My Schuyler Goatskin Preaching Bible

After preaching yesterday, I realized that over the years I’ve developed a routine I follow almost every time I preach. This is in addition to the process of studying and writing my sermon notes.

It includes steps between finishing my main sermon preparation and actually preaching the sermon, and a few post-preaching steps also. Some actions are intentional and other just happen.

This ritual is my way of depending on God, familiarizing myself with my message, and getting mentally and physically ready to preach the Word. It could be compared to an athlete “getting in the zone” before a big event.

Here is the ritual in three stages, all built around the preaching event. This is based on Sunday morning preaching. I adapt it to fit other situations.

Print out or finish handwriting the final draft of my sermon notes.

Make solid pink circles in the left margin with a highlighter indicating when to advance PowerPoint slides. (I advance my own slides. I’ve seen too many PowerPoint fiascoes to entrust it to someone else.)

Highlight main points with pink . Underline other key statements with pink.

Highlight Scripture I will read with yellow, including references we will turn to, phrases from the preaching text I will repeat, and selections from other passages I will quote.

Read through my notes, underlining with a black fountain pen or gel pen to connect my mind to the ideas and to mark phraseology and emphasis for speaking. Also write in additional ideas and cross out what I decide to omit.

Place the Bible marker ribbon at the page of my preaching text. Place other marker ribbons as needed. (My Bible has three!)

Retire early enough to get a full night’s rest.

Rise at least 3 hours before I leave the house.

Brew strong pour over coffee with my Chemex and fill my 10 ounce Yeti tumbler.

Kneel in my quiet place and pray through my Prayer List for Preaching.

Talk through my message to familiarize my mind and mouth with the  wording and smooth out as needed.

Fold my notes, leaving a ¼ inch overlap for easy opening later, and put them in my leather Bible case along with my preaching Bible.

Put the Bible case, my Unique Planner, and a bottle of water in my book bag.

Shower, dress, eat a good breakfast, and drive.

Verbalize a prayer of dependence and thanks while walking from my car to the building.

Fellowship and worship.

Drink most of the bottle of water during the first part of the service.

Mentally offer one more prayer of dependence during the song before the sermon.

Open the Word and preach it.

Silently give a prayer of thanks and commit to God the ongoing work of the Word in people’s lives.

Finish the water left in my bottle.

Fellowship and leave.

Sometime later, arrange the sermon note pages back in order and pass them to my administrative assistant to record and file.

What’s your preaching ritual?

Lessons in Ministry Love

Ernest Thompson Seton was an adventurer, artist, and writer who recorded his journey to northern Canada in his book The Arctic Prairies. He tells the story of an Algonquin woman whose village starved to death in winter. She and her infant son, the only survivors set out from the camp, hoping to reach another village where there might be food. Along the way she discovered a cache of supplies in a hollow tree, including a small bone fish hook. She had nothing to use for bait so she used her knife to slice a strip of flesh from her leg, baited her hook with it, and caught a fish. They ate, and she used pieces from the fish to catch more, and so they survived the winter.

A mother’s love compels her to do whatever is necessary for the good of her child. Genuine ministry is compelled by love. When we love others we will do them good, even at great personal cost. The model for our love is not a mother, but Jesus.

In John 13 we find Jesus teaching His disciples lessons in ministry love. Notice how John sets the scene in verse 1. Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. John summed up the disciples’ experience with Jesus this way: “He loved His own.” Then he added another word of eyewitness testimony:  “He loved them to the end.”

This prepositional phrase, “unto the end,” can designate time, meaning up to the point of his death, or his departure for heaven. He loved them to the end of His ministry in their presence.

The Greek phrase eis telos can also indicate completeness, to the full extent, or even extreme. Several translations reflect this meaning with the phrase, “to the uttermost.” He loved them completely. He showed them the full extent of His love. He loved them to the extreme.

This may be one of those instances where human language struggles to capture the fullness of divine truth, and one word or phrase contains nuances of meaning.

Jesus loved His disciples while He was with them; loved them to the very last hour of His natural life; loved them to such a degree He died on the cross in their behalf; loved them as He was dying, loved them until He was dead; loved them with His whole person and every ounce of His being; loved them after He rose from the dead, and loved them until He ascended to heaven, and as we now know, that was just the beginning, because neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Loving them to the uttermost led to the cross. But there were thousands of instances before that when Jesus showed them His love. And there was one, just before the cross, that John wanted to be sure to include. He recounted an event so deeply impressed on the minds and hearts of these disciples they would never forget it. After Jesus and the disciples had finished what we call The Last Supper, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Love elevated Him to the cross in the place of supreme sacrifice. But love also put Him on the floor in a position of servitude.

Jesus did this not only to show love to His disciples, but to teach His disciples how to love. There are lessons here for us as well. Love is produced in us by the Holy Spirit. But Jesus gave us a model to follow.

The Divine Servant teaches us lessons in ministry love.

This is the introduction to a sermon I preached at the Refresh Pastors Conference in 2019. You can listen to the full message here.

They Said Yes!

Old TypewriterThis week I have been blessed with an answer to prayer and a major step in fulfilling one of my heart’s desires. Allow me to give thanks to God and share with followers and friends.

Two years ago I began using summer and Christmas breaks as well as early mornings during the school year to turn stacks of study notes and sermon outlines into a manuscript. Last October I submitted the result of my efforts to a publisher for consideration.

After six months of review by editors and a few revisions on my end, I received a letter this week which began, “We are excited about your book titled Growing Body. The topic of church growth from a biblical perspective is important, and your book will speak to that need . . . If you accept the terms of the contract, please add your electronic signature . . . “

My heart leaped. Praise God!

Months of editing, revision, and production still lie ahead. I’ve discovered that while writing is hard work I enjoy the process. I look forward to the finished product and the impact it will have.

I am grateful to God for giving me the vision and energy to write and to my wife for her support and encouragement. I am thankful for the opportunity to partner with JourneyForth Books.

Many thanks to JourneyForth Acquisitions Editor Nancy Lohr who, eight years ago, first encouraged me to turn a sermon series into a book and who is now walking me through the process. It took a while, but here we go!

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