piper.  Interestingly, E.K. Bailey, in one of the general sessions, told the 700 or so ministers, '...if you came to the conference, and can only make one purchase, you need to go to the resource booth and get. John Piper's 'The Supremacy of God in Preaching.'. I got it, along with some other resources, courtesy of my father.  By this time, I had also began to preach a large portion of Melvin Von Wade.  It goes without saying, I loved this guy's sermon preparation and delivery.  To this day, the guy's sermon structure and organization is so solid, concrete and genius that it blows me away.  Little did I know I was developing a sort of 'crutch' for me.  So much of what I preached became such a part of my study and preparation and prayer life...that I'd forgot the original sources often.  

I remember one incident at the close of the conference,  it wasn't the final night, but the night before.  Stephen Olford, a guy who became known for his sermon preparation and delivery, was on to preach that night.  Initially, I thought he was originally from Britain, in that he had an English accent, but was actually born in Zambia to Christian missionaries.  What set the place on fire was his closing story, in which I've never forgotten.  He was a young man who, at that time, had become a young pastor and preacher.  He had made it his practice to have quiet time prior to his morning message on the Lord's day.  This Sunday was no different.  His father had been sick, in the hospital, and had been in a sort of coma for some time.  Olford's mother called Stephen on that morning, insisting to speak with her son.  On the other end, she explained that his father had done something quite strange.  She said, he came out of his coma, sat straight up in his bed and shouted, 'Tell the lad I said 'PREACH THE WORD!''. After he uttered those words, he laid back on his bed, and went home to be with the Lord.  Stephen Olford, since that day, said that he would all the more commit to the Biblical exposition of Scripture, because of the admonishment of his father, and moreover, his Savior!  At that time, Bailey called all of the preachers to the altar; and it was there, that you could feel a sense of conviction amongst that aggregation of preacher's who were there as a re-establishing of priorities in the proclamation of God's infallible, inerrant Word.  I was at that altar!  

Of course, there would still remain within me a sense of my own inadequacy in not having the 'hooping' gift and the close.  For me, this would be a struggle I would continue to grapple with long into my adult years.  But something did intrigue me.  Many seemed enamored with a guy there by the name of Kenneth C. Ulmer.  It didn't take long for me to discover that this one guy was a gifted preacher, on many fronts.  Only years later would I discover that Ulmer actually began preaching under Melvin Von Wade, the guy whose preaching I'd grown to love and admire.  I sat In a few teaching classes of Ulmer.  The guy clearly knew his stuff.  Though I had not heard him preach up until that point, I did admire his style, and obvious intellectual prowess.  Admittedly, he seemed a little strange (in ways I will not mention here) but he knew the languages (which I liked), but he also knew how to make those languages relevant (which I liked even more), and he even did something that had become my practice by the time I actually went to college and seminary, learning Greek, Hebrew, etc....he was giving the mood, person, etc. of the words.  I learned later in college this was called 'Parsing'.  The guy was good, to me.  Interestingly, by that time, I had discovered Paul S. Morton on BET, and had seen Ulmer on the Full Gospel scene.  This did confuse me after hearing him, in not seeing that level of depth or biblical exposition in many of the Full Gospel clips I had seen.  I didn't know if this attributed to why I hadn't heard him speak on any of those televised clips, but the man was very insightful and helpful.  I walked away knowing that, at least for Patterson and Ulmer, it was at least possible to have some ministerial clout and relevance without the typical 'gravy.'. Yes, they had their own way of closing, but nothing akin to the introductions of this form I had received via Jasper Williams and Jerry D. Black.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Musings from Osborne's "Sticky Church"

We've discovered lots of ways to reach people.  We've offered the high-powered programs and slick marketing of attractional churches, the cultural savvy of missional churches, and the relational intimacy of small churches.  But we've often become so focused on reaching people that we've forgotten the importance of keeping people.  Pg.13

