Mark 10:13-31 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 10:13-31

  • Mark 10:13-16
  • 13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 After taking them in his arms, he laid his hands on them and blessed them.
    • It was natural that Jewish mothers should wish their children to be blessed by a great and distinguished Rabbi. Especially they brought their children to such a person on their first birthday
    • We will fully understand the almost poignant beauty of this passage only if we remember when it happened. Jesus was on the way to the cross, and He knew it
      • Even with such a tension in His mind as that, He had time to take them in His arms and He had the heart to smile into their faces and maybe to play with them for a while
      • The disciples were not necessarily rude and uncivilized. They were simply trying to protect Jesus
        • They knew quite clearly that tragedy lay ahead and they could see the tension under which Jesus labored
        • They didn’t want Him to be bothered
        • They could not conceive that He could want the children around Him at such a time
      • Jesus said to let the children come to Him
        • This tells us that He was the kind of person who cared for children and for whom children cared
        • He could not have been a stern and gloomy and joyless person
        • He must have smiled easily and laughed joyfully 
        • This small story throws a flood of light on the human kind of person Jesus was
      • What is it about children that Jesus liked and valued so much?
        • There is the child’s humility
          • Ordinarily children are embarrassed by prominence and publicity
          • They have not yet learned to think in terms of place and pride and privilege
          • They have not yet learned to discover the importance of themselves
        • There is the child’s obedience
          • Their natural instinct is to obey
          • They have not yet learned the pride and false independence which separate us from one another and from God
        • There is the child’s trust
          • It is seen in the child’s acceptance of authority
            • Children often believe that their parents can do no wrong and know everything
            • Instinctively children realize their own ignorance and their own helplessness and trust the ones they think know
          • It is seen in the child’s confidence in other people
            • Children do not expect people to be bad
            • Children have not yet learned to suspect the world; they still believe the best about others
        • The child has a short memory
          • Children have not yet learned to bear grudges and nourish bitterness
          • Even when they are unjustly treated, they forget, and forget so completely that they do not even need to forgive
  • Mark 10:17-22
  • 17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother. 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But he was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.
    • We must note how the man came and how Jesus met him
      • He came running and flung himself at Jesus’ feet
      • There is something amazing in the sight of this rich, young ruler falling and the feet of the penniless Jesus, who was on the way to being an outlaw
      • Good Teacher!
        • Jesus answered back basically, “No flattery! Don’t call me good! Keep that word for God!”
        • It looks almost as if Jesus was trying to pour cold water on that young enthusiasm
      • It is clear that this man came to Jesus in a moment of overflowing emotion
        • Jesus basically said, “Stop and think! Don’t get carried away by your excitement. I don’ want you swept to me by a moment of emotion Think calmly about what you are doing.”
        • Jesus wasn’t trying to brush the man off. He was telling hime even at the very outset to count the cost
      • Jesus was saying, “You cannot become a Christian by devotion to me. You must look at God
        • The danger is that the pupil, the scholar, the young person may form a personal attachment to the teacher or preacher and think that it is an attachment to God
          • Teachers and preachers must never point to themselves; they must always point to God
          • Teachers and preachers are in the last analysis only pointers to God (prophet)
    • Never did any story so lay down the essential Christian truth that respectability is enough
      • Jesus quoted the commandments which were the basis of the decent life; and all but one were negative commandments
      • The man answered “I never in my life did anyone any harm.”
      • But the real question is “What good have you done?”
      • Jesus was even more pointed with this individual
        • “ With all your possessions and wealth, what positive good have you done to others? How much have you gone out of your way tot help and comfort and strengthen others as you might have done?”
        • Respectability consists in not doing things; Christianity consists in doing things
        • That was precisely where this man, like so many of us, failed
    • Jesus confronted him with a challenge
      • Get out of the moral respectability trap; stop looking at goodness as consisting in not doing things
      • Take yourself and all that you have, and spend everything on others; Then you will find true happiness in time and in eternity
        • Sadly, the man couldn’t do it
        • True, he had never stolen and he had never defrauded anyone, but neither had he ever been positively and sacrificially generous
        • It may be respectable never to take away from anyone; It is Christian to give to someone
      • Jesus basic and essential question: “How much do you want real Christianity? Do you want it enough to give away your possessions?” Or whatever it is that is keeping you from fully following Jesus
      • We all want goodness, but so few of us want it enough to pay the price
      • Jesus looked at the man with love
        • There was the appeal of love
          • Jesus was not angry with him
          • He loved him too much for that
          • It was not the look of anger but the appeal of love
        • There was the challenge to moral courage
          • It was a look which sought to pul the man out of his comfortable, respectable, settled life into the adventure of being a real Christian
        • It was the look of grief
          • The grief of seeing a man deliberately choose not to be what he might have been and hand it in him to be
  • Mark 10:23-27
  • 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were astonished at his words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished, saying to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.”
    • Then Jesus turned the discussion back to His own disciples
      • How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!
      • The word used for wealth  is defined by Aristotle as, “All those things of which the value is measured by coinage.”
      • The reason for the amazement of the disciples was that Jesus was turning accepted Jewish standards completely upside down
        • It was believed that prosperity was the sign of a good man
        • If a man was rich, God must have honored and blessed him
        • The disciples would have argued that the more prosperous people were, the more certain they were of entry into the kingdom
        • Jesus’ response was basically “How difficult it is for those who have put their trust in riches to enter the kingdom.”
      • No one ever saw the dangers of prosperity and of material things more clearly than Jesus did. What are these dangers
        • Material possessions tend to fix our hearts to this world
        • If our main interest is in material possessions, it tends to make us think of everything in terms of price
          • If our main interest in in material things, we will think in terms of price and not in terms of value
          • We may well forget there are values in this world far beyond money, that there are things which have no price, and that there are precious things that money cannot buy
          • It is fatal to begin to think that everything worth having has a monetary value
        • Jesus would have said that the possession of material goods is two things
          • It is an acid test of character
            • It takes a really big and good person to bear it worthily
          • It is a responsibility
            • We will always be judged by two standards; how we got our possessions and how we use them
            • Will we use what we have selfishly or generously
            • Will we use it as if we had undisputed possession of it, or remembering that we hold it in stewardship from God
      • The reaction of the disciples was that if what Jesus was saying was true, to be saved at all was basically impossible
        • Jesus then stated the whole doctrine of salvation in a nutshell
          • If salvation depended on a person’s own efforts it would be impossible for anyone. But salvation is the gift of God and all things are possible to Him.
        • Those who trust in themselves and in their possessions can never be saved. Those who trust in the saving power and the redeeming love of God can enter freely into salvation
  • Mark 10:28-31
  • 28 Peter began to tell him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundred times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions —and eternal life in the age to come. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
    • Peter couldn’t help drawing the contrast between that man and himself and his friends
    • Just as the man had refused Jesus, he and his friends had accepted the call, and Peter with almost crude honesty of his wanted to know what he and his friends were to get out of it
    • Jesus’s answer falls into three section
      • He said that no one ever gave up anything for the sake of Himself and of His good news without getting it back a hundredfold
        • A person’s Christianity might involve the loss of home and friends and loved ones, but entry into the Christian Church brought with it a family far greater and wider than the one left behind—a new spiritual family
        • Becoming a Christian may mean sacrificing ties that are very dear, but anyone who does so becomes a member of a family as wide as earth and heaven
      • Jesus added two things
        • He added the simple words “and persecutions”
          • He’s removing the whole matter from the world of quid pro quo
          • They take away the idea of a material reward for a material sacrifice
          • He never offered an easy way
          • He made it clear that to be a Christian is a costly thing
        • This tells us that Jesus never used a bribe to make people follow Him
          • He used a challenge
          • Certainly you will get your reward, but you will have to show yourself big enough and brave enough to get it
          • He did not call men and women to win the rewards of time. He called them to earn the blessings of eternity. God has not only this world in which to repay
      • Then Jesus added a warning
        • Many who are first shall be last
        • This was a warning to Peter who may have been estimating his own worth and his own reward and assessing them high
        • The final standard of judgment is with God. Many may stand well in the judgment of the world, but the judgment of God may upset the world’s judgment. Still more; many may stand well in their own judgment, and find that God’s evaluation of them is very different
        • It’s a warning against all pride
        • It’s a warning that the ultimate judgments belong to God who alone knows the motives of human hearts
        • It is a warning that the judgments of heaven may well upset the reputations of earth.

