The Gift: FREE Christmas Devotional 2020

Christmas is an amazing gift-giving time of year.  In 2019 alone, Americans spent (on average) $1,000 per person on Christmas.  WOW!  While we may debate the amount spent on each gift, we cannot deny that gift giving is a very relevant way for people to celebrate the Christmas holiday.  At Christmas, we remember THE GIFT that was given by God to you and me.  THE GIFT, of course, is Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus came to the earth, we have experienced the most amazing collection of blessings:  

  • Hope, in the face of despair
  • Life, in the event of death
  • Peace, instead of war
  • Intimacy with God, instead of separation from God
  • Forgiveness, instead of wrath
  • Power, in place of weakness

We have been given all these (and more) through the person of Jesus Christ.  As Ephesians 1:3 reminds us, we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and as John 1:16 explains, “from His (Jesus) fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”

But how do I know that these gifts are for me?  After all, most Christmas presents purchased every year are NOT for us.  Many of those gifts were for others.  How do I know the gift of Jesus is intended for me?  

When I look at presents under our Christmas tree, I can determine which gift is for which person by looking at the tag on each gift.  When I see my name in the “to” column, I know that gift is for me.  When Jesus was born that first Christmas night, God “tagged” THE GIFT with the names of many who would represent the types of people Jesus came for.  Amazingly, when we look at these different groups of people, we see that THE GIFT of Christmas is intended for all of us!

  • The prophecies of the Old Testament remind us that Christmas is for the “Distressed.”  Those experiencing the ill effects of this world can find their hope in Jesus.
  • In Mary and Joseph (Jesus’ earthly parents) we see two very “Decent” people.  They were morally exceptional in their day.  But even the “Decent” need a Savior and the supernatural intervention of God.
  • In the invitation of the shepherds of Bethlehem, we are reminded that the “Dirty” are also given the gift of Christmas.  Shepherds lived their lives being told by religious folks that they were “unclean” and could not enter the Temple … but the night Jesus is born, they are invited to the manger.
  • In the star in the sky lighting the way for the Magi, we are reminded that the “Distant” are also given this gift.  The Magi lived in a far away land that worshipped other gods, but the one true God, wanted them to know that they were invited to open this Christmas gift as well.
  • Jesus Christ is “THE GIFT” and the biblical accounts show us that He was given by our loving Heavenly Father to ALL of us!

This 2020 season at Wildwood Community Church, we are inviting you to join us in opening by faith THE GIFT of Christ this Christmas.  To help us in doing that, we have a number of opportunities:

Sunday Worship Services (each Sunday morning at 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30):

  • November 29:  To the Distressed (Isaiah 11:1-9)
  • December 6:  To the Decent (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38)
  • December 13:  To the Dirty (Luke 2:8-20)
  • December 20:  To the Distant (Matthew 2:1-12)

December 24 Christmas Eve Services (3:00, 4:00, 5:00, 6:00)

  • Singing of carols
  • Candlelight
  • Scripture reading of the Christmas story
  • For the whole family!

Daily Devotionals:

  • I have prepared a daily devotional for each day from November 29 – December 25. These are included in a free book, found:
  • On my blog each morning, you can also find that day’s devotional (you can also subscribe to the blog to have all new posts sent straight to your inbox … see the “subscribe” area on the blog – pastormarkrobinson.com)

Christmas Playlist:

We hope and pray that these resources help you worship Jesus this holiday season!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Baptism Sunday November 22, 2020: Sermon Questions & Audio/Video

