Take heed and beware of discouragements, of being cast down; you have no reason for it, much reason against it…There is no temptation or affliction, but some promise or other especially suits it.
This Christmas we would love for you to behold the wonder and mystery of Christ’s love and work for you by coming into the world to save you from sin and death. The true meaning of Christmas is found in the person of Christ rather than in presents under the tree. We all know this to be true, but it can be hard to find real and tangible ways to look beyond the presents to the Person. Using an Advent resource that can guide you and your family through the various passages and themes that make up the Christmas story of Christ come to save people from sin. As a Staff, we have curated a list of resources that you can use for this very purpose. Some of these are freely available online while you can purchase others from a bookstore or online store. We hope that these resources will be a blessing to you and that they will guide you in worshiping Christ this Christmas.
Free Online Resources
Journey to the Manger: A daily email devotional from Gordon-Conwell Seminary. Simply sign up with your email address.
Family Advent Guide: A guide for families with young kids for an intentional way to capture their attention during Advent.
Desiring God has tons of articles, stories, and sermons on the subject of Christ’s birth.
The Gospel Coalition has a similar round-up of articles, videos, and other resources for advent.
Books (available in print or eBook format)
Come Let Us Adore Him: Short daily readings to help you recapture the wonder and awe of Christ at Christmas. Grab one of these in the Sanctuary foyer for only $5!
The First Days of Jesus: A step-by-step journey through the Gospels’ birth narratives, clearing away common misconceptions, making messianic connections, and setting the stage for Jesus’s later life and ministry.
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: An anthology of Advent readings collected from the writings and sermons of 22 classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers. Readings from the likes of Whitefield, Luther, Spurgeon, and Augustine, and contemporary figures like Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, Francis Schaeffer, and Joni Eareckson Tada.
Hope is Coming: A 25 day Advent devotional designed for students to understand and apply the Christmas message.
Light in the Darkness: A great resource of pre-teens and middle schoolers who would enjoy an illustrated realization of the Christmas Story (graphic novel) using the unedited text of Luke 1-2.
A Jesus Christmas: A family devotional aimed at helping you connect the whole redemptive story of Christ’s coming. Questions for discussion and space for journaling in the print format.
The Christmas Promise: A storybook retelling of the Christmas story showing how God kept His promise to send a new King. Especially good for toddlers and young kids.
The Donkey in the Living Room: This is an interactive way to progressively tell the Christmas story using your own nativity set.
My Bible reading plan has required me to spend a good bit of time in the historical section of the Old Testament. I’ve forgotten how frustrating genealogies could be, but thankfully, God has reminded me of some amazing stories. The one I want to share with you now is one of my favorites.
In 2nd Chronicles, the writer focuses on the kings of Judah starting with King Solomon. Each king is judged on whether they did what was right in God’s sight or not. In chapter 14, we’re introduced to King Asa, Solomon’s great-grandson. 2nd Chronicles 14:2 says, “Asa did good and right in the sight of the Lord his God”, and in chapter 15, we see the explanation. 2nd Chronicles 15:1-7 reads:
Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the LORD is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law. But in their distress they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress. But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.”
The rest of chapter 15 tells us that Asa obeyed the Lord’s commands that came through His prophet Azariah. He removed idols from Judah, restored the Lord’s altar, and led the people into a covenant to seek the Lord God alone. He was filled with courage and guided Judah back to the Lord.
Here are some observations from this passage that stood out to me:
1. Seek the Lord or forsake Him. Azariah gave Asa an ultimatum; there was no middle ground. We have the same ultimatum given to us today. We either commit ourselves to serve and obey God or we completely forsake Him and seek out what we want.
2. Hindsight is 20/20. It was easy for Azariah to see that Israel’s history was far from perfect. The challenge was for Asa to change the normal practices of the people to follow after God. What we’ve always done or thought should be constantly reevaluated to make sure that it’s what God wants for us.
3. Change requires courage. Azariah ends his prophecy by saying, “be strong and do not lose courage”. Asa needed bravery to remove idols, give the death penalty to anyone who wouldn’t worship God, and even remove his own mother’s governing position because of her idolatry. Repentance is met with resistance, and the fight to seek God with greater obedience will require valor.
My prayer for you is that you would continue to seek the Lord, evaluate your pattern of life, and have the courage to repent according to God’s Word. Find comfort when Azariah says, “there is reward for your work” and patiently await the day when the Lord will fully comfort you by saying, “Well done, good and faithful slave.”
