The Call to Ministry

 

By Mike and Becky Cook

The call of ministry in life is an ongoing commitment to the phrase, “Here am I, send me.”

It doesn’t state a location, a length of time or any other detailed requirements. It’s just a selfless, heartfelt surrender to go! At times, it causes deep pain as the grip of control has to be completely released in all areas of life. Many believers find in times of surrender, God has free reign to move in ways that are beyond our understanding.

Change brings struggle and struggle causes growth in our faith!

As we embark on our 5th journey of ministry we leave Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church with Philippians 1:3-6 on our hearts. We let go of an amazing church, precious church family members, a staff that is family and a state we will always LOVE!
We want to thank all of you for your sweet notes, cards, and gifts of love that were shared with us at our reception. Our hearts are full of gratefulness to God for the time we had with AFBC.
God has an amazing plan for His body of believers in Albuquerque and “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it!” The best is yet to come! Stay faithful to your part in this incredible body of believers and just enjoy watching God reveal Himself and His plan for the church.

With our deepest love and gratitude,
Mike and Becky Cook

Press On

By Karen Polich

Pastor Trey Sullins delivered Sunday’s message, teaching God’s Word and His plan for His church. Colossians 1:18a says, And He is the head of the body, the church. AFBC is wrapped up in Jesus. This is His church. We are called to be the hands and feet. In times of change, it is about moving forward in obedience.

“God will move in a mighty way. In times of change we are called to press forward, not shift into neutral.” – Trey Sullins

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Jesus is the head of the church. He sets the course. The body carries out the ministry of the church and is made up of all who claim to be followers of Christ. We are never called to move backwards or stand still in ministry. We are called to move forward and follow God’s plan for our lives and His church. When a pastor leaves, the ministry of the church doesn’t stop until we get a new pastor. The ministry continues and during this time, more than ever, each member should commit to serve and minister as God directs.

Don’t be like the children of Israel. When something they didn’t like happened, they complained and struggled. They resorted to what they knew from the past, forgetting all that God had already walked them through. The leadership of Joshua and the elders was strong and followed God. When Joshua and the elders died, the next set of leaders did not trust or follow God and began worshiping idols and trusting in other things. This led to the next generation of Israelites not knowing what God had done and trusting in His provision. This responsibility did not only fall on the leadership, but the people themselves. We are all responsible for our relationship with Christ and our obedience to what He has called us to. AFBC is God’s church to which you are called.

We are called to pray for AFBC, but more importantly, we are called to pray for the team of individuals that will seek God’s man for AFBC. Pray daily for each member. Pray that we focus on God’s agenda and not our own. We must stand firm and keep our eyes focused on Him. If not, we run the risk of the next generation not following God. Where are you today? Are you seeking His will and moving forward?  I am moving forward, are you going with me!

A Firm Foundation

By Karen Polich

Guest Pastor Dennis Garcia shared Sunday’s message, A Firm Foundation, from Matthew 7:24-29. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Life will always have difficulties, challenges and transitions. The foundation we build upon is what matters. One is eternal and one is temporary. Which foundation are you building life on?

“Jesus is the only foundation on which to build a solid life and a solid church. Every other foundation will fail you.” – Pastor Dennis Garcia

Pastor Garcia shared five steps for building a firm foundation.

  1. The Bible is our guide. (Psalm 199:105)
  2. Prayer is our life line. (Philippians 4:6-7)
  3. The Holy Spirit is our power for Christian living. (Galatians 5:16)
  4. The church body is our support system. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, John 13:34)
  5. The world is our mission field. God can use us to reach others.

Keep your eyes focused on Jesus and life’s challenges will not overtake you. A strong foundation will prepare us for anything.

Rejoice, He Makes Things New

By Karen Polich

Philippians 4:4-8 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

The Bible if full of stories about leadership changes. As AFBC embarks into new transitions, Pastor Cook’s message from Acts 20:13-38 focused on three areas tied to biblical transitions.

Accomplishment. God has done great things here. We’ve moved to a new location. AFBC has a people from all generations and the body is service oriented with a focus on others.

Affirmation. When things change, there is always and ending, neutral zone and a new beginning.

Anticipation. Stay close to God. He is about to make all things new.

Pastor Michael M. Cook reminded the church body of three reasons Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church’s greatest days are ahead of her.

  1. It’s a remarkable place. As a church, this place is full of people seeking to follow Christ.
  2. You know who you are and what God has called you to accomplish.
  3. There is strength in the balanced and diversified fellowship.

Take time today to pray for God’s plan. There are great days ahead.

 

“It Was Michael Cook Or No One” Celebrating 11 Years of Ministry

When Pastor Cook took the reins of AFBC the church was at an all-time low. Membership was declining and there was an internal struggle about moving to the west side. Church leadership was looking for a man, the man, that would lead them forward, into the promised land, you might say. God called Michael M. Cook to be that man.

“He was the only one. We didn’t have a second choice or even a third. It was Michael Cook or no one.” This is the story that Dr. Lenton Malry frequently shares about bringing Pastor Cook to Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church in January of 2006.

That was eleven years ago, and on Sunday, February 19th, Pastor Cook announced to the congregation that he would be leaving AFBC to accept a call at Oakland Heights Baptist Church in Longview, TX.

While serving at AFBC, the church made the move to the west side, first to Petroglyph Elementary School and in early 2010 into their brand-new home on Paseo del Norte. This past year, Pastor Cook led our church through the expansion of our children’s department, and now AFBC is home to a thriving Parent’s Day Out program in our new preschool hall. Now seven years later AFBC continues to grow and thrive.

Those years were not the easiest, and time and again, AFBC found itself in the midst of new challenges.  However, Pastor always put the people of the church first. He carried many home-cooked meals to members, sick or grieving. He counseled and prayed, mentored and taught, listened and encouraged, all the traits of a good shepherd. And he coached, one of the many gifts that come naturally to him. While at AFBC he has invested much of his time in developing a winning team, a team that will continue long after he has moved back to Texas, an accomplishment he can be proud of.

Now God has a new assignment for he and Becky. Oakland Heights is facing some challenges and God has asked him to step in. He will be missed, but we send him on to his new position with our prayers, knowing that God will use him again to do great things for His Kingdom.

Connection Offerings

By Karen Polich

There’s something about our habits. We usually do what we usually do. We usually don’t do what we usually don’t do. How do we make the shift? – Michael M. Cook

We all have a role in the body of the Church. Pastor Michael M. Cook wrapped up the Fragile Growth sermon series on Sunday. This eight week series focused on moving forward in our growth as followers. Connection Offerings, teaches from Colossians 4:7-18; looking at five people and their traits. What if we adopted these traits? Listen to the podcast here.

Availability (Tychicus). He was available and dependable. God is more concerned about our availability than our ability. Are we ready to say “yes” when He can use us?

Useful (Onesimus). He was faithful. We see in Philemon 1:11 that he had failure in life, but God still used him. Failure does not have to be final. In failures, we have a choice to give up or move on. It is important as a believer to have the capacity to move forward. God can do anything. There can be new starts and things can turn around. It’s all possible.

Reconciliation (Mark). There is a fine line between we are not right with each other and we are now right with each other. Choosing a church is simply a matter of deciding which group of radically flawed individuals you will commit your life to.

Be careful and be slow to write people off. – Michael M. Cook

Prayer (Epaphras). He was always “wrestling in prayer”. The opposite of prayer is self-reliance. What does a prayer warrior recognize? God is able to do things that we are not able to do. It is heavy, hard work. Not a prayer warrior? What would get you to become one? What can God accomplish that you can’t?

 Generosity (Nympha). Everything she had was at God’s disposal. Is this how we live? Much can happen when we have a generous heart and hold nothing for ourselves.

Whatever condition we find ourselves in, we are all in this together. What would it look like if we all adopted these traits, wrestling in prayer as we give and make ourselves available for His Kingdom? We are all needed somewhere right now.

 

 

WE TITHE TO GOD

 HECTOR & RENDI GONZALES
Most tithing testimonies start with “We didn’t think we could afford to tithe”. Our testimony is different. We didn’t think we could afford NOT to. Not because we had lots of excess money each month, but rather we had recently gone “all in” with our commitment to Christ. Nothing in our lives was more important than growing in our relationship with Him. Work, social engagements, sports, etc. were put second to Him. Notice we didn’t say finances. 

We were convicted with how can you say you trust God with your life, health, marriage and children but not your finances? How can you say to your children, “God will always provide,” if you are acting contrary by not tithing? To call ourselves Christians, to be true followers of Christ, and not follow God’s clear instruction to tithe made us walking hypocrites.

Could we afford it, no. But we often found money for things we couldn’t afford, so that really wasn’t a legitimate excuse. We decided that if God didn’t provide for our mortgage payment after we had given to Him, one of the pastors would have to provide us a comfortable couch to sleep on. It was then we took Malachi 3:10 out for a spin.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

It’s not often you get to test God, so if He says to test Him, who are we to not listen? 

Did we start with 10%, no, but we started with something that was uncomfortable and scary? It’s not fair to say we trust Him with something we could fit into the budget. We needed to start with an amount that forced us to put our faith in God to provide. 

Every time we’ve had an increase in finances we’ve increased our giving. There have been random increases that would make no sense if trying to understand by a human standard. God handled the IRS for us on multiple occasions. Every time God provided money we gave back to Him and He has truly opened the floodgates of blessings.

We don’t tithe to AFBC because we want to see our pastors employed. We TITHE to GOD. AFBC is just who God has gifted our money to. Our tithing isn’t contingent on anything other than our relationship with Christ and our commitment to loving Him the best we can and following His direction in all aspects of our life. We don’t give because of the tax break at tax time. We give because nothing we have is ours, everything is His to start with and we are more interested in our eternal kingdom in heaven than anything on earth.

Dealing with Others

By Karen Polich

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:2-6

Christian life is difficult at times because we keep getting in the way – Michael M. Cook

Pastor Michael M. Cook continued the Fragile Growth, sermon series in Colossians, with Dealing with Others. Listen to the podcast here.

Christ followers have an important responsibility in how we deal with “outsiders”. The differences between someone who knows Christ and someone who doesn’t are huge. Jesus was separate from sinners in that He was set apart (Hebrews 7:26), but he was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). He kept Himself separate from the sin while being a friend.

We are to emulate Christ as closely as we can. Christian separation does not mean isolation. We should be insulated, but never isolated. The Gospel is needed most in the darkest places. To live as God as called us we can look to Colossians 4:2-6. Pastor Cook’s key sermon points give us clear direction from God’s Word.

Our character must be prayerful. We are instructed to pray continually, to be devoted to it. This can be difficult because most of us would rather do something than pray for something. In prayer, we are lifting it to God. Prayer lifts the Gospel above the circumstances. As we focus our character, it needs to be anchored in prayer.

Our conduct must be careful. Paul is calling Christ followers to live with purpose and action. We will not win people to Christ with passive niceness. When we exhibit love to others, it is the argument of all arguments. It demonstrates who Christ is. We are not called to isolate ourselves, but to engage.

Our conversation must be graceful. Our words are important and should be full of grace. God is pouring grace into our lives which allows us to pour His grace out to others. When others can see the Gospel in us, something can happen.

I’ve never won anyone to Christ in a debate. It is possible to win the argument but lose the person. – Michael M. Cook

Not only are we in Christ, but we have the responsibility of winning others to Christ.

 

 

 

 

Family Part Two – Children

By Karen Polich

God’s plan for families begins with parents who seek Him first and follow His direction. This partnership has a profound impact on children. God’s Word teaches us how, when living with trust, we can lead our children in His ways.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Colossians 3:18-21

Children obey your parents. For this to function, there must be structure in the home. Proper leadership establishes direction. Children crave structure and order. When they have it, it brings freedom. When they know the boundaries, they too can begin to grow into who God created them to be. Structure in the family means there is accountability. It is the same for each of us with the Father. It also means mercy and grace can flow into the lives of children. Parents can teach them about forgiveness and why boundaries matter. God has set boundaries in every life for our own protection.

Fathers, do not embitter your children. Children crave approval from their fathers. Fathers must be willing to say “I’m sorry”, when they are harsh beyond what is needed or speak with words that should not have been said. Leading children comes with great responsibility. Children are fragile and fathers are called to love them. Leading from a “God first” life builds trust.

To live with submission, love and obedience, we must start with trust. Trust is over all of it. Husbands and wives, you must put God first. Seeking Him before anything else builds the trust that leads to obedience. An obedient life bears the fruit of a life with God at the center. Obedience is a mixture of submission and love. When we yield to the Father, we can live the life He intends for us, a life beyond our imagination.

What would our lives look like if we were doing everything we are supposed to do from a biblical perspective? Do not settle for anything less. He offers us His best. We can choose to embrace it.

Listen to the Fragile Growth sermon series here.

 

 

Family Part 1 -Husbands and Wives

By Karen Polich

“A godly marriage and family is the masterpiece of a godly life.” – Trey Sullins

The family has a God-ordained structure. Society and culture would diminish it and make it seem unattainable. The erosion of the family isn’t new. As the family goes, so goes our culture. God has a specific plan of order and purpose. On our own, it is something we will fall short of achieving, but when we live a “God first” life, we put ourselves on a path set forth by His commands. Listen to Pastor Trey Sullins sermon, Family, from the Fragile Growth series here.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Colossians 3:18-21

These verses hold a lot. It’s important to look at them with an open heart. There’s real beauty in families that put these verses into practice.

Wives submit to your husbands. What does it mean to submit? Our culture would tell us submission is an ugly word that diminishes who we are. Not so. Submission has nothing to do with weakness or a lack of value. It has everything to do with “God first”.

In Matthew 26:39, Jesus is in the garden weeping and praying. He asks God to “take this cup from me” if there is another way. Yet, He says, “not my will, but Yours.” Jesus has never been weak. His value has never been lessened, even when he chose to submit to the will of the Father. It is the picture of true submission. Thine before mine. Submission is an act of obedience and has nothing to do with weakness or value. When a wife lives in submission to her husband, she is setting him as the leader of the family. She is entrusting him as a God-follower to lead the way. It is the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

Husbands, love your wives. This is not a love that is defined by our experiences but the love God created. Love your wife as Christ loves the Church. It is sacrificial. You cannot love without your whole heart. When a husband loves his wife as God commands, she will blossom as the woman God made her to be. Everything the husband does will stem from love. It will guide and lead, expanding their partnership. Jesus submitted to the Father. He followed the course set before him to the cross. He loves like no other. Loving us so much that he gave his life that we might live. This is the love husbands are commanded to give their wives. Complete and total love.

Take time to dig into these verses and ask God to speak into your heart. On Friday, read Family Part 2 – Children.