Wildwood March 15 Services . . . Update

March 13, 2020

Dear Wildwood,

This has truly been an unusual week, hasn’t it?  Each day, the story of COVID-19 has increased in intensity and scope.  Professional and college sports leagues are cancelling or postponing competition, the University of Oklahoma has moved to online instruction, conferences and work events have dropped off the calendar, and our news feed is being updated by the hour with more and more reports of the spread of this virus.

As a church leadership team (Staff and Elders) we have continued to monitor the situation and prayerfully consider how we should respond.  Just last night, we gathered to pray for our congregation, city, and nation.  At this time, we reflected and prayed over Psalm 46.  This amazing Psalm begins with this powerful thought, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way.”  I can confidently tell you that our church leadership is not living in fear over the COVID-19 situation, and we pray that you are taking your refuge in our God with us today!

Even as we take our refuge in the Lord, though, organizations all over the world are having to make difficult decisions regarding holding public gatherings.  On a typical weekend 1,500 people congregate at Wildwood.  As many states and cities around the U.S. have begun to issue restrictions on gatherings of over 250 people to slow the spread of COVID-19, we want to make a prudent decision about Wildwood’s practice.  After much prayer, consultation with medical professionals, and discussion, we have decided to cancel all “in person” worship services, classes, and events on Sunday, March 15.  We will evaluate the situation further after this weekend concerning future Sundays, and will let you know as soon as other decisions are made.  NOTE: Next week is spring break and normal programming was already not scheduled for Monday-Friday of next week.

When state and local officials in other locations have issued their bans on large public gatherings, they have often noted that all “non-essential” activities should cease.  I want to remind all of us that we do not view church involvement as “non-essential.”  After all, Hebrews 10:25 reminds us that we are “not neglecting to meet together . . . but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  There is a real power in gathering together and encouraging one another in the Lord – especially at times like this.  So, even though we are not meeting at a specific address this weekend (1501 24th Ave. NE), we will still be worshipping together as a church family at 11AM via our YouTube Livestream.  We strongly encourage you to gather your family together and pull up our broadcast of the worship service (the video will be live at 11AM, but available anytime after that as well).  Worship together as a family as our “virtual” service will include singing.  Open God’s Word together, as Pastor Bruce preaches from Matthew 26:30-35, 69-75.  Share comments together as the stream goes along via the comments section.  Though we are not meeting in one room, we will still be of “one mind” and “one heart” as we are members of the “one BODY of Christ.”  You can access that livestream here.

One last thought.  I know some of you are relieved we are not meeting as this decision lines up with your convictions about how society should respond to this situation.  Others of you will roll your eyes at this, thinking it is an over-reaction to the media hype.  We understand both sides of these concerns.  However, we feel a charge from the Lord to shepherd this flock in its well-being.  While many of you are young and carry no underlying health condition, many of us do deal with this . . . or regularly interact with others who are in more “at risk” populations.  Think of this act as one more way of “loving our neighbors” as Jesus instructs us . . . curbing our “preference” for another’s well-being.  Know that it is our sincere desire that our church (throughout this season) grows in our faith in God and love for others (2 Thessalonians 1:3).  Our desire in this response is to take refuge in the Lord as our strength (Psalm 46:1), while also demonstrating a loving response to our city by doing our part to reduce community spread of this disease.

“See you” Sunday at 11 in our livestream, and join me in praying for God’s protection on our church, community, and the nations during this time.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

(For the Elders of Wildwood Community Church)

Corona and Control

Just a couple of weeks ago, I gathered with a group of high school sophomores and local business leaders.  One of the topics of conversation was “what is the biggest news story of your life?”  Most of the business leaders referenced things like 9/11 or the Murrah Building Bombing.  Most of the high schoolers mentioned Kobe Bryant’s death or the teacher walkout.  Honestly, it was fascinating for me to think that the bombing and 9/11 were events that took place before these high schoolers were born (I’m older than I think).  I also marveled at the notion that the biggest news stories of these young leaders’ lives were these events.  Today, though, as I think back on that interaction (which took place on February 29 — just 12 days ago) it is shocking that COVID-19 was not on the list.  If we were to meet this weekend, no doubt, the developing situation of the corona virus would be on the lists of both young and old . . . things have changed that fast.

