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A Special Weekend Away

1 standing on pic

After Doug Connell received our associate pastor position, but before he and his family moved to Woodland, his wife Jessica had the idea for the four of us to meet for breakfast together each week to pray, discuss how things were going, keep our friendship strong, etc. That sounded like a great idea, so we committed to it. We’re approaching their one-year anniversary at WCC and we haven’t met like that…at all. It’s not that we haven’t wanted to or didn’t think it was important, it’s just that twelve children between our families (including two babies), home-schooling, the number of church activities, having others over, etc. it ended up taking a backseat to these other activities and obligations. But last weekend we finally made it a priority!

We (the four of us, plus our babies Chloe and Luke) left Sunday after church for a beach house in Gearhart, OR and we returned Tuesday afternoon. Some wonderful people watched our kids allowing us to accomplish the three purposes we had:

  1. Discuss the past year.
  2. Plan for the future.
  3. Strengthen our relationships with each other. Pastor Doug and I are able to spend quite a bit of time together, and Katie and Jess have been able to spend quite a bit of time together, but I haven’t spent that much time with Jess and Pastor Doug hasn’t spent that much time with Katie…say nothing about the four of us spending time together.

Overall the trip was really fantastic. To give you an idea how much we enjoyed just being able to talk together in the middle of the first night a skunk sprayed the house. The smell was so bad I couldn’t fall back asleep, and the next day every room was filled with the smell. We had to put up with the stench the entire following day AND WE STILL DIDN’T LEAVE THE HOUSE! I don’t want to brag, but THAT is commitment! If our congregation ever wonders about the love “the entire pastoral staff” and our wives have for them, they can picture us sitting in the living room together, continuing to talk and pray even though we could barely breathe! I’m kidding…sort of :).

During each meal we took turns “sharing our stories”, which was nothing more than explaining our lives in detail, especially those parts we thought the others should know to be best familiar with us. Other times we prayed, read articles we wanted to discuss, and just talked…and talked. There were some very, very emotional, vulnerable times. At different points each of us cried sharing some of our most intimate memories, fears and feelings. It was a truly special time that exceeded what I hoped or expected. Although I felt like we were already close prior to the trip, we left even closer with a much better understanding of each other, and most importantly we left better able to serve the Lord and serve our wonderful congregation.

2 scott & doug walking

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How I Develop a Sermon – Part VI: Going over my notes with my wife


Parts I, II, III, IV and V discussed steps one through six…

  1. First, I read over the passage a number of times.
  2. Second, I copy the verses to Word with spaces between them for the notes I’ll add.
  3. Third, I begin looking at commentaries.
  4. Fourth, I determine the number of verses to cover.
  5. Fifth, I add lessons.
  6. Sixth, I begin “shaving” down my notes.
  7. The seventh step is, I go over my sermon with my wife…

This actually takes place two or sometimes three times per week, about two-to-three hours each time. My parents usually come over to watch the kids, but sometimes Katie’s brother Boyd or sister Molly (who moved to the area) help; it really is a family affair! We normally do this Thursday morning, and then I make changes the rest of Thursday and Friday, before going over it again on Saturday. If a third time is required (because perhaps it was a little rougher than expected on Thursday), we’ll try at some point on Friday. Going over my sermon with Katie serves a number of beneficial purposes…

I mentioned in Part III that my “notes” are a manuscript of what I want to say. Because we don’t speak the way we write (usually our writing is more formal), when I go over my sermon with Katie it allows me to change my notes from the way I write to the way I want to speak from the pulpit. I’ll add visual cues and arrange the information in such a way that it’s easier to preach: bullets, capitals, ellipses, spaces between lines or thoughts, etc.

One of the difficulties associated with preaching is it involves presenting information I’ve studied, become familiar with, etc. and as I explain it I’ll believe I’m doing so in a clear, understandable way…but maybe I’m not! One of the blessings of going over my sermon with Katie is she’s able to say, “Ummm…that doesn’t make sense.” Maybe I’ll say, “Okay, this is what I was trying to say” and she’ll say, “Well that’s not what it sounded like you said. What you just said is what you should say instead.”