Stickier churches are healthier churches.  They not only draw in spiritual window-shoppers and lead them to Christ; they also grow them to maturity.  Pg.13

Everything we do is aimed at helping the Christians we already have grow stronger in Christ.  But everything is done in such a way that their non-Christian friends will understand all that we're saying and doing.  Bottom line: We've tried to create a perfect storm for come-and-see evangelism while velcroing newcomers for long-term spiritual growth. Pg.20

...a sticky church offers the perfect environment for come-and-see evangelism, because while every service is designed to help Christians become better Christians, it is always done in a way that non-Christians can understand evyerthing that's said and takes place. Pg.32

Most of our discipleship programs are very linear.  Unfortunately, most spiritual growth is not. Pg.41

Most spiritual growth doesn't come as a result of a training program or a set curriculum.  It comes as a result of life putting us in what I like to call a need-to-know or need-to-grow situation. Pg.42

Another spiritually crippling falsehood that began to lose its grip on our congregation was what I call the Holy Place myth.  It's the idea that God's presence is somehow greater in some places than in others.  It's why some Christians will tell a joke at the office they'd never think of repeating at church.  It's why others don't think twice about lying on a loan application but still swear they live by the Ten Commandments.  The Holy Place myth fosters a false dichotomy between secular and the spiritual by leading us to believe that there are some places where God hangs out and lots of others he seldom frequents. Pg.50

...transparency is hardly the hallmark of most churches.  So much so that for most people, the stereotype of a church is a place with lots of plastic smiles.  Pg.54

One reason I want my messages to be memorable is that I want people to apply the important spiricual truths and doctrines of the faith.  I know that if I can change the way people think, it will change the way they live. Pg.63

While I understand the desire to remove the intimidation factor, something seems wrong with a world where we remove all the adults from the nursery.  Pg.69

Assigning people to groups by neighborhood sounds great on paper, but it seldom works well in real life...That's because one of the poorest predictors of a potential deep friendship is the neighborhood we live in.  In most cases, it doesn't indicate anything other than shared economic status.  A much stronger likelihood of future friendship exists when we build groups around share interests or a common station in life. Pg.79

It all starts with our mission.  We describe it this way: Making disciples in a healthy church environment. It's our way of expressing that when it comes to ministry, both task and health are equally important. Pg.101

An easy-out philosophy doesn't mean a lower commitment level.  It actually creates more opportunities for greater commitment.  Pg.111

As important as it is to know what to look for, it's equally important to know where to look.  Some fishing pools yield far more of a catch than others. Pg.128

When we at North Coast Church began our small group ministry, we fell into a common trap.  We overtrained.  Pg.134

Despite the rhetoric, most small group programs and methods don't work very well.  They haven't for a long time.  There's a huge gap between what we claim they do and what they actually accomplish. Pg.140

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make when it comes to either launching or reengineering a small group ministry is a failure to carefully align both vision and methods. Pg.149

Sticky Church, Larry Osborne, c2008

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Points on Prayer

James 5:16 reports “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much". Prayer is powerful. We need to pray at all times. There is so much that will never happen in your life and mine apart from fervent and focused prayer!

What are some examples?  
1. Abraham's servant prayed, and Rebekah appeared.
2. Jacob wrestled and prayed, and Esau's mind was turned from twenty years of revenge.
3. Moses prayed, and Amalek was struck.
4. Hannah prayed, and Samuel was born; and her enemy, Peninah was confounded.
5. Isaiah and Hezekiah prayed, and in twelve hours one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrians were slain.
6. Elijah prayed, and there were three years of drought; he prayed again, and the rain came. 


