The Minister's Manual is the single most comprehensive resource for preaching and worship available. Filled with completely new material for 2006, this nondenominational guide is the best source for sermons, prayers, insights, and inspiration for allâ?'from pastors and lay leaders to Sunday school teachers and choir directors. The large format makes it easy to use.
Turn to The Minister's Manual for
- Complete sermons for the entire year, featuring both lectionary preaching and worship aids to expand Sunday services
- Thought-provoking quotations and questions on life and religion to add breadth to your messages
- A treasury of practical sermon applications and commentaries
- Children's sermons for engaging young minds and a wealth of topics to ponder during small group discussions
- Calendars to help you remember important historical, cultural, and religious anniversaries
About the Author
James W. Cox, a leading authority on preaching and one of the most influential teachers in the field of homiletics, is a senior professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has been the editor of The Minister's Manual since 1984.
Read an Excerpt
Minister's Manual 2006 Edition
By James W. Cox
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7879-7922-8
Chapter OneSECTION II
SERMONS AND HOMILETIC AND WORSHIP AIDS FOR FIFTY-TWO SUNDAYS
SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2006 Lectionary Message
Topic: The Children of God
Text: Gal. 4:4-7
Other Readings: Isa. 61:10-62:3; Ps. 148; Luke 2:22-40
Every day parents somewhere experience the rebellion of a son or daughter. In going against the wishes of their parents, the children make a mess of their lives. I remember well one time in my ministry receiving a call from frantic parents asking me to come to their home. Their teenage son had time and time again abused alcohol and drugs. He had failed time and time again in school and work. When I arrived, he was sitting on the stairs to the second floor with a rifle, threatening to kill his parents and anyone else who might stand in his way of leaving the house. Fortunately, the gun was not loaded when I was able to take it away from him. Although the parents' lives had been in danger from his confused state, these parents did not respond in anger but in love and sorrow. He was still their son, and no matter what he had done with his life they loved him. With someone else they probably would have had him arrested. Sonship made the difference.
Out of love God sent his Son to redeem the world and to adopt those who would trust in Christ. We become heirs with Christ-yes, joint heirs.
The Scriptures affirm this promise in God:
"But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God." (John 1:12)
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Rom. 8:14)
"Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?" (James 2:5)
Because God has made a promise does not mean one is automatically a child of God. We are all God's creation, but not all are the sons and daughters of Christ. It is essential that the Holy Spirit be present in our lives, both before and after the salvation experience. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sinful nature and our need of Christ to redeem us. Then the Holy Spirit wants to be our guide and to empower us, as Christians, to fulfill the will of God.
How can we know that God has spiritually adopted us and made us heirs of his Kingdom? Let me mention several characteristics that will be present in our lives.
The Scriptures tell us: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31). As our faith and trust in Christ grows, we will have more and more assurance that we have been saved. We will be changed people, and others will see this change in us.
As children of God, we have a peace that helps us become stable people in an unstable world. We know in whom we have believed and are not blown about with the latest religious fad or the old false doctrines.
To heirs of God, the Church is a vital part of life; they are not "church hoppers" when things don't go their way. Children of God will stand for their convictions and feel the presence of God supporting them. They will not be shy in the face of ridicule.
Heirs of Christ will be honest, genuine, and forthright. There will be no mixture of hypocrisy in their lives. Children of God will be very transparent and will not leave doubt about where they stand on the issues of life. There will be no confusion or flip-flopping about their yes or no. People will be aware that they are living from the heart and not for show.
There are some who try to impress others with syrupy words. The gentleness and courtesy of Christians will be a consistent part of their lives. They will not be individuals who go to church on Sunday and sing "Holy, Holy, Holy" and then during the week live "Helly, Helly, Helly." Christians are to be caring, and others will know that they have been with Jesus.
The child of God will follow the motto of Paul: "Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Cor. 5:58). A Christian is steadfast in prayer. Prayer is not a button to push to summon God but a way of talking to God all the time about everything from expressing love to seeking forgiveness of sins.
A son or daughter of God is steadfast in not only reading but studying God's Word. It becomes a source of strength and revelation from God.
God expects his children to be steadfast in service. We need to be willing to sacrifice, if need be, to do the things God wants us to do here on Earth. It is not a payment program for what he has done for us but a way to express our love for him.
We live in a very uncertain time. So much of our society seems to be on the edge of disaster. We, as children of God, are not unconcerned about the everyday problems around us, but in the midst of problems we feel the everlasting arms of God around us, assuring us that he is walking beside us. Being a child of God does not take away the problems of the world, but we do have the assurance that we shall, in the end, be delivered up into his presence.
Are you a son or daughter of God? Do you enjoy the life of being an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ?
Receive Christ and be led of the Spirit!-William Cubine
HE CAME TO ME. He who has found and experienced that Jesus really is the one who was to come and that we do not wait for another will have to say this: "It was not the seeking of my heart that led to success; nor hardheadedness that brought me to peace. No-he has given me all that. He came to me! I would not even have sought him if he had not found me beforehand-and everything is true that he had promised me no matter how much of an adventure it sounded like for a beginner in faith."-Helmut Thielcke
Topic: Praise the Lord
Text: Ps. 198
(1) The command: praise defined; the duty distributed. (2) The motivation: God's transcendence (v. 13); God's grace toward his people (v. 14).
Topic: Forever God!
Text: Gen. 1:1
(1) What God began. (2) What happened to God's creation. (3) God's response then, now, ultimately.
CALL TO WORSHIP. "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him" (Hab. 2:20 NIV).
INVOCATION. Our times are in your hands O Lord; our steps are well ordered, thus do we pray to be faithful servants all through this year, ones who honor and serve the Lord of Hosts.-E. Lee Phillips
OFFERTORY SENTENCE. "This is the thing that the Lord has commanded: Take from among you an offering to the Lord; let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord's offering" (Exod. 35:4-5 NRSV).
OFFERTORY PRAYER. Generous Lord, allow our first offering of the New Year to be the continuation of a pattern that never stops giving, as our Lord never stops giving.-E. Lee Phillips
PRAYER. "In the beginning was the Word...."
That in the beginning your Word was present, creating a cosmos out of chaos- That at the dawn of history your Word of covenant should be spoken to your people, Israel, calling them to a world purpose- That in these latter days you should call Jesus of Nazareth at his baptism to be your Word-your Light-to all peoples in all times- That through him-his life, ministry, passion-living again, you established the Church to be and to be prophetic of that communion and community your Word proclaims for all- That through the ages you have called Luthers and Calvins to re-form and re-new the Church in mission- That in this time and place we should be called to be your Church- That on this occasion we should be privileged to be together to celebrate Word and Sacrament, we praise you and give you thanks.
We pray for those who have heard your call through our "life together" and have come today in commitment and re-commitment to your love purpose in Christ. With them, may we be faithful to the gospel of reconciliation, to which we all are called.
In the power of your love to heal, may we embrace those among us who are ill, those facing the loneliness of bereavement, those discouraged with failure, those made anxious with difficult decisions.
We pray for the family of faith. We pray, too, for our families, in which our lives are most intimately set. To these we bear a special responsibility to the Gospel, but often we are hesitant, even reluctant. Increase your love in us, strengthen our faith, empower us with your Spirit to do what we know.
We pray, too, for the family of humankind. How can we worship you, Parent of us all, except our brother and sister be with us? We thank you for all who affirm and celebrate your Word, your intention, from the beginning-one world, one people. We pray for the United Nations, where this dream is precariously and painfully nurtured. We pray for leaders and field workers who persevere in seeking to bring order out of chaos and who seek to pass bread to those who hunger. With them may we all give and labor with the confidence that there is a grace at work that can fashion wholeness in the face of all of man's brokenness-the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.-John Thompson
SERMON Topic: If This Were My Last Sermon Text: John 3:16
During my thirty-five years of teaching, the focus of my attention has been on the Gospels. I guess you could say that this is the part of the Bible of which I am least ignorant. My main area of study has concentrated on what are called the Synoptic Gospels, that is, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Of these, I am least ignorant of Mark. Yet my text this morning does not come from Mark or Luke, or even from Matthew. It comes, rather, from the fourth Gospel-the Gospel of John. It is a well-known text. In fact, it may be the best-known verse in all the Bible. I know that as a child it was the first Bible verse I ever learned. It is found in the third chapter of John and is verse 16. If you have a Bible or New Testament with you this morning, I encourage you to turn with me to John 3. If you did not bring a Bible, please take the one in the chair in front of you and turn to page 73 in the New Testament section. Would you please stand with me as I read this great text of Scripture:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
The context of this verse involves a conversation between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus. In the opening verses of John 3, we read [read John 3:1-2 aloud]. Nicodemus is described quite positively in verse 1. He is a Pharisee, that is, a member of the most influential Jewish sect. (Today we would probably call it a denomination.) The Pharisees have a bad reputation among Christians. There are several reasons for this. According to Matthew 23, there were numerous hypocrites among the Pharisees, and some of them bitterly opposed the ministry of Jesus. Some tended to be quite legalistic in their thinking. Yet religious hypocrisy and legalism are usually a parasitic growth that feeds off the finest and noblest piety.
As with Christians today, religious hypocrisy and legalistic thinking are usually associated with religious groups that take their religion very seriously and earnestly seek to keep God's commandments. This was also true in Jesus' day. Nicodemus is portrayed as a devout and pious Pharisee. He is not in any way portrayed negatively in our account. He is also described as a ruler of the Jews. This indicates that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body in Israel that consisted of seventy leaders of the people and the high priest. Today he would be something like a senator.
He is also referred to in verse 10 as not just "a" teacher in Israel but as "the" teacher of Israel, that is, the well-known and respected teacher of Israel. In John 7:45-52, we read that Nicodemus protested against the desire of some fellow Pharisees to condemn Jesus, and in 19:38-42 he is described as having assisted Joseph of Arimathea in the burial of Jesus. In verse 2, he is described as coming to Jesus "by night," and this may indicate that he did so because of fear of the Jews (cf. 19:38).
