One More Reason to Manuscript Your Sermons

Yesterday morning I had something happen that has never happened to me before in 16 years of preaching almost every Sunday: I woke up and I had lost my voice.

My sermon was ready, so I went to church hoping tea would fix it, but it didn’t. I took a Covid test, which came back negative, so I prepared to preach the first service, but during worship I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do it. So, I went up on stage and asked our worship pastor, Michael, to preach my sermon from my notes.

My notes are in a manuscript format; I like to write out every word I’m going to say. I don’t read my notes, but writing out every word helps me process my thoughts and plan my message.

There are other benefits to manuscripting, some of which I’ve written about more here: Speaking Tips: Manuscript, but Don’t Read. For example, I know that 4000 words in a Pages document equates to about 30 minutes, so manuscripting helps me keep my sermon the right length.

Another benefit of manuscripting is that lately I have been re-preaching some of my older sermons which had lost or damaged recordings. For the sake of our radio show, and so we can have complete series archives, I have been re-preaching these “lost” sermons, and having a manuscript makes it easy to pull up my notes and re-preach an old sermon without much preparation.

If I get asked to guest speak, having a manuscript of my past messages makes it easy to create a new sermon based on something I’ve shared before. Or when people request a text version of a particular teaching, it is easy to send them my manuscript.

Furthermore, I am currently beginning the process of turning some of my sermon series into books. Having manuscripts of my messages makes that process much easier.

Certainly there are downsides or detriments to manuscript preaching, like when someone reads their notes in the pulpit and fails to make eye contact and connect with their listeners, or when someone is so dependent on their notes that they leave no room for the Holy Spirit to inspire prophetic ad libs.

But yesterday I realized one more benefit of manuscripting my sermons: Mike, our worship pastor was able to preach my sermon without any preparation, and by the second and third services, he was ad libbing and making it his own.

Here’s the video (starts at 32:27):

The Offense of the Cross: Cicero, the Early Christians, and Us

Boulder County & the Flatirons

The symbol of the cross is universally recognized today as the symbol of Christianity; for many in the Western world it is familiar and welcome. However, in the ancient world, in the first century AD, when this symbol was first used by early Christians, it was downright scandalous.

Paul the Apostle refers to the message of the cross as foolishness to the Greeks, a stumbling block to the Jews, and an offense to all. (1 Corinthians 1:22-23, Galatians 5:11)

The reason is because, for people in the ancient world, the cross was a terrible instrument of torture and execution. 

The thing that made crucifixion so terrible is that it didn’t kill you right away; it was designed to make a person suffer as much as possible, for as long as possible. And for this reason, crucifixion was reserved for only the very worst kinds of criminals.

Because of how terrible crucifixion was, the Romans did not allow their own citizens to be killed by crucifixion, no matter how dastardly their crimes; only slaves and those without rights were allowed to be crucified, since it was exceedingly inhumane. 

Cicero, the Roman statesman and philosopher said that crucifixion was so horrible, that the word “cross” should never be mentioned in polite society.

Let the very word ‘cross,’ be far removed from not only the bodies of Roman citizens, but even from their thoughts, their eyes, and their ears.

Cicero, 106-43BC, Pro Rabirio Postump 16

For the Jewish people in particular — to be crucified on a cross was considered a fate worse than death, because according to the Jewish Scriptures, anyone who was killed by being hanged upon a tree was considered “accursed”. (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)

And so, just imagine if you told someone back then that you were a follower of Jesus — a man who had been crucified… That person would have thought: “Whoa… Even if he was innocent, that’s probably something you should keep to yourself! That’s not something you want to go around advertising, because: that’s humiliating!”

But: here’s what’s interesting: for the early Christians, the fact that Jesus had been killed upon a cross was not something they tried to hide. Instead, the symbol of the cross became the main symbol they used to identify themselves – which is surprising, because the cross was generally consider to be the ultimate symbol of humiliation and defeat.

Furthermore, the message that the early Christians embraced and wanted to share with the world was what they called, “the message of the cross,” and “the good news of Christ, and him crucified.”

Paul the Apostle knew that the message of the cross was difficult for many people to accept. For the Jews, the idea of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block. For Greeks, the idea that you could be saved through the death of an executed Jew seemed ridiculous. The idea that God would come to Earth and allow himself to be beaten, mocked, rejected and crucified, seemed completely unreasonable. They couldn’t wrap their heads around it. The Greek gods made humans serve them; they didn’t serve people – and they would never sacrifice themselves to save guilty people. 

Just as the message of the cross ran contrary to popular thinking back then, the message of the cross also runs contrary to popular thinking today.

The message of the Cross requires you to admit that you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that you are powerless to save yourself. This is why Paul talks about “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11)

The message of the cross offends our sensibilities and our pride by telling us that we are sinners who need a Savior, and that we cannot save ourselves. In order to receive this salvation, you have to humble yourself before God.

Another part of the offense of the Cross is that the message of the gospel is exceedingly simple. Many people in Corinth seemed to believe that in order to “find God,” you had to be really smart, or exceedingly “good.” And yet, God chose to bring salvation to the world in a way that was so simple that even  even a child could understand it, and in a way that it was available to people who had lived immoral lives. 

Another part of the “offense of the cross” is that God says that His reason for saving you was not because you are better than other people. Salvation is simply an act of God’s grace: completely undeserved and totally unearned. You can’t take credit for it. The message of the cross leaves no room for pride or arrogance.

And when you really embrace the message of the cross, on the one hand it forces you to be incredibly humble, but on the other hand it fills you with an incredible sense of confidence – because the message of the Cross is that God loves you, and He has acted to redeem you, and if you have put your faith in what Jesus did for you, then God has sealed you and made you His own: He has adopted you as His Child, and placed His Spirit inside of you — and therefore you can be incredibly confident, knowing that you have nothing to fear in life or in death because God has promised that He will cause all things to work together for your ultimate good and for His ultimate glory.

For more on the message of the cross, see this sermon titled, “The Message of the Cross & the Power of God”

The Theology of Glory vs. the Theology of the Cross

In our current series at White Fields called Grace & Truth, we are studying through the book of 1 Corinthians.

This past Sunday, we studied the second half of chapter 1, in which Paul talks about “the message of the cross.” In doing so, Paul makes clear between 1:17 and 1:18 that the message of the cross is the gospel, and the gospel is the message of the cross. This message is “the power of God” for all who believe; precisely the same thing Paul says about the gospel in Romans 1:16. In other words, the gospel (the central message of Christianity) is the message of the cross.

Martin Luther wrote about the difference between a “theology of glory” and the “theology of the cross.” In this week’s Sermon Extra, I explain some of this historical context for Luther’s differentiation between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross, as well as how we can recognize theologies of glory in our modern times.

You can also listen to the podcast of this episode here:

Sermon Extra: Is the Theology of the Cross at Odds with the Theology of Glory? White Fields Community Church | A Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado

In this week's sermon extra, Pastors Nick Cady and Michael Payne discuss Martin Luther's description of Theology of Glory vs the Theology of the Cross and how it works out in modern thinking, as well as the way to be happy.  — Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/whitefieldschurch/support

You can watch the entire message from this past Sunday, “The Message of the Cross & the Power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-31), here:

Will God Remove the Holy Spirit from a Person Because of Disobedience?

Click this image to listen to the podcast version of this article

Recently at White Fields, we did a 5-week study on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, called “The Spirit Filled Life” (click here to view that series).

One of the questions that is sometimes asked about the Holy Spirit, is whether God will ever remove the Holy Spirit from a person because of disobedience or sinful actions.

Certainly there are verses which talk about God removing the Holy Spirit from people, such as Psalm 51:11, where King David prays, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” David prayed this in the wake of his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), so that brings up the question: Are there times when God removes the Holy Spirit from someone if they do something really bad?

Furthermore, in 1 Samuel 16, is says that the Spirit of the Lord departed from King Saul, and in the Book of Judges, it says that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Samson.

So, does this mean that God will REMOVE his Spirit from YOU, if you live in a bad way? If so, that would be a pretty big problem, because Romans 8:9 says “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

Understanding the Three Relationships the Holy Spirit has with different groups of people

In order to answer this question and understand what it meant for David, Saul, and Samson – and what it means for us today, we have to first understand the 3 different relationships that the Bible tells us the Holy Spirit has with different groups of people.

Relationship 1: “WITH” All People

In John 14:17, Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit had been with them up until that point.

Jesus then he told them that the work of the Spirit in the world is that He brings about conviction in people’s hearts and minds about 3 things: Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment (John 16:8)

In other words, the Holy Spirit is at work in the world in every country, with all people, and he is whispering in their ears and speaking to their hearts about the fact that 1) They are sinners (they have fallen short of God’s perfect standard), and 2) God is righteous, so therefore 3) There is coming a day of judgment when they will have to stand before that righteous God and give account for their lives.

The purpose of this conviction is not to just make people feel bad about themselves; the purpose is to draw them to Jesus by bringing them to a realization of why they need a savior, so they will embrace Jesus and what He has done in order to save them.

Relationship 2: “IN” those who have been redeemed by Jesus

Jesus told his disciples in John 14:17The Holy Spirit has been WITH YOU up until this point — but soon, the Holy Spirit will also be IN YOU.

This indwelling of the Holy Spirit is something that was prophesied by the Old Testament prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah, that one day God was going to put His Spirit within His people (Ezekiel 36:27), in order to transform them from the inside out.  

For people in the Old Testament, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was always a future event, but after Jesus had died and resurrected, we read in John 20:22 that Jesus met with his disciples and he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” It was at this moment, that the disciples received the Holy Spirit within them, and it was at this moment that they were “born again.” (See also: “What does it mean to be “Born Again”?)

What it comes down to is this: Only those who have put their faith in Jesus have the Holy Spirit within them, and every person who has put their faith in Jesus has the Holy Spirit dwelling with them.

The Bible tells us that when you put your faith in Jesus, God puts his seal on you and gives you His Spirit in as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:23). Furthermore, the regenerating and indwelling Spirit is called “the Spirit of Adoption” (Romans 8:15) It’s His guarantee that you belong to Him, and you are His.

The indwelling Spirit sanctifies, leads, guides, strengthens, and transforms from within.   

Relationship 3: “UPON” Some people at different times, to empower them to do what God has called them to do

Remember how in John 20 Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”? Well, right after that, Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them. (Luke 24 & Acts 1:4)

But… if they just RECEIVED the Holy Spirit, then why did Jesus tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit?

Because: this is speaking about two different relationships with the Holy Spirit!

When Jesus breathed upon them, they received the Spirit IN them (and they were born again) — but then they were to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come UPON them:  to EMPOWER THEM to carry out the mission Jesus had given them.

That’s why Jesus His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come UPON you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

Throughout the Old Testament, before people could have the Holy Spirit WITHIN them — we read that the Holy Spirit would come UPON people, to empower them to do things God had called them to do. For example, it says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon! (Judges 6:34 NKJV) We’re also told that the Holy Spirit came UPON Samson, and UPON David, and UPON Elisha, and others — to EMPOWER them to do what God had called them to do.

So, Jesus was promising his disciples (and us) — that the Holy Spirit will also come upon us, to empower us to carry out the callings He has placed upon our lives.

Un-Adopting? Un-Sealing?

Remember: in the Old Testament, the Spirit was WITH people (to bring conviction) and the Holy Spirit was UPON people (to empower them), but at that point that Spirit was not yet WITHIN people. So when we read in the Old Testament about God “removing” his Spirit, it’s not in the sense of a person who had the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, rather it’s in the sense of God removing the empowering work of the Holy Spirit from those people.

But for a person who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit indwelling them, we never read of God removing His Spirit from someone in that sense. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Adoption. God does not un-adopt us when we make mistakes and mess up, rather: he disciplines us like a loving Father (see Hebrews 12).

If He has SEALED you, as a guarantee of your salvation, that’s exactly what it is: He has placed his Spirit within you as a guarantee that He will see you through and bring to completion the good work that He has begun in you.

If you are His child, He won’t give up on you – and that’s really good news!

Further Study

For more on the 3 Relationships with the Holy Spirit, see this study: The Promised Helper

For more on the question of God removing His Spirit, see this study: The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life of a Believer

Christmas Eve Services in Longmont

Join us on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2020 for a time of singing Christ-centered Christmas songs and a message from Galatians 4:4-5 about how the Son of God came to us so that we could become children of God.

Service times: 3:00, 4:30, & 6:00

Location: White Fields Community Church, 2950 Colorful Ave. Longmont, CO 80504

Project Greatest Gift 2020: A Ministry to Kids in Kinship Care in Northern Colorado

This week I sat down with Christine Appel to discuss the history of Project Greatest Gift, a home-grown ministry that serves kids in kinship and foster care in northern Colorado at Christmastime.

Every year during the month of November, we partner with the Health and Human Services departments of Weld, Adams, and Boulder Counties to provide for children and families in the kinship and foster care systems.

In this interview, Christine tells the story of how Project Greatest Gift got started, the vision behind it, and how God has used it over the past few years.

Importantly, we also discuss what is different this year in 2020, as Project Greatest Gift expands to an online platform.

Check out: projectgreatestgift.org

Bible Learning Center Starting at White Fields Church

The Bible Learning Center is something that has been on my heart for a long time, and I’m excited to see it begin.

In the past we have taught classroom-style classes at White Fields on topics such as Church History, Christocentric Hermeneutics, and more, but over the past year I handed the development of the Bible Learning Center off to a team who have really laid the groundwork for this to become more of what we originally envisioned:

I like to describe it as: “Bible college for people who don’t have time to go to Bible college.” Think: community college meets Bible college.

The Bible Learning Center will have a two-year non-accredited credit based curriculum, aimed at preparing believers for ministry in the world, whether relational or vocational. If you only want to take a few classes which interest you, that’s possible. If you want to do the entire program, which seeks to give a well-rounded offering of essential and elective classes, that is also possible.

This first semester will be limited because of COVID-19, but we will be offering three 6-week classes starting October 5, 2020:

  • Monday nights, 7:00 PM: Walk Through the Bible with Pastor Nick Cady
  • Monday nights, 7:00 PM: Worship Guitar Workshop with Pastor Michael Payne
  • Tuesday nights, 7:00 PM: Spiritual Transformation – a study of 1 Peter with Pastor Ken Cartlidge

For more information and to sign-up, click here: Bible Learning Center Sign-Up

Devotional: A Dry Brook and a Full Jar

I had the opportunity this week to write for an online devotional called It Is Well – follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

My post was a shortened version of my message this past Sunday at White Fields from 1 Kings 17. Click here to listen to or watch that whole message.

Elijah was called by God to pray that it would not rain. This was a direct challenge to the pagan god Baal, who was thought to be the god of rain – a resource as valuable as gold in the arid Middle East.

James 5:17 tells us that Elijah’s prayers were used by God to cause the drought, during which Elijah hung out at the brook Cherith, which provided him with water to drink (1 Kings 17:5).

But, after a while, the lack of rain caused the brook Cherith dried up (1 Kings 17:7).

So here is Elijah, doing what God called him to do: praying that it won’t rain. But by doing what God called him to do, the same prayers which brought God glory against Baal, also caused Elijah’s own resource, which he needed to survive, to dry up.

Similarly, there may be times when God calls you to do something, and the very act of obeying God may result in your financial resources drying up, or in your popularity to drying up.

I wonder if Elijah was ever tempted to stop doing what God called him to do, out of fear that his resources would run out if he kept doing it? Are you?

“For the eyes of the LORD roam throughout the earth to show himself strong for those who are wholeheartedly devoted to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 CSB)

Faith means: trusting God enough to do what He says. When you do, that is when you see God’s power and experience the evidence of His strength at work in your life.

Elijah experienced just that: as he continued to do what God called him to do, rather than dying of dehydration, God provided for him through a widow in Zaraphath. The widow herself was broke and hungry, having only enough oil and flour for one meal…but as she trusted God enough to do what He said, she experienced God’s power at work in her life, and her jars were never empty.

God has shown himself strong on your behalf in Jesus: “When we were weak, at just the right time, Christ died for sinners” (Romans 5:6). Therefore you can be sure that he will show Himself strong on your behalf whenever you trust Him enough to do what He says.

Update on Reopening: In-Person Services Begin June 7

We have been monitoring very closely the COVID-19 situation from multiple angles, and are excited to announce that our church will begin gathering for in-person worship in our new building on June 7!

This is consistent with our previously announced Reopening Plan, and is in accordance with the state and federal guidelines. 

In preparation for opening on June 7, we will be:

  • Rearranging our sanctuary and setting up an overflow room to accommodate social distancing
  • Working out the kinks with live-streaming our services 
  • Setting up audio and video in the overflow room
  • Having the building cleaned by a professional cleaning company
  • Hanging our big sign on the outside of the building
  • Coordinating with our service teams to ensure a welcoming and safe environment for worship

We look forward to seeing you on June 7! Remember that we will be having two services, at 9:00 & 11:00 AM. These are family services, which means that there will not be NextGen classes for children or youth, but there will be a “Wiggle Room” available for parents with niños who need to get out their wiggles, as well as a Nursing Mothers room, complete with a screen where you can watch the service as you take care of your babies!

The wearing of masks is recommended, and we will be disinfecting between services. Those leading from the stage will not be wearing masks while they lead worship or teach, so please plan your seating accordingly if that is a concern for you. Families are encouraged to sit together, otherwise seating will be done with 6 foot distance (2 empty chairs between you and the next person). Hand sanitizer stations will be available.

If you are experiencing symptoms, or are not yet ready for public gatherings, you will still be able to join us online on our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, and whitefieldschurch.com live at 9:00 & 11:00 AM starting June 7. On May 31 we will still be broadcasting our service at 10:00 AM.

But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face – 1 Thessalonians 2:17

We are excited for this new season for our church!

Love and blessings, 

Pastor Nick

Sanctuary set up with 50% seating capacity
Overflow room adjacent to sanctuary
Our big sign, ready to put hung on the front of the building!