The practice of prayer has:
• Brought forth water from a baked rock in a trackless desert (Moses),
• Split the waters of the Jordan (Elijah, Elisha and Joshua),
• Subdued the strength of fire (three Hebrews),
• It has bridled the rage of lions (Daniel),
• Hushed the anarchy of the Egyptian mob (Moses),
• Extinguished the terrors of wars (Hezekiah on Sennacherib),
• Calmed the raging storms (Christ),
• Expelled the occupation of demons (Paul on girl of Philippi),
• Burst the chains of death (Elijah, Peter, Paul & Christ ),
• Unlocked the doors of prisons (Peter by the saints),
• Expanded the borders of the Kingdom (Lord of harvest, laborers ),
• Cut short the ravages of disease (Peter for Dorcas),
• Exposed fakes (Peter on Ananias & Saphira),
• Saved cities from destruction (Jonah on Ninevah),
• Held the Sun in the sky (Joshua at Gibeon),
• Dried the skies of rain (Elijah on Ahab).
Prayer is...
• An all sufficient supply of power,
• An endless vein of treasures to be mined,
• An overflowing spring that never runs dry,
• A glorious view of heaven that can never be obscured,
• A place of peace never invaded and
• A fountain of blessing never exhausted!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Four Pages of the Sermon

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to refresh, renew & revive myself on the West Coast for several days. During that short span of time, I caught up on a little reading.  I was able to read through Thom amd Sam Rainer's "Essential Church", a book recommended to me by my brother, Kevin. It was a good read.  Incidentally, I have already begun to find relevant insights and applications in my own pastoral work; and hope to both share with our congregation and have our leaders read this enriching publication.

All along, I've been scamming through a book written by Paul Scott Wilson entitled, "The Four Pages of the Sermon". After reading books on morphology, lexicography, biblical languages and texts, I love reading books on sermonic preparation and delivery.  Biographies and autobiographical works are a distant second.  Among my favorite books on the methodology of expositional preaching, it's study and delivery are:

- Al Fasol's 'Steps to the Sermon'
- Stephen & David Olford's 'Anointed Expository Preaching''
- J.P. Gibb's 'The Preacher & His Preaching'
- 'Preaching in Black and White' (Bailey and Wiersbe)

That being said, I love the concept and creativity of Wilson's Four-Page concept.  While I understand the concept of brevity when one is trying to market a product, I am convinced that the four-page model would benefit the busy minister were it summarized in blog form.

Under Wilson's structure is a proverbial (or literal) manuscript with four distinct pages. On each page there is a different approach to the the sermon preparation and delivery. Each page is approximately 20-25% of the sermon, upon completion.

Page One: The Problem in the Text
The first page looks explicitly and exclusively at the biblical text. Here, we are to name the problem that gave rise to the text. We know this will inevitably require the study of the context, culture and customs, along with correlating historical facts surrounding the traditions of that day.  Apart of this includes situational ethics and the exploration of the themes, central thesis, thought and theology of the writer and that problem.  Explicitly, the goal here is to summarize the manifestation of sin in the Bible world. We make sure to look at the text in a literary, historical, and theological form, so that the hearer clearly understands and grasps the text from all those different angles and realities. While this task alone is mammoth and gargantuan, it greatly informs the congregation of the Biblical material as well as the background behind the material; and the integrity of the message being conveyed.

Page Two: The Problem in the World
Page two incorporates a move to the contemporary world into the here and now. This is the Word being made flesh, so to speak. Here the preacher looks at issues in the present world that are similar to the problems that gave rise to the text. This is an interesting move that guarantees some “relevance.”. In practical terms, Spurgeon was right...we are to proclaim with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.  To be sure, the newspaper and periodicals are not our primary source; but they are a resource of the times, nonetheless.

Page Three: The Gospel in the Text
Page three is another look at the text. However, this time we look for good news in the text. Here we clearly identify what God is doing in the world of scripture. We clearly show how God redeems the Bible world in the text.  This is what makes the Gospel...good news, in the transition to page four.  As an example, we ask...what is the good news in Exodus 14, as the people face the challenge of crossing the Red Sea?  Or,,,what's the good news in Isaiah 6, during the moment Isaiah sees the Lord in His resplendent glory in the temple? There are historic implications when studying Isaiah's culture, context and the condition of his people after the death of King Uzziah.  It is good news in knowing God is seated in His place of dominion, sovereignty and reign.

