This post is part 1 of the series:

Whereas the end of each year is usually focused upon Thanksgiving, Christmas, and end-of-year activities, January offers a much-appreciated respite from the demands that often accompany these important celebratory events. While most of us are still accountable to the demands of every-day life as the New Year begins, this season of the year may be employed to establish the tone of the entire year. Casting an eye upon the year that is behind us should deepen the resolve of the true follower of Christ to follow more closely to the Master. If other resolutions are all laid aside, the resolve to more earnestly follow Christ must never be. Employing all the means of grace that God provides, let us venture forth to place our footprints upon the unsullied year before us.

As we enter a new month and new year, we remember that before us are a number of opportunities to deepen our appreciation for the ways God has used the lives of other believers in previous generations. As Christians, we should be growing in the grace that God grants to each of us as well as celebrating what He has already done through the lives of others to bequeath to us a glorious Christian heritage.

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Table of Contents

Our Online Calendar

In addition to the highlights of this month that are discussed below, additional subjects of interest regarding our Christian heritage are presented online, where they are arranged according to dates of occurrence. The online calendar where these articles are arranged is under continual development with new articles appearing as they become available. By clicking the message box below, readers will navigate to the present month under consideration.

To navigate to our online calendar, please click this box.

Spiritual Formation in the New Year

Many of America’s Founding Fathers read the Bible through each year. For them, the Bible was a means of direction for their personal lives and the life of the nation. Contrary to the popular notion pushed on American that her Founding Fathers were secular, overwhelmingly they were Christians. A study of the Journals of Congress or minutes of Congress reveals that Founding Fathers endorsed the Christian religion and its practices—though no single denomination was endorsed.

As the new year begins, Christians should give careful consideration to designated personal times of prayer and Bible reading. To assist in the matter of Bible reading, two links are provided below that offer Bible reading schedules and additional resources:

American Bible Society The Gideons International

How Thomas Paine Betrayed America

Thomas Paine

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine anonymously published his work, Common Sense. Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood. Forgoing the philosophical and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, he structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon, and relied on biblical references to make his case to the people. Paine intended to name the work Plain Truth but his good friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, suggested Common Sense. The primary intent of this work was to move the American colonies toward national independence from Great Britain.

Perhaps more influential than Paine’s Common Sense was a work by Junius Brutus, written nearly 200 years earlier titled, A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants.

In July and August of 1776, the Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain when the President of the Congress, John Hancock, and the members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. What is universally overlooked by secularists who deny the Christian origin of America is the fact that the members of the Continental Congress established American law upon the “laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” As Englishmen, they did not establish American law upon the rights of Englishmen granted to them in the Magna Carta or any other document that granted liberty to Englishmen. Rather, when the Continental Congress laid a foundation for American law, it appealed to a foundation that the members of Congress believed was universal, to be enjoyed by all people everywhere: “to Nature and Nature’s God”! Thomas Jefferson, being the primary author of the Declaration, followed the clear theological teaching of the day that stressed the revelation of God in nature as well as the revelation of God in Scripture. In establishing American law upon the “laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” Jefferson was reflecting an important doctrine of historic Christian theology which was advocated by his pastor.[1]

<a href="thomas-paine-betrayed-america/">To read a summary of the life of Thomas Paine and how his irreligion was condemned by America’s Founding Fathers, please click this box.

Week of Prayer and Fasting

Prayer in Continental Congress

Suggested observance: First weeks of January, May, and September

Though a regular prayer life is encouraged within individual believers and their families, and weekly prayer and fasting is encouraged in the church, a periodic seasonal effort may be undertaken to sustain and further develop spiritual vitality. It was the custom of the Church in Early America (and the Continental and Congressional Congresses) to call for days of “public humiliation, fasting and prayer.” To nurture a spirit of dependence upon the Lord, several seasons of prayer and fasting may be established in the calendar year. In the American Church, the first week in January (after the Christmas holidays and the beginning of the year), the first week in May (which may include the last weekend in April and the week of National Day of Prayer), and the last week of August (the beginning of the new Sunday School year) provide good opportunities to call individual believers, the family, and the church to prayer. During these weeks, members of the local church are invited to select at least one day (and more if possible) of the designated week for these spiritual disciplines.

To learn how the Continental Congress proclaimed days of fasting and thanksgiving during the American Revolution, please click this box to see our book, America’s Founding Fathers and the Bible.

