Light of the World (part 3) Sermon Preview

OK quick … what Christmas gifts do you most remember receiving in your childhood?  I was thinking about this today … and I basically came up with two big memories.  The first was when I got a basketball goal for Christmas … and after putting it up, my Dad and I played a quick game of one-on-one in the driveway.  The second was when I received the AT-AT walker from the Empire Strikes Back.  Yeah – life was pretty good.

But you know what is wild?  Though I received gifts every Christmas growing up, these were the only ones that sprang quickly to my mind.  If I thought long enough and hard enough about it, I know I would remember others, but these were the only ones that came to mind quickly.

But as I thought about this, you know what I remembered much more of?  Conversations with family.  Sitting around the dinner table for way too long, eating way too much, and enjoying every minute of it.  Game tournaments with the visiting relatives.  These personal moments shared are the memories that have endured the longest.  They are what I treasure the most.

I think this is the way it is.  Though MUCH is made of the “stuff” we give and get at Christmas, it is the other “gifts” of time and presence and relationship that mean the most.  I think this dynamic was also true for Jesus’ mother Mary.  Why do I think that?

Well, for starters, Luke’s Gospel contains the most information about Jesus’ birth from Mary’s perspective.  Given the detail, I have little doubt that Mary herself was one of the eyewitnesses Luke interviewed when compiling His Gospel … and in it we find out what Mary “treasured” and “pondered” in her heart.

And you know what she didn’t mention?  The three gifts of the Magi.

Now, I am not saying that the gifts were not appreciated and celebrated; they almost certainly were – possibly even being sold to fund their life-saving escape to Egypt when Herod sought to kill Jesus and the rest of the infant boys in Bethlehem.  What I am saying is that the memories that first sprang to mind in Luke’s Christmas account included three OTHER Christmas gifts.  These three “gifts” were not material in nature, but were statements from three lesser known figures in the Christmas account:  Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79), Simeon (Luke 2:25-32), and Anna (Luke 2:36-38).

This Sunday morning at Wildwood, we are going to look at these three other “gifts” and then we will explore Isaiah 42:1-9 (a passage written 700 years before the birth of Jesus) to see WHY these gifts were given and why they were so important.  We will do this in part 3 of the “Light of the World” sermon series.  Make plans to join us in the 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 worship service!

Also, note that this Sunday our children will be singing in the services at the end of the 9:45 and 11:00 services.  We LOVE this Sunday each year.  Make plans to be with us December 10 … and bring friends!

Light of the World (part 2) Sermon Preview

Our world today attempts to make us self-sustaining (at least in a  way).  At one point, you had a “milk man,” now you pick up a carton at Wal Mart, and check-out without aid of a  cashier.  Once upon a time you had a banker, now you have an ATM.  Once there were secretaries, now there are cell phones and email systems. Travel used to be planned through agents, now there is a website.

These steps towards autonomy are convenient, enabling us to take care of most items OUTSIDE of “normal business hours.” Technology is helpful … until it isn’t.

When was the last time you needed some help accomplishing a task.  The shelves are empty in the grocery store refrigerator … and you look for an employee to assist, can you find them?  You have a question about a charge on your debit card, and you call a 1-800 number to find yourself stuck in a web of automated artificially intelligent, yet often circular menus.  You need to change a reservation and wonder which of the rebooking options are best, yet the options on the screen don’t understand the specific challenges you will have navigating a 30 minute layover in Atlanta with a 3 year old!

When we find ourselves in need, I mean when we REALLY are in need, we don’t just want an FAQ page or a robot voice.  At some level we know that our need is not just a WHAT (a goal) or a HOW (a plan) but ultimately a WHO (we need a rescuer, a helper, a hero):  Someone wiser than us, that we can trust to get us where we need to go.

We are familiar with this dynamic on the small scale of every day tasks, but this dynamic is even MORE TRUE on the cosmic stage.  Is there a solution to the darkness of the world around us?  Is there any hope for our weary souls?

We need more than a task or a plan, we need a Savior … we need a Messiah … we need God.

This Sunday at Wildwood Community Church, we will be in part 2 of our “Light of the World” Christmas sermon series.  In this prophetic passage written 700+ years before Jesus was born, the solution to the darkness problem is not met with an automated menu or a self-help book … but with a Sovereign Savior coming to radically change our reality.  We will look at this on Sunday, December 3 before celebrating the Lord’s Supper together.  Hope to see you Sunday in our 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 services … and bring friends!

