Some Thoughts on revival
I have referenced the revival that recently broke out at Asbury College in several of my sermons. I truly love the thought of hearts being turned toward the Lord with renewed zest and zeal. I also love hearing about new people trusting in Jesus as Savior and worshipping Him now as Lord. The non-stop worship that happened at Asbury College reminds us that God responds to the needs and wishes of His people when they desire Him most of all.
Our country has experienced several revivals over the span of its existence. Revivals are often called “spiritual awakenings” because people who participate in revival talk about their hearts, eyes and ears being more open to the presence of God by His Spirit. Here’s a little history on revivals in the U.S.
The first great awakening happened in the 1730’s-40’s when America was still under England’s rule. Churches had become very lax in the expectations of their church members. Jonathan Edwards is well-known for his “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon and ministers like John Weasley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitfield are several other instrumental leaders who shared expository sermons calling people back to refocus their lives on the things of God. Through the teaching of Edwards and the traveling ministry of Whitfield, starting in Georgia and working up to Massachusetts, the colonial people were convicted of their sin and renewed in their need for Jesus.
Again, in the 1820’s-50’s America had become complacent in living biblically virtuous lives and had fallen away from practical morality. Charles Finney offered a fiery message of repentance. In big tents, constructed for meetings lasting weeks and weeks, he instituted the “Crying Bench”, where he invited those renewing or professing faith to proceed down front and make a public commitment to Jesus. The Awakening theology is clear in Finney: Jesus calls everyone and anyone can heed the call.
At the conclusion of the Civil War and following the great Chicago fire, a third great awakening happened between 1875-1885 in Chicago, where people now realized their desperate need for God and their dependence on Him for help and guidance. An uneducated shoe salesman named D.L. Moody had broken out of the normal practices of the church and began a Bible study for street children. Moody went on to preach all around the country to more than 100,000 million people. The appeal was simple: Jesus wants you the way you are, come to Him now because He’s coming back soon.
On April 9, 1906, the Spirit of God moved in the hearts of people again and a revival broke out in a Los Angeles church at 312 Azusa Street. The revival helped integrate the church into a more harmonious, unified community, bringing together rich and poor, black and white, male and female. It focused on believers being different from the world and focusing on the love of God and others. Many manifestations that demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit happened in this awakening.
Another awakening began in 1910-1970 where pastors and preachers began gathering large groups of people in crusades. Billy Sunday, a professional baseball player turned preacher, was direct and powerful with the Gospel message. Billy Graham entered the scene in 1949 with his Los Angeles crusades that caught the attention of the press. The Jesus Revolution broke out in the late 1960’s-70’s and people who had been considered outcasts and hippies became born again believers. Graham went on to hold more than 400 crusades in 185 countries, attracting millions of people to surrender their lives to Christ.
There are several common threads woven into each one of these times of revival. They all came on the heels of difficult and dark times. They all came after believers and leaders in the church realized how far they were from the things of God. And lastly, they all came by the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts and lives of people repenting of their sin, apathy, and ignorance towards God. The revival or awakening that happened at Asbury College came on the heels of a very simple sermon and a call for
repentance. The presence of God was felt, and the planned short chapel service attended by only a few people did not end at the scheduled time. The people there desired to keep worshipping God as they continued to sense His presence and as word got out, people flocked from all around the campus. Soon, people from all over the world began to inundate the small college campus in droves over the next two weeks.
Which leads us to this question, “Would you like to experience revival at Wildwood?” Be careful how you answer because another common thread that occurred in each one of these revivals was the people who participated put aside their routines, schedules and agendas and focused their lives on seeking and worshipping God. They spent hours and days and even weeks focusing solely on the presence of God and offering their lives in worship to Him. To sum it up in one word, here’s what it would take… change.
We would have to be willing to admit our failure to live our lives focused on God and His ways. We’d have to repent of our sin and apathy towards Him and ask Him to revive our love for Him. And maybe, just maybe, if we do those things and sincerely seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, God may respond by granting us a greater awareness of His presence by the power of His Holy Spirit.