Page Four: The Gospel in the World

This is where the text becomes relevant to the heads and hearts of the listeners.  For me, I like to speak to both the saved and unsaved? What hope is there to those of us who have been redeemed? Further, what hope is available to those who are here who've never encountered the reality of our resurrected Lord?  Using Isaiah 6 once again, the good news for us today is, for one, God is in control.  Another is that He will continue to reign, even when mortal kings and princes have failed.  This is even good news when we think of our election season.  For the unsaved.l.the good news is, He can reign in your life, as He is placed upon the throne in your heart!
Wilson does assert that the minister is at liberty in shifting order of pages.  But I happen to like his order.

All in all, I think it is an approach that is worth utilizing in one's sermon preparation.  Most ministers, as myself, have used this approach for years.  However, Wilson simply shows a clear method and description of this approach. This book is not for the beginning preacher, or is it for the three-point only preacher. This book is for someone who understands the narrative approach to preaching and wants to improve their mastery of this style. The book is a must read for practitioners of the narrative-inductive style of preaching. Before this book is read, one should read “Preaching” by Craddock and “Homiletical Plot” by Lowry.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

Well...the Lord blessed us this day in worship at the Mt. Salem Church.  Yesterday, Dee, the boys and I were able to attend Victoria East High School's 'Unleash the Beast.'. I had some theological reservations regarding the name, but I didn't let that stop from supporting our students.  While we have students from our congregation that are at West and East, most of our students this year attend the East.  Three of our girls (all of which are also a part of our Praise Dance ministry that D'Ani leads) are apart of the cheerleading squad.  Hey were excited to have us there.  That made me happy, in knowing they were!

Today I enjoyed doing Sunday School review.  Unfortunately, I went over my time.  But the content, regarding the shepherd and flock, God's rendering of justice on wicked shepherds, and the promise of sending shepherds after His own heart....was worth it!

I continued my study through the Beatitudes, picking up with the 7th Beatitude...which deals with peace.  Admittedly, I stumbled on the Title of the sermon, not coming up with a clever title.  So....I picked a title I'd heard used for this beatitude: Can We All Just Get Along.  I now think I should have gone with a more basic title, such as: Blessed Peace or Happy Are the Peacemakers.  But, you live and you learn!  Overall, God has blessed us in the study and delivery of these important commands given from our Lord.

Here is the sermon skeleton:

Can We All Just Get Along?
Matthew 5:9


Peaceful Deeds.

Peaceful Words.


Domestic Peacemaking.  This is the one who brings peace between persons.

Divine Peacemaking.   This is the one who brings peace between mankind and God.


Today we had two people come by Christian Experience.  We were glad to have them.  Moreover, it has been wonderful to see God show His continuing faithfulness to our congregation.  Our church has been through quite a bit; and to see how God has restored and continues to expand the vision and grow His church, is breathtaking.

Our family ate today at a place called Gringo's in the Houston area.  I have been on a Mexican food kick.  Unfortunately, my eating capacity is apparently getting less and less.  Recently, I've noticed i have been unable to finish my meals.  So, basically, I was done after the appetizer. Maybe this will help with my diet! :-/.

My Cowboys lost their 2nd preseason game.  Dwight Howard is officially signed to LA.  I'm planning to continue on to Beatitude 8 next week, with tentative plans to continue the sermon on the Mount.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Be An Original...Well, An Original Copy! (Part 4)

