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Man’s Greatest Vulnerability

What is man’s greatest vulnerability? Woman.

It transcends background, socioeconomic status, education level, belief in God and culture. Man’s attraction to a woman is a wonderful God-given thing, but when it goes unmanaged issues quickly arise.

Our culture baits and begs us as men with out-of-bounds temptation. Those temptations can bring affairs, strip clubs, pornography, prostitution and addiction into our lives. Sexual mistakes are hard to bounce back from and derail us from living out our full purpose for God. This temptation has been around throughout all generations.

The Manology sermon series continued with more on Samson. (Listen to the podcast here.) Despite his flaws and mistakes, God still wanted to see him succeed. God desires the same for us. He designed us to be men and women of strength. Vulnerabilities put us at serious risk, but we can do something to protect ourselves.

Samson’s greatest vulnerability was always a woman. Every time we see him get into trouble, he is somewhere he shouldn’t be with a woman he shouldn’t have been with. Samson ends up bound, in prison because of his inability to see the vulnerability of his situation. In Judges 16, Samson finds himself no longer able to escape the consequences of his sin.

How can men protect themselves? Set boundaries in your life.

Creating borders will provide the restraints and limitations we need to keep us from the danger zone. Boundaries shouldn’t be set right at the edge. We need a margin to stop us when we push beyond the limits of those restraints.

Pastor Michael Cook laid out four clear areas to set boundaries that provide protection from the danger zone.
1. Never be alone with the opposite sex. We must guard against any emotional spark or temptation. Think of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. He got out of there so quickly even his coat was left behind. Don’t wait until there’s an issue. Set your boundaries in daily life. Even in your work, don’t be alone with the opposite sex regardless of meetings or projects.
2. Don’t confide in a member of the opposite sex. Sexuality is always emotional. It fires up the connection.
3. Install an internet filter. Put it on everything. Pornography will always leave you empty and often addicted. The ramifications are devastating in a marriage.
4. If you feel your heart drifting, tell someone. In the midst of a struggle, we need to share it with someone. It helps face the challenge and holds us accountable.

Single or married, being disciplined in these areas can make all the difference in a man’s life. Boundaries keep us from falling over the edge and keep us from being bound and in prison. The impact is immediate as well as enhancing future relationships.

Sin always comes to light. Either we bring it to light or God will. Samson’s vulnerability for women went unchecked for twenty-one years. Maybe he thought he was beyond consequences. God could have exposed him whenever he wanted to.

If you find yourself in the danger zone, God may be giving you a unique opportunity to go a new direction on your own right now. God is never absent. He is patient and slow to anger. Do something about it today. Reset your boundaries and be honest with those in your life. Meaningful relationships are worth tremendous investment.

God loves you too much to leave you in your sin. – Michael M. Cook

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The Coming of Peace

By Kristi Sullins

Have you set up your nativity set yet?  For many of us, the pieces of the story of the Messiah are part of our Christmas decorations. You may have one with plastic pieces, perfect for little hands or an heirloom set high on a shelf to be seen but not touched.

The sight of the nativity is peaceful. Everyone looks serene. Mary is clean with hair brushed and clothes just right. Joseph stands proudly to the side as shepherds and wise men adore the quiet Christ child lying in the orderly hay bed. Even the animals of the stable are quiet and reverent.

It is perfectly peaceful, yet it does not clearly reflect the reality of those involved. The truth behind those figures is something all of us can connect with.

Look at Mary, the young pregnant mom. We all know the angel came and explained the blessing bestowed upon her. He told her to fear not, but then she was on her own, explaining the unexplainable. On her own to face her betrothed, her parents and her neighbors. She had followed the rules, been a good girl, and was doing the right thing. Suddenly, the plan changed.

Look at Joseph, the good Jewish man. He was just going along with his normal life. He had developed his carpentry trade, and had a young bride promised to him. His life was mapped out. He would marry Mary, live in Nazareth and work to provide for his family. Then Mary explains how she was carrying the Son of God. His virgin bride is pregnant and giving him a story that is beyond belief. The betrayal is hard, but a visit from an angel stops his plan for ending the engagement. Now he is a man married to a woman who is carrying the Son of God. On top of it all, he has to get his little family to the town of Bethlehem because of a census. Instead of being with family and friends at home they find themselves in a stable with nothing but animals for company. The plan changed.

