Mr. Christmas

Devotional writings, reflections on life, and miscellaneous other writings.

Mr. Christmas Mr. Christmas

3 Tools Every Father Should Know How to Use

Sermon starters, teaching ideas, and outlines.

3 Tools Every Father Should Know How to Use 3 Tools Every Father Should Know How to Use

5 Reasons Why You Need to Prepare For Grief

People skills, group leadership, and shepherding.

5 Reasons Why You Need to Prepare For Grief 5 Reasons Why You Need to Prepare For Grief

My First Choice for Graphic Support

Preparing to preach and/or teach is time and labor intensive.  In between time for prayer, personal ministry, and meetings there just is not much left.  However, in order to be the best communicator that I can be, I have accepted that the preparation of high quality graphics is a crucial part of the process.

If you are already using MS PowerPoint, you understand the basics of building a presentation.  So how do you take it to the next level and give your slides an eye-popping, customized look?  Graceway Media, formerly known as, does most of the work for you!


Graceway Media has a huge online library of PowerPoint template sets, worship loops, full motion backgrounds, splash screens, countdown clocks, and specialty graphics for most any holiday or church occasion. All still graphics come in a variety of pre-produced PowerPoint template formats and in basic jpeg image packs.

The motion graphics are produced in both Quicktime (mov) and Windows (mpeg-1) formats. Recently, Graceway introduced HD quality motions in 720p widescreen, to accompany the standard line of graphics featured in 480p resolution.  Nearly all of the newer motions and loops are included in both 480p and 720p.

In addition to the downloadable products, GraceWay Media also offers to customize any set of slides to your specs or redesign your church logo.  These premium services are available for an additional charge.

I use the free version of Windows Live Movie Maker to edit the graphics together into an announcement reel that is output into HD wmv format. These announcements run before church services begin. For teaching graphics, I use the Image Packs and add/edit the text within the PowerPoint environment. The result is graphic support that is rich and memorable.

I am no genius when it comes to this computer stuff, so the fact that I can do it ought to tell you something. The price point for Graceway Media pretty much eliminates the hobbyist, but if you are a pastor, teacher, or are responsible for the graphic presentations at your church, it is a sound annual investment.

I’d love to hear what you use and why you use it!

The Price of Strong Faith

This post was originally written in June 2006, yet remains to this day, a reassuring testimony that God has never “let us down.”

In 1990 my wife, our three children, and I moved one thousand miles away from home and extended family for the simple reason that I knew God was calling me to do so. Having answered the call to ministry, I now followed His direction to prepare educationally in a seminary setting. We packed everything we owned into a twenty-eight foot Ryder truck, attached a tow dolly to the hitch and dragged ourselves and our Ford Escort station wagon to a land we had never even seen.

Looking back, I realize that God gave unusually strong faith to accomplish this transition. I also realize that there is a sense in which we were a bit naive. Imagine showing up in Dallas, Texas on a Monday morning with everything you own and having no residence secured wherein to unload any of it. It never even occurred to us that God would fail us. Never once in our young lives had He ever let us down. He still has not. So why am I struggling now?

Our youngest son leaves in two days to begin basic training in the U.S. Army. When he detonated the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) that he had enlisted, fear shot through me in a fashion that I have never experienced. I must admit that panic set in for the next few hours. I love both of my sons dearly. Somehow nineteen years just does not seem qualification enough to make such a weighty decision.

I began questioning him, trying to understand his rationale. I asked all of the usual dad-type questions: Are you nuts?! There is a war on!; Are you trying to give your mother and I a heart attack!?; Did you really pray about this!? Did you!!!??? He assured us that he had sought God’s guidance and that he did know that there was a war in progress. Those answers did not make it all better.

In my prayer time this morning, God burst a bombshell in my heart.

“Strong faith will never be realized until one leans heavily upon it. We seldom lean heavily upon faith until we have no other choice.”

Just as Donna and I left home and family to prepare for service many years ago, our son leaves home to prepare for service. He will travel to a place he has never been. He will endure rigorous training and much hardship. I am sure that just as his mother and I wept together in the dark of the night, so will he. In reality, we have taken paths not as opposite as I first thought.

Therefore, my prayer is that God give my son the faith of Paul, the courage of Stephen, and the dedication of Luke. As for his mother and me, we pray for the faith to trust God in ways we have not before; not for our own journey, but for the journey our son will take to lands unknown. May we each lean heavily upon His mighty arm.