The preacher's name was Jerry D. Black; he looked, in my view, nothing like he'd sound.  He appeared as a thin, straight-haired, pretty-boy, middle-age guy with hazel eyes. But as he stood in the pulpit, I was immediately struck by his baritone-bass voice, coupled with his role in the service.  He seemed to inadvertently direct the choir, the band and the entire experience flowed at his direction.  He possessed a perfect blend of a country/city preacher. He was clearly intellectual, but also emotive and 'down-home.'. I would find out years later that he grew up in the back hills of Arkansas, and actually got his start as a church musician, and then became a prominent preacher, coming to Atlanta some years later. It all made perfect sense - he had the gifts to touch both head and heart. With all of the energy, detail and effort that was dedicated to the worship experience, everyone seemed to know that the central purpose  was to hear the preaching of the Word of God.  Jerry Black, the preacher, read from Luke chapter 13, the story of a woman bowed down for eighteen years and encountered Christ and eventually healed.  He titled the message that morning, "The Crooked Made Straight.". As he preached, I began to alternate between the hats of being a young teenage Christian and a student of preaching.  I could be biased, but I will say that I've heard Jerry D. Black many times since that day, but on that occasion he seemed to be in rare form.  Actually, that has been the only time, even now, I can recall a preacher literally shouting while preaching. He preached.  Clearly, whatever insults we young preachers made to Rev. Miller and my father behind their backs, it was all worth it.  As we climbed back in the van to head back home to Corpus Christi, we were all quiet, some even crying.  We were simply blown away, as probably some young basketball novice who would see MJ for the first time on court.  As we returned, I had determined in my heart and mind that I would certainly follow in MLK, Jr. and Miller's footsteps, and attend Morehouse College. (More on that later!)

As a sophomore in high school, my Dad took myself, along with his other preachers, to the Prairie View A & M's Minister's Conference.  I was most excited about hearing G. E. Patterson, who had been slated to speak at the banquet. Unfortunately, he did not show!  Imagine my heartbreak...  Nonetheless, I had some very good experiences there at the conference.  Most notable was being introduced to the preaching of William D. Watley, among others.  It was my first real experience of seeing preaching across denominational lines.  It was still good preaching, nonetheless.  On Tuesday night of the conference we played hooky and traveled with Rev. Miller to Brookhollow Baptist Church, aka 'The Church Without Walls.'. It was a midweek service, but I never will forget being on the Bingle location campus, remarking how many people were there. In fact, it wasn't just a lot of people for a midweek; it was just a lot of people!  The worship was exciting and alive, led by V. Michael McKay.  Then the pastor, Ralph D. West (a guy who I remember seeing at the Prairie View conference, seeming to be a little cocky) took the stage. I'd never heard of him before, but everyone seemed to listen to his every word. Admittedly, I wasn't impressed. No one, including myself, would have ever thought that he would one day be my most favorite preachers in the world. I was there to hear Charles Boothe!!!  Finally, after that 'West guy' was done 'talking', Charles Boothe was up.  Again, he had preached. I would later hear him at the conference later that week.  I seemed to be in my element when listening to the message of the preacher. Somehow, I loved the emotional side, but my should leaped in the content the way many leap at the 'close'.  Needless to say, I really connected at that conference, and was enriched by the experience.

During my junior year in high school, I never will forget that our city hosted our national convention's mid-winter board.  This was a great experience for me because I would finally get to see all of these preaching legends I had heard for years on tape.  James Dixon (who had grown to be a favorite of mine) was there, the Sampson boys (F.D., Asa, etc) were all there, along with C. L. Harvey and Isadore Edwards.  All of these guys had different styles, but by then I had grown to appreciate them all.  No vivid memories stand out, aside from one night when I was at home.  Rev. Miller insisted my Dad make contact with me to be at the meeting that night in the general session.  Miller conveyed the message, and my Dad co-signed and agreed, that I wouldn't want to miss the preacher.  It is ironic, as I reflect...after arriving there, the preacher Miller and my father were insistent upon me hearing, I had heard once.  It was L.K.Curry, the Chicago preacher I had heard years before that played a part in starting everything!  The one who preached on being inadequate and an underachiever.  As I sat there in the back of this packed house, this guy's presence was simply vintage.  He even 'looked' like a preacher.  I never will forget he had on a nice black, 3-button suit, a white shirt, a grey satin-looking tie and a white handkerchief.  As soon as he spoke, I made the instant connection.  Interestingly, I didn't really want to be there that night! But Miller, who was like a father figure to me and had been such a blessing to me as a young preacher, let alone my Dad's instruction, I was there out of respect.  I must admit that I don't remember his text, but I remember the title of Curry's message was 'Divine Closure'.  I remember him telling the story of being a little boy when his mother passed; and that as others were wailing the death of this young woman, he sat there in quiet content and peace, knowing that his mother was in good hands and safe keeping. He said that he unknowingly had 'Divine Closure.'. Again...Miller, nor my father, steered me wrong.  That one message has gone into the archives as one I continually replay through the virtual IPod of my mind. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Be An Original...Well, An Original Copy! (Part 3)

On the night of my Trial Sermon, I was very nervous.  I had remarked to my older brother, Keith, as we sat in my father's study that I was scared.  He, being a young up and coming sax player in the church world told me that fear is merely Satan's attempt to neutralize my faith, and cause me to move away and turn back.  He said that it is okay to be nervous, not afraid. I've never forgotten his admonishment and advice.  As I walked out...I couldn't believe how many people were there.  Everyone seemed to be there.  J.R. Miller was there, along with many of my uncles, including my Dad's brother, Lloyd A. Pullam. Cleophus J. LaRue, Harold T. Branch and most of the local pastors were present.  It wasn't until years later that I realized that their presence there was not only because of me, but more out of support and esteem for my father.  It speaks volumes to me, even now.  I shall never forget, after preaching, Dr. Joe. S. Ratliff, of the Brentwood Church, in Houston, mailed me a book on ministry and preaching, along with a note of encouragement.  To this day, I still have that note and book somewhere in my library.  After preaching, I can vividly remember something Harold T. Branch said to me.  He said, 'Son, the greatest gift God has given you, after the cross..., is your mind.'. I didnt know if this was a generic, hyperbolic statement that Dr. Branch gave to every young preacher he would come across, but that is what he said to me.  And while his words seemed minuscule to my 15-year old mind, I remembered, and ran with it!  I remember my dad raised an offering for the church that night.  He said that the offering would be used to build my library and for the sole purpose of 'sharpening my ax.'. I never will forget that the offering was $347.00!!!  My first purchases from that offering were A Broadman Commentary Set and a Thompson Chain Study Bible.  My father also encouraged me to purchase a concordance, bible dictionary and a few other books for my fledgling library.  He also did something else. With the little money I had left, he took me to the bank, and made me open up an account. My first check was my tithe check!  

After preaching that night, my aunt 'Renee' (who was a member of the prestigious Antioch Church of San Antonio) said that she thought I would love a preacher who came on BET on Thursdays by the name of Frank M. Reid.  She was right; I DID!  For me, Reid became (after my father and Miller) my first real model for preaching. He definitely became my first portable preaching seminary.  From his demeanor in the pulpit to his preaching style, to his close....it all seemed planned though spirit filled.  His preaching changed years later; but I really fell in love with his preaching from the mid-nineties to early 2000's.  I loved it because I could SEE him preach, juxtaposed to all the guys I had only heard via tapes.

Several years later, Rev. J.R. Miller, who attended Morehouse, got word that some of us were curious about attending Morehouse one day.  So...one summer, he and my father drove us young preachers into a church van and took us to Atlanta.  Man....up to that point, I had never seen a city like that, in that way.  Miller took us by Salem Baptist Church (all of us wanted to see the place where Jasper Williams preached!). At that time, prior to the emergence of T.D. Jakes....Jasper Williams was the go-to guy in black preaching.  We also had a chance to go by Rev. Miller's home church there, Antioch. We met his college Pastor, Dr. Cameron Alexander, and was able to tour his church facility. That was my first up close encounter with a church that ran like a full-fledged business.  I can still remember seeing so many people, and being amazed that so many people were at church, in professional attire, working in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week.  