The shepherds were low on the rung of importance in society, and yet found themselves thrust into God’s plan by a group of angels who scared them to death while they were in the fields. The wise men set aside years of their time to follow an unknown star because they knew it was a sign of the promised Messiah. Maybe you can look at the stable and remember the city full of people forced to follow a government edict no matter the strain or difficulty it caused them.

The nativity is a reminder for all of us that lives were altered forever with the coming of the Prince of Peace. Nothing was easy, and plans were interrupted.What a wonderful lesson on peace. Peace is not positive feelings in the good times or settled feelings when everything is going our way. Peace is a goodness and rest even in the deepest trouble.

The peace of God is anchored to a small manger in Bethlehem and a cross at Calvary. They stand as proof that God willingly gave us His Son, and He freely gives what we need (Romans 8:32). He, God, is our source of peace. He was Mary’s peace facing an unknown future when she willingly said “I am the Lord’s servant”, and He was Joseph’s peace as he chose to submit his feelings of hurt and betrayal to obedience to God ‘s plan. In return for their trust, God remained faithful, giving them all they needed to get through.

God offers all believers that same beautiful opportunity for peace. Through Philippians 4:7 we are promised a peace that will be beyond our understanding. Philippians 4:9 tells us the God of peace will be with us. John 14:27 (NLT) tells us that the peace God gives us is a gift, and it is a gift impossible for the world to give us but one God freely gives.

Peace, true peace, comes from God and can be seen all throughout the Christmas story.

When plans change there can be peace. When we don’t understand what is going on there can be peace. When circumstances are out of our control, emotions are out of control, situations seem less the ideal there can still be peace.

Look at the Nativity again. That small child in the middle is our reminder that the Prince of Peace came, and He left us His peace. In this world, we will have troubles, but take heart, that child in the manger has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Shalom

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Enough Grumbling

By Robert Thomas

This past Sunday I got to visit home in Albuquerque after spending my first semester at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. I am so happy to have this experience, and I am blessed in many ways. I have a great job, I am learning a lot about ministry, I have a family at home who loves me and is supporting me, and I enjoy life in the dorms. It seems like a complete picture.

However, recently I have been walking through a matter of my heart, which I have struggled with ever since moving to Fort Worth. I have been unnecessarily bitter about the silliest thing: I share a dorm room with a roommate.

It feels even sillier saying it out loud. How can I be in the midst of such an incredible experience, but I still harbor bitterness in my heart? It is childish and selfish; in spite of the blessings in my life, I have focused on this one thing I was unhappy about. Ignoring the fact that God has ordained that I would live with someone and that it is also a blessing, my heart was cold and angry.

I often found myself wondering why God would allow this to happen. In other words, I was acting spoiled rotten.

I have recently been reading about the Israelites in the books of Exodus and Numbers. They were a spiritually young people during this time. The Bible tell us the story of how God chose this people, then promised to protect and bless them. God had a master plan for Israel, as Exodus 19:3-6 tell us, and He intended to grow and protect them as they strove toward being the people He commanded them to be. However, the Israelites had a difficult mindset, and their tendency was to grumble and complain, responding faithlessly and without gratitude to the blessings their God was giving them.

Their story is characterized by rebellion and dissatisfaction with God, because when they heard the plan of God, they did not like it. Their reaction was like picky children rejecting their dinner. Even if they vocally agreed to follow God’s commands, their hearts were revealed in their attitudes and actions. The first generation of people coming out of Egypt, the generation God rescued with His own hands, died in the wilderness because of their lack of endurance, fear of God, and lack of faith in Him. It is tragic.

Does this not remind you of the attitudes people have today? Our world needs a savior now more than ever. People need the hope and forgiveness that comes from Jesus Christ, but even today, we are a people with the same attitude as the Israelites in the wilderness.

This is often true for believers and non-believers alike. Even when we think we see God working in our lives, we always find room to critique. We indulge in bitterness, and we are all too quick to cry out to God in dissatisfaction. We blame Him for our discomfort, focusing on ourselves. We grumble against Him, and in so doing, we show contempt for the things God has allowed us to go through. Just like how I found something to complain about at seminary, many times we will singularly focus on our own dissatisfaction, and we step into sin.

We should not act this way. As Job says in Job 2:10, will we really accept blessings from God, and not trouble? Why should we be so quick to argue against the wisdom of the God of Creation? Is our plan really better than His? Are we really so faithless as to grumble about our discomfort, when it just reveals our shortsightedness? Does God not work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28-29)?