Now, I know as I write this, some of you are already getting worked up.  This issue (like most in America today) is dividing people into polarized camps.  Some believe this is an overly exaggerated issue being intentionally used to create chaos.  Others believe that this is a potentially catastrophic event, on par with the Spanish Flu of 1918  . . . or worse.  I am not going to wade into that side of this conversation. Though I have my doctorate, I am not THAT KIND of doctor.  Truth is, most of you aren’t either.  Even our medical professionals are still trying to understand what this pandemic really means.  If the educated and informed lack total clarity on this issue, then I am guessing your facebook feed is also a bit confused, even if it sounds confident.

The fact of the matter is that there really is a new viral outbreak in the world that we all are having to deal with in some ways.  It is impacting our world financially, personally, professionally, and socially.  In 2020, everyone feels like they need to respond in some way . . . the onslaught of information almost demands it.  Every business I am on an email list for is sending me their “response” to this crisis.  So, I wanted to reach out today, and as a Pastor share some perspective on this situation.  If you want to consider this my “response” . . . so be it.  This note comes from me personally, not from any particular organization or church.

If how we personally deal with COVID-19 were a tree, then different fruits are being manifest in different people’s lives:

For some, their response to COVID-19 is the fruit of BRAVADO.  This fruit takes different shapes and forms, but when it is peeled the fruit of pride lies within.  BRAVADO leads to people daring others to shake their hands to demonstrate their courage and self-confidence, and leads others to show their disdain for newly enforced hygiene regulations by publicly violating them in jest.  Sadly, BRAVADO also shows up in churches where some Christians are mocking others for taking extra precautions as this pandemic spreads — the subtle thought being, “if you were spiritual or smart LIKE ME, you would not be concerned.”

For others, their response to COVID-19 is the fruit of FEAR.  Not the healthy kind of respect . . . but the unhealthy kind of crippling anxiety.  Most of us don’t have to decide if the public school system will cancel classes or if the University will move to online instruction or if we should keep that business meeting scheduled in London for next week or when the NBA will resume games . . . but when fear is driving your bus, you are obsessed with decisions you don’t even have to make!  

If you were to follow the fruits of “BRAVADO” and “FEAR” to their roots, we would find a common core:  CONTROL.  Though bravado and fear look different on the outside, on the inside they both root in a desire to be in control.  Bravado thinks, “If I can control the situation with my confidence, then everything will be OK.”  Fear thinks, “If I can just think about this long enough or hard enough, I can stay in control and protect myself.”  The common root of both of these is a desire for your self to be in control.

The truth of the matter is, part of the great frustration of a situation like COVID-19 is that it reminds ALL OF US that we are not in control.  An invisible enemy is transmitting more than a fever and cough . . . it is taunting us with the notion that we are not in control.

Now the World Health Organization, CDC, and government officials are all attempting to slow the spread of the disease by putting in protective measures.  These are prudent and wise.  However, remember, their attempts are to slow down the spread of the virus to allow the medical systems of our country to not be over-run.  Slowing down is not control. 

So, who is in control?  Well, as a Christian, I am reminded at moments like this that God is in control.  God is sovereign over the economy, school and work schedules, disrupted vacations . . . even the NBA!  He is the “King of all the earth (Psalm 47:7).”  “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36).”  The Lord “has this.”  He is the One who is in control. This does not mean that everything that happens is fun or enjoyable:  after all, in this life “all creation groans (Romans 8:22)” waiting for “the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).”  Knowing Jesus is in control reminds us that “God works all things together for good for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”  

In this moment in history, instead of trying to personally gain control, let’s remember that God is in control.  When we remember that, and rest in His sovereign control, what fruits might we see produced in our lives?  Well, Galatians 5:22-23 lets us know:  “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Against such things there is no quarantine . . . uh, I mean law!  This reminds us that if we are resting in the knowledge that God is in control, we will not mock the person who is prone to fear, but will love them, offer peace to them in Christ, exhibit joy regardless of our circumstances, have patience with the changes in our world . . . and with others, be gentle and kind in what we say and our actions – on social media and in real life, do good deeds – like caring for those who are affected, exhibit faith in God through the storm, and be self-controlled in our behaviors and responses.  These are the fruits we should “test positive” for if we are resting in God and His Spirit.

Tapping into the root of God’s sovereignty does not lead us to hoard cleaning supplies OR be snarky about how serious we think this situation really is.  Resting in God’s sovereignty allows us to LOVE THOSE AROUND US in the midst of difficult times, and be a source of HOPE and LIFE in a world that is challenged.

While every organization, Wildwood included, is wrestling through what programming looks like in the days of COVID-19, every Christian individual can rest in Him and see His fruit of the Spirit win the day.  

One of the high school sophomores 12 days ago made an interesting observation.  She said, “I wish that the biggest news stories were not always something negative.”  I love her thought.  What if the news story of this era was the way Christians loved and lit the world around them during a time of global fear and bravado.  What a contrast that would be.  What a story that would be!  In Christ, this is possible . . . so let’s lean on Him and follow Him together to the glory of God.

 

Baptism Sunday Video

On Sunday, March 8, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church, we celebrated the baptisms of 19 people!  Below you will find the video from the service (via YouTube) . . . also know that you can see the testimonies from this service today on our Vimeo channel by clicking here.

NOTE:  If you are interested in baptism, Wildwood’s next baptism service will be in August, but the next baptism class will be held on Sunday, June 21.  To let us know your interest in baptism, click here.

 

 

Baptism Sunday: March 8 Preview!!

This Sunday at Wildwood Community Church, we are excited to be celebrating the water baptisms of 19 people!  We will hear their stories of how they have come to faith in Christ, and worship Jesus together who is our hope in life and death!  Can’t wait for Sunday!  Make plans to join us in our 9:45 or 11:00 service.

As is our tradition here at Wildwood, on baptism Sundays we do not have our regularly scheduled adult Sunday groups, Middle School/High School groups, or Elementary (K-5th grade), classes meeting.  We do this to encourage all in attendance to join us for these baptism celebrations.  Only our preschool, toddler, and nursery classes will be meeting on Sunday (to care for our youngest members).  For all else, let’s gather in the Worship Center at 9:45 or 11:00 as there is much to celebrate!!!

Being baptized this Sunday:

9:45 Service:

  1. Avery Van Hook 
  2. Addison Cam
  3. Lilia Whitson
  4. Hudson Guy
  5. Ryder Guy
  6. Christian Holton
  7. Patrick Hopper
  8. Matt Leonard
  9. Lindsey Shaddrix

11:00 Service:

  1. Presley Rowland
  2. Sladen Rowland 
  3. Banner Penwell
  4. Emily Bennett
  5. Lexi Davidson
  6. Caroline Goode 
  7. Ben Gochanour
  8. Ollie Norman
  9. Nathan Woo
  10. Bahman Yeganeh

 

Defeating Death (part 3) Sermon Questions & Audio

On Sunday, March 1, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 26:17-29.  This message was part 3 in the “Defeating Death” sermon series.  Below are a set of questions related to that message for personal reflection or group discussion.  Also below is the audio & video from this message to listen to/watch, download, or share.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew 26:17-29
  3. What kinds of things help you remember important things in your life?
  4. Jesus gave us the symbol of the Lord’s Supper to help us remember what He has done for us through His death on the cross.  What has been your experience with the Lord’s Supper in your life?  What  meaning and place has it held in your life?  What questions do you have about it?
  5. Have you ever felt betrayed by someone close to you?  How does Jesus experience with Judas help you know He can relate to you in that pain?
  6. People with titles and around tables with Jesus can still be FAR from Him (and even reject Him).  How does the example of Judas impact your view of experiences you may encounter inside the church?
  7. What stands out to you most from this passage?  Any particular takeaway?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download:

Defeating Death #3 3.1.20

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the stream of the service, watch this YouTube video:

To listen to an Easter playlist connected to this series:

Defeating Death (part 3) Sermon Preview

OK.  Right now, I want you to tell me the phone number of a friend you talk with often on the phone.  What is the number?  Do you know it?  I don’t know the numbers of my friends either.  Isn’t that weird?

To this day, I can tell you the phone number of my friend who grew up across the street from me.  I could type it on the phone right now without making a mistake.  How can it possibly be that I CAN tell you a phone number I have not called in nearly 30 years (360 months for crying out loud!!!!) and yet I CAN’T tell you the phone number of a good friend I talked to just about every other day last week?  That seems nuts to me . . . yet it has a simple explanation.

When I was a kid, there were no “contacts” on the phone bolted to the wall of my family’s dining room.  When I wanted to call my friend, I had to pick up the phone and dial his number.  When you make that phone call 300+ times in a year, every year for a decade, you tend to remember it for the rest of your life!  

In today’s day and age, technology has allowed us a shortcut . . . where I can simply tap a picture or a name, and my phone makes the connection for me.  With machines removing the numbers from my regular routine, I no longer know the phone numbers of my friends (after all, what would be the use?)

I tell you this today because in Matthew 26:17-29 Jesus reminds us of how we might be connected to God . . . through His blood “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).”  Jesus wants to make sure we have GOD in our “contacts” . . . but instead of just giving us His name and a picture, Jesus actually gave us a symbol for us to repeatedly do throughout our lives to remind us not just THAT we might be connected to God, but HOW that connection is possible.  Like the powerful teaching moment of repeatedly typing in a phone number, Jesus takes bread and wine and tells us that we should eat and drink these elements often to remember the NUMBER (or better) the way that we are connected to God.  It is through Jesus’ death on the cross for us that we have life . . . and the cup and plate of communion are instituted as repeated reminders to help us never forget.

This Sunday at Wildwood, we will be looking at the night Jesus first instituted the “Lord’s Supper” so we might never forget what Jesus has done for you and for me.  This message will be part 3 of our “Defeating Death” sermon series.  Of course, we will also be having the Lord’s Supper as a part of our worship this weekend as well.  Make plans to join us in our 9:45 or 11:00 service.  After all, there is GREAT USE in remembering how our connection with God is made.

Defeating Death (part 2) Sermon Questions & Audio

On Sunday, February 23, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 26:6-13.  This message was part 2 in the “Defeating Death” sermon series.  Below are a set of questions related to that message for personal reflection or group discussion.  Also below is the audio & video from this message to listen to/watch, download, or share.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew 26:6-13
  3. Imagine you got an invitation to a dinner party with Jesus, another man who died and was resurrected the day before, his sisters, and a former leper (who was hosting the party!)  What questions would you want to ask during this meal?
  4. Those who are in fellowship with Jesus have seen Him bless us (and others around the “table” with us) in amazing ways.  What are some things you have seen Jesus do in your life or in the lives of those you know?
  5. Jesus was “worth” the extravagant gift Mary poured out upon Him.  Why do you think Mary had become convinced that Jesus was “worth it”?  
  6. What would it look like for you to value Jesus MOST in your life?
  7. The disciples assumed that the gift could have been used to provide gifts to the poor.  They were not incorrect in their assessment, but there is a priority order here that is identified.  Jesus is more valuable than ALL ELSE . . . in other passages (including the end of Matthew 25), followers of Jesus are called to care for the “least of these.”  What balance do you see between THIS situation in 26:6-13 and the call to care for the “least of these”?  Any applications stand out for your life today? What is one particular application you took away from this passage/message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

To listen offline, click the link to download:

Defeating Death #2 2.23.20

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the stream of the service, watch this YouTube video:

 

To listen to an Easter playlist connected to this series:

 

 

Defeating Death (part 2) Sermon Preview

A few years ago, through a unique set of circumstances, my wife and I found ourselves having dinner with a famous politician and his wife.  Away from the crowds, the four of us just got to sit and talk.  Based on their unique set of experiences, I made a conscious attempt to listen way more than I talked (for those of you who know me well, you know what a challenge this must have been 🙂 ).  It was a joy to hear of their life story, how they came to faith in Christ, how they ended up running for office, and what their favorite accomplishment was during their public service.  I was so encouraged to hear their account of their life, and its effect.

