Read an Excerpt
The Zondervan 2006 Pastor's AnnualAn Idea and Resource Book
By T.T. Crabtree
ZondervanCopyright © 2005 Zondervan Corporation
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSuggested preaching program for the month of
* Sunday Mornings
The beginning of a new year offers hope for the future. It is a time when we renew our commitments to the basics. "Things Worth Remembering" is the suggested theme for the morning sermons in January.
* Sunday Evenings
In the parables, Jesus Christ spoke about God as no person had ever before spoken. Through the parables, he continues to speak to us with penetrating insight. "Patterns for Pilgrims" is the theme for a series of messages based on the parables of our Lord.
* Wednesday Evenings
The Psalms pose questions about life that are relevant regardless of the time or place in which someone lives. "Questions by the Psalmist" is the theme for the Wednesday evening meditations for the month.
SUNDAY MORNING, JANUARY 1
Text: "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13 RSV).
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 13
Hymns: "How Firm a Foundation," Rippon
"The Solid Rock," Mote
"To God Be the Glory," Crosby Offertory Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come to you through Jesus Christ our Lord. With appreciative hearts we thank you for what you have done and promise to do for us. Now out of gratitude for all our blessings, we bring our tithes and offerings into your storehouse for your kingdom's work. Bless them that they may lift burdens and advance your kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Michelangelo and Raphael were great Italian Renaissance painters. The story is told that Michelangelo, eight years older than Raphael, came into Raphael's studio and examined one of Raphael's early drawings. Picking up a piece of chalk, Michelangelo scrawled across the painting the Latin word Amplius, which means "greater" or "larger."
To the older master's trained eye, Raphael's painting demonstrated too little vision. Michelangelo insisted that Raphael think bigger and paint better. Surely this is what almighty God thinks of most of our plans and efforts. The God who thinks big wants us to live greater, nobler lives.
If we are to live 2006 magnificently and gloriously, there are some things we can't do without. Paul lists three of them.
I. We can't do without faith.
In his book The Gift of Love, R. L. Middleton tells about an experience that A. J. Cronin, a British physician turned author, had in the venerable city of Vienna shortly after World War I.
Cronin had looked forward to revisiting the city he had known and loved. But when he finally reached Vienna, he was deeply distressed as he saw how the city had been destroyed by the Germans. Walking amid the ruins of the once beautiful city, he grew furious as he witnessed the ravages of war.
As the cold night fell, he sought shelter in a small, dimly lit church. Sitting down to wait out the winter rainstorm, he turned to see an old man coming into the sanctuary. Clad only in an old suit but standing painfully erect, the old man walked down the aisle carrying a little girl in his arms.
When the old man put down the cold, poorly dressed little girl, Cronin saw that she was paralyzed. But as the old man supported her, she knelt at the altar, clinging to the rail.
After a few minutes of prayer, the little girl placed a candle on the small stand adjacent to the altar. Then the old man picked her up and started up the aisle with his precious burden.
Cronin followed them out of the church and watched as the man gently placed the girl on a dilapidated wagon and pulled a potato sack over her twisted limbs. Unable to hold his silence, Cronin asked the old man if the war had maimed the child. He answered that she was crippled by the same bomb that had killed her mother and father.
When Cronin asked if they came to the church often, the old man replied that they came daily to pray. Then he added, "We come to show the good God that we're not angry with him."
Doesn't that show you the necessity of faith better than I ever could? Faith is something we can't do without if we are to make 2006 rich and meaningful for us.
Paul tells us that though faith is essential, there is a second attribute we must possess if 2006 is to mean all it ought to mean for us.
II. We can't do without hope. The late Dr. G. Campbell Morgan tells about a man whose shop was among the buildings destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871. The next morning, arriving at what had once been his place of business, the man set up a table in the midst of the charred debris. Above the table he placed a sign that read, "Everything lost except wife, children, and hope. Business will be resumed as usual tomorrow morning."
Hope is something we can't do without in 2006. Life will test us and try us. If we lose hope, we will never survive.
George Frederick Watts, a nineteenth-century British painter, has poignantly pictured hope in one of his works. The scene is of a woman sitting on a globe of the world playing her harp; every string, except one, broken. One could easily title the picture Despair. But Watts titled the picture Hope, because he knew that as long as one string remained, there was still hope of making music from it.
Christian hope is a two-pronged thing: not only does hope give us victory in life's current crises, but it also gives us assurance of rest and peace with God when this life is over. The hope written of in the Bible is a confident expectation; hope is an assurance that is absolute. Paul writes in Romans 5:2: "[We] rejoice in hope of the glory of God." We live in hope that tomorrow will be better, that life will be sweeter, that we shall become better. Hope is as natural to believers as the beating of our hearts. It is within us because God has put it there. It is something we can't do without in 2006.
Finally, let's consider the last of Paul's essentials of life.
III. We can't do without love.
The largest art museum in the world is the Louvre. Among its five thousand paintings are two that are particularly relevant to the necessity of love. In the first painting, an indignant, angry father is ordering his son out of the house. The father's finger is raised in anger against the wicked son. The weeping mother and sisters and brothers cower in the background.
In the second picture, the same members of the family are shown, but the scene has changed drastically. The father lies lifeless on his bed. His family kneels by the side of his bed. The wife's face is buried in her hands.
The door to the little cottage is open. The rebellious son stands with his hand on the door latch and his foot on the doorstep. Grief is written across his face. He has come home, but it is too late-too late for the boy to confess to his father that he is sorry and wants forgiveness; too late for the father to speak the words of forgiveness and reconciling love the boy longs to hear. For both it is too late. They have learned in an agonizing way that love is one thing we can't do without.
Love's healing touch is desperately needed in our homes, businesses, schools, churches, and the government. Therefore, we need to let God fill our hearts with his love. Then we need to share that love with others. Love is life's most precious gift; in the new year we can't do without it.
As we begin this new year, more than anything God wants to write Amplius across our lives. He wants to make them bigger and better. He who put the stars in the heavens and raised the rocky mountains above the flat plains can do it-will do it-if we will let him.
SUNDAY EVENING, JANUARY 1
Title: Lost Things
Text: "'I tell you ... there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent'" (Luke 15:7 NIV).
Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1-32
There is no more life-suffocating experience in the world than to feel unloved, to feel that no one cares. Even though we occasionally encounter people who declare that they don't need anyone, that they can "make it alone," we know that even as they utter those words they are crying out to be recognized and appreciated.
This need to feel loved is not a human weakness-God made us this way. Loving and caressing are equally important to a child's well-being as nutritional nourishment. A child who grows up in a home with argumentative, negligent parents usually shows evidence of personality scars-insecurity, hostility, and other severe problems.
During his time on earth, Jesus was especially sensitive to emotionally and spiritually hurting people. One way he effectively described God's love for all people is in beautiful and winsome parables. In Luke 15 Jesus weaves three simple but poignant scenes into one parable of "lost things." In each instance he depicts the incalculable value of that which was lost. The thrust of his message is how much God loves us regardless of where we are or what condition we are in at the moment. Jesus graphically portrays a shepherd who braves imminent danger to search for his lost sheep, a woman who is distraught because she has lost a prized and precious coin, and a heartbroken father who spends his time waiting expectantly for the return of his wayward son. The three stories all support the overall theme of Luke's gospel: "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (19:10 NIV).
I. First, Jesus told the story of a lost sheep (vv.3-7).
A. The Shepherd, not the sheep, is the important figure in the parable. Jesus knew well the relationship that existed between a true shepherd and his sheep: any shepherd worthy of the name would not rest until the last one of his flock was secure in the fold. The emphasis in this parable is not on what caused the sheep to be lost. Indeed, by nature the sheep has a poor sense of direction and needs to be able to see its shepherd at all times. The meaning of the parable, however, is drawn by understanding the nature of the shepherd.
B. The emphasis in Jesus' story is on the attitude of the shepherd. He was deeply distressed over the one lost sheep. Are we that concerned about the "one lost wanderer" from our fold? Do we tend to say instead, "Well, here are the faithful ones who appreciate what we are doing and who deserve our best attention"? Or "The wanderer is always a problem. He doesn't deserve our time." The shepherd was not passive. He did not let the sheep disappear into the enveloping wilderness. Rather, the shepherd actively pursued the sheep. Jesus portrayed the shepherd as saying, "I will go myself, and I will seek until I find, and bring the lost one back!"
C. Just as the shepherd left the security of the ninety-nine to seek the one poor sheep who was lost, so did the Son of God come from the glory of heaven to seek out his lost people. This is the heart of the Bible; it is the reason behind Bethlehem's manger and Calvary's cross. Jesus didn't have to pursue us actively. But he chose, out of his boundless mercy, to make himself a desolate, empty, suffering man-a man of sorrows yearning for fellowship, a man crying, "I thirst!" while hanging on a cross. The message of the gospel-and of this story-is that there was no sacrifice too great for God to make to bring us back to himself.
II. The second story is about a lost coin (vv.8-10).
A. Again, as with the lost sheep, note that it is the owner who suffers, not the object lost. Although opinions differ as to the worth of this coin, it seems most likely that the coin was of relatively small monetary value. The women of those days, however, often wore on their brow a frontlet called a semedi. A semedi was made up of coins and was given to a woman by her husband on their wedding day. Thus it would be comparable to the wedding band a married woman wears today. It was of priceless value to this woman because her husband had given it to her. She suffered much by her loss of it.
B. Diligence was a characteristic of the woman. We have no idea how long this woman searched for the lost coin. No doubt she explored every nook and cranny, every crack in the earthen floor. Her diligence was fruitful. She found the coin, and she did what the shepherd did when he brought home his lost sheep: she called all of her friends and neighbors together to rejoice with her.
C. Note the application Jesus makes (v. 10): imagine the scene in heaven when a person is rescued from his or her hopeless, sinful state and brought into the fold of God. Apparently spontaneous cheers break forth from the innumerable hosts of angelic beings throughout the celestial domain of God. We know that great value is placed on one repenting sinner.
D. Jesus clarified his mission in these two stories. He came to seek and to save sinners. Thus he explained the reason why he had fellowship with them. This speaks eloquently to the church, for traditionally we are much more comfortable with our "secure ninety-and-nine" than we are with the truant individual who seems to have a fight on his or her hands in living the Christian life.
Jesus is saying to us in these stories that the greatest joy to the church is not its secure financial standing or beautiful buildings, but the realization of its mission-the seeking and saving of the lost. Spontaneous joy should break out from the church, not only when we retire a building debt, but when a lost soul is redeemed by the grace of God.
III. The last of this trilogy of parables deals with a lost son (vv.11-32).
A. The story of the prodigal son has been called "the paragon of the parables." It is the story of a common, heartbreaking experience-a beloved child chooses to leave home and go his own way, refusing to incorporate into his decisions the faithful and consistent teachings he received in childhood.
B. The beautiful part of the story, of course, is that the young man did come to himself. His pain was creative. He "came to his senses," and in a very touching soliloquy, he "talked to himself" with both shame and realism. He took full responsibility for his sins, resolved to make a full confession of them, and returned to his father's house as a hired servant.
C. More compelling than the story of the repenting boy is that of the waiting father, who never forgot his wandering son while he was away.]
Excerpted from The Zondervan 2006 Pastor's Annual by T.T. Crabtree Copyright © 2005 by Zondervan Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.