The Gift (part 4) Sermon Preview

I still remember when my Dad turned 40.  I was a second grader at the time.  Honestly I don’t have a ton of memories from my early elementary years, but I remember that day.  My mom had planned a special celebration for my Dad’s birthday  A surprise party was planned and guests were invited.  In addition to a number of “in town” friends, my mom intentionally sent invites to my dad’s brothers and sisters.  Even though they lived a great distance away, they were personally invited to the party and made plans to attend.  On the afternoon of his birthday I was playing outside at my uncle’s house when I saw the rest of the family arrive from out of state.  I came running into the room where my dad was sitting and exclaimed, “You are never going to guess who just pulled up!!!”  Much to everyone’s surprise, my Dad calmly said, “I bet it is the rest of the family!”  Somehow he had caught wind of the plan and was actually expecting their “surprise” arrival.

I was thinking about that experience today as I read Matthew 2:1-12.  These verses talk about a birthday party for Jesus Christ when He was quite young.  We saw last Sunday from Luke 2 that invitations went out to some local folks (shepherds) who were invited to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  But in Matthew 2, we find out that God the Father also invited some out-of-towners to come to celebrate the newborn King.  Magi from the East had been summoned and invited to attend the party.  At first glance, this seems like quite the surprise.

However, upon further review, we should not be taken aback.  While the method of invite (the Christmas star) is a bit unusual for us, it was not unusual for God.  After all, He had used this method of guidance to lead the people of Israel years ago (remember the cloud by day and fire by night?)  But even more, we might be surprised that Iranian Astrologers were invited to the party … but again, we should not be confused.  When these distant, Gentile, foreigners showed up, you can almost imagine Joseph running in to the house and exclaiming to his Son, “You are never going to guess who just arrived!!!!”  Jesus (a toddler at this point) calmly responds saying, “Yeah!  The rest of the family has shown up!”  

Jesus was ALWAYS to be the gift for all people … including those who lived at a “distance.”  God had told Abraham in Genesis 12 that through his descendant, ALL the people of the earth would be blessed.  Isaiah talks about foreign Kings bowing before the Jewish Messiah, and people from ALL the earth gathered to worship Him (Isaiah 60:1-3).  The Psalmist even knew this was coming when he wrote, “Let THE NATIONS be glad and sing for joy (Psalm 67)”  The Great Commission was not a new idea for God, but an added emphasis to an old idea … the culmination of His ultimate plan.

The reason why Christians are so evangelistic and mission minded is because the mission of God is not local but global in scope.  It should not surprise us.  It has been that way from the beginning … and the Iranian Astrologers (the Magi) being invited to the party let us know early on the intentions of His advent.

This Sunday, December 20, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church, we will be continuing our Christmas Sermon Series “The Gift” by looking at Matthew 2:1-12 and being reminded that Jesus is THE GIFT for the Distant.  Hope you make plans to join us in our 9:00, 10:15, or 11:30 services (or online at wildwoodchurch.org/live beginning at 10:15), and bring friends!  This is a “surprise” we don’t want to miss.

P.S.  Our worship band has prepared their annual rendition of “Carol of the Bells” and will be including it in this Sunday’s service!  Don’t miss it!

The Gift (part 3) Sermon Preview

Let’s be honest for a moment … the Elf on the Shelf is a terrifying concept.  Isn’t it?  I mean seriously.  Santa sends an elf to live in your home and spy on you for a few weeks before Christmas to make sure you are “good enough” to be on the”nice” list?  Sweet dreams, junior.

No thank you.  I had enough trouble falling asleep as a child with the shadows of tree branches dancing on my curtains and an overactive imagination.  Actual creepy dolls that moved day after day recording my actions?  Yikes.

Now, of course, these dolls really ARE NOT connected to reality.  There is no chain of command outside our home spying on us through cameras hidden in dolls.  They don’t need to resort to those tactics.  “The establishment” already has Siri and Alexa to do this covert work for them … but I digress.

I want to focus for just a moment, though, on the concept of Christmas gifts going to the “nice” and not the “naughty.”  Where did this idea come from anyway?  Well in the west, many countries had traditions about Santa leaving sweets or toys for children if they were “good” while leaving sticks or a lump of coal if they were “bad.”  Exactly what constituted good and bad?  I have no idea … but it was another tool to try to keep children in line.  This idea was popularized even further in the 1934 song “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”  In this song, the familiar lyric is shared, “He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice, Santa Claus is comin’ to town!”  

The reality is, deep within each of us we have such a belief in people “getting what they deserve” that we even write this narrative into our fairy tales.  I think our desire for this is actually anchored in our desire for justice.  There is a problem with this way of thinking, though.  How do I know “how good is good enough?”  I mean, none of us have been “nice”  all year through.  It is 2020 for crying out loud!  our normal sinfulness has been amplified by being sifted through this pandemic’s strain!  Since none of us are 100% “nice” how “nice” do we need to be to get a “Christmas Gift?”  Or will Santa’s delivery schedule just be that much shorter this year?

Well, the reality is this.  Our God sees and knows all.  He (not Santa) sees us when we’re sleeping.  He knows when we’re awake.  He knows when we’ve been bad or good.  

Oh no.  For goodness sakes!

All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God.  The more we examine our lives, the more real this reality becomes.  Therefore, are we without hope?  Is there no way we can receive “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and “grace upon grace”?  

Well, if our reception of these gifts depends on our “niceness” then we are out of luck.  But by an amazing demonstration of grace, we find out that Jesus is a gift given by God NOT to those on the “nice” list, but the naughty!  Not just to the clean but to the dirty!!  Jesus said so Himself, “I did not come for the healthy, I came for the sick.”  He came to rescue sick and sinful and dirty people –  like you and me.

This Sunday at Wildwood in our 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30 services (and at 10:15 online in the stream wildwoodchurch.org/live ) we will be looking at part 3 of our “The Gift” sermon series, seeing how the Gift of Jesus is given to the dirty … and we are reminded of that reality through the angelic message to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20.  Join us this Sunday as we look at this blessed section of God’s Word together.  Join us, and bring friends!  This passage is a gift for all of us to enjoy.

 

This sermon is part of the 2020 Christmas series at Wildwood.  We have also prepared a Devotional Book, “The Gift.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

Wildwood has put together a list of Christmas songs in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

The Gift (part 2) Sermon Questions, Audio & Video

On Sunday, December 6, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:18-25.  This message was part 2 of “The Gift” sermon series.  Below you will find questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.  You will also find the sermon audio and video to listen to/watch, download, or share.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38
  3. Do you think of the Christian life as merely a “natural” religion or as a “supernatural” transformation?  
  4. Joseph and Mary both initially resisted God’s plan.  When was the last time you were tempted to not take the Bible seriously because it just did not seem reasonable to you to take it at face value?
  5. Our forgiveness and growth in our Christian life both require the supernatural intervention of God.  Thankfully God has provided both through Jesus (God in a body who came to dwell among us and to offer His life as a sacrifice on the cross) and the Holy Spirit (who dwells inside all who trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.)  What would it look like for you to believe and remember that God can do the otherwise impossible in our lives?
  6. God chose to work with Mary and Joseph NOT because they earned it, but because He graciously chose them.  God has graciously chosen to work with you and I as well!  But the grace of God often is delivered amidst a life that has hard things and amazing things … what are some things you have experienced that would be evidence of God’s grace (some hard things and some amazingly exciting things)?
  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:

The Gift #2 12.06.20

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch online, use YouTube Stream online:

 

This sermon is part of the 2020 Christmas series at Wildwood.  We have also prepared a Devotional Book, “The Gift.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

Wildwood has put together a list of Christmas songs in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

The Gift (part 2) Sermon Preview

Throughout modern times, many people have made a similar argument.  The argument goes like this:

There is nothing supernatural about the ongoing development of the world.  Either:

1. Natural causes and random chance are the explanation for everything.  (Atheistic Naturalism)

2.  There is a God who once did a number of supernatural things in the creation of the world, but now is no longer involved in intervening in life today, allowing things to progress after the point of creation on the basis of purely natural means. (Classical Deism)

These two perspectives (making a similar argument) have been propagated by prominent intellects and historical figures for centuries.  

For the sake of time, let me cut right to the chase of these arguments … both of these views are incompatible with biblical, historical Christianity.  It simply is impossible to have a version of Christianity that does not allow for God’s supernatural work throughout history, including today.  Of course MOST of what is going on today is happening according to natural law.  But throughout history, God has intervened supernaturally to move the meta-narrative along.

What do I mean?

Well, take the Old Testament era of miracles and prophecy … those events cannot be explained by natural phenomena.  Something HAPPENED that cannot be explained by purely natural means.

Take the identity of Jesus Christ … fully God and fully man; born of a virgin, etc.  His very identity cannot be explained away by his connection to his natural parents.

How about the miracles that fill the pages of the Gospels and the history of the early church?  What about the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth?  These things are not RANDOM ACTS of natural things, or the deception of a group of Galileean fishermen.  SOMETHING SUPERNATURAL HAPPENED!

Even today … the forgiveness found through faith in the death of Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are not merely a naturalistic life philosophy … it is evidence of supernatural revolution.

Because of this, we cannot reduce Christianity to a naturalistic moral code for decent people to follow.  We must instead see Christianity as a supernaturally transformative relationship with God Almighty, made possible by the life saving gift of the supernatural Son of God (Jesus), and the ongoing supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit of God living inside of us.  

If your view of life involves only “the natural” you may agree with Thomas Jefferson or Stephen Hawking but you would be at odds with Jesus Christ.  When it comes to these things … I’m with Jesus.  I hope and pray you are as well.

This Sunday, December 6, in part 2 of our Christmas series, “The Gift” at Wildwood Community Church, I will be preaching on Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38 as we see that Jesus came to give more than just moral direction to DECENT people … but to supernaturally do for us what would otherwise be impossible.  I hope you make it this weekend as we explore this together in our 9:00, 10:15, or 11:30 worship service (in person) or at 10:15 in the online stream (wildwoodchurch.org/live) .  See you Sunday and bring your friends!

The Gift (part 1) Sermon Questions, Audio and Video

On Sunday, November 29, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Isaiah 11:1-9.  This message was part 1 in “The Gift” sermon series.  Below you will find questions related to this message for personal reflection or group discussion.  You will also see the audio and video of the sermon to listen to/watch, download or share.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Isaiah 11:1-9
  3. Giving gifts at Christmas time is a part of holiday celebrations in our culture.  In what ways do you think this is appropriate? 
  4. In Isaiah 11:1, Jesus is described as the “shoot from Jesse’s stump.”  In context, God was promising that even though the nation of Israel looked decimated at the moment Isaiah wrote, something (read SOMEONE) great was still coming!  In what ways does the world you are living in right now look like a “stump”?  How does remembering that God will be faithful to fulfill His promises encourage you today?
  5. When Jesus returns to this earth, He will reign in righteousness and faithfulness over the earth … including delivering justice to the poor.  How does this instruct you regarding how Christians should relate to people today?  How does it give you hope for the future?
  6. The description of life under the Kingdom rule of Jesus in Isaiah 11:6-9 is quite different from our world today.  What area of your world today do you most desire to see transformed by God today?
  7. 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 to download:

The Gift #1 11.29.20

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the service, use YouTube stream online:

 

This sermon is part of the 2020 Christmas series at Wildwood.  We have also prepared a Devotional Book, “The Gift.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

Wildwood has put together a list of Christmas songs in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

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:

 

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

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