“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Let’s all ask ourselves if we believe God desires to do a new work in our church. If He does, will He start by doing a new work in each of our individual hearts, and if He will, let’s cry out to Him together for revival at Wildwood.
Have you seen the movie Saving Private Ryan? If not, I would warn you to be prepared for graphic scenes before you watch it. The movie tells the story set in World War II, when three out of four brothers who are serving in the US Army, are killed in action. Eight men are sent to find the fourth brother, Private Ryan, and bring him home safely. While facing ongoing life-threatening situations throughout most of the movie, the eight men sent to find Private Ryan keep asking the question, “Why is the army risking the lives of eight men to save one?” I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but I will tell you that they do save Private Ryan. At the end of the movie, an elderly Ryan is seen visiting the gravesite of some of the men who had sacrificed everything for him. Ryan turns to his wife and he utters these words, “Tell me I’ve led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man.” That request to his wife came as a result of a scene where one of the men who saved him was about to die. That man said to him, “Earn this. Earn it.” Ryan lived with that pressure of perfect performance for the rest of his life.
That’s what many Christians try to do. Because our sin cost Christ His life, we try to earn our salvation. What we need to realize is that there is nothing that we can ever do to earn it. We cannot earn our salvation. Only Jesus could pay for it for us. And because He did, we should now pursue living a life that is no longer encumbered by sin and guilt. We shouldn’t belittle or ignore our sin, because sin isn’t God’s will for a believer’s life. But, we should no longer live under the bondage of our sinful nature and we should no longer carry the guilt of our sin. Jesus took God’s wrath for our sin upon Himself, and He exchanged it for His righteousness. That’s right, we are now made righteous in the eyes of God. Does He see our sin? He does.
Hebrews 12:5-6 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
He doesn’t punish us for our sin because He already punished His Son for it. But, since He loves us and knows our sin is not what is best for us, He chastises us by teaching us that there are consequences for our sin, just as any parent would lovingly chastise their child.
Our next sermon series is a study of the letter Paul writes to the church in Galatia. They were being drawn into believing that the Jewish customs, traditions, and rituals, that were required before Christ came, still needed to be performed in order for people to be saved. They were taking the free gift of grace and adding additional requirements for salvation. This was a slap in the face of our Savior, who said these words on the cross of Calvary, “IT IS FINISHED!” (John 19:30). That meant our sins were “PAID IN FULL”. Why is that so important for us to remember? Because we are now free to seek the Lord and follow His leading in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit who now lives within us. We have the freedom to surrender to His power, plan, and purpose for our lives. And it makes this life worth living!
I’m looking forward to sharing more with you in February-March, but let me quickly summarize what we’ll be studying with these words. God’s grace is free and His love is unconditional. It cannot be earned or withdrawn. All that He requires is faith in His Son, whose blood covers our sin and provides the freedom to experience new life in Christ. You are free from shame, guilt, and condemnation because you have fully been forgiven when you trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Let’s open the door to freedom together and see what kind of amazing things happen when we walk in His grace together!
A NEW THING IN 2023
I don’t know how you would assess 2022 as a year, but many have found it to be among the most difficult to endure. That seems strange since 2022 saw us coming out of a pandemic and moving back into our regular routines. The things we are doing may be the same as they used to be, but people don’t seem to be feeling the same about them. In fact, depression, anxiety, and stress are all at all time high levels according to psychologists and professional counselors. If you’re feeling some distress and a sense of hopelessness, you’re not alone. But I’ve got some good news for you. The new year offers new hope! One of my favorite prophecies in the Bible is found in,
Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
The prophecies of Isaiah show up in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament writings. The things he wrote about the Messiah, hundreds of years before Christ came as a baby born in a manger, have intrigued both religious and secular scholars. His accuracy is divinely uncanny. Isaiah’s portrayal of a holy God who keeps His promises helps to remind us that the people of God who are living in the daily presence and power of our God, can live obedient, joyful, peace-filled lives regardless of the conditions that surround us.
