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When Days are Hard

By Karen Polich

Days are hard. Life can be overwhelming. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. Psalm 38:8

What is our reaction to a bad day or a bad season? We have a choice when it comes to handling difficult situations. Will we react in the moment, or reflect and respond? Reactions usually involve emotions getting the best of us. Learning to respond with God at the center can lead to better outcomes.

“It’s not what happens to me that is so important, it’s what happens in me that makes all the difference.” – Michael M. Cook

Tough times provide opportunities to seek God and His grace. We can use difficulties to make us more intentional about diving into the Word and deepening our prayer life. God will speak to us when we seek Him. His ways are not our ways, but He will cover whatever circumstance we face and shape us along the way.

In a struggle, we can grow weary and see things only from our own perspective. The outlook is bleak and discouragement fills our hearts. It can be as simple as a busy day going awry and causing missed deadlines, or as complicated as devastating news that leads to a season of difficulty. With eyes only on the struggle, we run the risk of developing a habit of trying to “do life” on our own

In good times and bad, allowing God to work in us is key. If we establish the habit of putting Him first in all things, we will be better equipped to walk with Him during struggles. The times of overload and anguish will be less lonely and we will automatically seek His guidance.

It is not up to us to “be strong”. It is up to us to seek Him and His strength.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Are you facing hard days? Look to God and allow Him to walk with you through the struggle.

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Know Your Church: Recognize Yourself

By Karen Polich

Even with a mirror, we don’t always recognize what we look like and the state of our hearts. Pastor Michael M. Cook’s latest sermon mapped out three categories of individuals who make up the Church. Taking time to assess which category we fall into may be the beginning for forming the Church we’re called to be.

The natural individual. (1 Corinthians 2:14) The natural lacks a spiritual component. This individual has not been saved and has no appreciation for the things of God. They will drop out, move out or lash out when it comes to God’s call. While they have looked at the Gospel and may be very “moral”, there is no understanding. (1 Thessalonians. 5:23) But in Christ you are made alive (Ephesians 2:1)

The carnal individual. While possessing both a physical and spiritual nature, the carnal is dominated by the old nature and controlled by the flesh. The physical overwhelms the spiritual and there is a lack of maturity and growth. (1 Corinthians 3:1-2) How do you know if you fall in the carnal category? Jealousy and strife mark the carnal individual. This Christian will eventually kill everything touched and puts selfish interests ahead of anything else. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

It hurts the heart of God to see Christians in the carnal state. “This is not an identity you have. This is an activity you have chosen”. – Michael M. Cook

The spiritual individual. (1 Corinthians 2:15-16) Converted in Christ, this person is obedient and yielded to the spiritual side over the physical side. Jesus resides in their hearts and presides over their life. Jesus is preeminent in their life. This individual lives the life change that comes from the Holy Spirit. The spiritual individual is growing and seeking God, choosing to let Him lead the way.

Do you know Christ? If not, seek Him today. Know Him, but choosing the carnal? Pray for God to set you on a path that leads to the spiritual. Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon series, Forming the Church We’re Called to Be, here.

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A Tree Firmly Planted by Streams of Water

By Kristin Overman

One of my desires for my boys is that they know and love Scripture, but not for head knowledge. I desire that they have the ability to use the truths in Scripture so that when situations come up, Scripture is what pops into their heads. I want the Bible to be the lens through which they interpret life and the factor that helps them make decisions.

The Bible is to be our guide for life. Psalm 119: 9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word.” There are benefits in knowing and following God’s word. I pray Psalm 1: 1-3 for my kids, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked… But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” I tell my boys that God’s way is always best and brings blessings.

We have to know His way to follow it.

We read the Bible together every morning. I am not perfect and sometimes we miss, but it is a habit. Whenever I teach my kids anything I try to connect the information so that it makes sense. We read stories that go together, for example all the stories of David or the miracles of Jesus. We’ve done things such as read the parables of Jesus and learn what a parable is, or the tabernacle furnishings and learn their uses. When we finish a section we review. I try to make it fun. We act out stories, draw pictures, or play ‘who said’ games where we guess who said a certain quote. I use props before I read such as a bunch of toy frogs for the plagues. They’ve found ‘manna’ (crackers) on the floor. We’ve gotten out toy soldiers to reenact the story of Gideon. In all this, the point is to know who God is, His plan, and His way.

