Authentic (part 2) Sermon Preview

One of the realities of living in our world is dealing with imitations.  

Often, imitations are merely benign alternatives to an original recipe . . . things like:

  • The generic “Dr. Thunder” as a cheaper alternative to Dr. Pepper.
  • The Knights of the Roundtable clothing label as a less expensive Polo.
  • (or my personal favorite) “Stars and Bucks” Coffee shop that I saw in Bethlehem in the West Bank (since it seems Starbucks has not yet expanded to that region!)

These copies are harmless . . . or even beneficial, providing clothing and soft drinks at more affordable prices.  

However, not all imitations are as pain free:

  • I have a friend who received a counterfeit hundred dollar bill at his garage sale.
  • I know many who have been solicited over the phone or by email from someone pretending to be the Social Security Administration or a Utility Company, requesting personal information so they can “help” you.

In these instances, great harm comes from the imposter . . . who looks friendly, but actually is up to no good.

In the first century, Jesus (the authentic Son of God) came into the world to seek and to save the lost.  Upon His arrival, Jesus encounters a brand of imitation religiosity that filled the cup and clothed the bodies of many of His fellow countrymen.  Having a form of “godliness” these contemporaries to Jesus practiced a religion with great pomp and circumstance, but upon further examination, they were exposed as a self-righteous imitation of genuine faith.  To make matters worse, the nature of their counterfeit put themselves (and those under their care) at risk of great harm when judgment would come.  Because Jesus cared for these people, and because He wanted to give them a chance to repent, He spoke forcefully and directly about their condition and where it was headed.  

Though we live 2,000 years later, nothing has changed about the human condition.  People today are just as sinful as they were 2,000 years ago, AND religious people today are just as capable to dealing in imitations than professing an authentic faith.  

What makes the difference between imitation religion and authentic faith in God?  How can we pursue authenticity in our relationship with God . . . and what is at stake?

These are just a few of the questions we will be tackling in part 2 of our “Authentic” sermon series this Sunday at Wildwood Community Church.  We will be looking at Matthew 21:18-22, 28-32.  We look forward to seeing you Sunday in our 9:45 or 11:00 service. 

Authentic (part 1) Sermon Audio

On Sunday, August 18, 2019 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a message based on Matthew 21:12-17.  This message was part 1 of the “Authentic” sermon series.  Below you will find the audio from the sermon to listen to online, download, and share.

To listen offline, click the link to download:

Authentic #1 8.18.19

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the worship service, visit our Facebook stream here.

 

Also, included in the worship service today, were video tributes to Bruce Hess (celebrating his 40 years in ministry).  Those tributes are found below:

Authentic – Part 1 Sermon Preview

Have you ever known someone who rejected Jesus Christ because of an experience they had with organized religion or with someone who was a Christian?  You know, walked away from church because of the treatment they experienced there?  Ever talked to someone who chose agnosticism or atheism or some other “ism” because of what they saw as legalism or hypocritical behavior on the part of a Christian they knew?  Do you know anyone that this describes?  Does it describe you?

Friends, as I read the New Testament, I am so encouraged (and challenged) by what I see.  Jesus Christ – the Son of Man, Son of God, Savior of the World – walked into a world full of religion and religious people.  He interacted with them, and they interacted with Him.  Their conversations are recorded for us on the pages of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.)  In the interactions that Jesus had with many of these religious folks, we find Him rebuking their behavior, not embracing it.  In one dramatic scene (that we will look at this Sunday at Wildwood Community Church in our morning sermon) He even turned over the tables of the religious elite and ran them out of the Temple because of what He saw.  Based on these accounts, do you know what I have concluded?

Jesus rejected the same version of religion that many people have walked away from today.

It is quite possible that the same things that have disgusted you about religion also have turned the stomach of the God those religions claim to worship!  Jesus came to “clean house” on religious corruption, while simultaneously “cleaning up” those who recognized their need for Him.

An authentic faith that pleases God is possible, by God’s grace, but demonstrating it requires that we avoid the imitations promoted by the religious leaders of the first century, and sadly by many today.  This Sunday (August 18) at Wildwood in our 9:45 and 11:00 services, we will be kicking off a new sermon series called “Authentic” by looking at Matthew 21:12-17 in pursuit together of a genuine and authentic faith.  Hope to see you Sunday as we begin a new school year/ministry year together!

