10 tips for kids at Christmas

Gifts, visits from family, fun TV shows, special movies, tasty cookies, new toys, games, parties at school, parties at church, Christmas songs are all things that kids (and adults) think about at Christmas.  And honestly, those things aren’t bad, but, it is not the most important part.  Christmas is a time when we celebrate the coming of the Savior – Jesus.

I am thankful for parents who taught me the truth about Christmas.  I am equally thankful for a wife who keeps that truth in front of our kids during such a significant time of year.

Here are some ways you can help your kids learn and remember the truth of Christmas.

  1. Toy manger scene – When the kids are young let them play with a toy manger scene.  Use it to help them get used to the characters and their names.
  2. Daily countdown  – There are lots of different ways to help kids do a countdown.  But help them get excited, not about the arrival of presents in an enlarged sock, but the celebration of the arrival of the Christ.
  3. Daily advent – There are several resources that can be used for this.  (for additional free resources look to radical.net or lifeway.com)
  4. Toy purge – Empty out those toy boxes, shelves, cabinets, and closets and donate the toys and stuff to a place like goodwill.  This will remind your kids how much stuff they have already.  Remind them that while gifts are fun the gifts are just a part of the celebration.
  5. Baking – Kids love helping bake cookies, brownies, or even those “no-bake” type treats.  Let them do this to give to neighbors and friends.  Use it as a way to share the love of Christ with others as well.
  6. Limited gifts – Don’t go overboard with what you give your kids.  It is so easy to do, but don’t feel like you are a bad parent if you don’t get them everything on their list.  Help them see that it is not with more stuff that they will be satisfied.
  7. Hospital visits – If possible, take them to the local hospital to deliver candy canes etc.  You can also do this at a nursing home.  This will remind them that Christmas is difficult for some people.
  8. Caroling – Singing the truths of Christmas is always a great way to remember them.  Join together with friends and family and sing those songs at other houses or those same nursing homes or hospitals.
  9. Decorating – Make sure that your decorations include manger scenes etc.  It will help your kids regularly see the meaning of Christmas.
  10. Read the story – Make sure they hear the story of Christmas!

How to take notes in a sermon

Why do you take notes during a sermon?  If it’s just for your own personal growth or to help you remember, then you’re missing half the opportunity of the message.  Notes and your Bible are tools you can use every day to teach others how to follow Christ.

When you listen and take notes knowing you are going to share the information with someone else, it changes the way you engage in the teaching time.  Taking notes will help you get the most out of a sermon.

Write the reference.  Whenever you hear a Scripture reference, write it down to refer to later.  Even if it is not one that you look up at that time, write it down and read it later.

Names, dates, places.  When you hear examples or background information, write down important facts like names, dates, and places.  They can form a trail of “bread crumbs” to jog your thoughts when you review later on.

Questions?  Does hearing something during a sermon sometimes raise a question for you?  Well, you likely can’t interrupt the sermon to ask, but write down questions that come into your mind during a sermon so you can follow up later on to find the answers.

The power of the pen.  Underlining especially poignant thoughts, Bible verses or phrases, and application points lets you emphasize for yourself what God is teaching you.  Some people do not want to write in their Bible.  That is fine, however, if it helps you to remember or keep track, then by all means feel free to underline or circle certain words or phrases.

(Dr. Mike Miller helped write this several years ago)

How to Listen to a Sermon

Take it in.

Come in to a service each week with an open mind.  Spend time in prayer preparing your heart to hear what the Lord is going to say.  Come on time.  The teaching doesn’t start when the pastor stands in the pulpit.  From the first moment of the service, God is speaking, through music, prayer, drama, video and baptism.  When you come to a worship service- take it ALL in.

Take it down.

Scholars tell us that your ability to retain what you learn increases 80% when you write it down, rather than just hearing it.  Write down the points of the sermon, the scripture references, questions you may have.  In fact, write as though you were going to be reteaching that same material from your notes.

Think it over.

Use your notes during the week to begin to apply the message in your life.  Look back over key points and scripture, praying for God to reveal areas of your life that need changing or restructuring.  If your notes stay stuck between the pages of your Bible or left on the pew, they aren’t doing you much good.

Live it out.

Hearing, understanding, and applying God’s Word will have a visible effect on your life.  Your attitudes, actions, goals, dreams, relationships, business and focus will all be influenced by God’s Word when you commit to living out what you learned.

Unexplained Tragedies

Some days there are horrific, unexplainable tragedies.  Some days you might watch the news and simply cry for the terror happening around the world and even close to home.  Some days you look within your own home and you are saddened because of incomprehensible sorrow because of loss or heartache.  Some days you self-evaluate and are heartbroken by your own sin or lack of self-discipline.


However, every day can be a reminder of the faithfulness of God.  Every day we can ponder the Scripture as one of the members of FBC Sutherland Springs recently has in the LA Times, stating, “God works all things for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”  Every day we can sing the song that the members of FBC Sutherland Springs sang just last week, “God is good, all the time, through the darkest night his light will shine.… If you’re walking through the valley, and there are shadows all around, do not fear, he will guide you, he will keep you safe and sound.”  Every day we can know that God is always right, good, and just.  Every day we can know that every good gift comes from God and we can rest in His plan to provide our every need in Christ Jesus.  Every day we can have confidence in the righteousness of Christ to cover our sin.  Because…Every day Jesus Christ is Lord.


In honor of the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant reformation I thought I would compile some of my favorite Martin Luther quotes. Here they are in no particular order…

“I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and I will not recant anything…”

“Scripture is the norm of norms that cannot be normed.”

“The Bible is not a naked authority.”

“What is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.”

“It is a glory which every preacher may claim, to be able to say with full confidence of heart: ‘This trust have I toward God in Christ, that what I teach and preach is truly the Word of God.”

“Let nobody suppose that he has tasted the Holy Scriptures sufficiently unless he has ruled over the churches with the prophets for a hundred years.”

“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing…The Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it it.  I did nothing.  The Word did it all.”

“Scripture alone is the true lord and master of all writing and doctrine on earth.  If that is not granted, what is Scripture good for?  The more we reject it, the moe we become satisfied with men’s books and human teachers.”

“Do we work nothing for the obtaining of this righteousness?  I answer: Nothing at all.  For the nature of this righteousness is, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing whatsoever of the law of or works.”

“Here I must take counsel of the Gospel, I must hearken to the Gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do…but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me…that he suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death.  The Gospel wills me to receive this, and to believe it.  And this is the truth of the Gospel.  It is also the principal article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

“if anyone would feel the greatness of sin he would not be able to go no living another moment; so great is the power of sin.”

“If you have a true faith that Christ is your Savior, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God’s heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love.”

“Faith…is a living, restless thing.  It cannot be inoperative.  We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith.”

“Wherefore it ought to be the first concern of every Christian to lay aside all confidence in works and grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who suffered and rose for him.”

“If you want to make atonement to [God] apart from Christ the mediator, making your works…the mediation between Him and yourself, you will inevitably fall as Lucifer did…and in horrible despair lose God and everything.”

“Faith is no faith without an object.”

“Christ if full of grace, life, and salvation.  The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation.  Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, he must take it upon himself the things which are his bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are his…Who then can fully appreciate what this royal marriage means?  Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace?  Here this rich and a divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness.  Her sins cannot not destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him.  And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, ‘if I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his.”

“Faith must be taught correctly, namely, that by it you are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person, which cannot be separated but remains attached to Him forever.”

“The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians.  What is Luther?  The teaching is not mine.  Nor was I crucified for anyone…How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?”

“It is not sufficient for anyone, and it does him no good to recognize God in his glory and majesty, unless he recognizes him in the humility and shame of the cross.”