Mark 9:30-42 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 9:30-42

  • Mark 9:30-32
  • 30 Then they left that place and made their way through Galilee, but he did not want anyone to know it. 31 For he was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after he is killed, he will rise three days later.” 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask him.
    • This passage marks a milestone. Jesus had now left the north country where He was safe and was taking the first step toward Jerusalem and to the cross which awaited Him there
    • For once He did not want the crowds around. He knew quite clearly that unless He could write His message on the hearts of His chosen disciples, He had failed
    • He had to make sure, before He left this world in the body, that there were some who understood, however dimly, what He had come to say
    • This time the tragedy of His warning is even more poignant
      • The Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of men
      • He was not only announcing a face and giving a warning, He was also making a last appeal to the man in whose heart was forming the purpose of betrayal 
      • Still the disciples did not understand. The thing they did not understand was the bit about rising again; something they never grasped the certainty of the resurrection until it had actually taken place
        • When they did not understand, they were afraid to ask any further questions. It was as if they knew so much that they were afraid to know more
          • Medical diagnosis that we know is bad, but are afraid to ask more questions because we don’t necessarily want to know more
            • Sometimes we are amazed that they did not grasp what was so plainly spoken, yet we do the same thing
            • The human mind has an amazing faculty for rejecting what it does not want to see
            • People still accept the parts of the Christian message which they like and which suit them, and refuse to understand the rest
  • Mark 9:33-35
  • 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.”
    • Nothing so well shows how far the disciples were from realizing the real meaning of what the Messiah was going to accomplish than this. Repeatedly He had told them what awaited Him in Jerusalem, and yet they were still thinking of His kingdom in earthly terms and of themselves as His chief ministers of state. There is something heartbreaking in the thought of Jesus going toward a cross and His disciples arguing about who would be greatest
      • Yet in their heart of hearts they knew they were wrong
        • When He asked them what they had been arguing about, they had nothing to say. It was the silence of shame
          • It is strange how a thing takes its proper place and acquires its true character when it is set in the eyes of Jesus
          • So long as they thought that Jesus was not listening and that Jesus had not seen, the argument about who should be greatest seemed fair enough, but when that argument had to be stated in the presence of Jesus it was seen in all its unworthiness
          • How much different would we live if we thought of everything we were doing as being done in the sight of Jesus (my toes hurt)
    • Jesus dealt with this very seriously. It says that He sat down and called the disciples to Him
      • Rabbis sat to teach when the subject was of great importance
      • Jesus deliberately took up the position of a Rabbi teaching his pupils before He spoke
        • Greatness in His kingdom would be found not by being first, but by being last; not by being masters, but by being servants
        • It was not that Jesus abolished ambition
          • He recreated ambition
          • For the ambition to rule, He substituted the ambition to serve
          • For the ambition to have things done for us, He substituted the ambition to do things for others
            • The really great people, those who are remembered as having made a real contribution to life, are the ones who said to themselves, not, “How can I use the state and society to further my own prestige and my own personal ambitions?” But, “How can I use my personal gifts and talents to serve the state?”
            • JFK “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”
            • Instead of coming to church to get something, come to see how you can give/serve
    • The divisions and disputes which tear the Church apart would for the most part never occur if the only desire of its leaders  members was to serve it without caring what position they occupied. When Jesus spoke of the supreme greatness and value of the one whose ambition was to be a servant, He laid down one of the greatest practical truths in the world
  • Mark 9:36-37
  • 36 He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but him who sent me.”
    • Jesus is steal dealing with the worthy and unworthy ambition
      • Children have no influence at all; they cannot advance a career nor enhance a person’s prestige; they cannot give us things
      • Children need things; they must have things done for them
      • So Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes the poor, ordinary people, the people who have no influence and no wealth and no power, the people who need things done for them, is welcoming me. More than that, that person is welcoming God.”
        • It is the person who needs things that we must seek
    • There is a warning here
      • It is easy to cultivate the friendship of the person who can do things for us, and whose influence can be useful to us
      • And it is equally easy to avoid the person who inconveniently needs our help
      • It is easy to want favor with the influential and the great, and to neglect the simple, humble, ordinary people
      • In effect, Jesus says here that we should seek out not those who can do things for us, but those for whom we can do things, for in this way we are seeking Jesus
  • Mark 9:38-40
  • 38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” 39 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in my name who can soon afterward speak evil of me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us.
    • There was one very common way to exorcise demons. If you could get to know the name of a still more powerful spirit and command the evil demon in that name to come out of a person, the demon was supposed to be powerless to resist
    • Jesus declared that no one could do a mighty work in His name and be altogether His enemy. Then Jesus laid down the great principle that “Whoever is not agains us is for us.”
    • A lesson we should all learn
      • We all have a right to our own thoughts
      • We all have a right to think things out and to think them through until we come to our own conclusions and our own beliefs
        • We are never going to agree with someone 100% of the time. There are going to be differences of opinion, and that is ok
          • It is necessary to remember that truth is always bigger than any individual’s grasp of it
          • No one can possibly grasp all truth
          • The basis of tolerance is simply the realization of the magnitude of truth itself
            • We should never “tolerate” something that is obviously against Scripture
      • We must concede the right to do our own speaking
        • There are of course limits.
          • If someone is spreading doctrines calculated to destroy morality and to remove the foundations from all civilized and Christian society, they must be combated. But the way to combat them is certainly not to eliminate them by force but to prove them wrong
          • Voltaire~ “I hate what you say, but I would die for your right to say it”
      • We must remember that any doctrine or belief must finally be judged by the kind of people it produces
        • The question must always ultimately be, not, “how is a Church governed?” But, “What kind of people does a Church produce?”
      • We may hate a person’s beliefs, but we must never hate the person
        • We may wish to eliminate the teaching, but we must never wish to eliminate the teacher
  • Mark 9:41-42
  • 41 And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ —truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward. 42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away —it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
    • The teaching of this passage is simple and straightforward
      • It declares that any kindness shown, any help give to the people of Christ will not lose its reward
        • When Jesus saw someone in need, He helped that person in the most practical way, and the duty of help has been passed down to us
        • It is to be noted how simple the help is. The gift is a cup of cold water. We are not asked to do great things for others, things beyond our power. We are asked to give the simple things that anyone can give
          • A missionary tells a story about telling a class of African schoolchildren about giving a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus. She was sitting on the veranda of her house. Into the village square came a company of native bearers. They had heavy packs. They were tired and thirsty, and they sat down to rest. Now they were men of another tribe, and had they asked the ordinary non-Christian native for water they would have been told to go find it for themselves, because of the barrier between the tribes. But as the men sat wearily, and the missionary watched, from the school emerged a little line of tiny African girls. On their heads they had pitchers of water. Shyly and fearfully they approached the tired bearers, knelt and offered their pitchers of water. In surprise they bearers took them and drank and handed them back, and the girls took to their heels and ran to the missionary. “We have given a thirsty man a drink”, they said, “in the name of Jesus.” The little children took the story and duty literally.
            • Would that more would do so! It is the simple kindnesses that are needed
      • But the opposite is also true
        • To help is to win the eternal reward
        • To cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble is to win the eternal punishment
          • The millstone here is literally a millstone turned by a donkey
          • To be cast into the sea with that attached was certainly to have no hope of return
          • To sin is terrible but to teach another to sin is infinitely worse
        • God is not hard on the sinner, but He will be stern to the person who makes it easier for another to sin, and whose conduct, either thoughtless or deliberate, puts a stumbling block in the path of a weaker brother or sister

The Night the Sports World Stopped

About a week ago, the sports world stopped here in the United States. I’ve never seen anything like it. In fact, I don’t think any of us have. During a Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, Bills Safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after making tackle.

Now sports injuries are not that uncommon. I think most of us that are sports fans are kind of numb to most injuries, because they tend to happen. But this was different. We didn’t know how different at first, but the longer the training and medical staff was on the field, the stranger the whole situation felt. Then cameras started catching the faces of Hamlin’s teammates and competitors, and we knew without a doubt that this was different.

Hamlin ended up in cardiac arrest, receiving life-saving CPR on the field before being transported the to hospital, where it wasn’t certain if he would survive or not. Thankfully, it seems that we are experiencing a happy and encouraging outcome, as Hamlin is slowly recovering. It will be a long process for sure, but he survived and has been in communication with his team and even made public statements through Instagram.

But like I said, the sports world stopped. The situation in Cincinnati that night was unprecedented, and it led to some unprecedented responses as well. First, an NFL game was suspended and eventually cancelled because of the dire nature of the situation. And this was a game that was very important in the playoff picture. The NFL, most definitely, made the right decision in suspending the game. No doubt about that.

The biggest unprecedented response, however, was ESPN announcers, analysts, fans, players, and anyone else you can think of not only bowing in silent prayer, but publicly stating that the best thing any of us could do at the time was to pray for Damar Hamlin. In fact, the most surprising thing to me, was an ESPN analyst, the following day, openly and vocally praying on air. 

And as Hamlin has continued to improve, and started making public statements, he has been very appreciative of the prayers, and in fact, asked that people continue to pray for him. It seems that this unprecedented event in the sports world has led to unlikely people not only turning to God in prayer, but doing so openly. I’m excited about that, actually. That’s a good thing.

But over the years, that has happened at different times. People tend to turn toward God and pray when the unthinkable happens. This country became a praying nation in the days following 9-11-2001. As the days went along though, that open prayer and longing for God in public waned, and people went back to their normal routines. Hopefully, however, there were some people that changed for the better during that time, and kept praying and developed a relationship with God. And that is my prayer right now during this Damar Hamlin injury. That many that have openly turned to God in prayer will continue to pray and come to truly know the One True God.

There has been a negative side, in my opinion, in this situation. And it has been from Christians. A few years back, Tim Tebow would kneel and pray on the field before and even during NFL games. He was absolutely blasted by commentators and analyst for being so open about his faith and praying. And now that some of those same analysts and commentators have been talking about praying for Hamlin, I’ve seen a lot of Christians complaining and saying that they all owe Tebow an apology. Really? I don’t agree. And here’s why.

First, let’s celebrate that attention has been drawn toward our God. That people are actively seeking Him, even though it might just be for a few days. Who knows how many people might be permanently impacting in positive ways in a relationship with Jesus Christ through this. And that is something to celebrate, again in my opinion.

But what about Tebow? Shouldn’t he receive an apology? I don’t know Tebow, but I think I can answer that and say that that is not what he would want. Think about it. Was Tebow kneeling and praying to get approval from other people, or was he doing it because he has a strong relationship with God and wanted to make sure he was keeping things in the right perspective? If his faith is real, then it was keeping things in the right perspective and giving God the glory. And I think that’s what it was. He wasn’t doing it for the approval of man. He was doing it for God. And through his actions, on and off the field, Tebow has introduced the idea of a relationship with Christ to a lot of people.

Plus, there is the fact that Christ warned all of us that the world would neither understand or like our relationship with Him. The world doesn’t like anything that is not like the world. And putting our relationship with Christ first and foremost is definitely not like the world. That’s what Tebow was (and still is) doing, and that is why the sports world hated on him praying so much. 

Jesus warned in John 15 that this would happen to His followers.

18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their law might be fulfilled: They hated me for no reason.

John 15:18-15

And John, Jesus’ disciple that recorded that warning for us to read, had his own warning for us in I John 3.

13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

I John 3:13

In other words, if we are living for Christ, then we should not be surprised when the world around us hates us or disagrees with what we are doing. For a few days, the world has come together to pray for Damar Hamlin. It is my prayer through this situation that many will continue to pray to God and come to know Christ after all the attention to this event has returned to normal. But at the same time, there are always going to be those that pray when things are bad, and then go right back to the same old, self-reliant lifestyle when things improve. Many times, we that are following Christ do the same thing, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

Keep praying. Follow Christ. And when the world hates you for it, keep doing it anyway. Be bold in your faith, no matter what anyone else says about it, and don’t be surprised when attacks come. If attacks aren’t coming, then maybe you need to reevaluate how well you are showing Christ in your daily life. Thank you God, for healing Hamlin. Thank you God, for the faithfulness of Tebow when he had the platform to point others to You. Most of all, thank you God for Christ, who sacrificed Himself for our sins. May will life faithfully, in such a way to honor that sacrifice. In Christ’s name I pray, AMEN!

Easter 2020 Announcements

Hey North Boulevard Christian Church!

We are in the middle of Holy Week; The last week of Jesus’ physical life on earth before going to the cross for our sins. This past Sunday was the day that we call the Triumphal Entry, when Jesus and His disciples came into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the cheers and excitement of the crowd.

But in just a few days, the mood around Jerusalem had shifted. As Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover that would soon become known as “the Last Supper”, the Pharisees and the other members of the Sanhedrin had already agreed to pay Judas to betray the Messiah. Of course, they either didn’t understand that He was the Messiah, or they just didn’t care because He was changing things too much.

I wanted to take a few minutes today to encourage you. Spend time with Christ this week, thanking Him, communing with Him, and realizing that the pain, humiliation, and heartbreak He went through during His betrayal, beatings, crucifixion, and death were all for you. He went to the cross because He love you so very much.

I know throughout our country, the Friday after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. But I really think an argument could be made for the Friday of Holy Week for being known as the true Black Friday. Hell, Satan, and the world thought that they had won when Jesus died on Friday. The skies around Jerusalem even turned black, and the ground shook. It was Friday…

But Sunday is coming. The day that we celebrate the realization that death has been defeated. The gates of hell have been stormed. Sin has no power anymore, and Satan knows his fate…that is if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior! And it is my hope and prayer that all that hear or read these words already know Him that way, or will come into a saving relationship with Him through baptism and living your life for Him.

I never dreamed that we would be celebrating Easter the way that we are going to be this weekend. As our church buildings sit empty, I can assure you that the grave of Jesus is empty as well. And it has been for 2,000 years…and will be for all of eternity. He has risen, and has opened the door for us to have a relationship with God that our sin had caused to be shut. Praise God!

That being said, I want to tell you a few things about what is going to take place this weekend as we celebrate the Resurrection together, but on our own. I plan on going live on Facebook around 8:00 AM Sunday morning for a short devotional that would have been our Sonrise service. I hope you can plan on joining me for that.

Then, at 11:00 AM, if all goes as planned, we will be premiering a video on our Facebook page (facebook.com/nblvdcc) and my Youtube channel. To access it on Youtube, just go to youtube.com and search Kraig Birchfield. It will include a welcome and announcement time from a special guest, a communion meditation from Chad Logan, and my Easter message. This is a different Easter for me, even if we weren’t having to meet online. I’m doing something I’ve not done before. We are starting a new sermon series this week, and I’m excited to share it with you. I normally end a series on Easter Sunday, but this year, we are beginning a series called “I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That”. We’ll be looking at some of the toughest sayings and teachings of Jesus over the next ten weeks.

And I thought it would be fun today to give you a little preview. So, I have included my introduction to our Sunday message for you today. 

Today, we’re celebrating Easter. I never dreamed that we would be doing it in this manner, but let’s not forget why we celebrate in the first place.

Jesus Christ, Son of God, came to live a human life, did so perfectly, and then willingly allowed Himself to be crucified, which is arguably one of the worst ways ever conceived to die, and then three days later rose from the dead, paying the debt for our sin. That’s what we celebrate today, and even with most of the church buildings across this nation empty this morning, we hold out hope because the grave is empty as well!

Here’s the thing that we have to realize. If Jesus really came back from the dead, which I believe with all my heart, then we have to obey what He says. If He didn’t, then we shouldn’t pay any attention to it. That means that we have to listen and apply all that He said to our lives, even the things we find hard or wish He hadn’t said.

If you are joining us today, and you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior through baptism and following Him, then I want to encourage you to pay attention to this message. There are going to be some very tough things that we look at this morning, but please stick with me to the end.

I’ve often told people that if I’m not stepping on toes at times, then I’m not really doing my job as a preacher. But that includes me. I often am stepping all over my own toes, because I haven’t gotten all of this perfect myself. So, let’s lace up our metaphorical steel-toed boots, and let’s see where God is taking us today!

Have you ever found yourself reading through the Bible and come across a statement and think to yourself, “Man, I really wish Jesus hadn’t said that?”

I hope that this preview may pique your interest. Share it with others. Invite them to join us, again at 8:00 AM Sunday on Facebook Live for a short devotion, and then either on our Facebook page or my YouTube account at 11:00 AM (or anytime after that).

God Bless and stay healthy! 

It’s Friday…

Hey North Boulevard Christian Church!

I wanted to take a few minutes today to update you and where we are at with regards to services and leave you some encouragement.

These are fluid and difficult times. With Governor Tate Reeves’ announcement this week of the statewide shelter in place order, along with much prayer and contemplation, we have decided that for the foreseeable future, we will only be hosting our services online. We are asking you to stay home and join us on Facebook each Sunday. 

We are asking that you set aside time to have communion with your family. Read a devotion and have prayer on your own, and spend time with God. If you don’t have juice and communion bread, that’s fine. Use what you can. The important thing is focusing on the sacrifice of Christ, not the bread and juice. 

Also, we want to encourage you to continue to give to the church if you so choose. You can do that by sending it to our P.O. Box 472 Amory, MS 38821. If that doesn’t work for you, contact me and we’ll make some arrangements.

This week, I will be preaching at 11:00 AM, and we hope that you will all join us on Facebook live if at all possible.

This is a very tough decision, and it is not one that we take lightly. It is not that we feel the government should be telling us what to do as a religious organization. But we feel that it is prudent to encourage all of us to stay home whenever possible. 

Here is the other side of it. We live in an age of public opinion and outrage. We’ve been talking at great length about living on mission and sharing Jesus with as many as possible. We don’t want to do anything to hurt our witness or mission either. Seeing and hearing the opinions of many either online or at other workplaces about churches that are continuing to meet has made us realize that we might actually be doing more harm than good by continuing to offer live, in person gatherings.

I’ll be the first to admit I despise that it has come to this. It pains me to not see each and every one of you at least weekly. But it’s time to go this route for the time being. Without going into a lot of detail, this virus has gotten close to home this week. We have always pushed caution, but it’s time to take it a step further. Kelley and I are fine. We have not been experiencing any symptoms or anything like that, but the spread of this virus has potentially hit very close to home in Amory.

Here’s the great thing. We are the church. The church is not a building. The church is the people. And we can worship and fellowship from afar. We live in an age of technology that allows us more connectivity than ever before. While we never want to encourage you to stop meeting together as Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us; 

24 And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, 25 not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 CSB

We don’t have to be physically together to stay connected. Call, video chat, or write letters to one another. Be the church without being gathered. We can get through this together because we know the God we serve is ultimately in control of this whole situation. Maybe He saw that this world, all of us included, needed to take a step back and slow down.

I know this is a scary time. It’s not a time that any of us saw coming, and the fear of the unknown is a real thing. I challenged you last week to look for the good in this situation. Likely, it seems to be getting harder to find the good. But I promise you there is good coming out of this situation. We are getting a chance to slow down and reconnect with God in a deeper way if nothing else.

You may be asking with all the uncertainty, fear, and panic going on, how can you ask us to stay positive. Well, I want to take you to one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite professors from my time in Bible college. I know that it is not exclusive to him, and likely you have heard it before. But it was Dr. Jon Weatherly that I first heard this from in my Introduction to the Gospels class. With Easter being just next week, I think it an appropriate reminder for us today.

We would be discussing something in class that seemed like bad news, whether it be the status of the people, the rage and plotting of the religious leaders, or even the despair of the disciples after Christ’s arrest. Those are all dark times, and it seems that there is nothing good to come out of those situations if you don’t know the rest of the story. Dr. Weatherly would pause, and tell us “It’s Friday…but Sunday is coming!”

Do you get what he is saying? Christ died and was put in a tomb on Friday. Satan and all of Hell thought they had won. The world looked lost. But Sunday came, and Christ defeated death, Satan, and Hell once and for all. A lot can change in three days. 

Now, I know that this situation we are in is probably going to last for longer than three days, but I promise you when the disciples were in their state of despair between Friday and Sunday, it felt like an eternity. This may feel like it will never be over. That our world is going to continue to spin out of control. 

But you see, Easter is not going to be cancelled. Yes, we may be having to do something different, but nothing is going to cancel the real meaning of Easter; Jesus Christ being raised from the dead! My mom sent me a picture on Facebook the other day that said “Easter cannot be cancelled. 2,000 years ago, all the forces of hell tried that. They failed.” And it contained a picture of an empty tomb.

So, I want to leave you with this thought. This world is in turmoil. And it may get worse before it gets better. It may seem that there is nothing but despair, fear, and panic. But our God has got this under control. He sees the big picture. It’s Friday…BUT SUNDAY IS COMING!”

Spiritual Gifts Survey

We are talking about what gifts we can have as Christ followers this Sunday evening at North Boulevard Christian Church.  If you have never taken a Spiritual Gifts Assessment, feel free to take one of these below.

It is important to not only figure out what our Spiritual Gifts are, but it is equally important to develop and use them. I recommend not only taking this survey, but also retaking it annually, as our gifts grow, develop, and change as we grow in Jesus.

Spiritual Gifts List (Lifeway)

Spirtual Gifts Survey (Lifeway)

Spiritual Gifts Assessment (1)

Didn’t See It Coming

You hear the phrase all the time. You’ve probably even said it yourself. “I didn’t see that coming”. It’s usually said around a time when you are caught off guard by something, whether it be a plot twist in a television show or movie, an unexpected health diagnosis, a huge change at work (possibly getting laid off or fired unexpectedly), or whatever else catches us off guard.

The problem is that there are things that catch all of us off guard, that we don’t see coming, that maybe we really should. There are warning signs, but for whatever reason, we just don’t see it coming. Last year, I had the opportunity to be on the advanced reading team for a book that was released to the public on September 4, 2018. That means I had an advanced copy during the summer of 2018 so that I could read it before it was published, and then help promote the book on social media once it was released. The book? Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges that No One Expects and Everyone Experiences by Carey Nieuwhof.

If you don’t know who Carey is, he is a leading voice in leadership and communication in the North American Church. He is a former lawyer and founding Pastor of Connexus Church in Canada. You can check out his website at www.careynieuwhof.com. The book was one of the most insightful and impactful books that I’ve read recently. Carey is very relatable, writing from personal experiences covering seven challenges that we will all more than likely face at some point. They include; Cynicism, Compromise, Disconnection, Irrelevance, Pride, Burnout, and finally Emptiness.

Starting towards the end of August (maybe September) we are going to be going through a sermon series looking at each one of these challenges that Carey covers. While the book will be a small part of the series, we will be looking at these challenges in scripture. I’m sharing this with you now because some of you may want the opportunity to read along with the book during this series. Didn’t See It Coming will be supplementary to the series, and will not be necessary to keep up with us. The series itself will not just be straight our of the book either.

If you are interested in the book, Amazon has it for the Kindle for $11.99 or Hardcover for $14.69. The following is an excerpt from a review that I posted on Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak blog at crosseyedjesusfreak.com last year: 

“Carey writes with a style that is so easy to read, yet he deals with topics that are not always the easiest to diagnose. His mix of stories from his own life that relate to the topics along with practical steps to get ahead of the issues hits so much on a personal level, that many of the pages felt like I was reading my own story. He is relatable and it is very easy to understand that Carey is writing from a genuine desire to help others through some of the hardest issues that he has personally faced in his life and in his leadership.

All leaders in the Church NEED to read this book. All leaders in any kind of organization need to read this book. Honestly, and I am not trying to exaggerate, everyone needs to read this book. Carey exposes some of the greatest threats to living a life of purpose, and shows how to overcome them. He suggests a relationship with Jesus is the best way to live, yet he writes in such a way that those that do not know Jesus will be able to benefit from this book. Don’t get me wrong, he presents the gospel, but he is not overbearing in his presentation.”

Freedom!

Freedom!

The Fourth of July is just around the corner. It’s actually been my favorite holiday to celebrate for as long as I can remember. There is just something special about it. In fact, when Kelley and I first got engaged, we had planned to get married on July 4, 2009, but due to some employment issues for both of us at the time, we had to postpone that date. 

I don’t know if it’s the fireworks, the food, the fact that it’s summer, or a combination of it all that makes it my favorite to celebrate. One of the biggest factors, however, is obvious. It’s celebrating this nation’s birth. Our freedom. This country was founded on the idea of freedom. And while some of that freedom seems to be under attack today, we still stand proudly as a free nation.

We have the freedom to have the jobs that we want, to live where we want, to own whatever type of vehicle that we can afford, to travel around the country, and most importantly to me, to practice religion openly and freely. That’s what the colonists came here from Europe for. Religious freedom.

But it’s not this nation that gives us true freedom. As much as I love this country, and celebrate the freedom we have, our true freedom comes from a relationship with Jesus. Jesus, with His willing sacrifice on the cross, and God bringing Him back to life, set us free from the constraints of sin. We now only have to accept this freedom. And that should be what we celebrate more on the Fourth of July, and every other day of the year, for that matter.

Freedom found in Christ doesn’t necessarily mean that we are free to do absolutely anything that we want, but neither does the freedom that we have as Americans. We are free to choose, but there are consequences for our actions. Jesus set us free from being slaves to sin, but that means we have to walk away from sin. We are still going to mess up and sin, but it means that we are not controlled and constrained by sin anymore. 

I remember when this first clicked for me. It was such a freeing and exhilarating experience. Sin still tries to reign us in and control us, but as Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:13-14; “For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are free, but we should not use this freedom to continue to sin. That is Paul’s thrust in Romans 6 when he writes about not continuing to sin so that God’s grace would increase. We are free from sin, and should use that freedom to become more and more like Christ, not continue in our sin. 

If you’ve never realized the freedom that we have found in Christ, I encourage you to dig in and study this idea. It is such a freeing experience. Jesus has not only paid the price for our sins, He has broken the chains that sin has had on our lives. While I remember when I realized this freedom for the first time, it is something I long to help others experience. I’ve had the privilege of helping others make that realization in the past, and I don’t know that there is anything better other than a first time confession of Christ. 

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t celebrate the Fourth of July and the freedom that we have in this country. I’ll still be celebrating that this year. There is nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of great things about this country. But what I am arguing is that we should be celebrating the freedom that we have found in our identity as a Christ follower above and beyond celebrating this country. We are free in this country. But even if those freedoms get stripped away, if you are a Christ follower, then you are still truly free.

Jesus stated in John 8:34-38; “34 Jesus responded, ‘Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. 37 I know you are descendants of Abraham, but you are trying to kill me because my word has no place among you. 38 I speak what I have seen in the presence of the Father; so then, you do what you have heard from your father.’”

There is Still Good in This World

If you look at the media or even social media sites today, you could literally think the world is falling apart. There is so much negativity, arguing, blaming, and just flat out nastiness being thrown around. And it gets really heavy at times if you let it.

Depending on where you look, the two sides in American politics are blaming each other and claiming that the other side is trying to destroy America. Either “they” are going to come take all the guns, or “they” just want this country to turn into the wild west where we just go around shooting anyone we disagree with. Either “they” want to turn this country into a socialist nation, or “they” only care about the rich getting richer. I could go on, but getting too much into politics just drives me crazy.

But it’s not just in politics that you see all of the negativity. It even boils over into sports, something that should be a fun past time. Arguments over which team is the best, or even worse, arguments from fans of the same team because they don’t think the organization made the right decisions. I love my TN Volunteers, but I cannot stand to read comments on fan groups on Facebook most of the time. They are either calling for a particular coach to be fired, complaining about how a certain team is playing, or finding something else to complain about. They forget that the men’s basketball team made it into the “Sweet 16” for the first time in a long time. They just had one of the best seasons in school history, yet there is always something to complain about.

And if you’re anything like me, all this negativity that fills our society today weighs really heavy at times. I don’t know exactly why, but part of my personality sees all the little negative things taking place and forgets that there are still great things going on in this world. I have to purposefully look for the good. So, that’s my challenge for you this month. What are some good things that are taking place in your life, in your town, state, this country, or around the world? Find them. Focus on them. Yes, we have to deal with negatives sometimes, but we need to focus on the positives.

In fact, I truly believe this world is in a better place than what the media would have us believe. They focus only on the negative, very rarely giving us any good or positive news. There is a quote attributed to comedian Rob Schneider that I believe has a lot of truth in it. He says, “If you turn off the news and just talk to your neighbors you’ll find that our great country is far more harmonious than you’re being told.” I’m not saying there are not problems. There are. But what are good things that are going on?

So here is my answer to the challenge I laid out for you. There are a lot of positives taking place, especially here in Canton. One of our own led the SWOSU Lady Bulldogs to second place in the nation in NCAA Division II Basketball. While they didn’t win the final game, they turned in a magical season, and had this whole area united in pulling for them. 

There are groups of students preparing to clean areas of our town. And speaking of our town, I can honestly say that I have never lived in a more generous community. If anyone is in need of anything, it seems that the need is taken care of immediately. Now let me get to some specifics.

We had a “love” offering for our summer intern, Kody Haas, to help with some car needs he has. This church body stepped up and gave around $2,000 to help him out. Kelley was trying to sell turtle backpacks to donate to kids battling cancer at Children’s in OKC. In just over a week, this town stepped in and bought ten backpacks that we were able to personally deliver (unfortunately, we did not get to give them directly to the kids).

But most of all, I want to highlight the most positive, good news of all. In the last few weeks, we have seen two young people give their life to Christ! That’s what this is all about. That is why our church exists; to make other disciples. And it should be celebrated every time it happens. In view of that, I want to take a minute and say congratulations to Maddy Acre and Nate Lang on making the best decision of your lives.  This church body celebrates with you, and we commit to helping you in your walk with Jesus. But I also want to thank you. Thank you for reminding us that there are good, positive things happening in our world, and especially here in our community!