We also had a chance to go by the Atlanta malls, see the sights and the girls, and also ran into TLC, a girl-singing group.  They were walking through the mall, without a crowd or entourage.  It was just after one of the group's member, Left Eye, had burned down her boyfriend's house in an Atlanta suburb.  After noticing we were following them, I never will forget Left Eye remarking I was cute.  I guess she meant as a little boy, but for some reason I thought she was trying to get a date.  I had to let everyone know that Chili was my girl, and that was it.

That Sunday, for some reason, my father and Rev. Miller didn't take us to Salem, where we wanted to go.  We were very upset, but he promised us we would not be disappointed.  This was my first test in taking Miller at his word, when it came to preaching.  We were ALL upset, to say the least. He took us to a Beulah Baptist Church.  I will never forget that as we drove up to this school-looking church, people were running to get into church.  Though the church was packed, Rev. Miller had an old classmate who was a member there, who had arranged for all of us to sit together towards the front.  What I experienced next....far exceeded what I had heard as a little boy on that golden-looking tape......(To Be Continued)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Minister's Prayer

“O my Lord, Let not my ministry be approved only by men, or merely win the esteem and affections of people; But do the work of grace in their hearts, call in Your elect, seal and edify the regenerate ones, and command eternal blessings on their souls. Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking; Water the hearts of those who hear Your Word, that seed sown in weakness may be raised in power; Cause me and those that hear me to behold You here in the light of special faith, and hereafter in the blaze of endless glory; Make my every sermon a means of grace to myself, and help me to experience the power  of Your dying love, for Your blood is balm, Your presence bliss, Your smile heaven, Your cross the place where truth and mercy meet. Look upon the doubts and discouragements of my ministry and keep me from self-importance; I beg pardon for my many sins, omissions, infirmities, as a man, as a minister; Command Your blessing on my weak, unworthy labors, and on the message of salvation given; Stay with Your people, and may Your presence be their portion and mine. When I preach to others let not my words be merely elegant and masterly, my reasoning polished and refined, my performance powerless and tasteless, but may I exalt You and humble sinners. O Lord of power and grace, all hearts are in Your hands, all events at Your disposal, set the seal of Your almighty will [and Your pleasure] upon my ministry.”

- Adapted from "The Valley of Vision"' p.338

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Be An Original...well, An Original Copy! (Part 2)

As I listened to Jasper Williams, I couldn't believe the energy, style and intonation given in one single sermon.  This one preacher made me feel as if I wanted to be sitting there in the very building in which he preached.  His style was boiled down to an actual science, an actual art form, if you will.  As I listened, I felt as if I were in church, though in my room in our home on Trojan Drive.  I said to myself, "I can't do that!". This, however, did not diminish my love and appreciation for his style. Interestingly, Jasper was an exception to what I would hear later in my adult years to many who tried to emulate him - he had style AND substance!  Until maybe a few years ago, I could probably quote verbatim Jasper Williams' sermon 'Who's the Greatest'.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) my Dad had no other copies of his messages that I could find. But I did come across messages on old wax records of W. Leo Daniels and C. L. Franklin. Apparently, I would conclude Jasper Williams had been cut from these guys' proverbial ecclesiastical cloth.  

So, it goes without saying...that when I began to sense a strong sense of calling at 14, I was frightened because of my human limitations.  Somehow, I equated preaching greatness (amid so many others) to that of Jasper Williams. While the others were good and great, somehow his charisma shined through stronger than all of the others. But as I began to pray, have private meetings with my father, his reading assignments, our praying together...I somehow happened upon a manuscript and tape of a Chicago preacher, Dr. L. K. Curry.  It was a recording of him preaching at a Minister's Conference in Dallas at Bishop College, a message entitled, "The Blessing of Human Inadequacy.". This one sermon actually changed my life.  It became the catalyst that would push me over my human reservations for not obeying the call.  Curry stated that it is the very mundane, human deficiencies within us, that attract a surrender which inevitably causes a dependence and reliance on the sovereign ability of God.  I never forgot that. At that point, I became serious, knowing that at least God could call someone like me, amid my obvious deficiencies.  