Wherever you are it is never too late to start. Open the Bible, the ‘Light unto our path’ to guide and establish your kids as a ‘tree firmly planted by streams of water’.

 

 

 

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The Message of the Cross

By Karen Polich

The message of the cross lays out God’s plan. The cross is the first and last word on salvation. There is no debate or discussion. No other way, no other plan and no other action leads to salvation. We choose the cross where Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins once and for all, or we choose to turn from it.

Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no salvation.

Pastor Michael M. Cook discussed three elements of the cross in Reforming Our Message, part of the Forming the Church We’re Called to Be, sermon series. Listen to the podcast here. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

Through the cross, Jesus saves anybody. There isn’t a different plan for different people based on culture, ethnicity or any other factor. We are all free to choose the cross. When we choose the cross, the power and wisdom of God come. (1 Corinthians 1:24) God will not only tell you what is right, He will help you do what is right.

Through the cross, Jesus separates everybody. The cross is the great divide. We are either perishing or being saved. (1 Corinthians 1:18) People reject, ridicule or receive the cross.

“God never said, I’ll show you and then you will believe. He said believe and I will show you.” – Michael M. Cook

Through the cross, Jesus sanctified somebody. Salvation is past, present and future. Past salvation was the moment in which He saved me, giving me complete freedom over sin. Present salvation is the power of practice over sin. Future salvation will be the complete freedom from the presence of sin.

The average Christian doesn’t always see the need for the cross. “I have my salvation. I’m done. What more is there?” We need the cross every single day. When we come to the cross, we are pardoned. When we give Jesus authority over our life and put ourselves on the cross, we have power over sin.

Imagine the throne of your life and the cross next to that throne. Jesus on the cross, I rule my life. Flip that and give Jesus authority to lead my life which places me on the cross and you see the life of someone who has put Christ at the helm.

We all have a choice as to who rules our life. Me or Christ? To live a successful and victorious life in Christ, we must die to ourselves on the cross and make a daily covenant to be a Christ follower, putting Him in the driver’s seat.

Are you living the message of the cross?

A photo by Dan Musat. unsplash.com/photos/AsD99_hu2Ck

What Legacy Will You Leave?

By Gerry Wakeland

Recently I was given a gift. It was more than just a book. It was the result of many hours of blood, sweat and tears. My Footprint for God is a product of Kenn Edward’s passion for helping people see how they can build their spiritual legacy and leave their footprint on this earth. In a sense, this book is a part of Kenn’s very own footprint.

I have to admit I have come to that point in my own life where I am starting to think about the legacy I will leave for my children and more importantly, my grandchildren. Kenn reminds us that our true legacy is intangible. It’s not money or material items. It’s how we will be remembered. It’s the footprint that we leave behind.

Our spiritual legacy is about investing in people, family, friends, even strangers God places in our path. It’s about financing Kingdom work in many different ways. My Footprint for God is filled with personal stories from Kenn’s many years in financial and estate planning and nearly 40 years of teaching God’s Word in small group settings.

In his book, Kenn covers a comprehensive list of practical financial issues and provides the tools needed to work through these issues. Estate planning, wise giving and good stewardship are only a few of the topics. Each one is supported by scripture helping the reader understand the biblical principles behind Kenn’s sage advice.

“It’s Not Mine” is the title of Chapter Four. It was my favorite. It reminded me of a sermon I heard years ago that taught us everything we have belongs to God and He just allows us to hold it. Learning that concept changed the entire way I treated my possessions and my finances. Scripture teaches us that we are blessed to be a blessing. Kenn’s teaching reinforces this philosophy.

This book also helps us to view financial issues that we tend to overlook or avoid. Matters like how to handle our resources if we were to remarry. How do we deal with yours, mine and ours? What do we leave to our children when we are called home? Tough but necessary topics.

