Jesus says all sins will be forgiven…except for one particular sin. That particular sin has to do with blasphemy against a particular person. That particular person is the Holy Spirit.
But who is the Holy Spirit and what does He do? What is blasphemy and why would blaspheming the Holy Spirit be unforgivable?
These are great questions with answers we can find in the Bible. It just takes a little bit of digging. Once we start digging, the Lord will direct us as we discover the answers.
Watch or listen to the replay of our study in Mark 3:28-35 and dig with us as we discover the treasure just below the surface of these verses.
Last week, we considered how much Jesus wants to be with us. So much so that He has appointed us to be with Him forever. Fellowship with Him is first, foremost, and forever. Everything else is out of the overflow of that fellowship with Jesus—everything else becomes secondary.
But if the secondary becomes the primary way we find our identity—if what we do for Jesus is how we identify ourselves—we’ll be in trouble. God didn’t save us so we could just do amazing things for Him. He saved us so that we could enjoy fellowship with Him—forever!
Our identity, purpose, and worth in every season of life comes from this fact—Jesus wants to be with us and He has appointed us first and foremost to simply be with Him.
Watch or listen to our study of Mark 3:20-27 as Jesus shows us what His radical strategy for ministry looks like.
During His ministry on earth, Jesus regularly withdrew from the busyness of life and ministry to ask His Father what He should do. Fellowship with His Father was so essential to Jesus that He prioritized His time so He could just be with His Heavenly Father. If Jesus needed to do this, how much more so us?
Watch or listen to our study of the Gospel of Mark 3:7-19 as we unpack the importance of regular times of withdrawing and retreating with God so that we might enjoy what He saved us for—fellowship with Him.
The Herodians, the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Saducees…there were many groups who saw Jesus as their enemy. In Mark 2:18-3:6, we observe three interactions Jesus had with these people, who weren’t really enemies from Jesus’ point of view. Although they came at Him in the craziest and pettiest of ways, Jesus didn’t consider them His enemies. To Him, they were hurting people who hadn’t yet found the courage to confront what was really going on in their hearts. Jesus didn’t take it personally. Instead, He gently led them again and again to God’s word and to God’s work.
Watch or listen to other messages in our series from the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus once said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” This statement confounded and upset the religious leaders of His day. Jesus was eating with sinners, ministering to sinners, forgiving sinners, healing sinners, and (worst of all) calling sinners to be His followers. In short—Jesus was getting into trouble…for all the right reasons!
So why were the religious leaders bothered with Jesus’ statement? They thought they were already righteous. They couldn’t compute in their self-righteous hearts how the Messiah would come for sinners, but not for them.
But what they had failed to see is that Jesus really had come for them too. But something needed to happen in their hearts first. They weren’t really righteous—they only thought they were.
Watch or listen to our study from the Gospel of Mark 2:1-17 and hear how Jesus comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.
We remember the details of what occurred between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, but we must recall the heart of it all: “God [the Father] loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”
The Son and the Father—the two of them went together. Often, we look at this week called Passion only from the perspective of the Son and rarely from the perspective of the Father—and almost never from the perspective of both.
But don’t forget that the Son and the Father—the two of them—went together. This is the reason we turned to the book of Genesis on Resurrection Sunday. The scene in Genesis 22 vividly paints the picture of what God the Son and God the Father did together.
Palm Sunday is the day we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A day foretold by prophets, a day for celebration, and day for weeping. It was a day that Jesus was concerned—not for Himself, but about us. In this study, we considered what Jesus was doing and what was happening one week before His resurrection and a few days before His crucifixion.
When reading Paul’s epistles, there is often a lot going on that can touch on a number of different topics. We see that in 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul writes about the right motives for ministry. He wrote so well about this topic because his motives were often scrutinized.
You see, Paul had his number of critics in Corinth. Many tried to discredit him and his message. Now there were a number of ways Paul could have handled this situation, but he chose the most direct way—by addressing the criticism head on.
So in this portion of his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes in a way that helped this church—and us—see the right motives for life and ministry.
Watch or listen to our study as Pastor Allan Benson led our time in 2 Corinthians 5.
Grace, authority, power. These are the qualities of Jesus we’ve observed so far in the Gospel of Mark. In Nazareth, people marveled at His gracious words. In Capernaum, people were astonished at how Jesus taught with authority. And He demonstrated His power when He healed Peter’s mother-in-law.
He is able to do everything with all power and authority. And He is also willing to do it with all grace. Not just for those in Nazareth and Capernaum. He is willing to heal YOU and cleanse YOU of the debilitating, disfiguring, and disgusting effects of sin.