Also, Katie might have verses or thoughts that she’ll share with me. The funny thing is when we start my sermon I’ll say, “I’m X hundred words over a reasonable length” and Katie will say, “Oh, I’ll help you with that” implying she’ll ruthlessly tell me parts of my notes that can be taken out – which she does – but she usually offsets that by the verses, stories, ideas, etc. she thinks I should add.

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How I Develop a Sermon – Part V: Steps 5 & 6

????Parts I, II, III and IV discussed steps one through five…

  1. First, I read over the passage a number of times.
  2. Second, I copy the verses to Word with spaces between them for the notes I’ll add.
  3. Third, I begin looking at commentaries.
  4. Fourth, I determine the number of verses to cover.
  5. Fifth, I add lessons, which I began discussing last week…

One of my weaknesses when I started preaching was my sermons were largely teaching with a lot of technical information, but little application. Katie has really helped me in this area as a result of our different preferences. I could listen to a sermon with little-to-no application and if the verses are clearly explained I’ll enjoy it, but Katie will be bored: “How is that going to help me be a better mother or wife?” And if a sermon is filled with application, but contains little exposition, she’ll be thrilled and I’ll be disappointed: “He read over those verses and hardly explained them?!?!”

This led to some interesting conversations between us when we first started going over my sermons together. At times I would consider the application from verses to be obvious to the congregation asking Katie, “Don’t you think everyone will take away that application from the explanation?” Katie would say, “No, you need to make it clear. Spell it out for us.” Over time I put more application in my sermons, trying to provide a balance with exposition/teaching. I want to make sure people have a thorough understanding of the verses, while also receiving application for their lives.

Sixth, I begin “shaving” down my notes. I’m almost always hundreds of words over a reasonable length for my sermons. This requires cutting out parts of my sermon: a painful, but beneficial process because it forces me to make every word count. There are times at the very end of my sermon when I’m looking back-and-forth between paragraphs struggling with what to remove or keep.

Here’s a quote by Mark Twain that really sums up what it feels like: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one.” He meant – and it’s what everyone has experienced when they’ve had  to be careful with their words – it takes more time and focus when we’re limited by space; when we have to be concise.

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How I Develop a Sermon – Part IV: Adding Lessons


Parts I, II and III discussed steps one through four…

  1. First, I read over the passage a number of times.
  2. Second, I copy the verses to Word with spaces between them for the notes I’ll add.
  3. Third, I begin looking at commentaries.
  4. Fourth, I determine the number of verses to cover.
  5. Fifth, I add lessons

This step takes place throughout the week as opposed to one point in the process. There might be times during Step I when I’m reading over the passage and something strikes me as significant and worth emphasizing, so I’ll make a lesson for it. Then I put the lessons on an insert for the congregation to fill out while I’m preaching. I decided to try this for one of my earliest sermons at WCC and I’ve been doing it since. Here’s the interesting – and somewhat ironic – background…

My previous church, Grace Baptist in Lemoore, CA, is where I began paid ministry (first part-time, and when the church grew they hired me full-time). The senior pastor, Joe Gruchacz, who was also my mentor, used inserts with lessons, but I thought it was unnecessary – and honestly – somewhat silly. Why? Because I spent my Christian life at Calvary Chapel where I hadn’t seen that done, and I was convinced what CC did I should do, and what CC didn’t do, I shouldn’t do. My suspicion is Pastor Joe probably got tired of hearing me say, “That’s not what Calvary Chapel does!”