If we were seeking to publish a red-letter edition of the Bible in which the words of Jesus are printed in red, our account in John 3 would create some serious difficulties. There is no doubt, for instance, that verses 3, 5-8, and 10 should be printed in red, but after this it is not easy to decide. It is unclear whether at times John is commenting about Jesus or whether Jesus is speaking about himself. For example, in verse 11 the words "we" and "our" (not "I" or "my") raise questions, but once again in 12, where we have "I" and "you," we would want to print this in red. But then in verses 15-18 we have once again "him" instead of "me." Whether in John 3:16 we have Jesus' own words or whether they are the inspired words of John, ultimately does not make any difference. If they are John's own interpretative words, they are the infallible and inerrant Word of God, written under Divine inspiration. If they are Jesus' words, they are also the infallible and inerrant Word of God, recorded by the Divinely inspired apostle. I remember speaking to a person once who told me, "When I read the Bible, it is meaningful, but I really feel I am reading the Word of God when I read Jesus' words found in the red parts of the Gospels."
Now if John was inspired to write infallible and inerrant Scripture, Jesus' words cannot be more infallible or more inerrant. You cannot be more infallible than infallible, and you cannot be more inerrant than inerrant, any more than you can be more perfect than perfect. Thus whether our text is John's own inspired commentary on God's love and his sending his Son to die for the sins of the world, or whether it is Jesus' inspired commentary, does not really change anything. We must also remember that the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus is recorded in the Greek language, not in Aramaic-the language that Jesus and Nicodemus actually spoke. It is through the inspired writings of John and the other Gospel writers that we have access to the words and thoughts of Jesus and the significance of his life, death, and Resurrection.
The greatness of John 3:16 is evident for a number of reasons. For one, it is a wonderful summary of the biblical message encapsulated into just twenty-five words in the NASB translation, as well as in the Greek text. Its greatness is also due to the fact that it talks about the three most important beings in the entire world: God, Jesus (the Son of God), and us-created as we are in the image of God. What it teaches about God, Jesus, and us is extremely important. We know this because this teaching is repeated time and time again throughout the New Testament.
I. Let us look first of all at what it says about us. It says that
1. We are the kind of people for whom Christ had to die.
Our present generation is much concerned with the need for people to have a good self-image. We emphasize that we need to feel good about ourselves. Shame and guilt are feelings and thoughts that we are told to avoid because they lead to low self-esteem. And there is some truth in this. Self-hate-despising oneself-can lead to all sorts of personal and social problems. It causes us to do things that harm us, as well as others.
Yet within our great text, we learn an important truth about ourselves that is repeated throughout the Bible. As Jesus himself says in Mark 2:17, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners"; in Luke 19:10 he says, "For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." And in our text, we read that the Son came in order that we "shall not perish." The dreadful state in which we find ourselves is not merely something that is future. Already now we stand condemned before God. Look what John writes in the following verses [read 3:17-18 and 36 aloud].
C. S. Lewis, the great British spokesman for the Christian faith during the middle of the twentieth century, has rightly said, "[Christianity] ... has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness." Christianity is for sinners.
Excerpted from Minister's Manual 2006 Edition by James W. Cox Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
SECTION I. GENERAL AIDS AND RESOURCES.
Civil Year Calendars for 2006 and 2007.
Church and Civic Calendar for 2006.
The Revised Common Lectionary for 2006.
Four-Year Church Calendar.
Forty-Year Easter Calendar.
Traditional Wedding Anniversary Identifications.
Colors Appropriate for Days and Seasons.
Flowers in Season Appropriate for Church Use.
Questions of Life and Religion.
Biblical Benedictions and Blessings.
SECTION II. SERMONS AND HOMILETIC AND WORSHIP AIDS FOR FIFTY-TWO SUNDAYS.
SECTION III. CONGREGATIONAL MUSIC RELATED TO THE LECTIONARY.
SECTION IV. MESSAGES FOR COMMUNION SERVICES.
SECTION V. MESSAGES FOR FUNERALS AND BEREAVEMENT.
SECTION VI. LENTEN AND EASTER PREACHING.
SECTION VII. EVANGELISM AND WORLD MISSIONS.
SECTION VIII. RESOURCES FOR PREACHING FROM 1 PETER.
SECTION IX. MESSAGES FOR ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS.
SECTION X. A POTPOURRI OF PREACHING.
SECTION XI. CHILDREN’S SERMONS.
SECTION XII. A LITTLE TREASURY OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Contributors and Acknowledgments.
Index of Contributors.
Sermon Title Index.
Index of Prayers.
Index of Materials Useful as Children’s Stories and Sermons Not Included in Section XI.
Index of Materials Useful for Small Groups.
What People are Saying About This
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– Thomas G. Long, Presbyterian Publishing Corp.
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– Roger Lovette, minister, the Baptist Church of the Covenant, Birmingham, Alabama