Have you ever had an opportunity like this?  It was unique for me . . . and may never happen again.  I really enjoyed that private access to this public person, though, and it allowed me to thank them personally for the impact they have had in our world.

I was thinking about that experience this week as I prepare for Sunday’s sermon.  This week (week 2 in the “Defeating Death” sermon series) we will be looking at Matthew 26:6-13.  In these verses, there is a private dinner party happening including 17 people.  These 17 people were:

  • Jesus of Nazareth (the featured guest)
  • The Twelve disciples
  • Mary
  • Martha
  • Lazarus (the former dead man)
  • Simon (the former leper)

Just imagine that group.  Jesus, eating dinner with a man He cured from leprosy, a man He resurrected from the dead, the dead man’s sisters (Mary and Martha), and twelve witnesses to ALL of the public ministry of Jesus.  WHAT. A. SCENE.  I so long to have been there for this meal.  Seriously.  How cool what that be?

What did they talk about?  What did they do?  Who did the talking?  

Far more than just a famous politician, Jesus was the Son of God.  Far greater than just being someone who had passed a few laws, He was the One who had fulfilled ALL THE LAW!  Far beyond having just served society, Jesus had worked dramatic miracles in the lives of ALL PRESENT!  Amazing.

Out of that dinner party, what do we learn for our lives today?  This Sunday we will “listen” in on the transcript from that dinner, and watch the “video footage” of what happened as we think about how we might respond to the One who Defeated Death to provide a victory for you and me.  Join us this Sunday (February 23) at Wildwood Community Church at 9:45 or 11:00 as we look at these verses together.  Come . . . and bring friends!  This is a passage of Scripture none of us can miss.

 

To listen to an Easter playlist connected to this series:

Defeating Death (part 1) Sermon Audio

On Sunday, February 16, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16.  This message was part 1 in the “Defeating Death” sermon series.  Below you will find the sermon audio to listen to, download, or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link below to download:

Defeating Death #1 2.16.20

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

Watch the video of the worship service, at YouTube online:

To listen to an Easter playlist connected to this series:

Defeating Death (part 1) Sermon Questions

On Sunday, February 16, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church in Norman, Oklahoma, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16.  This message was part 1 in the “Defeating Death” sermon series.  Below are a set of questions related to this message for personal reflection or group discussion.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16
  3. Why do you think the Bible is so focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?  What is so important about these events that 25-50% of the chapters in each Gospel focuses attention on the last week of Jesus’ earthly life?
  4. Based on the passages discussed this morning, and your understanding of the Bible in general, why did Jesus have to die?
  5. Jesus KNEW the cross was coming (26:2), and yet He willingly kept the course.  What does this tell you about how Jesus feels about you and me?
  6. Judas Iscariot made a terrible trade . . . exchanging relationship with Jesus and eternal life for 30 pieces of silver.  We can clearly see his folly, but we often miss similar “bad trades” in our own lives.  As Charles Spurgeon says, “The amount agreed upon, thirty pieces of silver, was the price of a slave; and showed how little value the chief priests set upon Jesus, and also revealed the greed of Judas in selling his master for so small a sum.  Yet many have sold Jesus for a less price than Judas received; a smile or a sneer has been sufficient to induce them to betray their Lord.”  Where are you tempted to make “bad trades” for your relationship with Jesus for something far less?  What can you do to continue to value Him most in your life?
  7. What is one particular application you took away from this passage/message?

 

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

 

To listen to an Easter playlist connected to this series: