We have been going through a study on Spiritual Disciplines from Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Discipline at North Boulevard Christian Church. For those that haven’t been able to attend, yet want to participate, I am going to be positing my notes here each week. We are actually through the first section of the study, the Inward Disciplines, as we talked through the last of the four this evening. So for this first post, I will be posting all four sets of notes from this study.
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!
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)
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.’”
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!
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.”
Hate thought it won 17 years ago today. That’s what drove people to fly planes into buildings. And they thought they would destroy what they hated. Buildings came down. People lost their lives. For a few moments, it seemed that hate had won. As a senior in high school, I watched all the coverage, and I was numb.
It was a beautiful, crisp, fall like day in east TN when I got the news about what had taken place. The blue sky outside didn’t seem to fit what was happening in the world. And again, it seemed that hate would win. But then the unimaginable happened. People started to rally around one another. But it was bigger than that. They started to rally around each other, but at churches. This nation turned to God.
And hate doesn’t win when we come to God. People in crisis came to God all across this country, trying to make sense of what happened in NYC, Washington D.C., and a field in PA. And hate was defeated. At least momentarily. As lives got back to normal, people decided they didn’t need to rally to God any longer (human nature took over). Until the end comes, hate will always try to win.
Hate thought it had ultimately won some 2,000 years ago, on a hillside outside of Jerusalem, when Jesus Christ was crucified. Hate celebrated that day. The Son of God was killed by humans, and hate thought it had won the victory. And, from the outside looking in, it appeared that was the case. The sky grew dark. Jesus was dead. His followers were devastated. All hope seemed to be gone.
BUT! Three days later, Jesus walked out of that tomb, raised back to life through the power of God. He defeated death. He defeated sin. He defeated hate. And the best news we could ever have is that those defeats are permanent. Yes, death, sin, and hate will continue to think they can win and will try to bring us down. But Jesus defeated them through His death and resurrection. Those that place their hope and trust in Him, no matter how hard life gets, know that the victory is already won. And it’s not through their power, but through the power of the ONE who created everything.
Hate may think it can win. It may have thought it won on 9-11-01. It definitely thought it won when Christ was crucified. But it was ultimately defeated through the same act that it tried to conquer. Because of that, it can never truly win. Trust in Jesus. No matter how bad life gets, as Christ followers we have hope. The victory is set. The war is won. Stay faithful in the battle. HATE DOESN’T WIN!
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.
I have never really done a video specifically for my blog before, but a few weeks ago I was able to set up a huge surprise for my wife with the help of Em. And better yet, we caught it all on camera. Kelley (my wife) and I had not seen Em in over three years, and Em flew into OKC to surprise Kelley. Hope you enjoy!