In v.18 when the Lord tells us to, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old” it makes us wonder why God is telling us to leave the past behind -- especially when our favorite memories are of the past. But God isn’t telling us to forget about them. He’s telling us not to keep looking back and living as if they are the only good times we’ll ever experience. That’s why He follows by saying, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth”. He’s telling believers that what lies ahead can be even bigger and better than anything we’ve ever experienced! He promises to, “make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
That’s why we’ve decided to show you some things the Bible tells us about what we can hope for and expect in 2023, with a new sermon series called, “Rejuvenate”. Rejuvenate means “to restore vitality and give new energy” to what lies ahead. We’re going to revisit passages in scripture that remind us our future looks far better than our past – even if we had some pretty great times in our past.
When we walk closely with Christ, His holy perspective allows us to see new things God is doing daily which offer us great hope in what is yet to come! God promised a Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and He would come to save His people from their sins. This means nothing can stop those of us who trust in Him from seeking Him, finding Him, and living for Him, and nothing can keep us from experiencing more of His goodness in the days ahead. He has come! Christ has defeated death by rising from the grave and scripture tells us that He has ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the throne of God as He intercedes on our behalf. This year has all the makings of being our best year ever!
I hope you will commit to being at Wildwood to hear some of the great things He has in store for us and become an active part of the Wildwood family!
Happy New Year, Wildwood! ~Pastor Ric
CALL TO ME
Does it seem to you that Christmas is becoming less about Christ and more about a lot of other things? It’s been that way for a while, and it looks to me like we’re moving further away from Christmas primarily being a celebration of Christ. In fact, churches are trying to decide if they are going to have church services on Christmas Day because Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year. The world is moving away from the things of the Lord.
There is a person in the Bible who I greatly admire because he was obedient to the Lord even when the rest of the world wasn’t. It’s the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived in a time when being a prophet of God wasn’t profitable (pardon the pun) because people were not seeking or listening to God. Yet God called and sent Jeremiah to share His message with them. You and I may be facing a similar situation as we strive to live our lives in God-honoring ways when the rest of the world chooses to do their own thing. It’s already challenging to live a Christ-centered life, but on top of that we have many people who suggest that it is unnecessary (even some who claim to be Christians) or unnatural because it limits the curiosity and diversity that contribute to our human nature.
While Jeremiah was imprisoned for speaking the truth of what God told him to share, he heard this message from the Lord,
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
The first thing we learn from the message is that The Lord God, Creator of all things, asks Jeremiah to continue to call to Him and God promises to answer. It’s amazing that the Creator of the Universe knows us, but even more astounding that He wants to hear from us. This reveals the true power of prayer. When we call to God, He will answer us. Rather than wanting to hear what we want Him to tell us, maybe it would be wiser for us to seek whatever He chooses to say. What He tells us will be true and impactful because it comes from the Lord. When you find yourself not liking what He says, ask God to help you seek Him even when things aren’t going your way. To learn what He wants to show you, so you can think what He thinks, and say what He says, and do what He tells you to do, because what He says is always what is best.
We learn from that verse that God not only answers when we call to Him, but He tells us great and hidden things we do not know. Those of us who spend long periods of time studying the scriptures can agree that there is so much more to learn and know no matter how much time we have spent reading, memorizing, and studying God’s Word. It is a true privilege to have access to the Bible and to search out the things He has revealed to us in His Word. The same is true when we seek Him through prayer. As God inspired the Apostle Paul to write a letter to the church in Rome, he got to what the Lord was telling him to write in chapter 11 when he had to stop and make this declaration:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33)
The more we study God’s Word the more we get to know the things we don’t yet know. And God will reveal those things as we call out to Him and study His Word. What a blessing it is to learn the great and hidden things that remain unsearchable to so many, and yet we have been called to call out to Him and to grow in our knowledge of Him.
I hope that as you call to the Lord this Christmas season and hear things from Him that you do not know, that your relationship will grow closer, stronger and better equipped to testify to the riches and wisdom and knowledge of our amazing God as He reveals Himself to you!
