Christmas Family Devotions

For the Carter household, Christmas signifies oodles of treats and memories with family and friends, but one important tradition we have established as a family — and one we look forward to each year — is our Advent Family Devotions. Advent derives from the Latin word Adventus which means “coming”, and our family has tried to make an intentional effort over the years to celebrate together the “Coming” of the Christ child into our world at Bethlehem for the entirety of the Advent Season.

It’s not too soon to begin planning for Family Devotions for Advent. Here are some resources that our our family would like to share with yours:

THE JESSE TREE. The Jesse Tree is an old Christmas tradition dating back to Medieval Times to tell the biblical story from Creation to Christmas. Jesse was the Father of King David, and Jesus descended from this Royal Descendant. The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

“A shoot will come up from the Stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of power, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Just as a branch is a new sign of life on a tree, so the birth of Jesus dawned a new day for his genealogical tree that would impact the whole of humankind.

The Jesse Tree Resources:


In addition to celebrating the Jesse Tree together (which only takes a few minutes), reading together a fictional Advent story soaked with Christian principles has been a good way for our family to bond together.

This series has been a hit for our boys:

Christmas Books for the Children:

A family might consider setting up a basket of Christmas books for the children. Or, perhaps you might give several Christmas books to your children during the Advent Season in an “Advent Book Countdown”. Here are some recommendations:

Advent Readings for Adults:

Jason Carter
Blog Tidbits for Nov. 2018
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Every once in a while, I link to a few blog posts worth reading from the blogosopher. Enjoy!

1) Good News for Modern Parents (The Gospel Coalition)

“Our world clamors to convince us that the goal of life is happiness. We’re constantly told, “Do whatever makes you happy; follow your heart.” When you ask modern parents what we want for our children, we respond in unison: “We just want them to be happy!”

… “But the good news of the Bible is that we—and our children—were made for more. Its opening chapters show that humans were made in our Maker’s image for a bigger purpose—to honor him by living well in his creation and doing good to his image-bearers.

It follows, then, that parenting isn’t about making our children feel happy all the time, but about helping them to know and live out their God-given purpose. And according to the experts, this approach is actually more likely to give them a sense of genuine satisfaction in the long run.”

2) 12 Gospel-Centered Books on Marriage (RPM Ministries)

Every year, I try to read a book on marriage. It’s good for me, and it’s good for my marriage. The blog post has some great recommendations for books on marriage.

3) Ask and You Shall Evangelize (The Gospel Coalition)

“Modern selves are so internal,” Keller said. “In the old days if you were convinced of the truth, you changed yourself. Now we adopt the truth as accessories that fit in with who we want to be.” …

“All you have to do is get him to speak back. People are only two ‘why?’ questions away from not having an answer. Just keep asking questions until they have no answer, and then say, ‘Hmm.’ At that moment, they’ll realize, ‘I’m not as well-thought as I thought I was.’”

So the new face of apologetics isn’t up on stage. It’s in a coffee shop or break room, sharing stories and saying “tell me why you think that” until the answers run out.

Jason Carter
Practicing Radical Hospitality

Our church recently celebrated “Tables for 8” with a few hundred people breaking bread together in homes in our community.  My wife Lisa and I enjoyed a “house which runneth over” as we welcomed about 20-25 kids into our home between two dinners combined!  What a joy!

The next “phase” of our Radical Hospitality is taking it from the church seats out into the streets.  “Table of 8” was like a warm-up game for the real deal as our faith community longs to overflow with hospitality, community, and gospel conversations.  As Rosaria Butterfield indicates, “The gospel comes with a house key.”  For the early church, the home was a primary center of the expansion of the message and mission of Jesus.

Hospitality is Different than Entertaining

We must keep in mind that practicing radical hospitality is not the same as entertaining.  Entertaining is about rolling out a perfect meal with a perfect table setting at a perfect house of sublime cleanliness.  Entertaining points to the “self” -- either your culinary abilities or your cleanliness or your castle; in short, entertaining “makes much of you”.

Hospitality is different.  Hospitality is about others.  Hospitality listens to the guests; it is less about gourmet food or the state of your home and more about grace given, hurts shared, relationships strengthened, doubts heard, and common struggles faced together.  Hospitality makes much of community.

As Jen Wilkin says, entertaining aims to impress while hospitality’s motive is to bless.

Will you take up the joyful task of overflowing with radical hospitality into our community?  

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”  Romans 12:13

Thankful to serve a community that puts flesh on the gospel by practicing radical hospitality,

Pastor Jason Carter

Jason Carter
On Being a Christian Man
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Recently, an out-of-state family asked me to write a short letter to their son turning thirteen about “what being a Christian man” really means.  This was my reply. 

Dear Jeremiah,

Being a Godly man means embracing the truth that “Life is relationship”.  A Christian man moves into relationships despite the pull of his work where he might feel more competent.   A Christian man moves into the chaos of relationships that are messy and where he might not feel adequate.  Instead of shying away from these relationships, he embraces them because of his anchor in the Triune God. 

A Christian man knows that he will struggle, but that God’s forgiveness and faithfulness reaches him even in the struggle.

A Christian man knows that he needs other men/guys in his life that are authentic and help him be the type of follower of Christ that he could never be without other men in his life.

A Christian man is a church man.  A Christian man says “yes” to service and leadership in the local church. Don’t try to be a Christian without an active involvement in a church as such a Christian man shouldn’t really exist. 

A Christian man says “yes” to solitude and silence – because silence and solitude are the soil from which prayer arises.  If your world is too noisy or busy, you will never grow deep roots in Christ who longs to hear from us in prayer.  Cultivate a prayer life and you cultivate a faithful friend in your Savior Jesus.

A Christian man is one who delights in the Word of God, even when it’s hard and even when it forces us to swim upstream against the cultural moments of our day.  God’s word is sufficient for the Christian man, and he knows that there are answers from God’s word for contentment and a Godly life.  

Finally, a Christian man knows that the “truest truth” about himself is that he is deeply loved by God.  That is a game-changer.  He moves out into the world and into other relationships knowing that he is a “beloved son” of the Father.  That colors everything – how he sees the world, how he sees himself, and how he sees his worth and value.  The love of God is his security. 

Peace to you,

Jason Carter

***If you need other men in your life, consider participating in “Men’s Fraternity” which meets at 6:00 am Saturday mornings in Fellowship Hall at Trinity Wellsprings Church.

Jason Carter
Journey to Joy: 50 Day Joy Challenge
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“In our pursuit of happiness, it isn’t happiness alone we pursue but the God of happiness, the only one who can make us happy.” (Mike Mason)

“If God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, then we must make it our aim to be as happy as we possibly can be in God.” (John Piper)

Our Church Wide Study is just around the corner! 

How long does it take to acquire a healthy habit?  21 Days?  40 Days? 90 Days?  I’ve heard all of the above.  Our church family will be journeying together to pursue, chase, hunt, track, seek, and run after joy for 50 Days. 

We will pursue joy with reckless abandon.  Doesn’t this sound fun? 

What’s more, I believe this journey will be good for your soul.  And healthy for your relationships.  And life-giving to your relationship with God.  I am hopeful that joy will give itself over to us, like squeezing every last drop of juice out of a grapefruit. 

I recently read a question that stopped me in my tracks:  “When was the last time you prayed for God to give you more joy?”

“God, increase my joy.” 

“God, forgive me for my lack of joy.”

“God, help my life to radiate with the joy of the Lord.”

I want to pray those prayers, and I want to live that kind of life.

There will be several components of our Church Wide Study: 

(1)  From Sept 30 – Nov 18, I will be preaching messages around JOY.   

(2)  We are encouraging our Life Groups to organize 7 or 10 weeks of Study around John Piper’s book Desiring God.  The seven weeks will take you 50 Days.  Then, there are 3 “Bonus Weeks” which will finish the study.  [There are really two options here:  (1) Organize your Life Group for the entire 10 weeks to complete the study. Or, (2) Organize your Life Group for 7 weeks and encourage members to work through the 3 “Bonus Weeks” on their own because of the busyness of Thanksgiving and December.]

(3)  We are working on a STUDY GUIDE which will give you questions to work through Desiring God.  The Study Guide will include a JOY JOURNAL for 50 Days (Sept 18-Nov. 18) as we all attempt to “fight” for joy.  We will be encouraged to notice aspects of JOY in our everyday life.  We want to be praising God for all the little (and big) joys in life!!!  It should be a great exercise to develop a Godly outlook of joy in all of life. 

(4)  Desiring God  is about “the pursuit of joy in God”, a concept Piper calls “Christian Hedonism.” I believe the truths in Desiring God have a paradigm-shaping potential to change the way we view the entire Christian life and lead us into a rich, satisfying God-centered joy. I believe you will be blessed and challenged by Desiring God which is already considered a modern classic.  Even if you’ve already read the book before, I think digging deeper into its message will be good for your soul (especially as you do so in community). 

(5)  Now is the time to take the plunge and join a Life Group.  There IS a place for YOU to plug in!!  (If you can’t join a LIFE GROUP, then I do encourage you to read Desiring God  by yourself and participate in the JOY JOURNAL in the Study Guide.)

I can’t wait for our church to be radiating JOY, JOY, JOY in the upcoming weeks ahead!! 

Pastor Jason Carter


Jason Carter
My Tribute to David Bridgman, Mentor
  David Bridgman praying with the church in Harbin, China

David Bridgman praying with the church in Harbin, China

On August 9, the Reverend David Bridgman went home to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  This is my tribute to a wise saint, a faithful pastor, an untiring advocate of global missions, and a personal mentor. 

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been remembering fondly the summer I spent as a youth and mission intern with David Bridgman in Wichita, KS and the ensuing friendship and mentoring over the last two decades.  I will miss David: his friendship, his wise counsel, and his passion for Jesus and his mission. 

God brought David into my life during my college years as I was still wrestling with the future shape of my call into the ministry (i.e. “What ministry path does God have for me in the future?”)  Ironically, as David was approaching 65 years of age, he found himself wrestling with many of the same questions.  I remember this unique common ground: both of us looking a bit starry-eyed into the future, though we were separated by more than four decades of life! 

I’m not sure when “Rev. Bridgman” turned into “David” for me, but I often felt his warmth, gentleness, and encouragement over the years as I navigated different seasons of life and ministry.  David was the mentor who connected me to Latin American Mission (I spent the summer after college in Mexico City) and WEC International (I spent a year after Mexico City in Equatorial Guinea before coming back stateside to attend Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary).  Years later, David arranged the “neutral pulpit” in Orlando where the pastor search committee from Trinity Wellsprings Church met me and heard me preach in person for the first time. 

The Book of Romans:  During my initial internship years ago with David, I’ll never forget the simplicity of pastoral ministry that was communicated to me when we spent time together reading and reflecting upon the Book of Romans in his study. Unbeknownst to me at the time, David was helping shape my view of pastoral ministry.  A faithful pastor reads the Scriptures with his people and prays for them.  I still remember the excitement with which David talked about the apostle Paul, the fundamental thesis of the entire Book of Romans (Rom. 1:16-17), and the chasing of many Pauline rabbit trails that summer.  I had the joy of jumping into deep waters with an experienced pastor of almost four decades.  I almost feel embarrassed by the abundance of riches that God has given me in the form of pastors and Godly men who have sowed deeply into my life. 

This summer, what biblical book did I read with Trinity’s own college summer intern?  The Book of Romans, of course!  The cycle had come full circle. 

Sage Counsel:  David was wise.  Knowledge and application came together in a unique way in David’s life. David was knowledgeable on a wide gambit of topics, but it was David’s deep wisdom that, for me, made him such a valuable mentor and brother in Christ.  I suppose David is part of the reason that I often pray for wisdom: wisdom in leadership, wisdom in parenting, wisdom in loving my wife well.  I often had the privilege of experiencing wisdom "up-close and personal" through David, sort of like seeing different faces of a beautiful diamond.  In any age, wisdom is a scarce commodity.  Is our age particularly adroit at running a deficit of wisdom?  David’s wisdom touched people deeply and paved the way for numerous initiatives for the Gospel all across the world. 

Retirement?  Nah.  I often tell people that David accomplished more for the Kingdom after 65 years of age than most people do in an entire life time.  David bookended his life in a beautiful way.  As the son of missionaries to China, David spent the last 20+ years of his life making numerous trips to China and enthusiastically throwing himself into networking and supporting the ministries in China (particularly in the Yunnan Province) through Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and other mission agencies.

I’ll always remember his humble blue car in the parking lot of Eastminster Presbyterian Church of Wichita, KS where David served as the Associate Pastor of Missions.  For me, his blue car was a symbol of what mission is all about, especially for a church that was known to send over $1 million all over the world for missions.  Yes, we want to change the world, but let’s do it humbly and in the way of Jesus. 

A Hospital Good-Bye.  I’m so thankful that I received a text a couple of hours before David passed away.  I was able to make a quick trip to an Orlando hospital where I saw David for the final time.  David asked that I read Acts 20 of Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again...I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,which he obtained with his own blood...And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:24-32)

After I read the passage, David wrote on a piece of paper:  “I commend you to God.”  It was a touching end to our earthly friendship.  I thanked him.  I prayed for him.  David was ready to receive his crown of glory. 

David touched many lives over the course of his pastoral ministry.  His passion for missions took him all over the world to “testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).  I recognize that I am just one voice amongst many celebrating the faithfulness of a wonderful saint.  Yet, I personally received “David Bridgman, Mentor” as God’s grace in my own life.  

The great saints of God have a way, I think, of deeply shaping the people around them.  It gave me a quiet sense of joy, over the years, to know that David was proud of me.

I am profoundly grateful for God’s gift to me in David. 

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” (Romans 1:8)

Pray especially for Mary Bridgman, David’s wife of 62 years, and his daughter Ellen.

Jason Carter