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.
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.”
I don’t do this often, but I want to bring your attention to an upcoming sermon series that I am really excited about. We have just a few more weeks of our “I AM: Jesus” series, and starting May 26, we’re going to be spending some time at the lake. No, I’m not talking about physically doing our services at the lake here in Canton.
Canton Lake is almost the life blood of this town. It draws in tourist during the summer, bringing in money for the town, and the businesses in town. If you drive around the lake just about any time during the summer, you’ll find it full of boats, people fishing, camping, and teens hanging out around Sandy Cove. The camping area, especially on holiday weekends, are almost completely full.
I have been told multiple times about the time when OKC had to pull water from the lake because of a drought and how it really damaged the town. I love driving out around the lake and just taking in its beauty. What I’m getting at is that Canton Lake is a very important area in and around the lives of us who live here in Canton.
During Jesus’ three plus years of ministry, He and his disciples spent a lot of time around the Sea of Galilee. Many of Jesus’ interactions, miracles, and teachings that we read about in the four gospels are found around the lake. We see miraculous catches of fish, healings, the power of who Jesus is, and even a restoration after a betrayal, all set around the lake. The lake that Jesus spent a lot of time around was very important in the lives of the disciples and those that lived around the Sea of Galilee as well.
And it’s important for us as well. We can learn a whole lot from Jesus’ interactions around the lake. Some of my favorite and most meaningful stories to read in the gospels are those around the lake. One in particular is the restoration that I mentioned above, though I will wait to go into detail about that until we are going through this series.
I don’t know what it is about a lake. Maybe it’s the beauty and peacefulness that just allows us to relax and take things in. Maybe it’s the fact that we are out in God’s creation, and therefore we are more open to listening to what God has to say to us. There is just something special about spending time at the lake. So, join us this summer as we spend the “Summer at the Lake”.
One thought has been dominating my mind recently. Where is our urgency? There’s different ways of expressing it, but we have to start acting like the news that we proclaim for our lives needs to be shared with others. Below is the link to our 9-2-18 sermon. In it, I pose a few tough questions that hit me just as hard as they hit anyone else.
Where is our urgency? What have you done today to advance the Kingdom? How much do you have to hate someone to believe in heaven and hell and not share your faith with them?
*Due to technical difficulty, our sermon did not get recorded for 8-12-18
God’s word is not only meant to infiltrate our minds, it’s meant to infiltrate our lives. Learning God’s word should always lead to living God’s word. There’s a difference between knowing and doing. Many of us know what God’s word says, but are we doing what it instructs? We need to hunger and thirst not just for knowledge, but for making a difference in God’s Kingdom as well!
That was our main takeaway from our message yesterday in our continued Radical: Living Differently than the World Expects series. So let me just ask this question. Do you actively try to read the Word of God on a regular basis AND then apply what you read to your life?
Here’s the deal. All to often, people look to the Church as their main source of spiritual food. Whether that be for us individually or expecting the Church to be where our kids get their main source of what it means to follow Jesus. But when you look at the Word of God as a meal (which is an analogy that is found in multiple places in the New Testament), then if you are only feeding when you are at Church, then you are going hungry. Even worse, if that’s the only time you are helping your kids to eat, then your kids are starving.
We need to be in God’s Word daily, because if we are not, then we will have a hard time applying the principles and truths that are found there to our lives. And it isn’t good enough to just be reading His Word without application. Knowledge is not the goal. Knowledge does not feed the soul. Only a deepening relationship with Jesus nourishes the soul, and that happens as we mature in our faith. We mature in our faith by applying what we read to our lives. Do you see how all of this is connected?
There was many years that I didn’t get this right. I expected to be fed by the Church and didn’t proactively try to feed myself. But the Church gets to see you maybe 4-5 hours a week. That is if you attend every single function that is available. If we aren’t feeding ourselves outside of this time, then we potentially starve.
Why is this important? Because we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we are on the narrow path that leads to life since we made a decision to be baptized sometime in our life. We think that decision is enough and we don’t have to grow in our relationship with Jesus. But that is simply not the case. Jesus warned in Matthew 7 that there were going to be those in the last days that thought they were on the narrow path, but would be told in the end to depart from Jesus because He never knew them. Matthew 7:21-23;
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
How do we do the will of God? By learning His Word and applying it. By devouring His Word. By becoming hungry not just for the knowledge found in Scripture, but for the life-giving change that we find there when we start living our the principles found in God’s Word.
I thought about challenging our faith family to read a certain amount of Scripture in a certain amount of time. There are many different plans, such as reading the Bible in a year. Or an even more audacious plan of trying to read the entire Bible in 90 Days (one that I have tried many times and failed), or even reading the New Testament in 30 Days. There is nothing wrong with any of these plans. But I chose not to make a specific challenge. I get that everyone has different reading levels, skills, and comprehension. I didn’t want someone to feel obligated to finish a reading plan just to say that they read it without necessarily getting anything out of it.
So my challenge is just to be in the Word daily. Develop a hunger for it. And then do everything you can do to apply it. Again, knowledge is not the goal. Life change and becoming more and more like Jesus on a daily basis is the goal. James 1:22-25
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
We started a new series yesterday titled “Radical: Living Differently Than the World Expects”.
The base for the series is a book by David Platt, Radical. I read this book years ago, and honestly, at first I wasn’t real sure about how I felt. That’s because what is described as radical living in this book is really just how Christians are supposed to live anyway. There really isn’t anything radical about it. That is until I realized that I don’t know very many people, myself included, that actually live up to what Jesus says His disciples will be.
While we are using this book as the jumping off point in the series, the sermon content is not coming from the book. So, as a supplement to our messages, I would recommend reading the book on your own if you are interested in going a little deeper. You can order it here.
In this first message, I posed a question that I think is at the heart of our discussion, and I’ll begin with that here as well. What, if anything, has following Jesus cost you? All too often in our American culture, following Jesus doesn’t really cost us anything. Yes, we may get laughed at or told that we are only using Jesus as a “crutch”because we can’t deal with life on our own. But that really isn’t very costly, is it?
Jesus told His disciples that following Him would cost them their lives. And it should cost us ours as well. No, I’m not talking about physically dying because we are a Christ follower, although that may be the case for some of us. But we are to die to our own desires daily. We have to surrender our will for that of Jesus in our lives. And that is a daily decision.
We all have things in our lives that we unfortunately seem to place in front of God or Jesus. And it is different for each of us. What we need to do is to identify those things and lay them at Jesus feet, and make Him our top priority. He demands nothing less. That is exactly what our main text for this message states. In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus lays out very plainly what it means to follow Him and be a true disciple. He says you must hate your father and mother, your siblings, even yourself, and, you must carry your cross and follow Him. And if you can’t do that, then you cannot be His disciple.
What does He mean by hating your family and even yourself? Are we really supposed to hate them? Can we really have nothing to do with them? Absolutely not! But what Jesus is showing us here is that we cannot put anything in front of our love and devotion to Him. He must be our first and most important priority, meaning that in our love for Him, our relationships with others pale in comparison. In other words; Our love for Jesus should take priority above all others in our lives!
That may cost us dearly at times. Friends and family may not understand this. It may hurt our relationships with them, especially if they are not Christ followers. This may make what we choose for a career or hobbies different than what we would actually choose on our own. Following Jesus, and by that I mean truly following Jesus the way that He wants, is a costly thing. His disciples got that. They left everything to follow Him. Read Matthew 4:18-22, which is one of the accounts of the calling of His first disciples. They left family, friends, and careers to follow Him. And they were never the same.
Sometimes we have to die to ourselves daily, even hourly, because in our human nature we keep falling back to what we want instead of keeping Jesus our number one priority. So, we have to keep coming back and dying to ourselves. And that is exactly what He calls us to do. In Luke 9:23-26, Jesus states;
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Deny yourself and take up your cross daily. You don’t do that for yourself. You do that because you want to follow Jesus. You do that because He is your number one priority. Is it difficult? Absolutely! But you know what else it is? It is so worth it because He is so worth it!
I’ll leave you with this for now. Read this section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Chapter 3). Paul knew what it meant to follow Jesus. He knew what it cost. And he knew it was better by far than anything he knew before.
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowingChrist Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
I’ll pose the question again. And I want you to really think through it. Because your answer to this question may show you exactly where you stand in how you have been following Jesus. What, if anything, has following Jesus cost you?