Light of the World (part 1) Sermon Questions, Audio, and Video

On Sunday, November 26, 2023 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on John 8:12.  This message was part 1 in the “Light of the World” sermon series.  Below you will find questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.  You will also find audio and video of the message to listen to/watch, download or share.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read John 8:12
  3. What evidence of “darkness” do you see in the world today?
  4. The backdrop of Jesus’ statement in John 8:12 is the Festival of Tabernacles.  Based on our look at this festival this morning, in what way was this a good backdrop for Jesus’ statement?
  5. By proclaiming to be the “Light of the world,” Jesus was claiming to be God … who was present with His people!  Have you ever been comforted by the notion that God is with you in your time of need or struggle?  Share a time when this was so.
  6. Jesus was not just another good man, but God Himself who came to rescue us and lead us to true life.  This is why we not only celebrate Him at Christmas time, but also follow Him all the days of our lives!  What are some ways you can remind yourself and those in your network this Christmas that Jesus is God?
  7. Jesus invites us to follow Him and if we do, He promises that we will not stay in darkness.  Are you following Him with your life today?  If not why not?  Is there any “darkness” you are clinging to today instead of following Him into the light of life?
  8. What is one particular application you took away from this message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

NOTE:  I have prepared a 30 Christmas devotional tied to Christmas Carols.  You can access that devotional by clicking here.

To listen offline, click the link to download audio:

Light of the World #1 11.26.23


To listen online, use the media player below:


To watch the service, use YouTube online:

Light of the World (part 1) Preview

Imagine you have a friend named Bob who owns a home but consistently was complaining about how dark it was inside.  After hearing your friend complain about this for an extended period of time, you finally go over to his house for dinner one evening.  Upon arriving, you notice that all the windows in the home are shut and covered, excluding the entry of any natural light.  After entering the home, you see that though there are light fixtures in the house, all the light bulbs have been removed!  After some small talk (in the dark) Bob again begins complaining about the darkness in his home.  At this point, you can’t take it any longer.

“Bob,” you say.  “I have good news for you.  I think I know how to fix your problem.”

“You do?,” Bob replies.  “Please share!”

“Your problem is not the dark … it is that you have shut out all the light!,” you say. “Open the shades and replace the bulbs and the darkness will disappear!”

Of course, this story is a fiction, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

All of us tend to complain about the darkness we see around us.  Broken marriages, assaults, sexual perversion, war, and on and on.  24 hour news cycles on cable news and the internet give us plenty to remind us regularly of the “dark.”  But rather than spending our lives delving in the sport of self pity or cynicism, or stuck in a perpetual cycle of lament, what if there was a way to end the darkness?

You don’t end darkness by focusing on the dark … you end it by turning on the Light.

Does such a Light exist to dispel the darkness?  YES!

In John 8:12, Jesus Christ says this, “I am the Light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The Light of Jesus is no 40 watt bulb!  He is sufficient to light the world!  If we are sick of the dark, we must open the shade and let THE LIGHT shine in.

Over the next 4 Sundays at Wildwood Community Church, we will be walking through the Christmas season under the theme “Light of the World.”  By thinking of Jesus as THE Christmas Light, we will find hope in the midst of despair, direction in the midst of confusion, and clarity in the fog.  I hope you will join us each week in this series as we look at the historical account of Jesus’ birth in this “light.”

This Sunday, we will be in part one of the series introducing this topic by looking at what Jesus’ meant in John 8:12 by stating that He was the “Light of the World.”  Hope to see you in our 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 services … and bring friends!

To find out more about Wildwood’s Christmas plans, click here.

November 2023 Baptism Sunday Preview

What is the last thing you really celebrated?  I mean what was the last moment that brought you to your feet and compelled you to cheer?  Perhaps it was at a friend’s wedding when the Pastor pronounced them “husband and wife.” Maybe it was at a football game when your linebacker tackled their tailback for a loss on fourth and 1.  Or it might have been when you got a call from a loved one  who reported the biopsy had tested negative for cancer.  What do you celebrate?

Well if you are looking for another reason to celebrate, I invite you to Wildwood Community Church this Sunday, November 19 in our 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 services where we will be celebrating something amazing together … the existence of our great God and His love and faithfulness to us.

The backdrop of this Thanksgiving service will be Psalm 100 (read it this week in preparation!), but added to that will be the water baptism of 13 people who will be telling their story of the Lord’s work in their lives.  What. A. Blessing.

As is our norm, on baptism Sundays, we do not offer children’s ministry, student ministry, college ministry, or adult classes on these baptism Sundays … giving us the chance to be “all in” together to stand on our feet and (like the Psalmist) make a joyful noise to the Lord.  See you Sunday!

Thoughts on the October 7 Attack on Israel …

One week ago, on October 7, 2023, terror struck the nation of Israel when Hamas coordinated a vicious attack of southern Israel and launched missiles further north.  One week later, conflict is building further in the lands of Judea/Samaria on the west bank of the Jordan, and from the north as Hezbollah threatens from Lebanon.  Historically, this is an all too familiar feeling … the 1948, 1967, 1973 wars come to mind … but also (sadly) the atrocities of the Holocaust.

The common theme?  Many people in the world historically (and today) want to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth.  This (in fact) is the stated position of Iran and their proxies (Hezbollah and Hamas) in the middle east.

Indeed, Jewish people have survived enslavements, deportations, wars, and attempted genocide throughout their history (spanning back millennia.)

Where does this anger come from?  Political scientists look to the complicated (and crowded) geo-political history of the middle east … but that does not explain the opposition in Europe in the 1930s and 40s. Many others point toward the treatment of Palestinians over the past 75 years … but that ignores the Palestinian leaders’ role in the conflict.  While the politics and modern history of the region do play a role in this conflict, the Bible actually provides a deeper explanation for this struggle … it has Satanic roots.

Revelation 12 describes the conflict between Israel and Satan in a poetic way.  In these verses, Satan is a “dragon,” Israel is “a woman,” Jesus is the “male child,” and the church is the “offspring.”  In a cosmic sweep of history, Satan falls from heaven, and then wages war against the people of God (Israel) and the plan of God (blessing all the people of the earth through Jesus) throughout time.  How does Satan engage in this conflict?  Well, it is a multi-front “war,” but one wing of the battle is through earthly armies.  Hitler and Hamas (knowingly or not) were/are participating in a fight of divine proportions.  Satan hates God and channels that rage on this earth at God’s people.

When I read Revelation, though, I am reminded of something:  Satan’s efforts to wipe Israel out will never succeed.  Why?  Because the Lord will sustain the people of Israel.  But what do we mean when we say that?

Well, we mean that in the Bible, as the end times are described, there IS a distinct nation of Israel, living in the promised land, and even possessing a Temple.  This clarity helps us know that no matter how fierce the opposition, the people of Israel will survive (at least as a remnant) to the end times.  In fact, Revelation 7 goes so far as to describe representatives from EVERY tribe present at the end. The people of Israel will see God make good on His promises to them before the end arrives.

So we know that Israel (as a people) will survive.  We also know that at the end of the world, Israel will have a geo-political presence in the Middle East.  But based on these two points do we KNOW that the country of Israel will win the war they are engaged in today?  Well, no.  For nearly 2,000 years (from 70AD to 1948) the Jewish people were scattered all over the face of the earth, without possessing a country in the Middle East.  Was God’s plan in jeopardy during that time?  No!  God’s plans will be implemented in His time, but God’s timing is often slower than we would like or expect.  God waited nearly 2,000 years to bring Israel back to the land.  Israel could be scattered among the nations of the world again for some extended period of time.  What we can say with certainty is that Israel will be an entity in the Middle East as the world opens its final chapter.  As long as Israel prevails in this current struggle, we feel closer to the end.  If they are scattered, it seems the story is longer than some might be predicting.

That said, here are six things to consider for Jesus followers today:

  1. Israel as a country has a right and a responsibility to protect its citizens from these attacks and hold those responsible accountable.  Romans 13:1-7 describes the “justice” role that government plays in rewarding good and punishing evil as they wield the “sword” of their authority.  War is an awful reality in this world, but is justified in this world before Jesus makes “all things new” and all wars will cease.
  2. Ultimate justice belongs to the Lord.  When we experience wrongs in this world, we long to see every wrong righted.  We want evil punished and righteousness rewarded.  However, retribution on the earth is never fully satisfying.  The leveling of cities in response to terrible terror attacks may feel cathartic in the moment, but it still will not bring the lost back to life.  Thankfully there is an Eternal Judge who sits outside of time who will one day bring true justice to every situation.  This is not to say that some measure of justice should not be pursued today, it should.  But we know that ultimately God will be the One to hold all accountable.
  3. Mourn with those who mourn.  The images and stories coming out of Israel and Gaza today are heartbreaking.  Children killed or captured.  Women raped.  Civilians slaughtered.  These are real world tragedies.  Pray for those effected.  Pray for their physical needs … but also pray for …
  4. Pray that God would use these events to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ.  Less than 2% of the people who live in Israel today are Christians.  Only 185,000 total.  AND, 75% of the Christians in the land of Israel today are of Arab descent – about 1/3 of the Christians in Israel are living in the West Bank and Gaza.  This means that right now, the vast majority of those experiencing the horrors of war ALSO are awaiting the greater horror of divine judgment.  While the earthly conflict may seem difficult to solve, God has provided a certain way for ALL to find peace with Him.  Placing our faith in Christ leads to forgiveness and reconciliation with God.  Pray for the Church in Israel and among the Palestinian people to boldly proclaim the Gospel in these difficult times and that many would place their faith in Jesus as a result.
  5. Know that God is worthy of the worship of all people. Revelation 5:9 pictures the worship of heaven including people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  In our world today, one tribe hates another, one language slanders another, and one nation wars against another.  But in eternity, there will be individuals from all these groups united in Christ and worshipping Jesus together as one body.  This (of course) will include Palestinians AND Israelis!  Indeed, Romans 11:25-26 lets us know that before the end, Jesus will save a “fulness of the Gentiles” (including some Palestinians) and “all Israel” (Jews who are alive at the time of the second coming of Christ.)  As Zechariah 12:10 indicates, at the return of Christ, the Jews will “look on Him whom they have pierced” and will mourn and weep bitterly with regret for prior generations of their people failing to recognize Jesus at His first Advent.  Jesus ultimate plan is to gather worshippers to Himself for all time.  Those of us who know Christ are invited on mission with Jesus to point others to Him today, regardless of their ethnicities or political affiliations.  Jesus can save all who turn to Him.  Let us pray for Christ to be the everlasting peace in the middle east as people trust in Him.
  6. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6 famously says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! ‘May they be secure who love You!’”  Pray that God would help the people of the middle east to find their security in Him.

Mission:Own (part 6) Sermon Preview

Scattered over the past nine months, I have had the privilege of preaching through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.  Over this span, and through 26 sermons, we have looked at each verse in this great letter.  Though this letter was originally penned from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, its preservation in the Scripture reminds us that it actually is a letter from God to His church … including to you and me.

We have seen that Jesus has invited us to be on mission with Him in this life as we are lead in a triumphal procession spreading everywhere knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-ff).  Jesus has prepared us for this mission (chapters 1-2), briefed us on the nature of this mission (chapters 2-3), desires that we endure on this mission (chapters 4-7), that we help fund this mission (chapters 8-9), and that we own this mission (chapters 10-13).

To borrow a line from an old TV show … this is our mission.  Will we choose to accept it?

In the final 4 verses of this letter (13:11-14), Paul challenges us to own what we have heard.  He mixes a string of commands with three transformative reminders as a joyous parting shot for those who have owned the mission.  At first glance this looks like Mission:Impossible … but remember, with God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

This Sunday, October 8, 2023, at Wildwood Community Church, we will study these verses together, then celebrate the Lord’s Table together.  Hope you can join us this Sunday in our 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 worship service.  See you there … and bring friends!


P.S. If you have something from these series of messages that has stood out to you, I’d love to hear about it!


Mission:Own (part 5) Sermon Preview

A couple of months ago I was officiating a wedding at a (somewhat) familiar venue. I was heading to the rehearsal, and input the address of the chapel in my phone and began driving to my destination.

A funny thing happened though … since I had been to this place before, I thought I knew where I was going, so I was not paying much attention to the directions being spoken to me via my GPS. Siri told me to take the exit … but I blew right past it. Then the notifications started coming fast and furious. At every break in the highway, my phone was yelling at me to “turn around”! Eventually the reality began to sink in. Though I thought I was headed in the right direction, I had actually veered off course. Apparently I did not know where I was going as much as I thought!

At that point, I had a decision to make. Would I stop heading in the wrong direction, heed the voice of the eye in the sky, and do a 180 to get back on course … or would I keep driving and end up in Chickasha!!!! Since I was committed to getting to the wedding, I turned around and got back on course.

Has this ever happened to you? Just me? Oh well …

But this dynamic happens in more places that just our cars. It happens in our spiritual lives as well. Sometimes we THINK we know best. We think we know where we are going, and we allow our instincts to drive us into a set of decisions. We do what feels right to us in the moment, and that can drive us off course into sin.

If we are a follower of Jesus, though, something happens when we morally venture off course. We begin “hearing” a voice that tells us to “STOP,” “TURN AROUND,” and “HEAD THE OTHER DIRECTION.” This voice is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scripture, other Christians we are in community with, or our conscience telling us that we are headed to the wrong destination. If we are believers in Jesus Christ, we say that we desire to follow Him … when we don’t God graciously prompts us to turn and get back on plan. When we listen to that voice and turn around to begin following Christ again, we do what the Bible calls “REPENTING.”

In 2 Corinthians 13:1-10, the Apostle Paul writes to a congregation of people he loves in Corinth. As he writes, the Holy Spirit is speaking through the Apostle to the Corinthians and asking them to repent. On Sunday at Wildwood Community Church in our 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00 worship services, we will be in part 5 of our “Mission:Own” sermon series as we see what this call to repentance is all about and what the current significance is for you and I. Hope to see you Sunday … and bring friends!

Mission:Own (part 4) Sermon Preview

In the summer of 1995 I lived in Russia as a part of a summer mission with Campus Crusade for Christ.  The “wall” had recently fallen, and I was one of many outsiders who took advantage of the newfound opportunity to visit the former Soviet Union to share the hope of Jesus Christ with people in need.

When I arrived, I realized that some parts of “my world” had gone before me behind the iron curtain.  I still remember sitting in a Russian dorm room, having a student play for me Ace of Base and Metallica songs on CDs.  I also remember going to the grocery store and seeing hot dogs that were made in Kansas City, Missouri!  Parts of American society had made it to Volgograd ahead of the Gospel.

But in addition to these legitimate items in the city, there were also several counterfeits.  T-shirts were for sale on the street for “Reeebok” (that is not my typo … there really was an extra “e” in the shirt).  There were also “Nike” shoes with wrong shaped swooshes, and CD’s with photocopied covers.  There were lots of counterfeits of actual western products.

My experience in Russia reminded me that in this fallen world, sometimes people take the good name/image/likeness of a well-respected person or product and then exploit it for their own gain.  This tendency is only amplified further in our current world of  virtual realities, artificial intelligence, and deep fakes.

In our knock-off world, how do we recognize the real thing?

Let me take that a step deeper.  As followers of Jesus Christ, are there purported pastors, missionaries, and “Christian” workers who are masquerading as ministers, but are really wolves in sheep’s clothing?  Sadly, the answer is yes.

So how do you tell the fakes from the real thing?  Well, in order to spot counterfeit bills, the treasury department knows exactly what the REAL THING looks like, smells like, and feels like.  By knowing what the real thing is, they are able to see the slight differences in the knock-offs.

As Christians, we need to know what the true heart of a Pastor looks like, so we can avoid the imposters.  Of course, our ultimate “Pastor” is Jesus Himself.  He is the prototype, and all true ministers are only undershepherds tending His flock.  But we have other examples as well … including the Apostle Paul, who famously said to the Corinthians, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  Paul truly was the real deal, so by looking at his example as a minister and missionary, we can see what the true pastoral heart looks like – how the real deal behaves, and what the faithful fear.

This Sunday, we will look at Paul’s example of faithful ministry in 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 in part 4 of our “Mission:Own” sermon series.  Hope to see you there at Wildwood in our 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00 services … and bring friends.

Mission:Own (part 3) Sermon Preview

Have you ever had a lingering struggle?  Could be a person who is making your life a living hell, a temptation that continues to rear its ugly head, or a physical infirmity that aches on day after day?  If you have this experience, you are not alone.  Many (if not most or EVENTUALLY ALL) people have such a prickly issue in their lives.

  • If you have such a persistent difficulty, what do you call “it”?
  • If you have such an unending pain, how do you deal with it?
  • If you have such an aching heart, is there any hope?

Well, in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, the Apostle Paul is talking about a persistent ache in his life … he calls it his “thorn in the flesh.”  But, do you know what else he calls it?  A gift.  WHAT?!!?!?  That’s right, He calls it a grace gift from God.

In what universe is chronic pain a gift?  Well, for those “in Christ” persistent pain is a fresh opportunity to to experience the power of God in our lives.

As Tony Evans would say of this passage, “When I have a really bad headache, I take extra strength pain reliever because it has the power to address my problem. In other words, my weakness drives me to a pill so that its power may be demonstrated in my life. If not for the weaknesses that God allows us to endure, we would lack opportunities to seek His sufficient grace and experience His perfect power.”

What satan intends for evil, God can use for good in the lives of those who know Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).  How does that happen?  We will look at that this Sunday in part 3 of our “Mission:Own” sermon series at Wildwood Community Church.  Before taking the Lord’s supper in our 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00 services, we will see how our steady struggles can drive us to dependence upon the Lord, and allow us to experience the power of God in our lives.  He is sufficient for us in the midst of all our struggles.

Join us Sunday in our study … and bring friends!