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The Zondervan 2010 Pastor's AnnualAn Idea and Resource Book
By T.T. Crab
ZondervanCopyright © 2009 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSuggested Preaching Program for January
* Sunday Mornings
The theme for the first Sunday mornings of the year is "Christian Living in the New Year." The sermons encourage faith, surrender, trust, prayer, and worship as proper responses to God.
* Sunday Evenings
The theme for Sunday evenings is "Great Night Scenes of the Bible."
* Wednesday Evenings
On Wednesday evenings study the epistle of James. The lessons emphasize that the practice of the Word of God and of genuine religion in daily life is necessary for a Christian witness.
SUNDAY MORNING, JANUARY 3
Title: The Pattern of Life
Text: "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:19-20).
Scripture Reading: Galatians 2:15-21
Hymns: "Holy Ghost, with Light Divine," Reed
"O for a Closer Walk," Cowper "When We Walk with the Lord," Sammis "Take My Life, and Let It Be," Havergal
Offertory Prayer: Heavenly Father, we finite beings of your creation realize keenly our total dependence on you. We are ever aware that all that we have comes from you, that you are ever the Provider of our time, our talents, our health, and our strength. We come before you in an act of dedication, presenting to you not only our tithes and offerings but also ourselves in useful service. On the first Sunday of this new year, we make a vow to you of honesty and faithfulness. We long to see your kingdom grow and prosper in all parts of the world, and we earnestly desire to have a part in that growth. Therefore we now place before you our tithes and offerings even as in our hearts we have already dedicated ourselves afresh to you. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
People seldom begin a vacation without carefully plotting an intended course of travel. Unfortunately, too many people do not consider life as an adventure to be carefully mapped out prior to takeoff. As Christians we need to ask ourselves what we expect to receive from life for the coming year and, more important, what we expect to give to life during the months ahead.
No two people look upon life in exactly the same fashion. Some see it as pessimistically, as did Macbeth in William Shakespeare's play by that name when he cried out, "Life ... is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Somewhat less pessimistic but in much the same vein are the words of the great Seneca, philosopher, dramatist, and statesman of ancient Rome: "Life is neither a good nor an evil; it is simply the place where good and evil exist." A more optimistic concept of life was presented in Athens some 425 years prior to Christ's birth by the great Greek philosopher Socrates, who taught that "the end of life is to be like God, and the soul following God will be like him." It remained for Paul, however, in the words of our text, to present the thoroughly Christian teaching of what life for the believer is all about: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
As we begin this new year, we need to be much aware that there is before us a journey of twelve months, the pathway of which will be woven into a pattern interlaced with opportunities, tragedies, and victories.
I. Life's pattern will contain opportunities.
Among the joys of facing a new year of life is the joy of knowing that opportunities for growth and service lie before us.
A. Opportunities for growth. When we stop growing in some fashion, we begin to decay. Therefore, during the new year we should seize the opportunity for growth.
1. Mentally. When Christians have stopped studying and have stopped cultivating their mental capacities, they begin to atrophy; their God-given mental abilities "dry up." We are stewards of our intellect, and we are responsible to God for the cultivation and enlargement of that capacity. Too many people are satisfied with mental mediocrity. Albert Einstein once remarked about his time in history, "We live in a time of perfect mediocrity and confused ends." As Christians we need to be much aware that, in the words of Richard C. Raines, "It does not take a great mind to be a Christian, but it takes all the mind a man has."
2. Spiritually. During one summer vacation from college, I worked at going from one small church to another conducting vacation Bible schools and teaching study courses. In one community I encountered a pitiful sight; I saw through the window of the dining room where we sat at a beautifully set table something that made an indelible impression on my mind and heart. Being led across the back lawn by a nurse was a person who was stumbling along and jabbering, a person somewhat dwarfed and quite odd in appearance. My gracious hostess, detecting my startled expression, turned to me and said sadly, "What you see out there is the sorrow of our hearts. Our child, now in her late twenties, has the mind of an infant." Pitiful? Yes, quite pitiful, but there is something more pitiful than that. That to which I refer is the Christian now old in years since conversion but still no more spiritually mature than a newborn Christian. Let us determine that during the coming year we will grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
B. Opportunities for service. We as Christians need to remind ourselves constantly that we have been saved to serve and not to sit in the kingdom of our Christ. During this coming year we need to serve our Master through:
1. Meaningful Christian service. Jesus taught simply one of life's greatest principles of service to him: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). During this year we need to come out of our cocoon of self-centeredness and avail ourselves of the opportunities of ministering to the sick, the shut-ins, the physically needy, the imprisoned, and the troubled in the name of our Savior, witnessing for him as we serve.
2. Soul winning. The greatest of all of life's opportunities is the opportunity for person-to-person witnessing with the sole intent of winning a lost person to a saving knowledge of Christ. The joy in soul winning cannot be overestimated. As George W. Truett, the "silver-throated orator" of the pulpit of an earlier generation, expressed it, "The bringing of a soul to Jesus is the highest achievement possible to human life."
So hungry for souls was Deacon George W. Chipman of Tremont Temple in Boston that each Sunday morning he would walk along the wharves looking for waifs and runaways. He would take these unfortunate boys to his church with him. On one such morning he found an eleven-year-old runaway in a barrel, where he had probably slept the preceding night. Chipman took the lad to Tremont Temple, where he found Christ. This worthy servant of God could not possibly know that in later years that little runaway lad would become the founder of Grace Baptist Temple in Philadelphia, Temple University, and two hospitals in that city. Nor could he visualize the hosts of people who would gather to hear his famous lecture "Acres of Diamonds." You see, the little waif George Chipman pulled out of the barrel and witnessed to was none other than Russell H. Conwell.
II. Life's pattern will contain tragedies.
As much as we would like to avoid the tragedies or heartaches that will probably be woven into the pattern of our lives for the coming year, we need to realize that they are the goads that thrust us along in our Christian growth. As Kirby Page has expressed it, "Tragedy crushes and tragedy ennobles, and you had better find out the difference between that which flattens and that which upbuilds." Some of the heartaches or tragedies for which we ought to prepare ourselves are:
A. Loss of business and wealth. To lose all of one's material possessions may be a blessing in a strange disguise. I heard of a man who lost his business, his home, and all of his possessions. He went to the Salvation Army for food and for a place to lay his head. Of all things for the Salvation Army worker to confront him with in an attempt to meet his needs was the subject of tithing! Certainly that was hardly appropriate, considering that the man did not have a penny to share with the Lord. He did, however, accept the principle of tithing. Later he migrated to Oklahoma and "struck it rich" in the oil business. True to his newfound principle, he became a partner with the Lord and found life to be much more meaningful than ever before.
B. Loss of health. Paul's "thorn in the flesh" has been the subject of much conjecture through the years. I agree with those who hold that it was a physical disability. Paul prayed for its removal. Though this request was not answered in the way he desired, Paul received sufficient grace to bear it. He even saw that the Lord could bring glory to himself through this infirmity. Paul heard the Master saying, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
C. Loss of loved ones. I recently listened to a man as he stood beside the grave of his beautiful little daughter and said, "God spoke to me through this experience; now I am going to accept the Lord as my Savior." Even out of this catastrophe of life God can bring a great blessing.
III. Life's pattern will contain victories.
Every person experiences some measure of success along life's journey.
A. For the Christian. Those of us who have the joy of salvation in our hearts should experience:
1. The victory of growth in grace. At the beginning of this calendar year every Christian should be able to say, "How much better I know my Savior now than I did at the beginning of last year!" The warmth of close fellowship with Christ is reward and victory enough for any Christian.
2. The victory of leading someone to Christ. Every Christian ought to make one New Year's resolution, and that is to endeavor to win at least one soul to Christ each month during the coming year. Undergirding this goal must be earnest prayer for a specific lost person and a personal explanation of the biblical way of salvation to him or her. When the Holy Spirit has done his work of convicting and convincing, you will experience great joy in that person's coming to accept Christ as Savior and Lord.
B. For the sinner. Some of you sitting here this morning have felt a remorse over your spiritual condition, realizing that you are in God's sight crooked, perverse, and rebellious against his love. You desire to have a peace of heart and mind that is not yet yours. Accept Christ today as your Savior and Lord and experience the happiness, joy, and peace you crave. For you this will be the greatest of life's victories-the victory of surrender to the King of Kings, Christ Jesus.
Are you ready to face another year of living? Are you spiritually strong enough to seize every opportunity available this year to magnify Christ in your personal life and in your efforts to win souls for him? If you are not yet a follower of Christ, won't you in this first service of the year accept him as your Savior and Lord? Won't you bring Christ into the pattern of your life: "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4).
SUNDAY EVENING, JANUARY 3
Title: A Night of Mystery
Text: "There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:1-2).
Scripture Reading: John 3:1-16
In a time when people are eagerly probing into hidden secrets of the universe, we still remain surrounded by one mystery after another. Apparently the solution of one mystery only reveals the existence of countless others.
The bewilderment of our finite minds in the face of some unknown truth is often satisfied by a theory or hypothesis that allegedly explains it. But there is no theory or hypothesis that can lay bare the mystery of salvation. That marvelous transition through which a depraved, sinful person becomes a sanctified child of God remains a mystery to us even as it did to Nicodemus on that night he came to Christ.
Although we have no hope this side of heaven of ever fully understanding this mystery, we can learn enough about it to experience it and share it with others.
I. The mystery of human need.
Our text speaks of the mystery of human need. Nicodemus is identified as "a man of the Pharisees." The Pharisees were distinguished by the orthodox creed and strict observance of the Jewish laws. Paul speaks of them as "the straightest sect of our religion" (Acts 26:5). Nicodemus is further identified as "a ruler of the Jews." This title is reserved for members of the Sanhedrin. Therefore, Nicodemus represented the religious learned class of his nation.
We can understand why Bartimaeus, the Samaritan woman, and the lepers came to Christ, but why would a man of Nicodemus's high moral stature need to come to Christ? This is the mystery of human need!
Excerpted from The Zondervan 2010 Pastor's Annual by T.T. Crab Copyright © 2009 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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