Who Is Sharpening Whom?

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”                                                                                                                   Proverbs 27:17 NKJV

Take a moment and jot down the names of your top three friends.

Some questions to ask about your friends:

1. Why have I chosen them as my friend(s)?

What is it that draws us together?
What element(s) do we have most in common?
Why do I really “like” them?

2. How do they sharpen me?

Do they sharpen my walk with Christ?
Do they sharpen my spiritual senses?
Do they evoke fleshly responses from me?

3. What effect do I have upon them?

Are they better having known you?
Can you tell if they walk closer to Christ than when you met?
Do your conversations reflect the grace of God?

4. Have I cultivated our friendship in a way that honors God?

How to Make a Meaningful Hospital Visit in 10 Minutes or Less

I find that hospital visits can be some of the most challenging yet rewarding opportunities for ministry.  The few minutes that I get to spend with those who are hospitalized is a reminder to them of God’s love and the power of his healing hand.  While this ministry is necessary and crucial to the life of the local church, it is by its very nature time consuming.

If several patients are located in multiple hospitals spread across the city, the drive time alone can turn into hours.  I had to find a way to make the best use of the time in the hospital room. Here is one way to make a meaningful hospital visit in 10 minutes or less.

  • A 10 minute hospital visit begins with a phone call. Good information can save you a lot of time. If you work with an assistant, have him/her call the hospital ahead of time and verify that the person you are going to see is still there and the room number. A text message or email to your phone with that information is invaluable.  If you operate better with pen and paper, make a note of some kind.  I can promise you that phone calls during the drive to the hospital will mess with your memory.
  • Familiarize yourself with the hospital layout. This is one of the things that I accomplish as quickly as possible upon arrival in a new city. You do not want to be confused with directions to the hospital, where to park, or which entrance will be put closest to the Unit where you are needed at 2 o’clock in the morning. At 2 a.m., the news will not be good and you had better get there quickly.
  • Remember your SLIPPR (pronounced “slipper”)
  • Sympathize – Express your heartfelt concern for their condition.

    “I am so sorry to hear of your illness, injury, surgery, etc.”

    “We have already been praying for you.”

    Listen – Give them an opportunity to tell you what they wish to tell. Depending upon the person, this may be detailed or incredibly brief.

    In any case, listening well is listening intently. Most people can tell when you are somewhere else in your head. Listening says, “I genuinely care.”

    Inquire Ask a couple of clarifying questions. It will help you remember but it will also help them be confident that you are listening.

    Ask if there are any needs or concerns that you or others might fulfill. Ask about their condition, how they are feeling, or if they know when they will be dismissed to go home if they have not already told you.

    Pray – Express your thanks to God for them.

    Detail in prayer your appreciation for them and what they mean to you personally.  Ask God to heal and bless them.

    Plan – Give them an idea of when, where, or how you will be in contact again.

    “Would you please give us a call in office if you are dismissed today? Otherwise I’ll see you tomorrow, Tuesday, in the morning, etc.”

    Leave them looking forward to another visit.

    Report – Call your assistant as you leave and give him/her any information that may need to be forwarded to others. This call also facilitates timely update of the Church Prayer List.

Do you have a technique that has served you well? I want to hear about it!

Thanks Harold!

Harold Camping proclaimed that the world would end on May 21. He missed it, badly. In the aftermath, every criticism that you can imagine has been fired in his direction. Journalists and commentators have had a field day turning him into a caricature. Critics have used his failed prediction to marginalize or in some cases denounce religion in general. However, is it possible that we have missed the silver lining in Camping’s own personal storm?

For the better part of a month, I have met people who were willing to discuss an issue that would otherwise be socially “off limits”. Political correctness has intimidated many Believers into virtual silence. Romans 1:28, describes sinners who do not like to be reminded of even the existence of God, but for a brief few weeks there was a willingness to consider that which had been consistently ignored.

Now that Harold Camping has been stricken with what may well be a life ending stroke, the subject is bound to come up again. For that reason I remind you of the words of Peter, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” 1Peter 3:15 NKJV (emphasis mine).

Have you had an opportunity to discuss eternal things because of Camping’s predictions?       I’d love to hear about it!