Merry Christmas Wildwood! ~Pastor Ric
Thanksgiving is a verb
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it reminds us to remember that we should ‘give thanks’ for the many things God has blessed us with at Wildwood. Can I name just a few?
- God has allowed us to come out of the pandemic with a deeper appreciation of just how valuable it is to be alive and be together as a church!
- God has led us to expand our livestreaming capabilities and online campus to the point that more and more people are watching our Sunday services from places that are far away!
- God has given us new opportunities to spread the gospel by building new churches in Oyuma (Kenya), Africa and Dar Es Salam, Tanzania!
- God has led many guests to come and visit Wildwood on nearly every Sunday of this year!
- God has led more people to join our church in the last two years than we have had join in the previous 5 years before the pandemic.
- God has led us to see an increase of salvations and baptisms in the last year.
All of these things and many more have happened by God’s amazing grace. We are grateful that He continues to lead Wildwood to be light in our community and around the world.
Can I add one more thing that I am grateful for? I am grateful for you! Paul said it best for me.
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Those of you who have joined Wildwood in what God is leading us to do together are the greatest gift that God has given to me. You are my joy and my crown – which means I see you as my reward for the opportunity that you - and God - have given me to be a pastor at Wildwood. There is nothing I cherish more than my relationship with the Lord, my wife and family - and you – my spiritual brother and sisters who have joined with me and our other leaders to, “lead people to become believers and passionate followers of Jesus Christ” which is our mission statement and a reality here at Wildwood.
In the days ahead we’ll have many opportunities to invite new people to our Sunday services, Wednesday night classes, special services, concerts, fusion classes and fusion parties. Let’s keep inviting people to come and see the things God is doing at Wildwood and let’s introduce them to His Son, Jesus Christ together! God bless you Wildwood!
RUMOR HAS IT
Rumor has it that the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The World Health Organization said that we are on the tail end of one of the worst health crises that the world has ever experienced.
One of the places hit the hardest by the pandemic has been the church. According to data collected in April and May 2020 by Barna Group, one in three practicing Christians dropped out of church completely at the beginning of COVID-19. Moreover, church membership in the US dropped below 50 percent for the first time since 1940, according to Barna.
The latest figures from Pew Research Center show that once-regular churchgoers aren’t showing up like they were prior to the pandemic. While people steadily returned to church services in the first half of 2021, the trend hit a plateau in the second half of 2021 and that plateau continued into 2022. Going into the third year since COVID-19, congregations and their leaders are left with the reality that the people who worshiped alongside them before, may not be coming back. Overall church attendance has declined to about 2/3rds of what it used to be.
All of this information does not paint a bright picture for the future of the church but let’s remember what Jesus said to Peter after Peter told Jesus who he knew Him to be, “you are the Christ, the Son of God”.
Matthew 16:18 "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock (Christ) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
The meaning behind this verse tells us that no one has the power to overcome what God has ordained. Not even the power and plots of the devil and his fallen angels can prevail against faithful believers in Christ, i.e. the church. Satan and his minions cannot overcome the saved, those who believe in the redemptive work of God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ. They will prevail, according to God’s plan and provision for His church. But, that doesn't mean we should sit back and become complacent. Now, It’s time to grow!
We have two great opportunities this month to invite people to meet the people of Wildwood and be introduced to Jesus. We want them to see what God is doing in our church.
The first one is happening on October 9th, and it’s called “Fan Day” which stands for “Friends and Neighbors Day”. It’s a simple concept. Let’s invite our friends and neighbors to join us for a great day of worship in our church services in a relaxed setting, wearing our favorite team colors, and then join us for some great Bible teaching and discussion in our Fusion classes. We can share a great time of fellowship in our tailgating party in the back parking lot after our services have concluded. Our fusion classes will provide some tasty food and friendly fellowship along with a great corn hole competition, a chili cook off, and lots of fun and games for the children! Here’s the catch, Fan Day will ONLY be successful if you invite some new people to join us! Otherwise, it’s just another church get-together and not an outreach. At the end of the day, we’ll look the same with no new friends to hear the gospel and join in on the fun. That's what Fan Day is supposed to be all about!