At a recent family dinner, Brady and Noah began to regale us with their grand plans for their lives. They told us that they wanted to live in a very big “shack” by the seashore where they would have lots of money and spend all day fishing and playing video games. We told them that it sounded like they just wanted to retire ☺. When we asked who would do all the chores, they answered that they would build a robot to do all the cooking and cleaning for them. I want that robot for myself!! I’m sure that the kids in your life tell you similarly fascinating and fantastical stories as well. A few thoughts popped into my head as they were entertaining us with their dreams…
Imagination and the God of the Impossible: One of the things that always impresses me about children is the depth and breadth of their imagination. They aren’t hindered by the reality of the world, and so can dream fantastic and whimsical dreams. Of course, many of these dreams are just that—dreams. But I also wonder about how life tends to make us jaded to what may actually be possible by God’s power. We tend to limit what God can do in, around and through us because we are “realistic.” This tendency develops even though God has done something humanly impossible in our lives by saving us from sin and death and continues to do supernatural things around us all the time. In fact, this is the very problem that the Rich Young Ruler has in Luke 18. He comes to Jesus wanting to obtain eternal life but becomes discouraged that he can’t buy it or earn it himself. He asks Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answers, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) William Carey took this to heart when he began to see what God wanted to do through His people in reaching the world for Christ. Carey said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” What a marvel that we have a God who is able to do the impossible! Do we really believe that? Are we willing to dream what seems impossible? Are we willing to attempt a great work from God? Paul sure believed that God could do more than we can imagine both for now and for eternity. “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21)
Naivete and the Need for Maturity: The other side of the imagination coin can often be the pitfall of naivete. We must always be willing to dream big dreams and not put God in a box. However, we must never allow freedom to become an excuse for naivete and a failure to mature in Christ. This is one of the great balances in the Christian life. We need both childlike faith (a total dependence on God) and adult-like discernment. The Apostles speak of our need for maturity throughout the New Testament. Grab your Bible and consider these verses:
1 Peter 2:1-3
2 Peter 1:3-11
Sorrow and the Quest for Hope: The unfortunate reality to this endeavor for balance between childlike faith and adult-like discernment is the gaining of sorrow. Solomon describes this phenomenon in Ecclesiastes 1:18, “Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.” The more we mature, the more we realize just how broken our world is and just how broken we are. We gain a greater sense of the seriousness of our sin and its deadly effects. As sorrow comes with knowledge, so hope must arise out of truth. Though our world is broken, Christ has overcome the world (1 John 2:15-17). Though our lives have been racked by sin, Christ has brought new life (2 Cor. 5:17). I think this is why passages like Rom. 8 resonate so deeply with our souls. What great hope comes from knowing that we can never be separated from the love of God. Let us say with Paul, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)
Where are you in these areas? Do you truly have childlike faith? Are you growing in maturity in discernment and truth? Has sorrow overcome you? Be comforted today. God is worthy of our total trust. He is wants to work in us to bring us to Christlikeness. And in Him we have a hope that will not disappoint. “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12)
Originally Published in the FBC Bonham October Newsletter
This summer, we had the great pleasure of having two ministry interns serve our church! With August 5th, being their last Sunday with us, we thought it’d be a good idea to let them tell you what they learned this summer!
Tyce (Youth Intern): I have been beyond blessed by this experience and opportunity to serve as the youth intern this summer. Seeing the ins and outs of the church has been eye-opening, and the chance to speak and teach has given me much more confidence in my ability. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and for the Lord’s hand in pushing me to this opportunity.
The church, being the people in it, is so immensely beautiful because of Jesus. As the intern, I have seen just how messy the church can be, whether it is a quarrel or lack of a consensus on an issue. Yet through it all, I have seen Christ shine. He shines through in the commitment members have to the church. He shines through in the grace we have with each other. He shines when the Spirit reveals a truth through a sermon or Scripture and urges us to change. Christ as the head of the church leads so well, and gives us all that we need.
The Church is beautiful in that it encourages us and pushes us to the Lord, as well as gives us an opportunity to come together and serve him in whatever form or fashion that looks like. The Church is a body rather than a hierarchy, and we are all called to ministry in some form or another. While I don’t feel the call to ministry vocationally, I do feel the call to be involved in my church, and serve with whatever gifts I have. I now see how much the church needs everyone to do the work of the church, and this new understanding changed the way I serve. Thank you for giving me a chance to be involved here at First Baptist Bonham. I look forward to seeing how Christ will continue to use us for His glory.