On Sunday, November 22, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church, we celebrated the baptisms of 10 individuals.  Before the baptisms, I preached a sermon based on 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13.  Below you will find questions related to this message for personal reflection or group discussion.  You will also find sermon audio, and videos of the worship services to listen to/watch, download, or share.  Also, you will see slides from the message.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13
  3. What are some of the things that have struggled to “celebrate” this past year due to the pandemic?
  4. In the message, we reviewed some of Paul’s second missionary journey, and reflected on how that impacted him by the time he arrived in Corinth.  Are you struggling in this era as Paul was?  What was it that encouraged Paul (seen in 1 Thess. 3:6-8)?  How does that same dynamic encourage you today?
  5. In what specific ways does it encourage you to hear the testimonies of others (as we did today before baptisms)?
  6. Baptisms are a celebration of new life in Christ.  Baptism is not the end, but the beginning!  God wants to continue to grow our faith in Him and love for others throughout our lives.  How have you seen your faith in God and love for others increase over the years you have followed Christ?
  7. How do you sense God wants to use YOU to “fill out what is lacking” in the faith of another?
  8. Have you been baptized since professing faith in Christ?  If so, when?  If not, why not?  Is the Lord leading you to pursue water baptism?  If so (or even if you just have questions about baptism) contact us at wildwoodchurch.org/baptism and we will follow up before our next baptism service in March 2021.
  9. What stands out to you most from this passage?  Any particular takeaway?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

 

To listen to the sermon audio offline, click the link:

Baptism Sunday! 11.22.20

 

To listen to sermon audio online, use media player:

 

To watch the worship services, use YouTube stream online:

Full service (with 10:15 baptisms):

Baptisms from 9:00 Service:

Baptisms from 11:30:

 

Baptism Sunday: November 22, 2020!

Are you looking for something to celebrate?  I sure am!  And what better to celebrate than the greatness of Jesus Christ, and people turning to Him as their Lord and Savior.

This Sunday at Wildwood Community Church, in all 3 of our morning worship services, we will be:

  • Singing praise and worship to God
  • Looking at 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 to see encouragement for ALL OF US, young and old.
  • Celebrating the baptisms of 11 Wildwood people!

As always at Wildwood, baptism Sundays take a special rhythm.  We will still offer our early childhood program (for birth – preK) during all 3 services, but EVERYONE ELSE will be ALL IN as one church family in the worship center to celebrate God’s faithfulness.  We will have 3 morning services this weekend (in person, and all indoors) at 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30.  The schedule for the baptisms will be as follows:

9:00 Service:

  1. Peyton Williams
  2. Grayson Williams
  3. Moses Bisel
  4. Callaway Payton

10:15 Service:

  1. Logan Wise
  2. Zac Sheriff
  3. Maleia Sarantakos

11:30 Service:

  1. Caitlin Rahmoeller
  2. Hunter Middleton
  3. Chloe Edmunds
  4. Patrick Murphy

I know that anytime we have disruptions to our “normal,” it can throw us for a loop.  2020 has “taught” all of this lesson again and again (can I get an AMEN?)  So, with our Sunday this week slightly altered (with no adult, student, college, or elementary classes meeting), some might be tempted to just stay home.  Resist that urge!!!  We are not taking this Sunday off.  We are intentionally gathering together to remember God’s faithfulness to us as a church family.  These Sundays are some of my favorites each year, and we want to worship with YOU and your entire household this weekend!  We hope to see you Sunday.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

P.S.  Like normal, our 10:15 service will be live-streamed for all who want to join us online at wildwoodchurch.org/live   … however, because this is a baptism Sunday, we will also be streaming the baptism portions of all 3 services!  All three streams will be available online at wildwoodchurch.org/live .  I know this could be a bit confusing, so here is the STREAMING schedule:

  • Around 9:40, the stream will begin for the first service, and include only the baptism section of the service.
  • 10:15 – the full livestream of the entire worship service (like normal).
  • 12:10 – the stream will begin for the third service, and include only the baptism section of the service.

Questions for Reflection – November 15, 2020

On Sunday, November 15, 2020, Teaching Pastor Bruce Hess’ message is “Eternal Rewards, Part 3”. Below are some questions for your personal or group reflection.

1. The prospect of future reward can be very encouraging, empowering, and comforting.
How  would the prospect of eternal reward impact:

  • A teen, or 20 something, who is seeking to remain sexually pure?
  • A person who is caring for a spouse or parent who suffers from Alzheimer’s?
  • A parent who is raising a special needs child?
  • Parents who are seeking to be spiritual models for their children?
  • An individual who is considering downsizing their cost of living to make more eternal investments?
  • A young person who wants to follow Jesus despite the poor example of their parents?
  • A person who has long suffered physically with disability or pain?

One thing is certain, all of our struggles in faithfully serving and following Jesus will one day be worth it!

2. Bruce asked: Will every believer experience joy in eternity? And he stated emphatically YES!

  •  Read I John 2:28.  John proposes that it is possible for a Jesus follower to experience shame when Jesus returns. How does that “jive” with Bruce’s statement above? Discuss.
  • After some discussion evaluate Samuel Hoyt’s statement: “To overdo the sorrow aspect of the judgment seat of Christ is to make heaven hell.  To underdo the sorrow aspect is to make faithfulness inconsequential.”

3. Do you feel prepared to stand before the Bema of Christ?
Are there attitudes that should be altered?
Are there habits or patterns of sin that need to be addressed?
Are there areas where you have yet to yield your will to His?

4. List the resources God has graciously provided for you (education, abilities, spiritual gifts, life experiences, positions of influence, finances, opportunities to serve Jesus and others). Then take some time to prayerfully consider how you might better utilize each of those resources for eternal benefit.

5. All of us may be in differing places in our spiritual journey:

  • Some may be in “comeback mode.” Maybe you’ve drifted in your spiritual walk and spent some time off in “the spiritual weeds.”  If so, always remember His arms are ever open wide to you.  Draw near to Him, and he’ll draw near to you (James 4:8). It is never too late to build well, manage well, and run well.
  • Others have maybe enjoyed a series of significant spiritual accomplishments and victories. If so, stay humble, remain faithful, keep your focus on the finish line and continue to exalt Jesus.

6. First Corinthians 10:12 warns us, Let him who thinks he stands, take heed that he does not fall.
Prayerfully read Psalm 139:23-24 and ask God to reveal any hidden issues in your heart.

“We were made for a person and a place. Jesus is the person. Heaven is the place”
– Randy Alcorn

Recommended book for digging deeper into Eternal Rewards:
Going for the Gold by Joe L. Wall

Sneak Peek – Sunday, November 15, 2020

Hey Wildwood Family!

I hope some of you have had the opportunity to check out my webpage at brucehess.com

Again, we have uploaded a number of sermon series I’ve done and you can either listen by streaming, listen by downloading the mp3 to your device, or you can read the transcription of the message.  I will soon be uploading the Eternal Rewards series once the transcriptions are completed.  We will also continue to add more and more series and messages from past years.

I’ve received some kind comments about the site being easy to navigate.  I’m always open to suggestions for improvement. If you do visit, please click on “Contact us” and leave a comment (we hope it will be a positive one!). I’m excited to utilize the website to reach more and more folks with teaching from God’s word.  Please pass along the website address to friends and feel free to link it in your social media. Thanks!

This Sunday we will conclude our study of Eternal Rewards with the third and final message. This one was somewhat of a struggle for me as I had SO much I wanted to include.  We hope you find this concluding message beneficial—we will be examining three analogies of the Christian life from Scripture, plus looking at some specific rewards that the Bible highlights.  It will be fun and informative!

A week from Sunday (the 22nd) will be a modified ALL in Sunday (Birth—Pre-K will meet as normal).  Elementary and up will get to enjoy the baptism worship service.  Don’t miss being a part of that Sunday as we celebrate as a church family a number of baptisms.  Indeed, it’s a GREAT celebration we get to experience together!

I also want to remind everyone of how quickly the Mission Norman Christmas store outreach (to many disadvantaged folks in our community) is coming upon us.  This year’s Shoppe will be more of a drive-up pick-up style store. Collecting gifts for 600 kids is a tall order.  We also will need all sorts of volunteers to make the outreach a success.  Don’t put it off!  Visit wildwoodchurch.org/missionnorman to learn more or to sign up. Let’s keep making a difference right here in our community!

See you Sunday!

Bruce

8AM Service …

Dear Friends,

None of us could have foreseen the events of 2020 11 months ago.  In December 2019, I sat in staff and elder meetings and prayed and dreamed about the year we were beginning.  We had big dreams and were developing exciting plans (at least from our vantage point) … but as the year unfolded, the Lord guided us into different waters.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us in different ways: personally, professionally, recreationally, and even ecclesiastically (related to the church).  For some of you who have lost loved ones to the virus, this year has brought great sorrow.  For others, you have seen your businesses torn asunder by lockdowns and closures.  Compared to your hardships, the things we have endured corporately as a church family seem more trivial, but have been (nonetheless) consequential.

The virus, and everyone’s differing responses to it, led to creativity in how we gathered for worship:

  • Though we were already streaming our worship services entering this year, we had few congregants using that forum weekly.  For obvious reasons, attendance online has dramatically increased this year, with new services going live each Sunday at wildwoodchurch.org/live at 10:15AM.
  • As we began the year, we never dreamed we would have a weekly outdoor worship service.  Yet, as I write this post, we have been doing so every Sunday for seven months (most recently at 8AM)!  It has been a tremendous privilege to gather with many of you to worship in this environment over this span.  I know that many do not yet feel comfortable worshipping indoors, and this outdoor environment has been a “home” for a portion of our congregation these past several months.
  • Given the need for social distancing, we have also added additional worship services once we moved back indoors. We have three different services at 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30 (with children’s ministry, student ministry, and college and adult classes meeting concurrently).  These continue to be great opportunities to worship together!
  • Additionally, we erected a tent in front of the church where we have hosted overflow seating for the 10:15 service since early August.  We also have turned our coffee bar area into an additional overflow seating environment as needed.

Through these variety of venues, we have continued to “not forsake meeting together as is the habit of some.”  What a blessing to worship with each of you in this time and season.

As the winter months are now upon us, however, we are adjusting our Sunday morning worship options slightly, recognizing the cold weather making outdoor events less tolerable.  Beginning NEXT SUNDAY, November 22, we will be stopping the 8AM outdoor chapel service.  The remainder of our worship options will carry on as normal, but this outdoor option is ceasing for this season.

We know that this will make it harder for some of you who are still not able to enter our facility to gather together for worship.  We are so sorry for this!  However, we would love to invite you to join us online in the livestream at wildwoodchurch.org/live.  Additionally, know that some of our adult classes still offer Zoom options, and we have a number of resources for our families if you are not able to gather with us in person at this time.  You can find all these options on our website at wildwoodchurch.org.

Thanks for continuing to follow Jesus together with us to the glory of God at Wildwood in 2020 … and beyond.  See you Sunday, November 15 for one last outdoor chapel at 8AM … or (as always) indoors at 9:00, 10:15, or 11:30, or on the stream.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Questions for Reflection – November 8, 2020

On Sunday, November 8, 2020, Teaching Pastor Bruce Hess’ message is “Eternal Rewards, Part 2”. Below are some questions for your personal or group reflection.

1. George Whitfield was an English preacher and a significant voice during the first Great Awakening (a spiritual revival during the mid-1700s).  He has been called “the father of modern evangelicalism.” A plaque by his grave cites a quote by him:
After I am dead I desire no other epitaph than this, “Here lies G.W.
What sort of a man he was the Great Day will discover.”

What is the Great Day?  As best you can, what do you think he was really saying?  Discuss.

2. The Bible teaches that Christ could return for you (or call you home via death) at any time.
How much does that truth affect you on a daily basis? How should it affect you?
What needs to change?

3. Bruce cited Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “Therefore, we have as our ambition…to be pleasing to Him.”  A penetrating question for all of us is, am I pleasing God?
— in how I handle my money?
— in my family/marriage relationships?
— in my friendships?
— in my vocational life?
— in how I’m investing my time?
— in serving Jesus and others rather than just myself?

4. On a personal level—is the Holy Spirit convicting you about any of your attitudes or actions (sins of commission)?  Is He convicting you of something that He’s been urging you to do that you have failed to do (sins of omission)?  If so, read 1 John 1:7-9 and take some time to practice 1 John 1:9 before Him.

Sneak Peek – Sunday, November 8, 2020

Hey Wildwood Family!

As I write this there are clouds of confusion, consternation and controversy swirling around the aftermath of our national election.  Whatever the outcome of the election we need to remind ourselves that:

Jesus still is the Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords.

He still is the Alpha and Omega, the Almighty, who is, who was, and who is to come

He still is far above all rule, authority, power and dominion.

He still holds all things together

He still works all things after the counsel of His will

He still is our Shepherd who restores our soul and leads us in paths of righteousness

He still will never leave us nor forsake us

He still is at work in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure.

We still are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise

Jesus still is the way, the truth, and the life

He still is patient, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

He still is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world

He still is rich in mercy and grace

He still is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him

The gospel still is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

The gift of God still is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

The Bible still is the Word of God, alive and powerful

The tomb still is empty.

We still are to proclaim His name and make Him known among the nations

We still are to let our light shine before others

We still are called to walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

We still are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might

We still are ambassadors for Christ, co-workers in God’s service

It is still true—how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news

Let’s not lose focus!

This Sunday we will continue the series on “Eternal Rewards” (which we launched last Sunday) with message #2, where we will zoom in for a closer look at the Bema of Christ.  Don’t miss it!

Bruce

Questions for Reflection – November 1, 2020

On Sunday, November 1, 2020, Teaching Pastor Bruce Hess’ message is “Eternal Rewards, Part 1”. Below are some questions for your personal or group reflection.

1. How often have you heard teaching on the subject of eternal rewards? Why do you think the subject isn’t addressed more frequently?

2. Some people feel that encouraging a believer to make spiritual life choices with the motive of gaining an eternal reward sounds wrong…sounds mercenary-like. Why do you think that is? How does that idea square with Scripture?

3. Re-read 2 Corinthians 5:6-10. What should we learn from such a passage? Elaborate.

4. CS Lewis said this in Mere Christianity: If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the future world, that they have become so ineffective in this.

Pray that God will deepen your personal focus on the world to come—which, indeed, is our true home.

Sermon Preview for Sunday, November 1, 2020

Hey Wildwood Family!

It sure has been a difficult week.  Nope, not so much Covid-based, as has been the story for a while, but STORM based.  We were among the many that lost power due to the storm. Pastor Mark still is without power on Friday as I write this.  Whenever we lose power, I’m always reminded of how much I take electricity for granted.  Life is SO much better with electricity!

Janet and I also lost a very significant part of our two 50-year-old trees…even more branches down than in the ice storm in December of 2007.  More leaves on the trees this time, thus more for ice to stick to.  Can’t say it’s been a boring week.

I’m excited to launch a new study this week entitled, Eternal Rewards.  From my observation the idea of eternal rewards in a believer’s life is often a neglected or unexplored biblical truth. What does the Bible say about eternal rewards and how should we live in light of that?  I’ve been planning this short series for a while so I’m looking forward to it.  I hope you are too.

I want to remind you of two things: First, we “fall back” this Saturday night so we get that extra hour of rest [ theoretically 😉 ].  Second, our Christmas outreach to the less fortunate via the Mission Norman Christmas Shoppe is directly ahead.  That ministry can’t happen without adequate volunteers to serve (and some of our regular volunteers are unable to serve due to Covid issues).  Please visit wildwoodchurch.org/missionnorman to volunteer and help staff this year’s outreach ministry.  There are a number of different roles to fill. Many people in our community will be grateful for your help.

See you on Sunday!

Bruce