Looking For Advent Resources For Your Family?

Christmas is such a significant time to teach our kids the value of Christ to show them a God who came near. There is so much of our faith that our kids have to grow into. Some things will forever be a mystery, but one thing kids can understand is babies. Jesus, the God-man, becoming a baby. Kids need to know why he came and how he comes. I love how beautifully Sally Lloyd-Jones describes the coming of Christ.

“Everything was ready. The moment Go had been waiting for was here at last! God was coming to help his people just as he promised in the beginning. But how would he come? What would he be like? What would he do?
Mountains would have bowed down. Seas would have roared. Trees would have clapped their hands. But the earth held its breath. As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking, in the darkness, he came.”

Advent is Christ coming into our darkness where we least expect it when we least expect it. He came. He came.

Happy Advent.

The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent

Every Christmas, Christians all over the world celebrate the Advent season, recognizing the love, hope, joy, and peace that is found only in Jesus Christ. Through this devotional, Scott James brings to light the many promises of Christ―from birth to ascension―that demonstrate His love for us during this Christmas season. These daily devotions, which are designed for both family and individual use, are timeless and moving reminders of the true gift of Christmas.

The Littlest Watchman: Watching and Waiting for the Very First Christmas

Benjamin is a Watchman. It’s his job to watch for the sign that all God’s promises are coming true to watch a stump.

The trouble is, it’s hard just waiting. And one night, Benjamin finally gives in and stops watching. But that same night, as he sits outside Bethlehem, he gets to watch something wonderful.

Kids will be gripped by what Benjamin saw and will be excited by the Christmas story all over again.

The Jesus Storybook Bible

I did a blog post a few years ago that we unexpectedly discovered that there are 24 Bible stories that lead to the Christmas story in Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book. We read one each day. If you haven’t figured it out already, we are big fans of all people named Lloyd-Jones in the Luce house.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas

I love Ann’s passion for the gospel as evidenced in her writing. Gratitude is more than a good idea it’s a sign of a life marked by the gospel of Christ. In Ann’s latest offering she has produced an Advent devotional that is as beautifully illustrated as it is written.

Lifeway Family Advent Guide

Here is a reproducible, email attachable, family advent guide that you can share with families in your ministry. We hope these will help to focus your ministry emphasis this season and lead families to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.

The Advent Storybook From David C. Cook

Add The Advent Storybook to your family holiday traditions and enjoy the rich images and thoughtful retellings of ancient stories that feature God’s recurring, faithful promise to rescue us. A simple question at the end of each story helps readers engage in understanding the bigger story God wants us all to know—the good news of Jesus coming to save us. Parents and children alike will delight in the biblical messages of joy, hope, and peace every day as they look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Prepare Him Room

Guide kids and their families into the heart of Christmas with this gospel-focused, four-week Advent curriculum.

Prepare Him Room by children’s best-selling author Marty Machowski takes a biblical, theological approach to the Old Testament promises and New Testament fulfillment in Christ in a way kids can understand.

With age-appropriate instruction and activities for three different learning levels—preschool, lower elementary, and upper elementary—Prepare Him Room builds gospel hope and enduring theological depth into each child’s celebration of Christmas.

Family Advent

My friend Jenny Smith has a great resource for advent a website that you can go to each and click on the number that coordinates with the date. They will then be linked to a devotional for that day. Each devotional includes:

  • a few verses of Scripture to read together (there are also links where you can read it online and even have it read to you)
  • some discussion thoughts and questions
  • a suggested activity to do together
  • usually some online activity, either a video to watch together or a game to play (please know that we have no control over other content that YouTube links or promotes)
  • a prayer prompt for your family

Parents What Message are You Preaching to Your Kids.

One of the more sobering realities in the life of a parent is that your life is preaching a message to your kids. They will leave your house with the message that your life preached ringing in their ears. When I first became aware of this reality, I started listening to myself. You know what message I was preaching? I kept saying “Stay safe and be careful.” I was teaching my kids that risk is wrong. That stepping out into the unknown is not worth it. I have since been more intentional about what I preach with my words and actions.
Recently one of my favorite Pastor/authors Eugene Peterson passed away. At his funeral, Peterson’s son described the one message his father preached in his church and to his family through his life.