For those melancholy readers who love charts, you will find a number of very helpful forms that can be reproduced. Other resources are available at no charge on Kenn’s website.

If you struggle with financial matters this book will be a great tool for you. It will also be an encouragement, instilling the confidence that, yes, you can do this. If you know someone struggling in this area, My Footprint for God would be a great investment in their life or a great wedding gift for a young couple just starting out.

This material is designed not just for individual study; it can also be used for small groups. It comes complete with discussion questions and exercises for each chapter. In my opinion money is a hard topic to discuss. Working through these issues with other Christians can be a helpful way to study financial principles. It may be the spark needed for someone to look more closely at their own relationship with God.

Whether you study alone or with others in a group, I encourage you to get this book and put it to work for you. Start now to build your own footprint for God. Start by asking yourself, “How do I want to be remembered?”

For more information about Kenn’s ministry or to purchase your own copy of My Footprint for God, visit www.FootPrintForGod.com

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The Wedding Rehearsal

By Ty Haguewood

This past summer, I had the opportunity to officiate my brother’s wedding. This was the first time that I was officiating a wedding so you can imagine how nervous I was. The entire process was a new experience for me. I haven’t even been to that many weddings before.

Their wedding was in Cabo de San Lucas, Mexico, which was beautiful. The wedding ceremony was on a Saturday evening which left the wedding rehearsal to be on Friday evening. I never understood why we needed a wedding rehearsal. Weddings are easy, right? Wrong! There are so many aspects to a wedding ceremony. The wedding rehearsal served as the preparation and final walk through of the official wedding ceremony. Keep thinking along those lines.

If you grew up in church or even attended church, you most likely have an understanding of the Lord’s Supper. As I planned and prepared to lead the church in the Lord’s Supper, I was struck by the reality that most have a weak view of the Lord’s Supper. For many the Lord’s Supper is just something we do that involves coming forward, eating crackers and drinking juice. The Lord’s Supper is so much more than that!The Lord’s Supper is when we remember what Christ has done.

If we stopped there, we could walk away with a weaker perspective on what it means to come to the table. Believers have something great ahead of us. The book of Revelation, chapter 19, speaks of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb where there will be a beautiful wedding between Christ and His purified Bride (the Church).

This will be a HUGE celebration that we do not want to miss.

The Lord’s Supper is the wedding rehearsal, for believers, preparing us for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. The Lord’s Supper helps believers remember all that Christ has done, but it should also give us hope of what is to come. If we have repented and believed, we can rest assured that the Lord’s Supper is just a small glimpse of the celebration that we will be a part of on the day of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.

Let us come to the table with a spirit of expectation, knowing that soon we will be in Heaven worshiping our God together. On that day, we will shout in one accord: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”  – Revelation 19:6

 

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Back to School

By Bethany Bentley

Full disclosure, I do not go to school, I’m in online school. But all summer, Pastor Ty Haguewood was talking to the students about how we were going to reach our communities for Christ. During youth group we split up into school groups and talked about how we were going to take the Gospel to our city, to our schools. Now the time has come. We’re back to school.

Nobody enjoys going back to school, it’s stressful and hard. Starting over at a new high school in junior year is hard. Starting high school at one school while all your middle school friends are at another school is hard. Starting college classes after not being in a classroom for the first time in three years is hard. But soon enough the stress will die and everyone will get used to it all again, like every year.

But as the stress dies down and everyone gets used to school again, let me say this: don’t. Don’t get used to it. Don’t go through the motions again. Don’t sit inside your own little bubble in every class. Don’t sit alone at lunch like you do every year. Don’t get stuck in a rut, like we all do every single year.

Don’t sit silently; let’s be as excited about the Gospel on Monday mornings as we are on Sundays and Wednesday nights. Let’s say we’re going to bring friends to church and then actually do it. Let’s really go sit with that one kid at lunch and share the Gospel with them. Let’s say we’ll go live and breathe and speak the Gospel to our classmates and actually do it.

