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!
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!
Most of us think of February as the ‘love month’ because of Valentine's Day.
V-Day is one of those holidays that can either be someone’s most or least favorite,
depending on their relationships.
But, the real key to loving the ‘love month' is knowing the true meaning of 'love.'
A group of children was asked "What is love?" and they gave these responses:
“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.
So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”
—Rebecca, age 8
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”
—Billy, age 4
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French Fries without making them give you any of theirs.”—Chrissie, age 6
“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.”—Terri, age 4
Sure, a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates are nice gifts to receive---but honestly, they pale in comparison to a life being given for us to live simply out of the Lord's love for us. The wonderful thing about being a Christian is that you are loved, and you always will be! Check out how John explains true love:
...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Those are two very important statements because they tell us that true love is unconditional. True love even loves the unlovable. True love has been poured out to us by our true and living Savior – Jesus Christ. So, we are loved and we are also filled with His love so we can now love others. John writes:
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)
And John adds that because we are loved by Christ, we are now able and empowered to love others like Christ.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:11)
So, why aren’t people who say they believe in Jesus not loving others the way Jesus loves them? I’m glad you asked! I think it’s because they don’t really know God’s love for them. They know about it, but they haven’t yet experienced it. And the main reason people haven’t experienced it is that they don’t really believe it! The Bible says if they did, they would be filled with God’s love and they would use that love as a launching pad for loving others. Notice what John says,
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16)
If you believe that God really does deeply love you, you will abide – or remain – in Him and Him in you and you will experience His true love. You will then, as a result, love others the way He loves you.
So, here’s my Valentine's Day gift to you…
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
If you are alive (and you are if you're reading this article!),
you are the ‘world’ that is described in this verse – and you are loved by God. So much so that
He gave His one and only Son to die on a cross for your sins so you could experience new life.
Knowing His love leads to living a new life of love.
Receive it and believe it!
Happy Valentine’s Day, Wildwood!