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!

Our Most Important Election, Ever?

Hey friends of Thoughts from a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. I haven’t posted a lot of thoughts on here recently, but I have a few that have built up to the place that I need to share them. So, hopefully that means I’ll be sharing here more regularly, at least for the time being. That being said, let’s jump in.

Our country is divided right now. There is a presidential election taking place in just a few days, it’s being touted as “the most important election in our history”. But is it really? Honestly, if you look back at past elections, many of them were called the most important election ever. It seems that each and every time an election cycle comes around, people freak out and claim that there is more at stake today than ever before.

The problem is that many I’m hearing from, and seeing completely freak out over the election, are fellow Christ followers. Before I go any further, I want to make something clear. I absolutely believe that we should all vote. It is one of the rights that this nation was founded on, and we should all exercise that right whenever we have the opportunity. The other thing I want to stress is I will never tell you WHO you need to vote for. I have my firmly held beliefs, but I don’t feel it is my place to TELL you who or how to vote. What I will say is if you are a Christ follower, then you need to prayerfully consider each and every vote you cast. Pray. Weigh the options. Vote with a clear conscience. And then trust God!

Now back to the issues I am seeing. We’ve basically got a two-party political system, and you have both parties trying to claim that they are in the right. And you’ve got Christ followers on both sides saying that you can’t be a Christ follower and vote the other party. Here’s the thing though. Neither party perfectly encapsulates what we should be as Christ followers. That’s because they are of human origin and will not perfectly fit what should be in the Kingdom of God. There are platforms, policies, and personalities on both sides of the aisle that are very much unlike Christ.

A friend, mentor, and fellow minister, Mike Edmisten, wrote this recently.

“Conservatives struggle with the social demands of Jesus. Liberals struggle with the ethical demands of Jesus. Christians accept the demands of Jesus and struggle with human political philosophies.”

I think that encapsulates what we all should feel as Christ followers. Christ first, human politics a far second. And because of that, we have to remember that no matter who wins this election, God is still King. 

If Biden wins, God is still in control. If Trump wins, God’s got this. God is sovereign, and His will will ultimately play out, no matter who is the President of the United States. Neither Joe Biden or Donald Trump are America’s last hope. No human being is our last hope or salvation. That title belongs to Jesus Christ, and Christ alone. He is our hope. He is our salvation. And only trust and living for Him gives any of us any chance in this messed up world. 

I get it. If your chosen political candidate loses, it might feel like things will get bad. And they might. But GOD’S GOT THIS! He’s in control. He is going to put in place who He wants as President. It may not be what we want or think should happen. But God’s agenda will be done despite how we might mess it up. I say it again. TRUST GOD!

I saw this sermon video four years ago, in the lead up to the Trump/Hillary election. And while there are some dated references to that election, the jest of the sermon fits today very well. It was preached at Ozark Christian College’s chapel service about the sovereignty of God. And I want you to take the time to watch this. Really pay attention to what this man says. Because, again, no matter who is President, God is on the THRONE! Pray, research, vote, by all means. But in the end, trust God. Take some time to watch this sermon.

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 ( and my Youtube channel. To access it on Youtube, just go to 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! 

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 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 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.”

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!

Let’s Have Some Joy!

A few weeks ago, Kelley and I had an opportunity to attend a concert that we had always wanted to see, but never had been able to. And it wasn’t your normal concert either. We’ve seen a lot of Christian musicians over the years, and while there was some music involved, that was not the focus of the evening. Who did we see? A man by the name of Tim Hawkins.

If you aren’t familiar with that name, Tim is one of the most well known Christian comedians around. We’ve watched his videos for years, so when we found out he was going to be at a church in OKC in January, we just could not pass it up. It was a great date night, with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and then on to the show.

We went in expecting a good night, and lots of laughs. The night, however, exceeded our expectations. Tim Hawkins put on one of the best shows I have ever seen. My ribs were almost hurting from laughing harder and longer than I had in a long time. If you ever get a chance to see him live, I would highly recommend taking advantage of it.

You might be wondering why I’ve taken so much space in the newsletter talking about a date night that Kelley and I had over a month ago. I have a point, so stick with me for just a minute. First, dating doesn’t stop when you’re married. Marriage is a lot of work, and taking the time to intentionally spend time with one another is so important in strengthening that relationship.

My main reason for writing about our experience with Tim Hawkins is something else though. I want to encourage all of us to find joy and laughter as much as we can. I’m not talking about overlooking difficult times and pretending that nothing ever goes wrong. That would be lying to ourselves and others. But as Christ followers, we should be enjoying life, as long as we are keeping God in His proper place and not finding enjoyment in things that go against His word.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in how hard being a Christ follower is. And there are difficulties in following Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that we should only focus on the hard. Yes, there is work to do in sharing Jesus with others that don’t know Him yet. But there is freedom and joy that should be found in our relationship with Jesus. In fact, I would argue that Christ followers should be the most joyful, cheerful, positive people in this world.

Taking time to laugh at good, clean humor is therapeutic. I am convinced that God has a sense of humor, and that is why we enjoy laughter so much. And as we were recently reminded at the end of Sunday school by Joyce Robison; “We all need to walk around with a smile on our face.”

What My Dog Taught Me About Trusting God

*This article will appear in Canton Christian Church’s Newsletter for December 2018*

Kelley and I adopted a puppy in May. Neyland is now just over a year old, and he’s a mix of retriever, shepherd, and probably some pit. This little guy has brought a lot of happiness in our house, and we absolutely love having him.

Neyland and Kraig in TN at Thanksgiving

We just got back to Oklahoma after a few days in Tennessee to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family (and Kelley’s parents and brother came in too). Neyland made the trip with us, and he handled the drive like a champ. I was really impressed. In fact, most of the time, we didn’t even know he was in the car because he was just hanging out in the backseat either asleep or chewing on one of his toys.

While he handled the trip well, and even got along with everyone he met, the night before we left Tennessee to come back home, he got really nervous. He wouldn’t leave my side, especially when he saw me start packing the car with all of our luggage. And then it dawned on me. He was afraid that Kelley and I were going to leave him at my mom’s house.

The morning that we were going to leave, we left him with my mom for about an hour while we went and had breakfast with Kelley’s parents and brother. When we got back to my mom’s to pick him up, she told us that he had stood at the top of the stairs and whimpered the whole time we were gone. I had told him over and over that he was going to come home with us, that we would not leave him there permanently. But when we left, with everything in the car except him, he became a nervous, anxious, wreck. It didn’t matter how much we had done to take care of him, or how much we love him. For some reason he could not trust that we were going to bring him home.

And then I realized something. Don’t we do the same thing with God? Continue reading “What My Dog Taught Me About Trusting God”

Advance the Kingdom!

I’m a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. That’s the title of my website, and I always sign off on anything written here as Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. There is good reason for this. Briefly, let me tell you why, before I jump into my thoughts for today (if you want to read the full post of where Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak came from, you can do that here). I’m crosseyed. No, not in a physical sense. It’s just that I simply try to live my life with my eyes fixed on Jesus and what He did for all of us on the cross (Heb. 12:2). When I can keep that perspective, everything else seems to just fall into place. Life isn’t easy, by any means, but there is purpose and something bigger than me. Jesus Freak is simply a reference to, in my opinion, the greatest Christian rock song of all time…Jesus Freak by dc Talk (read the lyrics here).

That’s the filter I try to live my life through. But I don’t always live up to it. I mess up. I sin. We all do. That doesn’t excuse it, but that’s just the reality of our imperfect human nature. That’s why we needed Jesus to pay our price for us on the cross in the first place. Continue reading “Advance the Kingdom!”

Happy Father’s Day

Earlier this month was the anniversary of my dad’s death. Nineteen years since I’ve been able to talk to him. And I’m not writing this in an attempt to say “woe is me” because I don’t have a dad. I’m very grateful for the fifteen years that I was able to have with him before he died. He was a great dad, though not perfect, because none of us are.


So as I sit here and think about Father’s Day, I want to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. I miss him every day, but again, I am thankful for the time that I had with him and the lessons he taught me. He instilled a love and importance in me for my relationship with Jesus. He showed me what it meant to be a husband and a father.

But I was just fifteen when he died. I still had a lot of lessons to learn (and still do for that matter). As an only child, I didn’t have an older brother to help along the way. But I did have some other men that stepped into my life and made sure I had that father figure in my life. They never pretended or intended to take the place of my dad, but they made sure I wasn’t on my own either. So, as I say Happy Father’s Day today to all you dads out there, I want to take a minute to acknowledge some men that stepped in and helped fill a hole in my life. If it wasn’t for these men, I don’t think I would be the man or minister I am today.

Thank you Tom Berry, Tom Tucker, Barry Tolley, Curtis Booher, Clint Andrews, and my father-in-law Kevin Whitsett.

You all took an interest in me at different times and made sure that I had positive male role models to look to when needed. While I hope my dad is proud of me and who I’ve become, I hope the same from each of you. I wouldn’t be the Crosseyed Jesus Freak without you all!

If you read this and you know any of these men I mentioned, please share this with them. Most of them are not on social media.