The second BIG event happens at the end of the month on Sunday, October 30th and it’s become one of our biggest outreach events. It’s called Trunk ‘N Treat! We’ll have cars decorated and lined up with their trunks full of candy to hand out to our neighbors and their children. We need your help to provide the candy and the trunks because in the past we’ve had close to 1,000 people from our community come to get treats and many of them don’t attend Wildwood or any other church. They not only get lots of candy, but they also see Wildwood providing a safe and wholesome place for their children to have a fun night and full bags of candy! We’ll also give them a Bible tract that shares the gospel and they’ll get to meet some pretty great people who want to show God's love and hospitality to our community. It’s a great event that will hopefully lead to our guests coming back to check out our worship services later!
When Jesus asked His disciples who people said He was, they gave a lot of different answers. But the truth was, many didn’t know. But Peter did! And so do we! Our job is to help make Him known to others. That’s why we have decided that being His church is still important. Will you invite others to come join in these fun events so that our neighbors and friends in the community will hear the gospel and discover who Jesus truly is? Rumor has it that the church is declining -- BUT, wWe can put those rumors to rest! Let’s join together with God in not letting the gates of Hell prevail against us! It’s time for us to grow Wildwood!
We have been given so much!
The Bible tells us that we are to be ready for Christ’s return at any moment. I’ve heard people say that there are still things that must happen before He returns but if that is true, those things could happen at any moment and then Christ could return. We are to be ready! We read in Luke 12 where Jesus says,
(Luke 12: 37-38) Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!
Jesus is communicating the way He wants His followers to be living on a day-by-day basis expecting His return to happen at any moment. This means at any time - on any day - we should consider what we’re doing in light of it being the last thing we do before Jesus returns. It will be the last thing He’ll see us doing when He calls us to go to be with Him.
Peter wonders if this message from Jesus is for the group of disciples that Jesus had called to follow Him then, or is this a message for all people? Jesus answers by saying,
(Luke 12:43) Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.
That means this message is for all who believe and who have surrendered their lives to serving the Lord. Jesus continues with this statement about those who have received forgiveness and salvation,
(Luke 12: 48b) Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Coming out of the really difficult season we have just gone through during the Pandemic, I’ve noticed how God has truly blessed us as His church! Our attendance has been consistent – even growing – over the last several months. I can’t remember the last Sunday when I didn’t meet someone new who was visiting our church for the first time. We’ve had more families join in the last year than I can remember in the past. Every major offering goal we have asked our people at Wildwood to prayerfully consider contributing to has either reached or surpassed what we’ve asked. We’ve been blessed to build churches in Kenya and Tanzania in the last year. We’ve seen an increase in salvations and baptisms. As I consider all of these blessings, I realize that we have been given so much and to those who have been given much – Jesus says that much is still required.
As we continue our study of the letter Paul writes to the church called Philippians, let’s keep in mind something Paul says that should be our mission as well.
(Philippians 1:21-22) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.
Will you join me in agreeing with Paul that as long as God gives us breath to live in this world, let’s continue to serve Him with all of our strength to produce good fruit? Let’s seek Him in everything we do and ask Him to lead us in His will and His ways until that time comes that He calls us home – or Christ returns. I believe that if we will live our lives in this way from this day forward - together as the body of Christ who deeply loves Jesus and others - God will be honored, and we, as His called and chosen people, will continue to be blessed. The future looks so very bright for Wildwood!
Thank you for being such a great church and join me in thanking the Lord for using us for His great glory! Let’s keep advancing His kingdom together!
It's time to go 'back 2 church!'
For several years we have held a special Sunday service we call, B2C, or Back 2 Church Sunday. The idea came up when we realized that at the end of summer, people go back to their normal routines. Kids go back 2 school. Adults go back 2 work (after vacations). And, hopefully, families go Back 2 Church and make it a priority for the rest of the year.
There seems to be an ongoing debate about the value of attending church services in person. A very common message being shared is this, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” That may be true, but according to the Bible we are supposed to be meeting together.
We read in,
Hebrews 10:24-25-- "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
As members of the body of Christ, the Bible says we belong together.
Romans 12:5 -- "so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."
Although hearing the Word of God (the Bible) being taught is one of the most important and beneficial things that happen, one of the best reasons for attending church is that we can encourage one another. We get to worship together! We have one common belief, that Jesus is returning for His church and that is cause for praise!
Being together spurs us on to be busy about God’s work. One of the most amazing things that happens at Wildwood is dozens of people come – not just to sit, but to serve! Serving God in His church and serving others together is a great source of encouragement. There are many ways you can use your spiritual gifts in church and multiple places to use them.
Peter reminds of this in,
1 Peter 4:10 -- "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace."
We show evidence of God’s grace working in our lives by serving others. Wildwood is in constant need of people stepping up to serve one another and the very best way to do that is by knowing which ministry God is leading you serve Him and others. That’s why we invite new people to join us in serving at Back 2 Church Sunday. We want our guests to see how we live out our motto: “Membership Means Ministry!”
However, one thing must happen for this to work. We must invite new people to come and join us. That’s why we have our regular worship service times and Fusion classes – so people can see what we do every Sunday. But at 12:15 we all go to the Faith Center for one of the biggest and best potluck lunches I’ve ever eaten. There is something for everyone to eat and we have fun things going on outside like pony rides and a petting zoo. We’ll have bounce houses and nine square set up for the children and youth. Our goal is for our guests to see what we do best at Wildwood – it’s called FELLOWSHIP! We invite our guests to stick around for lunch so they can meet the wonderful people who call Wildwood their home church.
The best example I can give you about going “Back 2 Church” is Jesus Christ Himself! We read in,
Luke 4:16 -- "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read."
Jesus made it a custom - or a priority - to go to church. Even though Jesus was on a mission that took Him to new places to meet new people, He made a habit of going “Back 2 Church” and when He did – He served by reading scripture. If Jesus made it a priority to go “Back 2 Church," shouldn’t we also as His followers? I hope you’ll invite lots of friends, family and neighbors to our big Back 2 Church Sunday celebration on August 14th and I hope you’ll volunteer to help make it one of the best days we’ve ever had at Wildwood! I’m counting on you!
Where Do We Go From Here?
There was a band from the past called The Alan Parson’s Project that wrote a song called, "Games People Play." The opening lyrics were,
"Where do we go from here, now that all other children are growin' up?
And how do we spend our lives, if there's no one to lend us a hand?
I don't wanna live here no more, I don't wanna stay
Ain't gonna spend the rest of my life quietly fading away."
You may be feeling a little "out of sorts", coming out of two and half years of living through a pandemic. It’s had an effect on us that not only changed us, but also changed the way we do things. We aren’t as closely connected as we used to be. Some are feeling like they are on their own, just coping with their current circumstances and hoping to survive this difficult season we’re all in.
For some, church isn’t as important as it used to be. That may be part of the reason we’re facing so many problems right now. We don’t have the same sense of community we once had when we were all here together worshiping God and seeking His will for our lives. Would you consider doing three things that I believe could help us all. The first one is this:
God made us for community. It was He who first said, “it is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18). We are at our best when we’re seeking the Lord and doing the things He’s leading us to do together. If you’re not able to join us in person, stay connected by watching and worshiping with us online. But keep in mind that serving one another is an important part of our spiritual journey.
The second thing I hope you will consider is this:
If you and I make a commitment to gather together regularly as we seek God’s leadership in our lives, we will also grow spiritually. When we worship together, pray together, study God’s Word together, and serve the Lord together, we will grow spiritually, and spiritual growth means we get stronger! Paul tells us, “From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)
The final thing I’m asking you to do is something most of us don’t like to talk about, but it’s incredibly important to complete the work the Lord gives us to do as a church.
God continues to lead us to be involved in building and advancing His kingdom. Can you believe we have been a major giving source of funds for two churches to be built in Africa in the course of just one year?
And yet, our costs here at Wildwood have gone up tremendously while our savings have dropped. People have lost jobs and income, and some who aren’t here in person any longer aren’t giving at all. There is a need now for you and I to prayerfully consider what God would have each one of us give to His church, so we can continue to be a lighthouse in our community and a beacon of light in the world. I love the testimony the Apostle Paul gives about the church in Macedonia:
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-3)
Would you join me in asking God what He would have each one of us commit to giving for the rest of this year? By doing this, we can continue to be involved and engaged with the people of our community, and generous with the support God is leading us to share around the world.
I’m hoping and praying that the days ahead continue to be filled with fruit-bearing activities and exciting accomplishments for the sharing of God’s Word and the building of God’s kingdom. In order for that to happen, each one of us needs to commit our lives to showing up and serving God with our whole hearts as we move ahead. As Alan Parsons put it, “Ain't gonna spend the rest of my life quietly fading away."
Let’s do this together, Wildwood!
Love you all! ~ ~Pastor Ric
Gathering Summer Fruit
Summer is here! Well, not officially until June 21st, but we’re close enough! One of the things I love the most about summer is that we can get outside and interact with lots of other people. We can go on walks, have picnics and cookouts, and interact with more people than we normally do when we’re stuck inside.
I want to remind you about something that is not only near and dear to my heart, but it is really important to God. If you have placed your trust and faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life, you have something to share with others.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:19)
Jesus was on a mission to seek and save the lost and we should be joining Him on this mission. If you are exposed to more people, even people who you may not know well, you have an opportunity to share the love and the truth about Christ with them! The truth about Jesus is this:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Jesus wants everyone to know that He not only came to find ‘the lost’ (those who don’t know He died so their sins can be forgiven) but He came so they could be found and be saved! The only way they can be saved is through grace (God’s unmerited favor) by faith in believing in who He truly is (God’s Son) and what He did when He died on the cross for us!
I believe God sets us up with what we sometimes refer to as “divine appointments”. A divine appointment is an encounter with someone that God has arranged so the person we’re meeting can hear the truth about Christ. The amazing thing about it is this;
Every divine encounter has the potential to change someone’s life for all
All we have to do is be aware and share. We must be aware that it’s happening and then share what we know about Jesus. Things like;
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
That’s all we must do. The rest is up to the person we are sharing with and the Lord. We can get so caught up in being responsible for the results that we become fearful or reluctant to share because we’re afraid our message might be rejected. But we’re not responsible for the response, we’re only responsible to share the gospel message. God will take care of the rest.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a great picnic! I love hot dogs and hamburgers made on a grill. I love playing cornhole, and horseshoes, and
I love sitting around and talking with others. But you and I have a chance to do far more than that this summer. We have an opportunity to participate in a life-changing event that will last for eternity. I hope you’ll agree with me to pray and ask God to help you to be sensitive to the divine appointments He’s leading you to this summer, and that they will result in someone getting saved! Then, invite them to Wildwood because I really want to meet them! Here's to a great and fruitful summer!
PASTOR RIC CADLE, MAY 2022
There is something a little scary and a little exciting about a new beginning. The uncertainty of what lies ahead may make us anxious, but the anticipation of moving in a new direction offers new adventure. I believe we're in a new beginning stage at Wildwood. The last two years have brought a lot of change. We were separated and isolated for a long time and new habits were formed. People have become accustomed to not going to church, but the value of attending church in person hasn't changed. The Bible is clear about not missing church.
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
The word "Day" is capitalized in that verse to refer to the return of the Lord and the time when everything changes. The new beginning starts. The Lord will call those who are His to be with Him and the world will go through seven years of the worst time in all of history right before the Lord returns to rule and reign on earth for one thousand years. Those who believe in Him will be saved to rule with Christ; those who do not believe in Him will be held by their sins for eternal judgment.
We all have big events that lie ahead in our futures that we're watching and waiting for. Things like our 16th birthday, or the day we graduate from high school or college. The day we get married or get our first job. Some are looking forward to the day they will retire from work. But the one day we should all be mindful of is the Day the Lord will return. When that day comes everything changes for everyone. Two lines will form, those who believed and belong to Christ, and those who didn't believe and therefore do not belong to Him and His family. There is not a single day that lies ahead that is more important than the Day of the Lord!
