Here are some backgrounds we created for Lessons and Carols this year. Click the pictures to see and download the full collection via Dropbox. There is a blank slide that you can customize with whatever you’d like. There are also slides for each of the majors parts in our service. If there’s a slide missing that you’d like to see added, drop me a comment and I’ll see what I can do to get it added in.

These files may be freely distributed under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution License. Please link people to this blog post when sharing the files.You might also like the Christmas Eve set that uses the same design as this one, but with additional titles. I also have a Christmas set.

If you use them in your church, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Lessons and Carols First Lesson Slide

Lessons and Carols Blank Slide

A Messy Christmas

December 19, 2013

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We’re having a baby this March. There’s much excitement at our house about this, especially Addison. She just can’t wait to meet her baby sister: Piper Noelle Christ. And while there’s great excitement about meeting Piper, there’s also the reality that we will functionally be half-dead zombies from lack of sleep for the first few months. Unless, of course, Piper is like the “Away in a Manger, Verse 2” Jesus:

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;

Ummmm…. OK. No crying? From what I know of babies, there’s not a lot of “no crying” going on when they wake up. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this weekend through song, Scripture, and drama, consider this: That first Christmas was not nearly as neat and tidy as many carols make it out to be. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7

The birth of Jesus was loud, messy, and painful. These verses ignore Joseph and Mary’s exhaustion from the long journey, only to arrive and find there was nowhere to stay. There’s nothing about the anxiety Joseph must have felt as he tried to make the stable comfortable for Mary, only to realize Jesus was coming. And of course, there’s Mary’s own discomfort (to put it mildly) as she gives birth.

No, Christmas is not neat and tidy—but neither are we. It was on that day, over 2,000 years ago, that Jesus stepped into our messy, sinful world, surrounded by messy circumstances. But what a beautiful mess it would become! The long-awaited Savior had finally arrived, and He remakes our messy selves into forgiven, beautiful children of God. “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay, Close by me forever and love me, I pray.

This is part of an ongoing series on the Cornerstone Confirmation Curriculum we are developing at First Trinity Lutheran Church. (Main Confirmation Page)

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God has reserved the gift of sex for the marriage relationship, but we break this commandment in more ways than just having sex outside of marriage.

Read Exodus 20:14

  • Underline: You shall not commit adultery.
  • Write: “6th Commandment” or “6C”

The Gift of Sex

Read Genesis 1:27-28, 31a

  • Underline: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth
  • Write: Sex is a gift

Sex is a gift given by God to a married couple—husband and wife. God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, in order to fill the Earth. However, as with many of the gifts of God, there is a right way and a wrong way to use His gift.

What is forbidden in the 6th Commandment?

Read Genesis 39:6-10

  • Underline: nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?
  • Write: 6C: Sex outside marriage is sin

Read Matthew 19:6-9

  • Underline: What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
  • Write: 6C: Divorce is sin

Read Matthew 5:27-28

  • Underline: everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
  • Write: 6C: Think pure thoughts

Read Romans 1:24, 26-27

  • Underline: exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature
  • Write: 6C: Homosexuality is sin.

This Commandment deals with our sexual or intimate relationships with others. We see very clearly from Genesis 39 that sex is reserved for marriage alone. God never intended for man and woman to have sex outside of the marriage relationship because there are many negative consequences for doing so. This includes sexually transmitted diseases, but also emotional and psychological pain and hurt that comes from sex outside of marriage.

In addition to sex, however, this Commandment talks about other ways we break this Commandment. Divorce, all too common in our culture, is one of those ways. We also learn from Matthew 5 that the very thoughts we have about others can be impure and break this Commandment. This includes viewing pornography or imagining what it would be like to have sex with some guy or girl that you know. God also forbids the practice of homosexuality in this Commandment.

While sexual sins are prevalent in our society today, they are just as bad as any other sin in the eyes of God. Thankfully, there is forgiveness for each of these sins, just as there is forgiveness in Jesus for all sin.

What is commanded in the 6th Commandment?

Read 1 Corinthians 6:18

  • Underline: “Flee from sexual immorality.”
  • Margin: 6C: Avoid Temptation

Read 1 Corinthians 6:18

  • Circle: sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk crude joking
  • Underline: thanksgiving.
  • Margin:   No!   Yes!

Instead of focusing on sinful desires of the flesh, we avoid situations that will sexually tempt us. Instead of focusing on the sings of the flesh, we focus on the things of God and ask Him to help us resist this temptation.

Class Documents

This is part of an ongoing series on the Cornerstone Confirmation Curriculum we are developing at First Trinity Lutheran Church. (Main Confirmation Page)

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God has forbidden murder, but also hate towards others, abortion, and more. He also commands us here to protect the life of others and care for their well-being.

Read Exodus 20:13

  • Underline: You shall not murder.
  • Write: “5th Commandment” or “5C”

What is forbidden in the 5th Commandment?

Read Numbers 35:16-21

  • Underline: “the murderer shall be put to death.” (in verses 16, 17, 18)
  • Write: 5C: Don’t Murder!

Read Jeremiah 1:5

  • Underline: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you
  • Write: 5C: Abortion = Murder

Read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

  • Underline: You are not your own; for you were bought with a price
  • Write: 5C: Suicide = Murder

Read Matthew 5:21-22

  • Underline: But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment
  • Write: 5C: Hate = Murder

Read 1 John 3:15

  • Underline: Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer
  • Write: 5C: Hate = Murder

In the Old Testament, it was clear that murder was wrong. While that is still true today, this Commandment deals with so much more than simply the physical act of murder. This Commandment is about the preservation of life both physically and emotionally. While murder and physical death are clearly understood to be forbidden here, God also commands that we protect the life of unborn children, as well as our own lives. Jesus expands our thinking on murder to include not only the physical act, but also hating someone and wishing harm on them.

What about war? Is that murder? Is it forbidden?

Read Romans 13:4

  • Underline: For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer
  • Write: War OK for Government

While individual killing is forbidden by this Commandment, war is not. The government is God’s instrument to bring judgment and punishment to those who are wicked. As a Christian, it is OK to participate in the military or even in active warfare on behalf of the military, provided the war is just and not contrary to God’s desires. After combat ends, however, it is the Christian’s obligation to provide medical care to those in need who were injured in the conflict. As always, we remember Acts 5:27-29, that “we must obey God rather than men” above all else!

What is commanded in the 5th Commandment?

Romans 12:20

  • Underline: if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink
  • Margin: 5C: Care for others

Ephesians 4:32

  • Underline: forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
  • Margin: 5C: Forgive Others

2 Corinthians 7:1

  • Underline: let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit
  • Margin: 5C: Healthy Living

Rather, in this commandment, we are called to protect life and speak out for those who are not able to protect their own lives. This means taking care of our own bodies and needs, but also providing for the needs and care of those around us, just as the Good Samaritan did in Luke 10.

Class Documents

This is part of an ongoing series on the Cornerstone Confirmation Curriculum we are developing at First Trinity Lutheran Church. (Main Confirmation Page)

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God has put parents in authority over us for our good. We should honor them as such.

Read Exodus 20:12

  • Underline: Honor your father and your mother.
  • Write: “4th Commandment” or “4C”

Honor Your Parents

Read Proverbs 23:22

  • Underline: the Listen to your father, … do not despise your mother
  • Write: 4C: Listen to Parents

Read Colossians 3:20

  • Underline: Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
  • Write: 4C: Obey parents.

Read Ephesians 6:2-3

  • Underline: Honor your father and mother … that it may go well with you
  • Write: 4C: Honoring brings blessing

Read 1 Timothy 5:4

  • Underline: let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents
  • Write: Keep honoring parents

Honoring our parents is commanded by God, but it is also the first commandment that carries a promise along with it: When we honor our parents, good comes from it. God created the family and placed parents in positions of authority above children. This authority, however, is always intended to be used for the good of the children. We listen and obey our parents because they are God’s agents to shape and mold us into the men and women He wants us to be. Even after our parents have died, we continue to honor them by remembering what they taught us and putting it into practice. We celebrate their life and continue to thank God for the gift of parents.

Honor Authority

Read Romans 13:1-2

  • Underline: whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed
  • Write: 4C: God gives us government

Read Titus 3:1

  • Underline: Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient
  • Write: 4C: God uses government

Read Romans 13:7

  • Underline: Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed
  • Write: 4C: Obey the government

Read Acts 5:27-29

  • Underline: We must obey God rather than men!
  • Write: Obey God first.

In addition to parents, God has placed others in authority over us. This includes the government, teachers, pastors, other adults, coaches and more. God uses these other entities and people to provide for us and we are to honor and respect them just as we would our parents. However, we remember this caution: when those in authority command us to do something contrary to what God teaches, we must follow Him first and foremost.

Class Documents

This is part of an ongoing series on the Cornerstone Confirmation Curriculum we are developing at First Trinity Lutheran Church. (Main Confirmation Page)

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God is our source of rest. He calls us to a Sabbath day of rest once/week.

Read Exodus 20:8

  • Underline: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  • Write: “3rd Commandment” or “3C”

Sabbath in the Old Testament

Leviticus 23:3

  • Underline: the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation.
  • Write: OT: Sabbath = Saturday

In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was only on Saturday and could not be observed on any other day. No work was to be done on this day of any kind. Anything you needed for the day should be prepared the day before so that you do not have to work.

Sabbath in the New Testament

Read Mark 2:27–28

  • Underline: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
  • Write: Sabbath is FOR us!

Over time, people came to understand that man was made for the Sabbath. In other words, they thought God valued the Sabbath more than them. But Jesus turns this teaching upside down. In fact, the very opposite was true. God knew that we needed a day of rest and so He commanded a Sabbath day specifically because He loved us and knew we needed it.

Sabbath Today

Read Matthew 11:28-30

  • Underline: Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
  • Write: Jesus brings rest.

Hebrews 10:25

  • Underline: not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,
  • Write: Worship together!

Luke 24:1-2

  • Underline: But on the first day of the week, … they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
  • Write: Easter Sunday

Today, most Christians celebrate the Sabbath on a Sunday. This is because we understand that Jesus is the true source of rest for His people. As the early church formed and grew, they chose the first day of the week (Sunday) as their Sabbath day of rest and worship because that was the day that Jesus had risen from the dead. There is no other special significance to this day over any other. The critical point is not what day you celebrate the Sabbath, but rather that you choose at least one day to set aside time to rest in Jesus.

How do we keep this Commandment?

Acts 2:42-47

  • Underline: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
  • Write: God’s Word and Worship

We continue to keep this Commandment by gathering with other believers to learn from God’s Word and to Worship together on a weekly basis. We join together to praise God for who He is and to remember what He has done for us. It is our time to be refreshed and recharged for the week ahead, and the ministry that God has prepared in advance for us to do.

Class Documents

This is part of an ongoing series on the Cornerstone Confirmation Curriculum we are developing at First Trinity Lutheran Church. (Main Confirmation Page)

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God’s name is powerful and to be respected. There are right and wrong ways to use His name.

Read Exodus 20:7

  • Underline: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain
  • Write: “2nd Commandment” or “2C”

How do we use God’s name in vain?

Read James 3:9-10

  • Underline: From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
  • Write: Misusing God’s name

Read Matthew 5:33-37

  • Underline: Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
  • Write: Misusing God’s name

Read Matthew 26:63-64

  • Underline: I adjure you by the living God
  • Write: Misusing God’s name

Read Matthew 15:8-9

  • Underline: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
  • Write: Misusing God’s name

There are many ways that we misuse the name of God. Whether it’s cursing, swearing, or claiming our honest by “swearing to God!”, we regularly misuse His name. This includes phrases like “Oh my God!” or even “OMG” because we all know what it actually stands for. In addition, we misuse God’s name when we claim to follow Him, but live our lives as if He does not exist.

How should we use God’s name?

Read Psalm 50:15

  • Underline: call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.
  • Write: Use God’s name!

Read Psalm 103:1

  • Underline: bless his holy name
  • Write: Use God’s name!

Read Ephesians 5:20

  • Underline: Entire verse.
  • Write: Use God’s name!

Read John 16:23

  • Underline: whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.
  • Write: Pray in Jesus’ name!

God’s name is powerful and He tells us to use His name in certain situations. These include calling out to God when we are in trouble and asking Him for help or when we are worshiping Him. We are to give thanks for all things in God’s name and to pray in “Jesus’ name.” When we pray in Jesus’ name, it means that we are praying the prayers that Jesus would pray if He were in our situation. This means we ask God to show us what to pray for, then pray for that in Jesus’ name.

Class Documents

This is part of an ongoing series on the Cornerstone Confirmation Curriculum we are developing at First Trinity Lutheran Church. (Main Confirmation Page)

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God desires to be first priority in all areas of your life. Nothing should come before Him.

Read Exodus 20:1-3

  • Underline: You shall have no other gods before me.
  • Write: “1st Commandment” or “1C”

Who is God?

Read Matthew 28:19

  • Underline: name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
  • Write: God in Three Persons (see Deut 6:4)

Read Deuteronomy 6:4

  • Underline: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
  • Write: Not 3 gods, but 1. (see Matt 28:19)

The difficult to understand truth about God is that He is only one God, yet there are three “persons.” The Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit are all God in their own right, but they are only one God, not three. It’s similar (though not exactly!) like an apple that is made up of skin, flesh, and the core. Together it is one apple, though there are three distinct sections. The three “persons” of God each have unique roles and ministries, though they are still just one God.

Who do we worship?

Read Isaiah 42:8

  • Underline: my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols
  • Write: Worship God Alone

Read Matthew 4:10

  • Underline: You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.
  • Write: Worship God Alone

God demands our full attention. He is not content with us worshiping Him when we feel like it, or only worshiping Him on certain days. God desires to be the first priority in our life all the time. When we elevate other things to be more important than God, we are worshiping false gods.

What false gods do people worship?

Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

  • Underline: What accord has Christ with Belial?
  • Write: Watch out for false gods!

Read Psalm 115:4

  • Underline: Their idols are silver and gold
  • Write: Watch out for money!

Read Philippians 3:19

  • Underline: with minds set on earthly things.
  • Write: Watch out for stuff!

Read Matthew 10:28

  • Underline: And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
  • Write: Watch out for people!

Some false gods are obvious like Islam or Buddhism. Others are less obvious like money, things, and people. How do know if we’re worshiping a false god? It’s all about priority. If we say we believe in God, but we are consumed with trying to gain more “stuff”, then “stuff” is our god. If we say we believe in God, but all we ever do is talk to our friends and never to God, then friends become our false god. God demands first place in our life. While friends and stuff are certainly not evil, they can get in the way when we chase those things instead of God.

How do we keep this Commandment?

Read Matthew 22:37

  • Underline: love the Lord your God with all your heart … soul … mind.
  • Margin: God wants all of me!

Read Psalm 118:8

  • Underline: Entire verse
  • Margin: Turn to God in trouble!

The way to keep this first and greatest Commandment is to put God first in all areas of our lives. This means both in the good times and the bad as we turn to Him when facing hard times.

Class Documents

Learning Excel: Brief Overview

September 24, 2013

Here’s a brief overview video I made using Jing to teach some basic tips and tricks in Microsoft Excel. The free version of Jing is limited to 5 minutes, so the video doesn’t cover much. During the video, I’ll cover:

  1. Using Excel to automatically fill in the next months in a series.
  2. Creating a SUM formula for a range of data in a column.
  3. Adding a SUM formula for a range of data in a row.
  4. Highlighting the most important information on the table, the grand total, so it’s easy to find at a glance.

If you have any questions, or other ideas to cover, let me know in the comments. You can make the video full screen (and thus actually readable) by clicking the small icon on the bottom right of the video after hitting play.


Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Becoming a Disciple

July 19, 2013

 Photo Credit: Anduze traveller via Compfight cc

What does it mean to be a disciple? The term is derived from a Greek word, mathetes, which means a pupil or apprentice. The implication was that a disciple would sit at the feet of the master teacher or craftsman, learn from them, and then go and spread the same message.

As Christians, we most often associate this word with those twelve followers who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry. In Acts, we see the culmination of their training as we read Luke’s account of the actions of Peter, John and some of the other disciples.

But they weren’t always the confident bringers of God’s Word that we read about in Acts. We read about hot-headed, speak-before-you-think Peter in the Gospels. We read about men fighting for position as the honored ones to sit at the left and right of Jesus in heaven. We see story after story of flawed men.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40

Becoming a disciple is a lifelong journey of learning. It’s a process by which you become more and more like the Teacher—Jesus—every day. It happens as you spend time in regular prayer. It happens as you personalize Scripture during your quiet time. You become more like Jesus as you practice outrageous generosity and compassionately serve others. You grow closer to Jesus as you nurture relationships with other Christians and engage in shared study with them. You are molded into a disciple as you joyfully worship with God’s people.

Not feeling like a disciple yet? Don’t worry. Just as Jesus encouraged and empowered Peter and the other disciples for ministry before they were fully qualified, He is using you to reach others. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t need to know all the answers. You don’t need to memorize the entire Bible.

You just need to be ready to be used. Keep learning and studying. Invite Jesus to teach you and use you. For you are His disciple.