I also thought the best approach to preaching looked like reading a verse, explaining it, reading a verse, explaining it, etc. with very little organization or structure to the message. Early on Pastor Joe shared a quote with me from Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“A sermon is not a running commentary on a passage. I emphasize this because there are many today who have become interested in what they regard is expository preaching, but who show very clearly that they do not know what is meant by expository preaching. They think it means making a series of comments, or running commentary, on a passage. They take a passage verse-by-verse and they make their comments on the first, then they go onto the next, and when they have gone through the passage in this way they imagine they have preached a sermon. But they have not; all they have done is make a series of comments on the passage. I would suggest far from having preached a sermon such preachers have only preached the introduction to a sermon.”

Occasionally I preached for Pastor Joe and these words were meant as a criticism of what I was doing. I have to say this quote was perfectly fitting, it has really affected my preaching, and I’m very thankful Pastor Joe cared enough about me (and those I’d be preaching to over the years) to share it with me. Even though I still generally preach verse-by-verse and probably always will, this motivated me to ensure the material in my sermons was arranged in such a way that it wasn’t simply a “running commentary.” Part of that has been the addition of lessons that I try to relate to an overall theme.

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How I Develop a Sermon – Part III: Step 4 (cont'd)


Part I discussed steps one through three…

  1. First, I read over the passage a number of times.
  2. Second, I copy the verses to Word with spaces between them for the notes I’ll add.
  3. Third, I begin looking at commentaries.
  4. Fourth, I determine the number of verses to cover.

The two factors I take into consideration are the context of the verses (discussed in Part II) and the number of words in my notes. While some pastors’ notes contains statements or phrases reminding them what to say, my “notes” are a manuscript of the message itself and are much lengthier as a result.

Each week I write a letter to the congregation on the back of the bulletin and then I turn those letters into posts on my blog. Something interesting is I started this letter/post in July 2012, but never got around to finishing/using it until now. I have about thirty potential bulletin letters in a folder on my computer to use when I don’t have another topic to discuss. Usually I write about something happening in the church or the world, or I use something I took out of the sermon because it didn’t relate or didn’t fit. If I don’t have something along these lines to use I’ll pull out a bulletin letter I started earlier.

When I started this letter/post about developing a sermon 2.5 years ago I had written, “I try to keep the manuscript for my sermon to 4,500 words, which ends up being about forty-five minutes.” I have a spreadsheet keeping track of the information related to each of my messages (the date, title, verses covered, number of words in my notes, length of the message if it was recorded, setting [i.e. Sunday School, morning service, Wednesday night, devotional for an event]), and here’s what’s interesting: the manuscripts for my last twelve sermons have averaged 6,178 words. That’s a pretty substantial increase over the 4,500 words from a few years ago (and an even bigger increase from the 3,800 words I averaged in my first sermons at WCC a little over four years ago). BUT the actual length of my sermons hasn’t increased much.

I’m pleased with this because it means I’m being more disciplined when preaching, sticking to my notes, avoiding rabbit trails, etc. If I can get more material in my notes without changing the length of my sermons it means I’m covering more material in the same amount of time. While it’s great to be “led by the Spirit” – and there’s definitely the occasional addition to a sermon that wasn’t in my notes – I think it’s much better to have invested the time studying and use the material that’s been meticulously prepared, prayed over, thought about during the week, etc. than information preached off the cuff.

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How I Develop a Sermon – Part II: Step 4

How I Develop a Sermon - Part II

Part I discussed steps one through three…

  1. First, I read over the passage a number of times.
  2. Second, I copy the verses to Word with spaces between them for the notes I’ll add.
  3. Third, I begin looking at commentaries.

Fourth, I determine the number of verses to cover, taking two factors into consideration…

First, the context of the verses: I want to keep appropriate verses together, conclude with verses that tie up a section well, hopefully not introduce another topic that can’t be exposited (explained) thoroughly, etc. Basically, I want to leave people with closure on a certain passage or topic and be prepared to introduce a new point or topic in the next sermon.