We should all be looking for it by living like it could happen at any moment. Meanwhile, we should be doing the things the Lord has left for us to do until that Day arrives. We should be living lives that honor Christ. He makes a statement that I think we should always be mindful of in the book of John:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."
We are called by Christ to keep His commandments. The last commandment He gives us before He ascends to the right hand of the throne of God, and the assignment He gives us the power of the Holy Spirit (the Helper) to fulfill, is found in Matthew 28:
"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" (vss. 18-20)
This is what we should all be doing right now, making disciples! We are surrounded by people in our neighborhoods and communities who come from "all nations." That is why our mission statement at Wildwood reads,
"Leading people to become believers and passionate followers of Jesus Christ."
As a church, we have rallied and united under this command, to make disciples (believers) and teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded (passionate followers). So I'm asking you to please join me in sharing the gospel with those around us and invite them to Wildwood where they can grow. Here's an easy way to remember to share the gospel. It's called the ABC's of evangelism:
A: Admit you're a sinner. Romans 3:23 - "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
B: Believe in Jesus as Savior. John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
C: Confess Jesus as Lord. Romans 10:9 - ""If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
We can do this and honor our Lord together and this temporary setback of the last two years of separation and isolation can actually catapult us into the greatest time in Wildwood's history if we simply "obey His commandments."
I hope we will! Let's do this, Wildwood!
Why is Easter so important?
Pastor Ric Cadle, April 2022
We put more time, energy, planning, prayer and resources into the Easter weekend than we do any other time of the year. There are many reasons why we do that, but the top three are as follows:
1) Easter is the ultimate celebration of the triumph of life over death.
We move from the most terrible moment in history, Christ dying on a cross -- to the most remarkable miracle ever -- Christ rising from the dead, over a three-day time period. Talk about a swing of emotions! When we see our beloved Savior on the cross, we behold the greatest injustice ever served. A perfectly innocent person – God’s Son – being crucified for our sin. And yet, three long and lonely days later, Christ arises from the dead and walks triumphantly out of that tomb to prove that He is who He said He was, because He did what He said He would do! And this leads to our second point...
2) Easter proves that Jesus is God’s Son and our Savior.
Jesus made promises to whom He was closest. He promised that He would die on a cross, but three days later he would rise again proving Him to be the One God sent to die for our sins and defeat death once and for all.
For he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, 'The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.' But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. (Mark 9:31-32)
The disciples didn’t understand what this event would mean to them, but we don’t have to wonder what this means for us. Jesus died as a sacrifice of atonement for our sins. When we trust in Christ for our salvation, we are promised a resurrection of our own when Christ returns.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
No matter what we are going through and no matter how hard it is or how long it lasts, we have this promise to look forward to in our future and it deserves to be celebrated!
3) Easter is a time when seekers become believers.
Even at the cross we see a soldier who oversees the crucifixion believe that Jesus is God’s Son...
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God!' (Matthew 27:54)
Two members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews who had played a major role in making sure Jesus was crucified, came and took His body. They performed a proper burial despite what it would mean to their reputations for doing so. They were convinced this was God’s Son.
Here’s where this comes into play for us. For the reasons I've just listed, we'll hopefully all plan to be in church for Easter. But now let's think about who we can invite! According to a poll by LifeWay research, the three highest attended church services happen on Easter, Christmas, and Mother's Day--Easter being the highest! Pew Research says that Americans Google the word "church" around Easter more than any other time of the year. And according to research by the North American Mission Board, most Americans say they would visit a church IF invited by a family member, neighbor or friend. Easter is a great time to invite someone to attend church with you and the door to being introduced to the Savior is opened to those who come!
Let’s agree together to make this year, Easter 2022, the best one ever at Wildwood. Let’s agree to come, to serve, and to invite those who may not have planned to go anywhere, to come to Wildwood to be part of the biggest and best celebration ever! My prayer is that their lives will never be the same because you invited them!
Always remember, He is Risen!