Following Our Shepherd (Sermon Audio)

On Sunday, August 11, 2019 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Psalm 23 entitled “Following Our Shepherd.”  Below you will find the sermon audio to listen to or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download audio:

Following Our Shepherd 8.11.19

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the video of the service, visit the Facebook Livestream by clicking here.

 

 

Following our Shepherd (Sermon Questions)

On Sunday, August 11, 2019 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Psalm 23 entitled “Following our Shepherd.”  Below are a set of questions related to the message for further reflection or group discussion.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Psalm 23:1-6
  3. Who are some of the “shepherds” in your life?  In other words, who are you trusting, listening to, allowing to guide you?  If you followed them this year, where do you think they will take you?
  4. David reminds us that THE LORD HIMSELF is our “shepherd.”  In what ways is the LORD a superior “shepherd” to any of the other voices/leaders in your life?
  5. What are some of the ways that you have seen the Lord provide for your needs in the past? How does remembering what the Lord has done in your life, encourage you to trust Him more this year?
  6. What “valley of deep darkness” are you walking through right now?  How does knowing the Lord is WITH YOU, encourage you to not fear today?
  7. In this life, we are not removed from the vicinity of our “enemies” . . . yet the Lord can still bless us even in the shadow of these challenges.  Can you think of a time when you were blessed by God, even in the midst of trials?
  8. What is one particular application you took away from this message?

 

To access these messages in pdf format, click here.

Following our Shepherd

It is the second week of August, and for many of us, this is the start of a new year . . . a new school year, a new ministry year, a new season, etc.  Anytime you start something new, it is important to pause and consider our aim.  Where do we want to end up when this year is over?  Who will we follow to get there?

Jesus is called the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) in the New Testament.  This Sunday at Wildwood, I want to ask you a question . . . is the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd also YOUR shepherd?  Is He the One you are following, listening to, and depending upon?  This is the most central question for each of us to answer.

In the Old Testament times, there was man named David who was King over Israel at a critical time.  But David’s life was not all royal parties and celebrations — he went through some very challenging stuff, walking through some very dark valleys.  Perhaps in the midst of one of these dark valleys he took up a pen and wrote a beautiful song that begins with the eternity altering words – “The LORD is MY shepherd.”  The rest of the lyric focuses on the blessing that comes when we follow the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd.

Psalm 23 has been a chart topping song for 3,000 years.  This Sunday at Wildwood, we will look at this song (Psalm 23) together in our time of worship at 9:45 and 11:00.  As we remember the table He has set before us, we will conclude with a time of communion together.  Make plans to join us this Sunday . . . and bring your friends!

This year, let’s follow Jesus together to the glory of God.  See you Sunday.

 

Questions for Reflection: Sunday, July 28, 2019

On Sunday, July 28, 2019, Teaching Pastor Bruce Hess’ message is “CORE Truth: We Live by Faith!” from Hebrews 11. Below are some questions for your personal or group reflection.

1. God works mysteriously. Remember the different life outcomes of Jim Elliot and his brother Bert? Reflect for a moment on how God has worked differently in your life compared to others. What insight do we gain from those differences?

2. God speaks these words to Isaiah in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

How does that divine perspective give us insight into why it is necessary for us to live by faith?

3. Bruce stated that the verb “believe” (pisteuo in the original text) includes what concepts/ideas? In other words, what does it really mean to believe?

4. It is so very easy and natural to keep on our focus on circumstances and life in this world. What can help us to better focus on our heavenly country, our eternal inheritance?

5. Hebrews 4:16 clearly emphasizes that we should approach our High Priest and the Throne of Grace boldly, with deep confidence. Why is it that we are seemingly so slow to pray?

6. Review Romans 8:11. Do we really believe what it says? That the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will energize us since He dwells in us? What keeps us from experiencing the Spirit’s power in our life?

7. If you have listened to all four parts of the Core Truth series, what spiritual lesson has stood out most to you?

8. Take some time to worship the Lord and thank Him for His greatness, His wisdom, His strength and His grace.

Sneak Peek – Sunday, July 28, 2019

Hello Wildwood Family!

 

Last week I lead off with the statement: Wow.  It’s hot.  This week I can say:  Wow. We’ve had a nice break from the extreme heat.  Aren’t you glad?  Send a word of thanks to the Heavenly Father for that refreshment!

 

I have been thinking this week of Paul’s words to the followers of Jesus in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. He encourages us there to remember to pray for those in government authority over us so that we might lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

 

There’s been a lot of wackiness going on in our government and culture recently.  Let’s remember to pray about it.  We don’t want to hear Him tell us one day: Well, there would have been less wackiness, but I didn’t hear from you about it (You do not have, because you do not ask, James 4:2b).  Lord, less wackiness PLEASE!

 

Lisa Goering has been faithfully serving at Wildwood in many roles over the last few years, most recently helping to coordinate our local outreach and helping to lead our A-Team on Sunday mornings.  Well, God has called Lisa to take a job at Roosevelt Elementary here in Norman working with children with special needs. The Goering family isn’t going anywhere, it’s just that Lisa will be investing her time at Roosevelt.

 

This Sunday after the 11:00 service we will have a reception in the Gathering Hall for Lisa.  Be sure to drop by and thank her for her excellent and faithful service to our church family. I am confident she will still find ways to serve around Wildwood.

 

Also Sunday we will conclude our month-long series on Core Truth.  The final core truth we will examine is the truth that We Live by Faith.  Multiple times the Bible tells us, The just shall live by faith.  We will be mining in Hebrews 11 on Sunday (the great faith chapter).  I encourage you to read it before Sunday.

 

Hope you have a great rest of the week!

 

See you on Sunday (Lord willing)!!

 

Bruce

Questions for Reflection – Sundau, July 21, 2019

Questions for Reflection

God Passionately Cares for me!

Luke 15: 11-32

 

 

  1. Someone has said: There is power in story. Why is it that relating a story often carries with it greater impact than simply stating facts?

 

  1. Charles Dickens called the parable of the Prodigal son, The greatest short story ever. In your estimation, why would he conclude that?

 

  1. What are some of your favorite parts of the story? Elaborate.

 

  1. The message title was: God passionately cares for me! Why is it we often doubt that?

 

  1. Bruce said, “Self-indulgence always leads to disaster.” Why is that true?

 

6. Bruce mentioned three steps on the road back.  They all began with “R.”  What were they?

 

  1. The Pharisees were an intriguing group. What was their fatal flaw?

 

  1. Do you know a “prodigal” (someone in your family or circle of friends who has stepped away from Jesus)? Take some time to pray that God might “make them hungry;” that they might “come to the end of their rope” and return to their spiritual Father.

 

  1. Read out loud and reflect on the following verse:

The Lord your God is with you

He is mighty to save

He will take great delight in you

He will quiet you with His love

He will rejoice over you with singing            Zephaniah 3:17   (NIV)

 

In prayer, thank Jesus for passionately caring for you.

Sermon Preview for July 21, 2019

Hello Wildwood Family!

Wow.  It’s hot.  I just stepped back into the offices after taking a short walk around Wildwood’s outer campus on the sidewalk path.  The ground is cracked in many places.  According to several weather stations, the heat index at this moment is 109 degrees. Yikes.

While all that heat is blazing outside, the energy has been bursting inside as Pine Cove Camp in City has been popping.  We are thankful for the Pine Cove team and we pray that all the children who are attending not only have fun but that they would also grow deeper in their knowledge of Jesus.

This Sunday will be part 3 in the series Core Truth. The message title is “God Passionately Cares for You!”  Our text this week is what many have called “The Greatest Short Story Ever.”  It is the moving story of the Prodigal son from Luke 15:11-32.  Since the story covers so many verses, I’m encouraging everyone to read the story at least two times before Sunday.  The story alternates between a focus on the younger brother, to the father, to the elder brother.  You might remind yourself of the context of this parable by looking at Luke 15:1-10.

While Scripture tells us that God cares for and loves us, that truth takes on a different perspective in the drama of this story. The younger son represents those who, as Isaiah says, have gone astray like sheep, each has turned to his own way. The father represents God who passionately cares.  The elder brother is a picture of the Pharisees, those who are self-righteous, judgmental and arrogant, folks who resent that God reaches out in grace and mercy to those in need.  This is a great passage!

Several other key things are happening Sunday. It is small group Sunday—if you are interested in getting relationally connected, be sure to stop by the Fellowship Center at 11:00am.  Also, baptism classes will be held this Sunday.  For more info on that go to wildwoodchurch.org/baptism

See you Sunday!

Bruce