One of the real challenges is a chapter, a section within a chapter, or a few verses might have their own theme or point. Deciding what to elaborate on can be challenging. For example in the last sermon on the old and young prophet in 1 Kings 13, the young prophet committed the “sin leading to death” (1 John 5:16-17). Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) and some partaking in the Lord’s Supper in “an unworthy manner” (1 Cor 11:27-30) did the same. I had quite a bit of notes on all this, but I took them out for two reasons: they didn’t relate to the theme of the sermon and I didn’t have room for them.

The second factor in determining how many verses to cover is the number of words in my notes. As I add to my notes the number of verses I’m able to cover decreases. Since I add to my notes throughout the week, the number of verses I’m able to cover also decreases throughout the week; therefore, this step doesn’t take place on a certain day or at a certain point in the process; it’s really an ongoing “step” as I develop the sermon.

As those people who have attended WCC for any amount of time know, the number of verses I expect to cover usually ends up being much less than I actually end up covering. As a result, the passage I copy to Word in Step 2 usually lasts a number of weeks. For example, when I recently preached through Ephesians 5, I copied verses 25 to 33 to Word, but those verses were split up over six sermons, therefore lasting six weeks. When I copied 1 Peter 3:1-6 to Word (the verses discussing wives), the passage became three sermons lasting three weeks.

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How I Develop a Sermon – Part I: Steps 1, 2 & 3

How I Develop a Sermon - Part I

Since developing a sermon takes up so much of my week, I’ve often wondered what other pastors do and how much time it takes them. This led me to some articles discussing the preparation of well-known pastors (here’s one): John MacArthur and Mark Dever said they require 30 to 35 hours of preparation per week, while at the other end of the spectrum Mark Driscoll said he only needs 1 to 2 hours. It’s worth adding no other preachers even come close to approaching the minimal amount of time Driscoll said he requires. Most other prominent pastors – Matt Chandler, John Piper and Tim Keller – said they require around 14 to 16 hours per week.

This looks to one of the interesting realities associated with preaching: pastors prepare in vastly different ways. While I’m sure there are some similarities between great preachers (their familiarity with Scripture, diligence in studying, time committed to prayer, etc.), their actual sermon development looks very different.

Even though I’ve only been preaching consistently for the 4 years I’ve been at WCC (when I was at Grace Baptist I preached occasionally, approximately once every 6 to 8 weeks), the way I prepare has changed slightly and perhaps it will change even more in the future, but for the most part it has remained the same. I thought I might provide some posts discussing how I prepare a sermon. First I’d like to be clear though that I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong way to develop a sermon and I don’t think what I do is better than what others do. With that said…

First, I read over the passage a number of times.

I want to make sure I’m very familiar with the passage. Since it usually takes months to preach through a chapter (for example I preached on Luke 4 from 7/7/13 to 11/24/13 and Luke 5 from 12/1/14 to 6/29/14), most passages have been read numerous times.

Second, I copy the verses to Word with spaces between them for the notes I’ll add.

Whether it’s for a sermon, Sunday School message, devotional or any other teaching, my notes always keep the same format: I put the verses in bold, my notes in normal font, and quotes in italics. This provides visual clues for me as I’m teaching. At the bottom of this post I copied some of the notes from my most recent sermon as an example.

Third, I begin looking at commentaries.

This is where I add the most to my notes, not just because of what I learn from commentaries, but because what I learn from commentaries leads me to think of other things to share/teach as well. As far as the length of time looking at commentaries, it usually takes one full day and sometimes runs into a second day. At this point my notes still look fairly unorganized and will later require a significant amount of organizing and editing.

Here’s a sample of my notes from my most recent sermon (1 Kings 13:19-32 False Prophets – Part II) simply copied and pasted below…

Now when the man of God – or the young prophet – was returning home from confronting King Jeroboam, another prophet, an older prophet, who was lonely and wanted to spend time w/ him invited him to eat w/ him. Please look at verse 15…

15 Then he (this is the older prophet) said to him (the young prophet), “Come home with me and eat bread.”

This is the second time the young prophet received an invitation to disobey the command God gave him. If you remember last week’s sermon, one of the lessons was about how we need to expect to be tempted to disobey the commands God gives us in His Word, and that’s exactly what happened w/ the young prophet. He keeps being tempted. But, look at verse 16…

16 And he (the young prophet) said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place (now notice this…). 17 For I have been told by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’”

This is a great response!