Remember this during this holiday season, and think about making the resolution in your own heart to avoid grumbling and complaining. Instead, put your faith in God, showing gratitude for the things He does, and honor Him with your actions.

Listen to the sermon podcast here.

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The Coming of Hope

By Kristi Sullins

The short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is typically associated with chaotic schedules, increasing debt and exhaustion. Somewhere into the journey of adulthood we lose the wonder of waiting. The anticipation of parties with friends, school being out, and the unknown of Christmas morning is traded for duty, demands and disappointments.

Enter the need for Advent. Advent comes in this in-between time, and it calls us back to the wonder of waiting. We are reminded of more than just the reason for the season, but the reality of the wait.

The first week of Advent is a time to have a renewed focus on the hope given to those who were waiting for more.

More than just sacrifice; more than just slavery; more than just struggle. Isaiah was one prophet God used to give His people hope in the One who would come to them. He tells us in Isaiah 9:6 that God was sending the One who would be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace.

This was God’s promise to His people. It was a promise that would require patience for it would be about 700 years from the time this promise was given to the time it was fulfilled. That time was not filled with peace and joy. It was filled with bondage and the unknown. 400 years of that time was filled with silence from the God who had never left them. Even when they had wandered from Him He had spoken to them through leaders and prophets. Then silence. The silence forced them to hold to the hope given to them through the prophets, and then they waited. Waited through dark years when rulers changed, the law was forgotten, traditions were lost and holding on to hope was a struggle. Still they waited and hoped for the promise of the one who was coming for them. Coming to bring them hope and a future.

What are you hoping for today?  Have you reached a point where you would honestly say you no longer “waste” your time with hope?

I encourage you to start this season of Advent off with a renewed prayer for hope. We no longer have to wait for our Messiah, and His coming offers us hope. Hope in a God who keeps His promises in His own perfect timing. Hope in a God whose plan is perfect. Hope in a God whose love is without measure, and freely offered to all who would seek Him. Hope, not in a world that is constantly shifting, but in a God who sent His Son to be the savior of the world.

Would you take time to reread Isaiah 9:6-7?  What do you hope for?  Are you struggling with the patience it takes to wait for God to fulfill His promises?  Hebrews 6:18-19 reminds us that because of the unfailing character of God we have an anchor for our hope. It is time for Advent, our season of hope.

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Common Mistakes Men Make

By Kevin Polich

Common mistakes men make stem from allowing impulses to drive their behavior. As men, we see something we want and we take it. What feels good in the moment is often our undoing.

We can learn much from Samson and his inability to control his behavior. Have you ever read through the story of Samson from start to finish, letting it soak in? Read Judges 13-16 here.

Samson’s impulses continued to be his undoing. You can listen to the sermon series, Manology, via podcast here.

Pastor Michael M. Cook detailed four major mistakes that come when we are driven by our impulses. (From Judges 14-15.) Lust gets us in trouble. Samson wanted the Philistine woman regardless of anything else. We disregard advice from those we trust. Samson ignored the warnings of his parents. When we disregard the advice of the believers in our life, we are in great danger. Drunkenness brings nothing that improves of builds up a man’s life. Samson made a huge wager while under the influence. Anger is destructive. Samson blamed everyone else for his problems. His anger and revenge became a cycle that went on and on. He tried to justify it when he should have taken responsibility.

“When as men are we going to rise up and take responsibility for the choices we make?” – Michael M. Cook

Think about those “Why did you do that?” moments. It’s defeating when we’ve blown it. What can we do to live the way we should? Here are three things to help us be the men God has called us to be.

  1. Resolve to do what is right. James 4:17 Is there an area in your life where you know what you ought to be doing, but you aren’t doing it right?
  1. Don’t be afraid to cry out to God. Samson cried out and God revived him. It seems crazy, but how many times has God met me in my troubles? Despite his destructive ways, God still gave Samson new opportunities.
  1. Remember where God will meet you. God meets us in our brokenness, not in our pride.

There is hope for every man. God can build us into the men we should be. We must seek Him and trust Him. We must be willing to cry out to Him in our brokenness. Moving beyond the common mistakes men make, we can be more and live a life of freedom.