Garrett (Music Intern): During this summer music ministry internship, I have learned a great deal. When I first came to Bonham I was terrified to mess up because I was being trusted with leading the worship of a congregation that I had never even met before. Now 10 weeks later I can honestly say that I’m not afraid to go in front of any congregation, especially to worship.
This summer I’ve been challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone; I’ve gotten to lead the choir; I’ve learned the bass guitar and some piano; and I’ve been able to watch the ins and outs of everything that goes on in the church. Another thing I got to do was attend a worship conference and pool a bunch of ideas from other worship leaders in Dallas and learn how they do things
Rob and I spent a lot of time working on music theory which was really cool because I was lacking some very basic knowledge and Rob took the time to bring me back to the basics. The entire summer I was given an in-depth crash course on everything music ministry that has given me the confidence and the know-how to minister in the future.
I really can’t thank Chase and Rob enough for mentoring me this summer and teaching me and mentoring me and just showing me the basics of ministry. Thank you for a truly transparent look into your Church and for taking the time to invest in me. Also, thank you to the congregation for welcoming me with open arms and for encouraging me as I grew this summer.
Before we send these two Interns back to college, make sure to show them some love!
The Youth Pastor Search Team is very excited to recommend Trevor Williams as our candidate to fill the Pastor of Students and Outreach position. The entire team is confident that God has lead us to Trevor who was one of our top candidates from the very beginning of our search. Our team believes that as you interact with Trevor you will see the talent, spiritual maturity, and servant’s heart that God has given to him for service in His church and especially among our students.
Originally Delivered on 9/13/17
Today we’ll be looking at a song written 2004 by Jennie Lee Riddle. In an interview with Jennie, she said that Revelation Song was birthed out of a “decade-long prayer”, referring to a song written in 1995 by Garrit Gustafson. I Hear Angels had the beginning line,
I hear angels singing praises
I see men from ev'ry nation
Bowing down before His throne
Jennie meditated on that line and formed as a prayer, asking the Lord that more and more people would be a part of the glorious worship in heaven.
While she was dealing with all of these thoughts, she penned the words to Revelation Song. Her prayer became that there would be one bride, lifting up one song, to one King. Because of its popularity, she has been thankful that her prayer, in a certain way, is being answered.
The theme of the song is set mostly in the book of Revelation, where angels, heavenly creatures, and people are singing the glory of God. The lyrics, while speaking of a future event, are suppose to be sung by the church in the present day. So these lyrics are just speaking about a day to come, but with anticipation, we’re to sing of His glory now.
One of the reasons we sing this song at FBC Bonham is because it is filled Scripture. You’ll see as we work through the lyrics that almost every word has a tint of Biblical inspiration.
The first verse starts off with these lyrics,
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Holy holy is He
Sing a new song to Him Who sits on
Heaven's mercy seat
Verse one starts off with a direct quote from Revelation 5:12. As we just read, the mighty angel asked “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” and it was met with weeping because no one was found worthy. Yet in the midst of the weeping, one of the elders told John that the only one worthy was the Lion of Judah. However, what John and the others saw was a Lamb that had look like it had been slain.
We don’t have a sufficient amount of time to discuss the implications of this scene, but for our purpose, it’s important to note that the lamb being displayed here is Christ Jesus, the Son of God. The reason the Lamb looks like it had been slain was because Christ Jesus died on the cross, paying the price for our sins. His atonement was the only possibility for redeeming His people and also bringing in the new Heaven and Earth. Revelation Song rightfully describes Him as holy because His sacrifice was unique.
While David the Psalmist speaks many times about singing a new song to the Lord (33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1), this reference is actually from Revelation 5 as well. This new song transitions from the song in chapter 4, which is directly quoted in the chorus, to the song in chapter 5:9-10. The reference to the mercy seat is from verse 13, speaking about the throne where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
The chorus then comes in saying,
Holy holy holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of kings
You are my ev'rything
And I will adore You
The chorus starts off with the song from Revelation 4. While it’s mentioned in verse 1 of a new song that we will sing when the Lamb opens the scroll, in our day and age, we are suppose to sing this song, which particularly says that Christ is coming again. This breeds the anticipation that was desired for this song.
The second half of the chorus simply states that we are not alone in this worship of the Lord. One of the items that Jennie mentions in writing this is the need for corporate praise and worship. While it’s good to have songs that are individual in nature, it’s important to keep tabs on the fact that we are not alone in our worship of God. We worship with those in our church, in the churches around us, and those all over the world.
These last two lines, “You are my everything and I will adore You” are important because they give application to the declaration of God’s character. Because God is holy and everlasting and almighty, we are able to say that He is all we need, and that just as Christ alone is worthy to open the scroll, He alone is worthy of our adoration.
The second verse contains the lyrics,
Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lightning rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory
And power be to You the only wise King
These first two lines come from Revelation 4:3-6. The purpose of this was to communicate the glory and splendor of the King on the throne. The author of Revelation wrote in these similes to magnify the holiness of God. There was nothing like the beauty of God and nothing could accurately portray His grandeur. This is one of the only times when description of something proves to be of no avail.
The second two lines comes from 4:11. The wisdom mentioned in our song comes from the last part of 4:11 where it says, “You created all things and because of Your will they existed and were created.” God in His wisdom did create everything that is created. This allows us to respond again with the chorus.
The third and final verse follows,
Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power breath and living water
Such a marv'lous mystery
This verse has two lines of response, followed by two lines of declaration. The response is reflective of the person viewing the Lord and His character. Although we do not see the Lord like Isaiah and John did, we do have enough to be awestruck because His character is truly amazing.
The declarative lines mainly address the power of Jesus’ name. While this is a commonly, and probably poorly, understood concept in our day and age, this is truly a wonderful thing. Many times throughout the New Testament was the name of the Lord used to do miraculous things. Jesus cast out demons in Mark 16:17-18, people were healed in Acts 3:6, 16, but most importantly is we are justified by the power of His name. 1 Corinthians 6:11b says, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This Gospel allusion speaks to the marvelous mystery.
So in conclusion, we sing this song because it is filled with Scripture and Biblical belief. It’s singable in a certain key with a very consistent and decent range, and it’s meant for a church congregation to sing. So when you sing this song, be thinking about the wondrous glory of God. Not only do we worship Him as King now, but we’ll worship Him forever as Lord over all.
I was recently leading worship in our church’s youth group. It’s always a blessing to lead these students in worship because it’s still new to them. While most of us have been singing church music for years or even decades, these students are just starting to discern what it means to worship. One of the questions I asked during our youth service was “Why Do We Sing?” I admit that “Christian Congregational Karaoke” is WEIRD. How many times a week do you gather with other people to sing for 15-20 minutes?
I think we need to be reminded why we sing in church. What’s the purpose? Is it to show off how beautiful or voices are to the people around us? Is it stay awake in the early hours of the morning service? Is it to get ready for our The Voice audition? While we tend to slip into these mindsets, the real reason we sing is because God commands us to.
Bob Kauflin has written much on the subject of church music and worship, and he has identified 400 references to singing in the Bible and fifty direct commands to sing. The most famous passage that commands us to sing is Psalm 96:1-4, which says:
Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.
So should we just sing in order to fulfill a command? Do we show up on Sunday morning begrudgingly, saying, “OK God, I’ll sing for you but just because you command me to!”? 1st John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (Emphasis mine).”
God is worthy of all of our praise and when we sing, we are clearly giving God praise. Our voices encourage us to live our lives in obedience. It’s not right to live in rebellion to God all week and then come to church and sing the loudest or with the most passion. Just as Samuel told Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22b), we need to be reminded that while God commands us to sing, His foundational desires is for obedience.
Singing should be the outpouring of a life devoted to Christ. The reason we sing to the Lord is the same reason we can’t keep quiet about the latest movie, it was just so incredible and worthy of our affirmation. The issue is when idols in our lives deceive us into thinking that they are more wonderful than the Lord.
This is why the daily reading of God’s Word in devotions is so important. We take time every day to remember that God is worthy to be praised above everything else. God is more loving and gracious than any movie, job promotion, sporting event, and thus, worthy of all of our praise.
In conclusion, we sing because God commands us to. We give Him glory through song, prayer, reading His Word, and most importantly obedience because He is worthy of all the praise and more! Charles Wesley reminds us that even if we were to have A Thousand Tongues, the praise we could give would still greatly fall short of all that God deserves.
So let us sing and let us obey!