A Time of Praise

Service of Praise

Observance: Early in January

As the new year begins, the Christian home and church may wish to observe two special worship opportunities. If they are observed in the church, perhaps the first two Sunday evenings (or Wednesday evenings) in January may best be used for these opportunities. It is suggested that the Service of Praise (first Sunday evening) be conducted prior to the Service of Reflection (second Sunday evening). If an Advent wreath is used in the home or church during Advent season, the Christ candle may be used in this service one last time. Since the Christ candle is a prominent element in this first worship opportunity, the candle should be selected with care. Not only is the Christ Candle significant to the Advent wreath, but it is also the most significant elements in this service of praise.

A Time of Reflection

Grilling Out

Observance: Early in January

It is easy to overlook the many blessings of the preceding year. To stimulate the Israelites to praise and thanksgiving, the Lord interweaved worship elements into the life of His chosen people. Often, significant moments and individuals whom the Lord has used to bless our lives are soon forgotten unless careful attention and deliberate efforts are made to acknowledge them and accord them the proper place of affection they deserve. The previous year has been but one strand in the larger tapestry of life, but the grace that God has manifested in our lives deserves special recognition and just appreciation. The intension of such a gathering in the home or service in the church is not to gloat over personal or collective achievements, but rather to celebrate God’s abundant and abiding grace.

Sanctity of Human Life Observed

Unborn baby

Observance: On or before January 22; occasionally following this date

Since the legalization of abortion in America on January 22, 1973, millions of women and men have been deceived concerning the sanctity of human life within the womb. Though the pro-life moment has gained cultural and moral ground since the infamous day that the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion, there is still much that needs done. Though many believers do not worship in churches that have specific ministries toward the unborn, individual Christians and congregations may join efforts with like-minded groups who have dedicated themselves to the elimination of legalized abortion and the consolation of the suffering. The sanctity of human life should be celebrated from the womb to the tomb. Sanctity of Human Life observances may annually be convened on January 22, but observances may often precede or follow this date.

Christ and the First Constitution

Thomas Hooker

Observance: On or before January 24

Have you ever seen a car license plate from the State of Connecticut? If you have, do you remember the slogan emblazoned on it? Connecticut is called the “Constitution State,” but very few of us know why it has been given this title.

The reason Connecticut is called the “Constitution State” is because of a Christian minister and his belief that the Bible contains all of the principles necessary for happy contented living—including the Christian’s involvement in matters of government or politics. The pastor’s name was Thomas Hooker. He was born on July 7, 1586 in Marfield, England. Educated within the Puritan tradition at the University of Cambridge, Hooker became a lecturer at Emmanuel College, and after being persecuted for his evangelical Puritan beliefs, decided to settle in New England. There he assumed the pastorate of the church in Newton, Massachusetts (present-day Cambridge).

On January 24, 1639,[2] three towns of a new colony that had come to be called Connecticut charged the General Court with the responsibilities of drafting a Constitution for their colony. Four years earlier (1635), Rev. Thomas Hooker moved with members of his congregation at Newton, Massachusetts to a site along the Connecticut River and named their new town, Hartford. For a number of years, members of his congregation longed for better land for farming, and Hartford became the new home for the congregation and their pastor. Along with Hartford, two other neighboring towns emerged outside the boundaries provided for in the charter of Massachusetts. To provide adequate government for these towns outside of Massachusetts, representatives were chosen from the three towns and a General Court was convened at Hartford.

As was customary to initiate such proceedings with Christian spirituality, Rev. Hooker preached a powerful sermon to the elected framers of the new constitution. In it, he stated that “the foundation of all authority is laid . . . in the free consent of the people” and that “the privilege of election . . . belongs to the people.”[3] Unlike the government of Massachusetts, Rev. Hooker advocated that all citizens should be granted the opportunity to vote for elected government officials—a privilege that should not be reserved for church members only. Under the influence of Rev. Hooker, The Fundamental Orders, or constitution, of the new colony of Connecticut became the first written constitution in Western civilization, and for this reason, Connecticut is called “The Constitution State.” In addition, this document was the prototype of the United States Constitution.

Click to read more about the Christian influence upon the beginning of Connecticut.

Remembering St. Paul

St. Paul

Observance: January 25

St. Paul was martyred in Rome, probably by beheading, in 68 A.D. Of all of the Apostles, Paul was the most diligent in attempting to take the Gospel to the ends of the world. At the time of his martyrdom, the Apostle had spread the Gospel throughout the eastern and northern parts of the Mediterranean world, possibly reaching as far west as what is now known as Spain. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul helped establish the Christian Church apart from Jewish influences that wished to force Christianity back into a Jewish pattern of worship and religious observances. Paul spoke of the Word of God as the “Sword of the Spirit” and for this reason, the sword has become part of the Apostle’s apostolic symbol. The Apostle Paul’s life and ministry is remembered on January 25.

For Further Consideration

For Further Consideration

Christian Living, Suggested references and resources. Lamentably, the secularization of America has resulted in the devaluation of Christianity in a variety of spheres of life. Christian Heritage Fellowship exists for the sake of encouraging believers in their walk with the Lord and challenging the unbeliever concerning the claims of the Gospel and the implications of the Christian life. The articles below contain suggestions for the lives of individual believers as well as suggestions for the larger community of faith. These article continue to be revised and updated, containing more and more suggestions for living the Christian life.  Read more...
Stephen A. Flick, Ph.D., America's Founding Fathers and the Bible. Contrary to the contemporary mantra that America was birthed as a secular nation, the historical evidence demonstrates that America was founded by Christians who wished to enjoy the liberty to freely express their Christian faith. Lamentably, Christians have forgotten and neglected the Christian heritage bequeathed to them by America's Founding Fathers and have allowed secularists to disparage and deny what was given to them at such a great price. America's Founding Fathers and the Bible briefly describes a portion of America's Christian heritage, particularly during the rise of nationalism when America was shaping its national government.  Read more...
Stephen A. Flick, Ph.D., When the United States Capitol Was a Church. So deep and strong was the relationship of government to the Christian faith in America that the relationship was recognized in a variety of ways. Few realize that the United States Capitol was used as a church for years before it was used to convene the United States Congress. For nearly three-quarters of a century, the United States Capitol was used for church services. In fact, it became a meeting place for a number of churches in Washington, D. C. While secularists wish to keep this and many other similar historical facts quiet, the sincere Christian will wish to celebrate the spiritual heritage our Founding Fathers have bequeathed to us.  Read more...

Important Dates

Jim Elliot

January 7, 1868: William Batchelder Bradbury (October 6, 1816 – January 7, 1868) was a musician who composed the tune to Jesus Loves Me and many other popular hymns.

January 8, 1956: Philip James “Jim” Elliot (October 8, 1927 – January 8, 1956) was an evangelical Christian who was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador.[4]

January 10, 1776: Thomas Paine first anonymously published his work, Common Sense, on January 10, 1776. Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood. Forgoing the philosophical and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, he structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon, and relied on biblical references to make his case to the people. Paine intended to name the work Plain Truth but his good friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, suggested Common Sense. Later works by Paine were filled with French infidelity and were not received well by America’s Founding Fathers.

Francis Scott Key

January 11, 1843: Francis Scott Key (August 1, 1779 – January 11, 1843) was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet, from Georgetown, who wrote the lyrics to the United States’ national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

January 13, 1915: Mary Mitchell Sleflor (2 December 1848 – 13 January 1915) was a Scottish missionary to Nigeria. Her work and strong personality allowed her to be trusted and accepted by the locals while spreading Christianity and promoting women’s rights.[5]

January 18, 1951: Amy Wilson Carmichael (16 December 1867 – 18 January 1951) was a Protestant Christian missionary in India, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur.[6]

Phillips Brooks

January 22, 1876: John Bacchus Dykes (10 March 1823 Kingston upon Hull – 22 January 1876 Ticehurst, Sussex) was an English clergyman and hymnist.

January 23, 1893: Phillips Brooks (December 13, 1835 – January 23, 1893) was an American clergyman and author, who briefly served as Bishop of Massachusetts in the Episcopal Church during the early 1890s. In the Episcopal liturgical calendar, he is remembered on January 23. He is known for being the lyricist of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.

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[1] Mark A. Beliles, “Religion and Republicanism in Jefferson’s Virginia,” Whitfield Theological Seminary, 1993.

[2] Contemporary chronology places the ratification of The Fundamental Orders on January 24, 1639. The Julian dating system being used by the English at that time placed the convening of this General Court ten days prior to the contemporary date of January 24. However, Britain changed to the Gregorian calendar, which we use today, in 1751. When the Gregorian calendar was accepted for use in 1751, 11 days had to be added to their dates to come up to the equivalent Gregorian dates, but in 1639, they were 10 days behind the Gregorian calendar.

[3] Rusten, The One Year Book of Christian History, 379.

[4] See John Woodbridge, More Than Conquerors: Portraits of Believers from All Walks of Life.

[5] See John Woodbridge, More Than Conquerors: Portraits of Believers from All Walks of Life.

[6] See John Woodbridge, More Than Conquerors: Portraits of Believers from All Walks of Life.