All He has to do is say the word and you will be clean. And yet, as we see in our study, He is willing to do so much more.
Initially, the earthy ministry of Jesus was supposed to be primarily preaching and teaching God’s word. In Mark 1:21-39, the people of Capernaum hear Jesus speak as He begins His earthly ministry of teaching and preaching in their synagogue. This must have been a startling experience for those gathered in that small synagogue. Here is Jesus—the Living Word—teaching, preaching, and proclaiming the written word!
Often, miracles followed the message—and we see that in this section of scripture. But ultimately, Jesus reinforces His primary purpose of preaching, teaching, and proclaiming God’s Message. He made that message simple: the kingdom has come; you must be born again to enter in; and right living is the evidence of your citizenship in this kingdom.
While we don’t know the volume or the tempo with which Jesus spoke, we do know the content and the style—He really believed what He was saying. Watch or listen to our study from this past Sunday and marvel at the simplicity with which Jesus taught and served.
“Follow Me.” Two simple words spoken by Jesus that proved to be difficult to obey for four fishermen. In Mark 1:16-20, we read of one of times Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him. It wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't be the last time Jesus called these men.
In fact, we considered at least four different times Jesus called these men to be His disciples. But why would Jesus have to say, "Follow Me," to them so many times? Why would they hesitate?
It's a question we asked and considered our own hesitations to follow Jesus. And yet, despite their hesitations and our own, Jesus continues to call.
Watch our listen to our study of Mark 1:16-20 and learn just how much Jesus wants to be with you.
There is often an initial romance after God calls you and sends you. But after the romance of that initial calling, there is the reality of a time of testing. This testing may be so severe that it tempts you to question your calling and His love for you.
And yet, God is just as much in control in that time of testing as He was when He first called you. You don’t have to thrive during this time of testing—you just have to survive.
Even for God’s own Son, His initial calling into earthly ministry was immediately followed by the reality of ministry (see Mark 1:11-12). All of it was preparing Jesus for a more fruitful, impactful and compassionate ministry.
We considered this time of testing in Jesus’ ministry and how we can learn from it to prepare ourselves for times of testing in our own walk with the Lord during our study in the Gospel of Mark this past Sunday.
Centuries of significant prophecies are fulfilled in the first eleven verses of the Gospel of Mark. Two of the most influential men cross paths. Two influential ministries come to a crossroads. One man's ministry was ending. The other man's earthly ministry was just beginning. And to truly appreciate all that was happening in these few verses, we went back to the beginning—the the time when these two men were just babies in the womb.
The Gospel of Mark begins with one of the most subversive, controversial, influential, and important sentences written: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (Mark 1:1)
It is difficult for us as 21st century Gentiles to fully grasp just how dangerous and revolutionary it would be to write these words. It's only when we consider the context of the culture that this was written that we can fully appreciate how subversive this sentence truly is.
Life for the 1st century Christian was full of government overreach, persecution, and financial uncertainty. It was a time when the world needed hope—hope from a leader other than Caesar. Hope from a servant-leader who was not of this world. Hope from someone who had every right to be Ruler, but who chose to be a servant.
He came. He led. He served. And He saved. His name is Jesus.
The whole Gospel of Mark revolves around a singular verse: "For even the Son of Man did not come to serve, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45). This Gospel shows us how Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to lay down His life to set people free.
As we study this book and look closely and carefully at Jesus, we will hopefully become more like Him. Not that we would die on a cross for anyone's sin, but that we would be willing to lay down our preferences and our pride so that others can be set free.
This past Sunday, we wondered how we will be changed as we begin our study of the Gospel of Mark. Watch or listen to our study as we asked the Lord to transform us through His word.
The Gospel according to Mark was written in a time of incredible political and societal upheaval. A time when people were concerned about their children’s future. A time when quitting and running away was a tempting prospect.
Mark wrote this book for a specific purpose. He didn’t just want people to know about Jesus—he wanted them to know the grace of Jesus. How the grace of Jesus is sufficient to sustain anyone though any difficulty. How this amazing grace floods a heart with the love of God and renders fear powerless. How this grace is only given to failures and sinners.
Mark knew about this grace so well because he had failed. He had endured struggle after struggle that made him cherish the grace of Jesus more and more. But how did Mark come to know of this grace and who strengthened him with the grace of Jesus that inspired Mark to write a book about it?
Watch a replay or listen to our study as we considered this man Mark and the influence that the grace of Jesus had on his life.
On the first Sunday of every year, we review the history, vision, purpose, and practice of Refuge so that we can confidently answer these questions:
What are we doing? Why are we doing it? What does it look like?
Year after year, this study hasn’t really changed—but we sure have! As we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ, the Spirit of God transforms us from the inside out. That’s a promise God makes and fulfills through His Word.
And so we turn again to His Word to find the answers to those important questions—what are we doing? Why are we doing it? And what does it look like?
Watch or listen to our study from Sunday as we reviewed God’s vision for God’s church.
The final chapters of the books in the New Testament are interesting to study—since they are so rarely read. Many of these books were originally letters written to a specific person or group of people. We naturally start reading letters at the beginning—but even with the best of intentions, the end of the letters are not as often read as the beginning.
Like any letter, many of these final remarks are personal in nature. Some may seem unrelated or disjointed from one another, like a rapid-fire list of parting thoughts. It’s almost as if the writer has finished the majority of his persuasive argument and ends the letter with a list of practical ways to live out the faith.
We see this in Hebrews 13—and while these final remarks might seem disconnected at first read, they actually weave a rich and significant conclusion to this important letter to the Hebrews. Watch or listen to our final study of Hebrews and be encouraged by the great grace of our amazing God!
“And it came to pass in those days…”
So begins the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. It's interesting to observe the simplicity that Luke uses to describe the most amazing miracle that would ever take place—God becoming man. And it's interesting to consider the world at the time when Jesus was about to be born. In fact, if you listen closely to the second chapter of Luke, you'll hear the narrative of a young woman observe and consider, preserve and ponder what was happening—not only to her, but to the whole world.
“No training seems pleasant at the time. In fact, it seems painful. But later on it produces a harvest of godliness and peace. It does this for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
At times, running the race that is set before us is wearisome and discouraging. The difficulties we experience along the way may tempt us to slow down, to draw back, or maybe even turn our backs against any forward progression.
But as we’ve learned in previous studies, turning back isn’t an option for followers of Jesus. If we are disciples of Jesus, we need to be disciplined by Jesus. His discipline is not punishment but training, preparation for the work He has for us to do. When we allow ourselves to be trained by what the Lord allows in our lives, knowing every circumstance is filtered through His love and used for our good, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of righteousness in our lives.
God acknowledges the difficulties involved with following Him. He understands the hardships we face. But He doesn’t just passively observe them—He actively trains us so that we can endure the hardships to come. He is always bringing about His glorious purposes in and through us. Watch a replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study of Hebrews 12:4-13 as we gain perspective that allows us to endure the pain.
There is a particular race that the Lord has set before you. This race is grueling and extremely difficult at times. It’s not a sprint…it’s even more than a marathon. In scripture, we see that God acknowledges over and over again how difficult things can get. But like a good coach, He encourages us to lift our eyes past the pain to the prize that makes all of the agony and effort worth it. He stirs our spirits and renews our minds as we find a fresh wind—a second wind—from the Holy Spirit. We have the strength to go another mile with eyes fixed on Christ.
At times, running the race marked out for us is exhausting. Just ask the first century Hebrew believers who contended with outward cultural pressures, outward persecution, and inward fears. Just ask Jesus, who was despised, betrayed, and ultimately gave up His life. How did Jesus endure to the end? How can we follow His example?
Listen to our study of Hebrews 12:1-3 this past Sunday to hear how Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, coaches us to persevere. Watch a replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study and receive the encouragement you will need to endure difficult times.
What does it look like to live by faith? The answer to that question will help us understand what the writer of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Understanding this question begins just before and just after Hebrews 11. When we consider the context of this chapter (often referred to as the Hall of Faith), we gain a better understanding of what it means for the just to walk by faith.
What we find just before Hebrews 11 is an encouragement to not “cast away your confidence…” (Hebrews 10:35) followed by an exhortation to endure and believe (10:36-39). Likewise, just after Hebrews 11, we are encouraged to “run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
And in Hebrews 11, we read of men and women who clung to their confidence in the Lord and ran the race in the faith they received as a gift. Running as we should run—looking to Jesus and living in faith and by faith. Their examples of endurance give us encouragement as we “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
When we began our study in Hebrews, we said this book would be full of worship and warnings. Worship that encourages us to behold the glory of God in the face of Christ. Worship that results in us being transformed by His Holy Spirit. This book has certainly encouraged us to view Jesus and the glory of God in Jesus in a way that we aren’t used to.
But it is also a book of warnings. We need those warnings because there is no middle ground in following God–there is either hot or cold. Throughout the book so far, we have read a series of warnings that caution us against falling short of God’s best for us. The first warning we read in Hebrews 2:1-3 is repeated in various ways and intensity throughout the book—but none with more intensity than the warning we considered this past Sunday.
Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our message as we carefully considered this important warning in the book of Hebrews.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends