Tomorrow (part 2) Sermon Preview

Eleven year old Annie lived at the Municipal Girls’ Orphanage in New York City during the Great Depression.  Forced to do hard labor during the day, and neglected during the night, it was certainly a “hard knock life” for Annie and her fellow orphans.  What kept her going during her struggle?  What allowed her to have any joy in the midst of such hard circumstances?  Well . . . it was hope.  Hope for a better tomorrow.

This is the setup for the 1977 Tony Award winning musical “Annie” that featured a song that articulated the virtue of hope, on which this story hinged.  This song (“Tomorrow”) has become an anthem for many whose “today’s” are less than ideal.  Listen to the words of this classic song:

The sun’ll come out tomorrow

Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow

There’ll be sun!

Just thinkin’ about Tomorrow

Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow

‘Til there’s none!

When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely

I just stick out my chin and grin and say, “Oh!”

The sun’ll come out Tomorrow

So ya gotta hang on ‘Til tomorrow

Come what may

Tomorrow, tomorrow! I love ya tomorrow!

You’re always a day away!

In this musical, the hopes of the little orphan Annie are ultimately satisfied when a rich billionaire welcome her as his own, paying the price to welcome her to his family – with all the benefits therein.

I was thinking about this musical (and song) today as I prepare for this Sunday’s sermon at Wildwood Community Church.  This week we will have part 2 of the “Tomorrow” series.  This week we will be in Matthew 24:15-31 where we will see the promise of the return of Jesus to this earth one day — great news for those of us struggling in our “today’s”.

In light of His promised return, we have the hope of a truly better TOMORROW . . . at least in the ultimate sense.  Before Jesus returns, He lets us know that this earth will face great difficulty, including rebellion by humanity and outpourings of the wrath of God.  But at the end of this, Jesus will return in a dramatic way and ultimately set all things right.  Far more than pinning our hopes on a billionaire, Jesus points the hope of our TOMORROW on the Son who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  In light of this, we might be able to sing:

The SON will come back TOMORROW

Bet your bottom dollar that TOMORROW

We’ll see the SON

So ya gotta hang on ’Til TOMORROW come what may!

See you in three “tomorrows” as we talk more about this in our 9:45 and 11:00 services.

Episode 23: This is Wildwood! Following Jesus into the Word with Mark Burget & Israel 2021

Episode 23: This is Wildwood! Following Jesus into the Word with Mark Burget & Israel 2021
Follow into the Word

 
 
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Mark Burget and I baptizing people in the Jordan River, March 2019

At Wildwood, we talk about how our faith in God grows as we follow Jesus into the Word.  One thing that has enhanced many people’s study of God’s Word has been a trip to Israel to see many of the locations where the events in the Bible happened.  Wildwood’s own Mark Burget has helped lead 11 trips to Israel, the past 3 with me and a number of folks from Wildwood.  On today’s episode of the podcast we talk about these trips and how God has worked through them in the past.

 

In this episode we talk about the trip to Israel that is scheduled for March 15-25, 2021.  You can find the brochure to this trip by clicking here.  You can find the signup form for the trip by clicking here.

Tomorrow (part 1) Sermon Audio

On Sunday, January 5, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church in Norman, OK, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 24:1-14.  This message was part 1 in the “Tomorrow” sermon series.  Below you will find the audio from this message to listen to, download, or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download:

Tomorrow #1 1.5.20

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the stream of the service, view Youtube online:

 

 

Tomorrow (part 1) Sermon Questions

On Sunday, January 5, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church in Norman, OK, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 24:1-14.  This message was part 1 in the “Tomorrow” sermon series.  Below are a set of questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew 24:1-14
  3. Have you ever wondered if human history was “headed somewhere?”  What have been the kinds of things you have experienced in your life that made you wonder if the world would ever “end”?
  4. What in this life looks like it will go on and on forever?  How do you take comfort from the destruction of the Temple in toppling the seemingly indestructible forces in our world?
  5. What do you see as the biggest differences between the “Old Testament” times and the “New Testament” time in which we live?  In what way is the New Covenant of Jesus better than the Old Covenant from the Old Testament? (see Hebrews 8)
  6. Jesus describes the events that will proceed the establishment of His Kingdom.  This length includes many different things that will involve difficulty for those who are on the earth in the days leading up to His second coming.  In what way do you see similarity with the events described in 24:3-14 and today?  What are some differences you see?
  7. Jesus encourages us to not be troubled by the delay in His coming, while also persevering to the end.  What does persevering in your faith look like in your life today?  Are you experiencing any difficulty or persecution because of your faith in Jesus today?  Do you anticipate any challenges or difficulties in the days ahead?
  8. Throughout history between His resurrection and HIs second coming, Jesus is proclaiming the Gospel through His people to the ends of the earth.  Who in your life right now does the Lord want to use you to reach?  What is one tangible thing you can do this week to that end?
  9. Take a moment and pray for a missionary you know around the world today sharing Christ in another culture!
  10. What is one particular application you took away from this passage/message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

Episode 22: This is Wildwood! Following Jesus into Worship with the Financial Peace Crew

Episode 22: This is Wildwood! Following Jesus into Worship with the Financial Peace Crew
Follow Into Worship

 
 
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At Wildwood, we desire to see our faith in God and our love for others grow in 2020.  One of the ways that God tends to grow these in our lives is as we follow Jesus into worship.  While we often think of worship as primarily singing, worship is ultimately a response on our part, where we respond to all of who God is with all that we are, lifting Him up.  Singing is one way we do that, but we also do that by stewarding the financial resources the Lord has entrusted to us well.  Financial Peace University is a 9 week course designed to help equip us to worship God with our finances.  Honoring God with our finances includes handling well the daily responsibilities we have for ourselves and our families, but also being generous with those resources toward others.

On today’s episode we talk with FPU coordinators Dennis Stone and Larry & Madeline Inman to find out how God has been at work in this program in the past, and how you can get involved this spring.

 

To find out more info and to sign up for FPU this spring, click here!

Tomorrow (part 1) Sermon Series Preview

Well, it is January 1.  Another year is beginning . . . filled with a number of “tomorrows.”  As you start another year, have you made any resolutions?  Anything you want to add to your life in 2020?  Anything you want to remove from your life in 2020?  Any progress from this past year you want to sustain?

If you are like me, you probably have several goals in mind for the new year.  For me, one of the things I am looking forward to in 2020 is to complete our preaching series that have focused on the Gospel of Matthew.  Since Christmas 2016, I have been preaching through Matthew’s Gospel . . . a journey that has already encompassed 12 specific series and included 67 individual sermons.  It has been such a joy to focus on the Person and work of Jesus Christ on Sundays mornings these past 3 years.  It is a vivid reminder that Jesus really came to the earth and shows us who God is and what He is like.  

Over the next 4 months at Wildwood Community Church, we will have our final 2 series from Matthew’s Gospel covering Matthew 24-28.  These final 16 sermons from Matthew will walk us through the most critical events in all of human history.  I am so excited for us to be on this journey together!

The first of these series will begin this Sunday.  Entitled “Tomorrow: Preparing for the Son to Rise Again,” this series looks at Matthew 24-25 – Jesus’ predictions about the future and His promise to come to the earth again one day.  These words are super important for us to see.  Some view Biblical prophecy as a topic of little contemporary significance.  If that is how you view prophecy, it is likely that you may have simply avoided reading much of it out of fear or confusion, OR you have been taught prophecy only as an academic exercise.  

If you are either bored or confused by prophecy or consider it irrelevant to your current life, then let me encourage you to allow JESUS CHRIST to be your teacher on the end times over the next 6 Sundays, as we look at what He had to say about the topic.  His teaching and comments on the subject are exciting, straight-forward, and carry with them imminent personal application and response.  I can’t wait to look at these passages together.

Our outline for the next few Sundays will be:

  • January 5:  “Tomorrow – part 1” – Matthew 24:1-14
  • January 12:  “Tomorrow – part 2” – Matthew 24:15-31
  • January 19:  “Tomorrow – part 3” – Matthew 24:32-51
  • January 26:  “Tomorrow – part 4” – Matthew 25:1-13
  • February 2:  “Tomorrow – part 5” – Matthew 25:14-30
  • February 9:  “Tomorrow – part 6”  – Matthew 25:31-46

I encourage you to read ahead as we look at these passages together!

New Testament scholar Michael Green says, “The return of Christ has another important facet to it, which this chapter underlines.  History is going somewhere.  It is not meaningless.  It is not random.  It is not eternal.  There will be a real end just as there was a real beginning.  And at the end we shall find none other than Jesus Christ.”

History . . . including OUR history . . . is headed someplace; ultimately headed to Someone.  Are we prepared for that meeting?  And how should we live our lives today knowing where we are going?  That is the subject of this month’s sermon series.  Hope you make plans to be with us on Sunday mornings this January at 9:45 or 11:00!

December 31: Christmas Light – “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery”

Over the past month you probably had the opportunity to wrap a lot of presents.  Some presents are easy to box up, fitting neatly under the paper or in the gift bag.  Other presents, however, are hard to package.  Due to their unique size or shape, you were not sure how to cover them.  

I was thinking about that reality as I listened to today’s song, “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” by Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa.  This song describes a number of the truths about Jesus that are hard for us to wrap up inside our logical minds.  Just a few of the “mysteries” of Jesus mentioned in this song:

  • “The theme of heaven’s praises robed in frail humanity.” – The Son of God being hungry. The Son of God needing a nap.  The Son of God needing His mother’s care.  These realities are hard to imagine.
  • “In His living, in His suffering never trace nor stain of sin.”  – We do not know any person who is without sin . . . yet Jesus was perfect!  What must that have been like to be around in His earthly ministry!
  • “In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.”  – Calling the embarrassment and pain of a public crucifixion a victory seems crazy . . . until we think of what Jesus accomplished through that act  – the salvation of His people!
  • “Slain by death the God of life.” – How does the eternal Son of God die?

These realities are rightly called a “Wondrous Mystery” by the hymn writers.  They also remind us that our brains are not smart enough to wrap up all of who God is in neat and logical paper.  God is so great, that His actions and identity simply are beyond our ability to completely package.  Rather than throwing out the gift of Jesus because it does not fit in our box, we are encouraged through this song to wonder at it – to embrace it by faith, and draw comfort from the fact that He is truly an awesome God.

Where are you having a hard time reconciling God’s actions or identity today?  Does His timing seem off, His plans seem unwise, His identity seem illogical to you?  Rather than throwing Him away, sit in the mystery and worship the One who is greater than you.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come behold the wondrous mystery

In the dawning of the King

He the theme of heaven’s praises

Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness

Now the light of life has come

Look to Christ, who condescended

Took on flesh to ransom us

Come behold the wondrous mystery

He the perfect Son of Man

In His living, in His suffering

Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam

Come to save the hell-bound man

Christ the great and sure fulfillment

Of the law; in Him we stand

Come behold the wondrous mystery

Christ the Lord upon the tree

In the stead of ruined sinners

Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption

See the Father’s plan unfold

Bringing many sons to glory

Grace unmeasured, love untold

Come behold the wondrous mystery

Slain by death the God of life

But no grave could e’er restrain Him

Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance

How unwavering our hope

Christ in power resurrected

As we will be when he comes

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist:

December 30: Christmas Light – “O Children Come”

Christmas is a time where generosity is normalized.  We give gifts to friends and family, donate financially to organizations, and provide presents to those in need in our community.  To some degree, a Christmas season without these components would feel like the Super Bowl without a football — a lot of activity in the stands without a lot of meaningful action on the field.

Have you ever stopped to consider where these demonstrations of love and compassion come from?  They don’t come from St. Nick . . . there is actually a source that informs his story.  It doesn’t come from IRS tax deductions to non-profits or Black Friday advertising . . . though both help encourage participation in the gifts of the season.   The generosity of Christmas comes from Jesus Himself.

The most appropriate way to honor the life of Jesus is to love and give to one another.  The Apostle John (one of Jesus’ closest earthly companions) summarized the response that we should have to Jesus this way:  “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16=18)

John says that BECAUSE we have been loved by Jesus (who came to this earth for us and died on the cross for our sins) we should love others.  Jesus sacrificed for us . . . and when we understand this, it prompts us to sacrifice for others.  Specifically here, John encourages us to give (as we are able) to other “brothers” . . . other followers of Christ who are in need.  This is the most appropriate response to the generosity of Jesus.

Notice, John does not say that if we really understood the message of Christmas, we would say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”  It is not primarily a response of “words” or “talk.”  The truth of the Gospel instructs our “deeds” . . . the way we show generosity to others.

Interestingly, this response is not found in a passage of Scripture describing the Christmas story.  It is found in a letter John wrote to help people like you and me know what it looks like to follow Jesus.  Therefore, this response should not get boxed back up with your Christmas decorations.  It is a way of life as a Christ follower and should instruct our behavior year round.  

Today’s song “O Children Come” moves from the events of Bethlehem in verse 1 to our ongoing response to Jesus in verse 3.  As we see the “hurt and lost” let us “show the mercy shown to us.”  So, as we move past the Christmas holiday, may you give generously to your fellow Christians in need and to your church and other ministries.  As John (and this song) remind us . . . it is the right response for those who have come to the Son of God.

O Children Come

Hear the cry from Bethlehem

Oh children come

Son of God now born to man

Oh children come

Bring your troubles, bring your fears,

Bring the needs that drew you near,

Find the hope of all the years

Oh children come

Peace on earth, good will to men

Oh children come

Righteous rule that will not end

Oh children come

Lay down all your bitterness,

Turn from sin’s toil and distress,

Find His grace and perfect rest

Oh children come

Where the Father’s grace has walked

Oh children come

Where you see the hurt and lost

Oh children come

Show the mercy shown to you,

Gifts of kindness to renew

Love from hearts sincere and true

Oh children come

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist:

December 29: Christmas Light – “Behold the Lamb”

John 1:18 tells us Jesus came to the earth so that He might “make known” to us who God really is.  In the miracles Jesus worked, we see that God is both powerful and compassionate.  In the sermons Jesus preached, we hear that He is wise and authoritative.  In the interactions with His disciples, we see Jesus’ interest in growing us and using us in His work.  Truly, we learn so much about who God is by looking at Jesus’ life.