More than that let’s share the gospel with our friend that we’ve grown up with, that we know is still living in their sins. That friend that we are so terrified of losing; of having them reject us if we share the Gospel. It’s scary. Facing rejection is scary. It’s said over and over and over again in church, fear shouldn’t stand in the way of evangelism, and that’s true.

Here are three things to remember:
1. Sometimes fear gets in the way of sharing the Gospel.
2. You are not an utter failure when fear does get in the way.
3. Don’t become weary.

When you can’t physically make yourself go sit with someone or open your mouth to talk, you are not a failure. Yes, it’s important to share the gospel in our schools, but in those times when we are just too scared to talk, we can pray. We can sit and pray and talk to God and ask for the courage to speak, or for Him to be glorified while someone else speaks.

Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Don’t become weary. In those moments when we feel like we’ve poured out so much of ourselves into others that there couldn’t possibly be anything left to give, turn to God. Turn to the Word. Don’t just tell others to pray and read the Bible, do it yourself. You can’t pour out into others if you’re not being poured into. That’s why we have church programs and small groups to recharge and come back to the Gospel.

At the end of the day, every single one of us needs the Gospel. The Gospel is not just for the lost. We all need to be reminded that the God who created the universe saved us and loves us. So let’s take that love to our schools.

Bethany Bentley lives in Albuquerque, NM with her parents and younger brother. She is a member of Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church and attends school online. Bethany is an accomplished photographer and her work has been published in Albuquerque Magazine.
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Servant Peril – Martha or Mary?

By Karen Polich

Are you a Martha or a Mary?

Early in Luke 10, Jesus lays out the simple concept of servanthood: Love God, love your neighbor. (The good Samaritan) Easy, right? That’s what we do to fulfill true servanthood by pouring ourselves into others. What happens when we become so busy serving that we lose sight of our relationship with the Lord? Without a deep relationship, what do we actually have to give others? Servant peril is no place we want to be.

Martha was always “doing”. Each time she is mentioned in the Bible, we encounter her at work. Marthas extend themselves, working, getting things done and making things happen. Where was Mary? At the feet of Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42, Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon, Servant Peril, here.)

Martha was quick to commit, worked hard and was distracted. The critical piece is her distraction. She was distracted FROM Jesus BY her ministry. This is what NOT to do when serving. We don’t want to forget Jesus and our relationship with Him. That relationship is the whole point!

“In order to say yes to Christ, you have to be willing to say no to something else.” – Michael M. Cook

Lost in her distracted busyness, Martha was out of touch. She was laying it out for Jesus, telling Him what to do. Can you imagine telling Jesus what to do? It disrupted the entire atmosphere. Jesus was grieved and corrective. He doesn’t love us for who we are or what we are doing. He loves us simply within the relationship we have with Him. All we need to do is choose Him first.

In our own lives, do we take the time to be a Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet before setting on the path of a Martha? Without investing in Jesus, we have little to offer anyone else.

When we are out of touch, we become disruptive to the Kingdom work happening around us.

What is the remedy for the Marthas? Before we tackle the work at hand, we need private time with God. Pray, spend real time with God, making it a priority. To have something to give, we need to fill our own lives. An empty vessel has nothing to share. Let’s choose Him first and then see what comes from our “doing”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the morning at a small flower farm owned by my friends. My main goal was hummingbirds but the American Goldfinches stole the show.  This male landed right in the middle of this beautifully colorful scene of flowers that was just starting to get the morning sunlight shining on it.  There are times when getting close to the bird is not always better and I think this is one of them.  I got to include a lot of pretty flowers in with the bird.  Taken at Ingstan Farms (private) in Hammonton, New Jersey.

Blessed To Be A Blessing

By Gerry Wakeland

Just a few days ago Karen Polich wrote a post reminding us that there are needs all around us. Some of those needs are physical while others are financial. Some are critical while others are every day essentials. Needs can be just a one-time issue or consistent every day, every week occurrences. There are needs everywhere. God desires all of us to help meet those needs, especially in His church.

In the church setting help often comes in the form of volunteers. People like you and me who are willing to invest their time and talents in God’s Kingdom work. At AFBC we place a strong emphasis on volunteering.  Our volunteers range in age from 4 to 95. They serve in many different ways. Some are teachers and Life Group leaders. Others serve on the First Impressions team on Sunday morning. We saw many of our students serving at the recent Legacy Banquet. Earlier this week four-year old Nolan Sill helped our senior ladies with their crafts at Senior Vacation Bible School.

We have a number of people who serve in the community. The Rock at NoonDay and Ronald McDonald House are just a couple of examples. We have parents that serve at their children’s schools. Pastor Cook often reminds us, it doesn’t matter where you serve, what matters is that you serve.

On Sunday August 21st long time member of AFBC Lucy Stevens was presented with the Legacy Award. This award is given to those who have made a significant investment in our church. Not a financial investment, but an investment of time and service. When we asked Lucy what inspired her to be such a committed servant she responded, “God blessed my marriage, my children, and my life in so many ways.  How could I not be His servant?”

Perhaps you are already serving somewhere in our church and enjoy what you are doing and are willing to sign on for another year. Maybe you want to invest in another area of ministry, try something new and different. There are so many ways you can help.

As the AFBC Volunteer Coordinator I am often asked, “How do I find the right place to serve. I have three questions I use when helping match someone to a place to serve.

  1. What is your passion? We all perform at our optimum when we are working in an area we love. Are you good with people and are energized by being around them. Then the First Impressions Team may be the place for you. Do you long to make a joyful noise to the Lord? Pastor Matt would love to have you join our choir.
  1. What are your spiritual gifts? God has gifted each of His children with gifts that equip them to serve the Body of Christ. Do you have the gift of teaching? Encouragement? If you’re not sure what your spiritual gifts are we have a simple assessment that can aid you in discovering them. Any of our staff would be happy to help you with this.
  1. What are your skills? Have you received some type of special training? Dealing with finances? Nursing? Construction skills? Are you good with crafts? Do you play a musical instrument, like to cook? We all have things that we are especially good at. It’s a blessing to be able to use them for the Lord’s work.

As we prepare for worship this Sunday, let’s remember that one of the ways we worship is through serving and begin to ask the Lord where He would have you invest your time in His Kingdom.

For more information about serving at Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church visit the First Stop Info Center on Sundays or contact Gerry Wakeland at Gerry@fbcabq.com

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Believing in the Yield

By Karen Polich

The longer we live, the more opportunities we have to start again. Life is like that. Some beginnings are more difficult than others. When we find ourselves in the messy seasons of life, it can signal a time when we need to start again. We can apologize, rebuild, change our path, forgive or refocus. How we choose to embrace those moments can determine what the yield will be.

The turn from a real mess that leads towards spiritual blessing can be a highly discouraging space. Still engulfed in the pain of the mess, despite best efforts, there just isn’t any relief in sight. It’s not simply out of view, it feels like any type of blessing doesn’t exist.

Pastor Michael M. Cooks sermon series, Starting Again, continued, studying Haggai 2:15-23. (Listen here.) As God’s people struggled to rebuild the temple, Haggai reminded them to first look back. Why did this matter? It helped them see how far they had come. Starting again, they had an enormous task and the progress was small. The key was that they were moving forward in obedience to God.

Haggai 2:19a “From this day on, I will bless you.” Understand, the temple was not close to being finished, yet God chose to bless His people as they moved toward Him by starting again.

“We are not to live in the past, but it is important to visit the past.” – Michael M. Cook

Remembering what it was like when ______ (fill in the blank) keeps us moving in the right direction. Our past does not define us but helps inform us of how far we’ve come in starting again. It reminds us of where we don’t want to go again.

Today can be the beginning of the rest of our lives. How God blesses us is up to Him, but our willingness to believe in the yield as we move forward is the beginning of making the turn out of the mess until we have moved far beyond its reach.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

God works in a unique way for each of us. Each a one of a kind creation, His blessings reflect our originality. The yield will be our own. When He pours out blessings, it may not be because of what we have finished, but because he sees a new work in progress.

Are we moving forward?

“We never harvest in the same season in which we planted.” – Michael M. Cook