If you read the bulletin letter, one of the points I wanted to make is when we’re tempted to disobey, the temptation will come back stronger, and that’s what’s about to happen to the young prophet…

18 He said to him (the older prophet said to the young prophet…), “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (He was lying to him.)

One of the main points of last Sunday’s sermon is prophets lie, and there’s an example of it right here in Scripture.

Now almost everything we’ve studied up to this point leads us to verse 19 in the hope we won’t make the same mistake the young prophet is about to make…

19 So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

He did exactly what God told him not to do. This is very sad, and it shows how terrible and deceptive false prophecies really are:

The young prophet had been strong enough to withstand Jeroboam’s invitation to eat and drink…

He was able to withstand the old prophet’s first invitation, which I’m sure would’ve been very attractive considering how tired and hungry he was…

But he wasn’t able to withstand the old prophet’s second invitation b/c of how strong the deception was, and in giving in he clearly disobeyed the command God gave him

It didn’t take long for the young prophet to find out the mistake he made and the punishment he’s going to suffer as a result. Look at verse 20…

That’s it! If by chance you’d like to see all the notes to this or any other sermon, please let me know!

Here’s Part II.

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Be Filled with the Spirit – Part III: It doesn't mean being baptized with the Holy Spirit

Part III

On Sunday mornings at WCC we’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series looking at the instruction for husbands, wives and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4. All the instruction flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 to, “Not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Considering the importance of this verse I wanted to spend a few weeks talking about what it means…and doesn’t mean.

In Part II we saw that it doesn’t mean speaking in tongues, and in this post we’ll talk about what else it doesn’t mean: being “baptized with the Holy Spirit”, some supposed experience that takes place after conversion. The idea is you’re indwelt by the Spirit at conversion, but baptized with Him later.

While the word baptism makes us think of water, it means “immerse” and can refer to being baptized – or immersed – in trials (Mark 10:39), or for the Israelites, even baptized in Moses because of their unity with him (1 Cor 10:2). With that in mind Paul’s crucial words are found in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

Paul isn’t referring to being baptized – or immersed – in water, but being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ – or the church – at the moment of conversion.

Paul’s favorite way of referring to believers’ relationships with Jesus is to say we’re “in Christ”, so when Paul says we’re “baptized into Christ Jesus” in Romans 6:1-4 he means we’re spiritually immersed in Him: Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. This should make sense because we don’t become part of the body of Christ through water baptism, but through faith in Christ; water baptism is simply a physical demonstration of what has taken place spiritually as we identify with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection when we go under the water and come back up.

Paul’s emphasis in 1 Corinthians 12:12 and 13 is on oneness (the word one occurring six times), and there can be “one body” because we’re all baptized by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion and placed into the body of Christ; however, if there was a later baptism that some received while others hadn’t, there would have to be two bodies: one for believers who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and one for those who haven’t received that experience. Ephesians 4:4-5 There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Paul couldn’t say this if some believers were baptized at conversion, but others were then baptized later. The clear understanding is all believers receive one baptism by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion.

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Be Filled with the Spirit – Part II: It doesn't mean speaking in tongues

Part IIOn Sunday mornings at WCC we’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series looking at the instruction for husbands, wives and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4. All the instruction flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 to, “Not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Considering the importance of this verse I wanted to spend a few weeks talking about what it means…and doesn’t mean.

In Part I we saw that it doesn’t refer to the Holy Spirit indwelling us at the moment of conversion. We considered the four individuals in Luke 1 who were “filled with the Spirit” (John in v. 15, Mary in v. 35, Elizabeth in v. 41 and Zacharias in v. 67), and there’s no record of any of them speaking in tongues. The fifth Person in Luke “filled with the Spirit” is Jesus Himself in Luke 4:1, but while the first four were “filled with the Spirit”, Jesus was “FULL OF the Holy Spirit”. Colossians 1:19 and 2:9 say “in [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Nobody would argue with Jesus being the most Spirit-filled Person to walk the earth, but there’s no instance of Him ever speaking in tongues. Some would say there’s no verse saying He didn’t speak in tongues, but that’s called “arguing from silence”, and for reasons that go beyond this post, let me simply say: arguing from silence is very dangerous. We stand on what God’s Word says, not on what it doesn’t say.

Others think “being filled with the Spirit” means you can have more or less of Him, but the truth is you can never have more or less of the Holy Spirit than you have at the moment of conversion. When you’re saved the Holy Spirit indwells you and you receive all of Him: 1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you. You either have the Holy Spirit or you don’t, but you can’t have part of Him without having all of Him.

But – and this is very important – you can have more or less of the Holy Spirit’s influence over you. This is why the beginning of Ephesians 5:18 mentions wine: it has the potential to influence people, and so does the Holy Spirit. We are filled with, or influenced by, the Holy Spirit when we submit to, or yield to Him, allowing Him to help us live holier lives:

  • Eddie Rasnake says, “There is no place in Scripture that indicates we can receive more of the Holy Spirit. The real issue is the release of the already present Spirit to have free reign in our hearts. It isn’t about us having more of Him, but of Him having more of us.”
  • John Napier said, The goal of the Christian life is not to gain the Spirit-filled experience; rather, the goal is to remain Spirit-filled. That should be the normal Christian life.”
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Be Filled with the Spirit – Part I: It doesn't mean the Holy Spirit indwelling us.

Part IWe’re in the middle of our Marriage & Family Series at WCC and all the instruction for husbands, wives, and children in Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4 flows from the command in Ephesians 5:18 Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. Considering the importance of this verse, I’m going to discuss what it means – and doesn’t mean – over the next few weeks.

First, we’ll talk about what it doesn’t mean…

Paul is not talking about the Holy Spirit indwelling us, as that happens at the moment of conversion: that is a one-time, instantaneous event when we put our faith in Christ and are regenerated, or born again, or brought to life spiritually. Paul is talking about something else in verse 18 though: the Greek would actually be better understood as: “keep on being filled” or “stay filled with the Spirit”, because Paul is describing something that should be ongoing our lives. And what is that? Interestingly, the beginning of the verse is how we understand what he’s saying, and when you catch the contrast it makes perfect sense: alcohol has the potential to influence people – when people are driving drunk, we say they’re “driving under the influence” – and just like wine has the potential to influence people, so does the Holy Spirit have the potential to influence people.

This begs the question, “How are we filled with, or influenced by, the Spirit?” The answer is actually simple to understand, but difficult to live out: by submitting to or yielding to Him. When we don’t submit to or yield to the Holy Spirit, we’re not being filled with – or influenced – by Him. This is what Paul’s talking about when he says:

  • Ephesians 4:30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Some people will say you’re grieving or quenching the Spirit if you don’t do certain things, usually speaking in tongues, but that’s not what these verses mean.

Consider the theme in Luke 1 of four different people being filled with the Spirit (John the Baptist in v. 15, Mary in v. 35, Elizabeth in v. 41, and Zacharias in v. 67), but there’s no record of any of them speaking in tongues. Were they grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit? Of course not, and even though two of them were moved to make dramatic declarations (Mary’s Magnificat in vv. 46-55 and Zacharias’ prophecy in vv. 68-79), they weren’t spoken in tongues.

More in Part II on the 5th Person filled with the Spirit: Jesus!

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Quit Being A Baby

I can’t tell you how often what I’m preaching on is what I need preached to me. Last Sunday’s sermon had a real focus on trials, where the theme could’ve been: God uses trials for our good (Rom 5:3, 4; 2 Cor 4:17; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 1:6, 7). That’s what I need to be hearing. I should probably listen to my own sermon and take notes. Seriously. The trials I’m facing mostly relate to feeling like I’m letting people down, not able to please everyone, not  able to keep up with everyone, not able to get everything done, etc. as opposed to physical or financial trials.

Here’s part of an e-mail someone sent me this past week: “I have no doubt you will look back on this season as a time of great learning if you can but learn what the Lord would have you learn.” It was good for me to hear these words. At least part of what I believe God wants me to learn relates to my need to toughen up. I don’t mean that relationally, like being less sensitive to people (I should actually probably be more sensitive). I mean toughening up like…not feeling sorry for myself. Not being a baby. I think that’s what God wants me to learn. There’s a verse I was really meditating on this past week, and I’d like to share it, but first here’s the context…

Jeremiah the prophet had one of the most miserable ministries in Scripture; when you’re known as The Weeping Prophet, you know things are bad. He was regularly mocked, beaten, imprisoned, and rejected. In one candid moment of discouragement after learning the members of his hometown were plotting his murder, Jeremiah poured out his heart to God, questioning what God was doing…and wasn’t doing. What you would EXPECT God to do is encourage the beleaguered prophet with one of those verses like Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous hand. We love verses like this. We cling to them and memorize them. When we’re struggling we picture God saying verses like this to us. That’s not what God told Jeremiah though. Instead he said, “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jer 12:5). Not only did God not comfort him, He actually rebuked him; He said, “If you can’t handle it now, how are you going to handle it when things get even worse?” God doesn’t always want to stroke us and make us feel better. Sometimes He wants to rebuke us and tell us to toughen up, and I think that’s what He wants me to learn.


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Coaching our kids in t-ball with my best friend…

Some months back when Elwyn was considering whether to take the kindergarten teaching position here, I remember walking in the house telling Katie, “He’s not going to move to Washington.” He had been offered the job, but before we got off the phone he told me he was staying in Marysville, CA. The whole situation was so sudden, and involved so much change, and required so much to be done in such a short period of time that for anyone it would seem almost impossible. Plus you factor in Elwyn had been in Marysville for almost twenty years: he had a routine, he was very well-respected by a school and community that knew and loved him, he told me he could walk into his classroom each day without preparing anything because he had been doing it so long, his job was completely secure, he was making good money, etc. Plus, he had a wife and two small children who would be seriously affected by the decision if it didn’t go well. It was a huge decisions to consider, BUT God had opened all the doors. A number of “fleeces” had been laid out, and God had answered in the positive regarding all of them. Still, what was being required of Elwyn and his family was so much that I could understand why he was waiting to come for the following school year. I was very disappointed, but it made perfect sense.

Then something happened that I’ll never forget. Forty-five minutes after telling me he wasn’t coming, Elwyn called me and told me he was coming. It was a wonderful, emotional moment. When your best friend tells you he’s bringing his family to be part of your family (and church), and you consider all it’s expecting of him…and he happened to be the person God used to see you become a Christian…and now you’re going to be his family’s pastor, it’s hard not to get emotional…even for a guy like me who never gets emotional :).

Elwyn said he had one requirement though. It wasn’t, “Be a great pastor to me and my family” or “Let’s make sure our families hang out once per week” or “Please introduce us to some other families so we have some friends” or “Can you get some people to help us move in?” it was, “I’ll move there if the two of us coach our sons together in T-Ball.” I have coached football, wrestling and girls’ basketball, and as of Saturday afternoon at 10:30am, Elwyn and I became the proud co-coaches of a Woodland T-Ball team, with Brooks, Ricky and Rhea as three of our players. Do we have any idea what we’re doing? Not at all!

Elwyn purchased this jacket for me, which happened to be the same jacket he'd purchased for himself. He's a Michigan fan; hence the colors.
Elwyn purchased this jacket for me, which happened to be the same jacket he’d purchased for himself. He’s a Michigan fan; hence the colors.