 

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The Potential in Every Man

By Kevin Polich

Potential is God’s gift to us in our lives. What we do with it is our gift back to Him. – Michael M. Cook

Every man is given an incredible amount of potential. Pastor Michael M. Cook began his Manology sermon series on Sunday. This series is an opportunity for us as men to be intentional about who God wants us to be. It’s a chance to do better and be more. It’s may also be a tough few weeks to spark growth.

Pastor Cook gave us four God-given gifts that set the standard for living out our potential. (Listen to the podcast here.)

You are set apart to do great things for God. (Judges 13:1-5) God has given each of us special skills and has a purpose for us. It isn’t the same for each of us, yet we are prone to comparing ourselves to others. Where do I measure up? Those comparisons can take a toll on a man’s self-image.

God measures differently. He looks at who He made us to be and His potential.

You have great parents. (Judges 13:8) Parents are significant and set the standard. Regardless of good or bad parents, God’s potential isn’t hindered. A rough background can motivate us to give better than we got. Solid parents give us a solid start. It’s still our own actions that matter.

You have a great name. (Judges 13:24) Samson ruined his great name and blocked his potential. As a man, name and reputation is valuable. If your name is tarnished, get to the business of restoring it.

You have a clear direction in life. (Judges 13:5) Living with intention? If things are not going well, it may not be an issue of time, but an issue of priority. We each choose how we will react in every situation. What matters most and has top priority in your life?

As Pastor Cook discussed, men exist with a level of fragility. There is a quiet fear of failure that tugs at our core. But it shouldn’t define us. When we seek God’s potential, there is nothing to fear, yet it doesn’t always feel like that way. Am I making a difference and anywhere near my potential? God has set each of us apart but sometimes the question remains, “For what?”.

“Even if he can’t put words to it, every man is quietly haunted by the questions, ‘Am I really a man and have I got what it takes’”? – John Eldridge from Wild at Heart

This sermon series may be the spark that sets a fire for us to discover our potential. Are you ready for more?

 

 

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Manology

By Pastor Michael M. Cook

Starting this Sunday morning, November 13th, we will begin a man-focused sermon series called MANOLOGY. For a number of years, the American family has witnessed a larger and larger decrease in the central male figure in the typical household. Statistics only touch the surface of the monumental challenges this causes in our society.
• 23.6% of US children (17.4 million) lived in father absent homes in 2014. US Census Bureau, 2015

• In 2011, children living in female-headed homes with no spouse present had a poverty rate of 47.6%.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services 2012

• Disengaged and remote interactions of fathers with infants is a predictor of early behavior problems in children and can lead to externalizing behaviors in children as early as age one.
Ramchandani, P. G., Domoney, J., Sethna, V., Psychogiou, L., Vlachos, H. and Murray, L. (2013) Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54, 56–64.
• According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of children with an incarcerated father grew 79% between 1991 and 2007.
Glaze, L.E., & Maruschak, L.M. (2010). Parents in prison and their minor children. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Stats.

The good news after reviewing these alarming trends is that God has a clear plan that can successfully be followed and achieved. The men I visit with on a weekly basis desire to be a positive influence in societal, marital and parental responsibilities. They have a heart to do so, yet most are lacking the skills and direction to make it happen.

I want to encourage all of our men not miss a single Sunday through mid-December. Each of the next four weeks will contain powerful, scriptural information concerning a man’s potential, his greatest vulnerability, his common mistakes and hidden strengths.

Pray for a great result from this power packed series. I look forward to seeing each of you as we take part in Manology.

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Church Choices, Life Choices

By Karen Polich

Choices aren’t always easy. At times there is not a clear answer on right and wrong. Continuing the sermon series, Becoming the Church We’re Called to Be, Pastor Michael M. Cook laid out how to handle the “grey areas” of life in 1 Corinthians 8. Listen to the podcast here.

At first glance, this text may not seem applicable to us today, but look deeper. The Corinthians expressed personal liberty in their behavior and saw no issues with their choices because they weren’t choosing something that went against their walk with God. Their knowledge of God was how they determined right and wrong. Paul pointed out several problems with this.

While knowledge is essential, it is not sufficient. Ultimately, love limits liberty.

In this case, the food didn’t bring them closer to God or push them farther away. The issue was the impact of decisions on the new believer and non-believer.

Their situation is a prime example of the grey area. These areas bring real challenge. How do we live them out? How do we answer questions from the grey area that our children and grandchildren ask?

We are free in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:1) But what if fully exercising our freedom causes others to head down the wrong path?

Love is the key. Knowledge says go for it, love says, how does this impact someone else?

 

 

Pastor Cook gave five terms to assist the believer in filtering right and wrong.
Excess. Do I need it? Is it right or wrong for me? Hebrews 12:1
Expedience. Is it useful? 1 Corinthians 6:12
Emulation. Is this going to allow me to walk as Christ leads? How would Jesus handle this situation? 1 John 2:6
Example. Would this represent righteousness? Is it a good example to others? Romans 14:13
Evangelism. If I do this, would it benefit those who do not know Christ? Colossians 4:5

As Christ followers, we have a biblical responsibility for each other. At times, we may need to give up our liberty and freedom out of love for another. What are we teaching with what we do? The last thing we want to be is a stumbling block to someone else. In the grey areas, we have to decide if we will choose “me” or “we”. Choices may not hurt me, but we must consider others.

What life choices are you making in the grey areas? When the choice isn’t clear, remember LOVE is the key.

 

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The Spiritual Growth of a Child

By Pastor Trey Sullins

PART TWO (Read PART ONE here.)

Once a child has accepted Christ as their savior, a parent’s next question is often, “When is my child ready for baptism?”

Baptism is a wonderful act of obedience any believer can take. It is the outward demonstration of what Jesus has done in their life. For children, it can be both an exciting time as well as a frightening one.

The Bible teaches that baptism is the physical act of obedience that occurs after a person has given their life to Christ and accepted His gift of eternal life. There are some religions that have “infant baptism”, which is designed to insure salvation and dedication to God for the child before they can make that decision for themselves. AFBC believes the Bible teaches that as parents we dedicate our children to God and train them in His Word, but that is not salvation. It leads them toward salvation which they must choose on their own.

I like to use the analogy of the wedding ring. I ask the child if they know what it is. Often times they do and I am able to take it off and hand it to them. I then ask the question, “If I take off my wedding ring am I still married?” Some will answer yes and some will say no. Then I ask them, “If you put the ring on, does it make you married?” Then most of them get the idea that it is just a ring. I go on to explain that the ring is something I wear to show people that I am married. The ring doesn’t make me married, but is a symbol of my being married. The ring is like baptism. When you ask Jesus to come into your life and forgive your sins, you get baptized to show other people that Jesus is now your “boss”.

Recently we had a number of the children in our church experience baptism. It has raised a number of questions among the other children. They want to know about baptism. What does it mean? Can I do it too? This is a great time for parents to begin a dialogue with their child to determine if the child is ready for baptism.

You will want to ask questions like:
“Why do we need to be baptized?” The obvious answer is, “Because God said so” or they might say, “To show others that Jesus is my boss.” You might also inquire, “Why do you want to be baptized?”

This type of conversation with your child will give you a better understanding of their level of comprehension.

When you feel your child is ready to be baptized, you can then communicate with a pastor that your child understands that they are a sinner and have accepted Jesus into their life and is ready to show others, through baptism, that they are now followers of Christ.

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Foundations of Marriage

By Karen Polich

The Bible lays out the foundations of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7: 1-16. Paul gives a clear picture of a Godly marriage. A God built marriage is centered in Christ and soaked in His Word. Not married yet? Seek God first. Married to a non-believer? Seek God and honor the vows you have taken.

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin

On Sunday, Pastor Michael M. Cook shared the biblical outline for the foundations of marriage and three keys areas of a Godly marriage; happiness, harmony and permanency. Listen to the podcast here.

We should experience happiness in a Christian marriage. God was the creator of marriage and established the sanctity and purity of a monogamous relationship. It is between one man and one woman. Happiness comes when we honor our husband or wife above our own desires. If happiness is lacking, we need to go to God in prayer. He is the ultimate authority on marriage.

We should exhibit harmony in Christian marriage. God calls for physical, psychological and spiritual harmony in marriage. Marriage is a partnership. It is meant to be lived out together. When God is at the center, marriage bears fruit. Harmony is essential and needs to be in place in each area. When harmony is lacking, lean into each other and make the effort to bring harmony.

We should expect permanency in Christian marriage. It is a life-long contract, not an experiment. Longevity is part of God’s design. When the Word of God is at the center of marriage, it establishes stability. Make prayer a priority. A God-centered marriage brings serenity into the home.

“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short. ” – Andre Marios

Allow the Holy Spirit to reign in your life. Make Him the center of your marriage. God has laid out the foundation to build a marriage designed by Him.