In the midst of all of this, I found myself heavily reading MLK Jr's messages, speeches, lectures and writings.  During this time, A. Louis Patterson became a stronger influence on my development, prior to announcing my call.  I would write out many of the phrases and words of Patterson, and commit them to memory.  I also found myself waking up earlier on Sunday mornings to hear a Pentecostal preacher, Gilbert Earl Patterson, come on at 7:30am.  I remember always wondering if these two Patterson men were related, in some way.  After about a year of private meetings with my father, in December of 1993, I would publicly acknowledge my call into Christian Preaching ministry.  I was 15, and a Freshman at Richard King High School.  One of the things my private conversations, meetings and prayers with my father did....it solidified my call.  When I stepped forward to acknowledge my call, I had no single doubt, then or even now, I had been called by God to preach His Word.  I clarified that this was not a human call.  My mother, father, family, the church nor anyone else was responsible for this heavenly call.  I am eternally grateful to both my heavenly and earthly father for earnestly settling that for me, without my knowledge, at that time.  Interestingly, I already had several sermons under my belt by the time I professed my call publicly.  Admittedly, the best seemed to be a sermon I had re-crafted, re-structured and studied, making my own, out of a message I had heard preached out of Philippians 2:12-16. I would then study this particular passage left and right, backwards and forwards, in and out....for the next several months.  One of the books my father gave me to read was Al Fasol's 'Steps to the Sermon.'.  To this day, this is probably the most valuable book I have in my library, after the Bible.  This is a book I use now, not only in reading every year, but also in a graphic form to clarify my sermon structure and direction.  Last year, a dear colleague of mine who is good friends with Fasol, took this book that my father gave me after graduating college, and had Fasol sign my book with encouraging words.  That made my year!!!  

I preached my 'Trial Sermon' on March 27, 1994.  The day before, I preached this message to an empty sanctuary, with my Dad sitting in the middle of the church.  Almost 20 years later, after preaching in various settings to hundreds and thousands in churches, hospitals and colleges across the states and I'm Africa, I can honestly say that that moment was the most frightening!  As I preached to my father, he actually said nothing.  He had no expression, anything.  I've never asked him, but I think that was intentional, I letting me know that the message goes beyond him to One sitting in the audience Who is far more significant, and Who's approval is most meaningful. That night was the beginning of a continuing quest for discovering who I was in the vast sea of many ecclesiastical preaching whales....(to be continued)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

Today was another great day in the life of the Mt. Salem church family.  After being out the previous week, I found myself doing catch in sermonic preparation.  Our association (American Baptist Western District Association) met this past week, Monday through Thirsday.  Somehow, I convinced myself I could get up early in Corpus Christi, on the last day of association, drive to San Antonio with our youth department, spend a few hours with them and my family at Fiesta Texas Six Flags, get back on the road and be at Moderator's night in Corpus... Well, I did it!  But I feel it now...  Nonetheless, I was able to continue my series in the Beatitudes. 

Title: It's Time for a Heart Check
Matthew 5:8


A. The Illustration of the Heart.

B. The Examination of Purity


A. Three ways to work on having a pure heart. 

1. Remember that God is watching your heart. 
2. REVIEW the movies of your heart. 

- In Mt. 6:2-3 he says we can GIVE WITH THE WRONG MOTIVES.
- In Mt. 6:5-6- Jesus says you can PRAY WITH THE WRONG MOTIVES.
- Then Jesus says in Mt. 6:16-18 you can even FAST WITH THE WRONG MOTIVES.

3. Realign the priorities of your heart. 
- Look at your activities.
- Look at your anxieties. 
- Look at your ambitions. 


God blessed the message today.  One came to rededicate her life.  Three others came forward to join the fellowship.  

I am looking forward to continueing our study in Matthew 5:9, next week.