“Eugene Peterson’s son Leif said at the funeral that his dad only had one sermon – that he had everyone fooled for 29 years of pastoral ministry, that for all his books he only had one message. It was a secret Leif said his dad had let him in on early in life. It was a message that Leif said his dad had whispered in his heart for 50 years. He remembered these words that his dad had snuck into his room when he was a child to say over him as he was sleeping:

“God loves you.
God is on your side.
He is coming after you.
He is relentless.”*

Eugene Peterson spent his life in a small church preaching a profound message to his church and his kids. One that he often repeated with his words and by the grace of God his words matched his life. Peterson was faithful to his small church he did not need to be a superstar he wasn’t captivated by fame. Bono from U2 called him and invited him to come to visit his home on the French Rivera, Peterson politely turned Bono down because he was in the midst of translating the book of Isaiah. After Eugene got off the phone with Bono, Peterson’s wife looked shocked and said: “You aren’t going?” He said “No” she then said “But it’s Bono!” to which Peterson replied, “But it’s Isaiah!”

He lived the message of a relentlessly loving God in the context of his local church and the life of his family. His life message was that a loving God who created us is in relentless pursuit of us. That will preach. May God give me the grace to preach this very message to me first and my church and family second.

* Quote taken from Glenn Packiam twitter feed.

Are you a Preacher Who Pastors or a Pastor who Preaches.

One of the temptations in ministry but particularly in youth ministry is to be a preacher who pastors. Pastoral ministry is tough there is no way around it, it just is. Preaching is generally immediately rewarding with people telling you that you did a great job or how what you said impacted them positively. Pastoring generally results in very few positive short-term results. Pastoring people is getting down into the middle messes and walking people through dark valleys. It isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t get lots of likes on Instagram.  Pastoring is the necessary hard spirit transforming work of leading your people to a long obedience in the same direction.

The problem is that we like instant feedback we like being told of our impact, so the temptation is for us to become preachers who pastor on the side. If we only ever look at pastoring as the necessary evil that allows us to preach, we have missed what it means to be a shepherd of Christ’s flock. When youth Pastors see what they do as a means to get more people there to heart them preach they have missed the point and have failed to have a broader understanding of what Pastoral Care looks like in the Bible.

We need to change our paradigm of discipleship. Preaching is a powerful means of discipleship, but if those we are training and leading only see us on stage they will fail to understand how that message is formed in years of pain and tears and think that standing on the stage in front of kids as what the Greeks called “Summum bonum” the highest good. Jesus confronted this in his disciples through his radical call to authentic discipleship. Do you want to be great? Yes? Be the least. (Matthew 20) Do you want to follow me? You can’t if you love anything. Anything. Including the good things, he gives us more than God himself (Luke 14). Jesus modeled a life a self-sacrificial love showing us what the highest good actually is.

One of the greatest temptations in ministry is to find value in the wrong things. To find our identity in what we do rather than whose we are. Not in the fact we can preach really well or if we can gather a crowd or if our Instagram photo of us preaching gets enough likes, or by getting good feedback on our facebook page after we preach. Our job is not to preach a tweetable message but to proclaim the fullness of God’s word to a generation who doesn’t want to hear the gospel.

What I have found in over twenty years of ministry in the same church is that even my best sermons are forgettable, but the moments I loved those who are the least of these those moments were never forgotten. Pastoring is showing up to pray for an 8-year-old boy in the hospital about to get his tonsils taken out and is scared. It’s walking into the room where a family is gathered because their dad just when home to Glory. It’s sitting in a living room telling a family that even though their dad left them that Jesus isn’t like that. Those moments are when you better be ready to know when to speak the hope the gospel provides and when to be quiet and weep with those who weep. It is in those moments of pastoral care that your life connects the dots preaching creates. Young pastor be a pastor who preaches not a preacher who pastors.

Build Something Worth Building

Are you building something that has worth?

Building something of worth doesn’t happen just because you work at a church or volunteer at one. Building something of worth isn’t taking some good idea you hear at a conference and force it on your church with the ferocity of a hostage negotiator. Many Churches struggle with what it means to build something of worth. One of the reasons for this struggle is many churches have a warped view of worth. Often we equate success with worth. Often having the right people think highly of us equals worth. At times we actually think that becoming famous builds the kingdom of God when the weight of scripture goes out of its way to communicate that our job is not vine building and fruit-bearing but just being a stick that derives it’s life and produces fruit because of the vine it’s connected to. We need to understand what Jesus considers valuable.

When I am weak then I am strong –

2 Corinthians 12:8-10
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

To build something of worth, weakness is the way. The older I get the more I realize that what I thought was valuable 20 years ago is worthless. The more I know Christ the more I understand the gospel. The more I realize that Christ is my treasure. He is infinitely more valuable to me than anything. When I understand that I am free to not have to be the man I can make mistakes I can love those who take advantage of me, I can build in a way that checks my ego at the door because It’s not about me being remembered it’s about Christ getting all the glory. Being in the same church for over 17 years I have come to the understanding that if I left not long after I left I would be forgotten.  When we build our own kingdom we waste our strength building what we could never sustain. When we spend our lives glorifying God we pass to the young leaders God has entrusted to us to lead a rich heritage of faith that will outlive us.

Be a good branch –

John 15:1-5 
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

There is a misguided and if we are honest an exhausting truth that the bigger deal we become the broader our ability to make Jesus more famous. Are we supposed to work hard? Yes. But what we don’t get to do is determine what we want the outcomes to be. We are called to abide to be hidden with Christ. It’s very easy for us to get distracted by the promise of deeper truth or the desire to become Christian famous when all we are called to do is abide. Abide. Our ability to build something that produces fruit is not in how much how hard or how deeply we are connected to the vine but simply that we are connected. If you want to build something of worth and you should. Abide in Christ. What does it mean to abide? Trust Him. Talk to Him. Think about Him. Place your hopes and dreams in His infinite hands. Abide.

You don’t need another good idea –

Ephesians 3:7-9

7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

Everyone likes a good idea. In fact, I think many of us are addicted to them. I know I am. When I get in trouble or something isn’t going right, attendance is below last year, giving is down. What do I do? Do I ask God for help? No, I go into my thought palace and try to find a good idea to help me out of the hole that I have most often dug for myself. Why do I try and come up with a good idea? Because many times a good idea works for a while. Until it doesn’t then we look for another good idea. We become good idea junkies. We go to conferences to get the next good idea to keep our church or our ministry going. What we fail to realize is good ideas are a by-product, not a source. Good ideas come for principle-based, gospel-centered, Christ exhausting ministries who exist to Glorify God for who he is not just for what he can do for them. Our ability to minister in whatever capacity we find ourselves in a work of grace. Recognize you are a great sinner, preach the riches of Christ because of the miracle of grace by which you have been saved. Do that and no matter what happens in your life you will build something bigger than you. You will build something that will outlast you…..something of worth.

Weakness produces humility, abiding produces dependence and principles sustain.

How do you want to build something of worth?

1. Make sure your life is hidden in Christ. (Col. 3:3)
2. Remember your weakness is a showcase for His glory
3. It’s our connectedness that makes us fruitful
4. Be principally based not idea driven
5. Make sure that you never forget that you are a great sinner who has a great Saviour.

Do those things and your impact may never be felt on twitter but it most definitely will be felt in eternity.

What’s Durable Trumps What’s Visible.

Louie Giglio's challenge to young leaders

I came across this Instagram post on Louie Giglio’s Instagram account. In his Instagram post, Louie challenges young leaders to go deeper. His challenge is challenging for young leaders and old leaders alike. I love that Louie does a college conference and gets the best youth speakers out there but always has John Piper speak. He wants new voices but recognizes kids need tried and true voices as well. I love that Louie is challenging young people to look past the glitter of youth to what matters most. That he pushes people to think deeply about their faith and to focus on what matters most.

We live in a superficial age where followers matter more than following where sermons are more about tweetablity than biblical reliability where being liked, friended, and followed seem to be an end in themselves. I am grateful for seasoned leaders who push young people to find fruitfulness in the faithfulness. Here are Louie’s thoughts to which I can only add “Amen.”

Hello young leaders. What’s durable trumps what’s visible. So often we are tempted to go for what looks good over what is good. Conditioned by an instant culture, the approval of others and a climate of comparison, we can lose ourselves in the quest to be seen, when the goal is to be steady. Don’t get in too big a rush to tell the world what you know. Get to know the One who is unseen and walk with Him as if you really believe He is the best treasure of all. Work diligently toward the mission He calls you to, embracing the reality that what you do in secret will be rewarded in the open. Go from acceptance, not for acceptance. From approval, not for it. You’ll never lose by digging deep, staying true, not giving up, building character in the crucible of challenge, breathing in, hanging on and becoming more weighty below the surface than you are impressive above it. Stop waiting for the world to applaud your branches and keep asking your Father to fortify your roots. Time proves character, reveals motives and confirms calling. Faithfulness always wins in the end. – Louie Giglio