However, Jesus did not just come to explain God to people . . . He also came to reconcile people to God.  In Mark 10:45 Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His live as a ransom for many.”  By giving His life for the many, Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross to pay the ransom (the price necessary to set sinners like you and me free).

The death Jesus died was not a tragic accident, but an intentional plan.  Jesus was not the victim of a vicious plan by the Jewish leaders or Roman officials.  If Jesus had wanted to avoid the cross, He could have.  The fact that He can do anything, knows everything, and can go anywhere meant that at any time Jesus could have slain His enemies, outsmarted their plans, or avoided their pursuit.  But He chooses not to do that.  Instead, knowing what lay before Him, He walked directly to Jerusalem to offer His life on the cross (see Mathew 16:21-23, 17:22-23, 20:17-19).

Early in Jesus’ public ministry, His cousin John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)”  What John was proclaiming was that Jesus’ death would pay the penalty for sin . . . like an animal sacrifice symbolized in Old Testament times.  Jesus was born to die in our place.  As Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  That is the full extent of the incarnation.

His death was a beautiful expression of God’s love for us.  “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  Will we receive His love this Christmas?  This gift has been specially given just for us.  Don’t return or reject this, but embrace our loving God and allow His death to be the ransom to pay the penalty our sins deserve.

Today’s song is Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb” . . . the title song of an original collection of Christmas tunes Peterson and friends have performed live for the past 20 years.  It points to Jesus’ sacrificial death that takes away our sins.

Behold the Lamb

We who walk in darkness deep now see the light of morning

The mighty God, the Prince of Peace, A child to us is born!

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away our sin

Behold the Lamb of God, the life and light of men

Behold the Lamb of God, who died and rose again

Behold the Lamb of God who comes to take away our sin

Wanderers in the wilderness o hear a voice is crying,

“Prepare a way, make straight the path, your King has come to die”

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away our sin

Behold the Lamb of God, the life and light of men

Behold the Lamb of God, who died and rose again

Behold the Lamb of God who comes to take away our sin

Son of God, Emmanuel

Son of Man, We praise you

Behold the Lamb, the hope of man

Behold the Lamb!

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away our sin

Behold the Lamb of God, the life and light of men

Behold the Lamb of God, who died and rose again

Behold the Lamb of God who comes to take away our sin

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist:

December 28: Christmas Light – “Joy Has Dawned”

Great Christian songs are not just old.  There are wonderful songs currently being written that reflect upon the majesty of Jesus.  Of the groups currently writing modern hymns, my favorite is Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.  They have written a number of very popular modern hymns including the “Power of the Cross” and “In Christ Alone.”  They also have written a few songs that reflect on the birth of Jesus.  Of these new Christmas songs, my favorite is “Joy Has Dawned.”

In “Joy Has Dawned” each verse reflects upon the paradox of the birth of Jesus Christ.  Just some of the poetry in this song:

  • “Not with fanfare from above, not with scenes of glory, but a humble gift of love – Jesus born of Mary.”
  • “Hands that set the stars in place, shaped the earth in darkness, cling now to a mother’s breast, vulnerable and helpless.”
  • “Shepherds bow before the Lamb, gazing at His glory”
  • “Son of Adam, Son of heaven, given as a ransom; reconciling God and man, Christ our mighty champion!”

These statements reminded me of Philippians 2:4-11, where the birth  of Jesus is described as a step of tremendous humility – “though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).” 

The humility Jesus shows is meant to do more than just inspire us, it is to instruct us with a model for our lives.  If the Creator God humbled Himself in love to come to the earth for us, then we should (following that example) humble ourselves in service to others.  As you sing “Joy has Dawned” today may the humble example of Jesus inspire you that joy dawns not when we cling onto our life and rights but when we freely give it away in love for others.

Joy Has Dawned

Joy has dawned upon the world,

Promised from creation—

God’s salvation now unfurled,

Hope for ev’ry nation.

Not with fanfares from above,

Not with scenes of glory,

But a humble gift of love—

Jesus born of Mary.

Sounds of wonder fill the sky

With the songs of angels

As the mighty Prince of Life

Shelters in a stable.

Hands that set each star in place,

Shaped the earth in darkness,

Cling now to a mother’s breast,

Vuln’rable and helpless.

Shepherds bow before the Lamb,

Gazing at the glory;

Gifts of men from distant lands

Prophesy the story.

Gold—a King is born today,

Incense—God is with us,

Myrrh—His death will make a way,

And by His blood He’ll win us.

Son of Adam, Son of heaven,

Given as a ransom;

Reconciling God and man,

Christ, our mighty champion!

What a Savior! What a Friend!

What a glorious myst’ry!

Once a babe in Bethlehem,

Now the Lord of hist’ry.

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist: