Scriptural Baptism

By Karen Polich

What does God’s Word say about scriptural baptism?
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“Baptism is the outward sign of an inward act of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Michael M. Cook

Baptism communicates an act of obedience, demonstrating the first fruit of salvation. Obedience is part of who we are as followers of Christ. When it comes to baptism, what any denomination says is irrelevant, what matters is the Word. The Bible uses the Greek word, “baptizo”, which means to submerge, place under, immerse. Authentic scriptural baptism demonstrates the death and resurrection of Christ.

Baptism is the commanded symbol of our obedience; it is not salvation. Mark 16:15-16 tells us, He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. In Ephesians 2: 8a we read, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…

We are called to:
1. Faith in Jesus (heart change).
2. Baptism (obedience).
3. Discipleship (teach, apprentice, share the gospel).

Baptism is the beginning of an obedient heart that seeks to grow in Him. As a follower of Christ, what hinders you from being scripturally baptized?

Listen to the podcast here.


Missing the Mark of Holiness

By Karen Polich

“A Holy life will make the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns, they just shine.”  – Dwight L. Moody

Have you noticed, at times Christians can stoop lower than even the most immoral non-believer in their behavior? We all fall short, but there is a difference between boastful embraced sin and sin we turn from. Within the church, a life of perpetual, unrepentant sin is a personal tragedy that leads to a negative public testimony without the removal of it from the fellowship. Sin in the fellowship that comes with no desire to change must be dealt with.

Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon, Missing the Mark of Holiness from the Forming the Church We’re Called to Be series here. Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 5: 1-13 focused on how the church in Corinth had lost its way. As believers, we are called to more. We are called to change the culture around us and show Godly influence in the world around us. We cannot have a flippant attitude toward sin. As a church, if sin is allowed to go on, what testimony does it send? God’s Word is clear. In sincerity and truth, the sin must be removed and put out of the fellowship. (Paul was clear that he was speaking about the immoral behavior of believers, not the lost. See scripture above.)

Church discipline is something done out of love, like the correcting of a child. It is about love for people but hate for sin. The church is to help, bearing witness to the testimony of Christ, not hiding in isolation. A church without holiness has nothing to say to a lost world. We are called to be different and to be the salt and light for a lost world. Matthew 5:13-14

It starts with the close examination of our own hearts. How are we choosing to live? If we are allowing sin to infiltrate the outpouring of our lives, how long before we are just another bad apple in the bunch?

The church must demonstrate within its own body what holiness looks like. Everyone is a sinner. Believers are forgiven in Christ but must choose to pursue a life focused on Christ and free from the shackles of sin. To miss the mark and fall short is one thing. To live a life saturated in chosen sin is another. As the church, we are called to live in obedience and shine the light of Christ into the world. Church discipline is a necessary part of a genuine testimony focused on His Kingdom.


I’m Bored with My Bible

By Kristin Overman

An older lady in the church once told me, “I get bored with my Bible so I read Christian books instead.” It made me so sad. The God of the universe wants us to know Him and has communicated with us through His word. Yet many leave it sitting on the shelf in exchange for books of men. There is nothing wrong with reading Christian books but when we read them in the place of the Bible it is like me trying to learn more about my husband by spending time with his mom instead of just spending time with him. To learn about God we must be in His Word.

“Never underestimate a cursory reading of the Bible”. My youth pastor always told me this. Many people get overwhelmed with studying the Bible. The best place to start is to just read it. I like to organize information so I have found that when I organize my Bible reading it makes more sense and I begin to see themes and common ideas. I read by type of book, for example all the minor prophets, the gospels, or the wisdom books. I sometimes will read the narrative books and insert the books that fit chronologically with in it. For example, Acts is the story of the beginning of the church and Paul’s missionary journeys. I insert Paul’s letters in chronological order as they come up through Acts. Or I read by author, all the books of Moses, Luke, or John.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nothing in life is worth doing or having unless it means great effort, pain, or difficulty.” I believe you have to work some to gain some.

I record as I read. I organize what I learn by making timelines, outlines, lists, maps or charts depending on the book or passage. In Leviticus I made a chart of the different types of sacrifices. In the gospels I recorded on a map all the cities Jesus traveled to. In the Pauline letters I listed all the one anothers. In Proverbs I recorded what it said about wisdom and foolishness.

“What are you going to do with what you learn?” is my quote.

Reading the Bible is not about gaining knowledge but about transformation. I pray that my life would change to reflect God’s truth. I use the lists, charts, whatever I’ve recorded and learned as prayer points and application. I believe that as we learn about God in the power of the Holy Spirit, He will change our thinking and as a result our behavior. So if you’re ever bored with Scripture try reading it a different way, find one thing you can record as you read, and most important ask God to use it to transform you.


Be Humble and Kind

By Karen Polich

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

God chooses to use humble people. Those with humility are nothing more than servants for the cause of Christ. His purpose becomes our purpose. With humble hearts, we seek gentleness, want to serve and have compassion for others. Though we may step on ourselves with our actions and words, true humility shines through. The most humble to walk the earth was Jesus Christ.

“Pride and fruitfulness are incompatible.” – Michael M. Cook

Teaching from 1 Corinthians 4:6-13 Pastor Michael M. Cook continued the sermon series, Forming the Church We’re Called to Be, with Be Humble and Kind. (Listen to the podcast here.) Paul was speaking to the church in Corinth. With no word in the Roman and Grecian language for humility, the concept couldn’t have been an easy thing to teach. How can we be humble and kind? Avoid conceit and embrace humility. The passage distinguishes the characteristics we should avoid and those to embrace.

Characteristics to avoid, as demonstrated in the Corinthians’ conceit.:
1. Puffed up. The danger comes in feeling so good about what’s going on in our lives and who we are following (Christ) that it causes a critical attitude leading to judgement and self-righteousness.
2. Boastful. It doesn’t make spiritual sense to boast. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7
3. Full. Are we actually satisfied with where we are and think we have it all figured out? We are called to press on toward the goal… Philippians 3:4a

Characteristics to embrace, as Paul described of the apostles.:
1. Spectacle. In contrast, Paul described the apostles as servants placed on display for others to learn from. The crown only comes after the cross.
2. Fools. When we are focused more on Christ than ourselves, it doesn’t matter if we are thought of as fools. Our focus is simply on Him. There is not concern for what others think.
3. Filth. At times we will be seen as the scum of the earth. Speak the truth and watch how satan will try to make you feel. ‘You’re intolerant…’ No. The truth is the truth, but we may not be regarded well.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

Humility is the great unifier. We are not deserving of what Christ has done for us. If our focus is on others and squarely on the love of Jesus, we will have the ability to be humble and kind.

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man given. Be thankful. Conceit is self given. Be careful.” – John Wooden


A Goal Achieved

By Gerry Wakeland

Having a goal is a good thing. It keeps us focused and on track. Sometimes we can have a goal and not even realize it. I believe this to be the case in Dr. Lenton Malry’’s life.

Recently Dr. Malry’s memoir was published. It’s the story of a man from modest beginnings that through persistence, perseverance, and prayer has accomplished much not just for him but for many others. Did he plan to write this book? Not really, but looking back Malry wanted to impart his message of encouragement to a new generation. Times are tough and he wanted to be able to share from many years of experience that you can do what you set your mind to do.

I first encountered Dr. Malry at the door to the sanctuary of the old downtown church. Dressed in his suit and tie, standing tall as a sentinel on duty, he was shaking hands and handing out bulletins, like any good Southern Baptist deacon.

As time passed, I came to learn there was a lot more to this humble servant. This was a mighty man of God who had influence in many corners of this nation.

Dr. Lenton Malry is a man of firsts:
• the first of his family to graduate from college
• the first African American teacher at the Kinlichee Elementary School on the Navajo reservation
• the first African American principal for Albuquerque Public Schools
• the first African American elected to the New Mexico State Legislature and
• the first African American to earn a PHD in education from the University of New Mexico.

He and his wife Joy were the first African Americans to become members of Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church.

“I remember the first Sunday we attended the church downtown on Central and Broadway. People actually got up and walked out.” Joy Malry

That did not stop the Malrys from placing their membership with AFBC and getting involved.

Thankfully times have changed. Dr. Malry and Ms. Joy are valued members of our congregation. He has been a deacon for over 40 years, serving as both Deacon Chair and Vice Chair. He has taught both Sunday school (now called Life Groups) and the senior high students’ Training Union class. To this day he continues to serve as a greeter and usher.

He likes to recall a time at the peak of his career, one the busiest times for him, Ms. Ruth Hosley came to him and asked him to serve as the Director of the RAs (Royal Ambassadors). He tried every excuse to get out of it but Ms. Ruth would not take no for an answer. “You can just make the time,” Ms. Ruth told him.

In 2005, Malry was on the Pastoral Search Committee that brought Pastor Michael Cook to AFBC in 2006.

Lenton Malry has made a number of wise decisions in his lifetime. Perhaps the wisest was when he asked Joy Dell Green to be his wife. For the last 58 years Joy has supported him in all of his endeavors, cheering him on, praying for him and making sure he tows the line.

While some may consider Let’s Roll This Train an inspirational memoir, it really chronicles a piece of New Mexico history through the life of an inspirational figure. Malry never imagined as a poor black child growing up on a small rural farm in Louisiana that someday he would look back and see the impact he has made on the state of New Mexico particularly Bernalillo County and the city of Albuquerque.

Most importantly Dr. Malry has made and continues to make a mighty impact on the Kingdom of God. Almost every Sunday morning you still find him standing tall at the front door of the church. He’ll greet you with a bright “good morning” and a firm handshake as he hands you a bulletin. He mentors many of the younger deacons as they take their place in the leadership of the church. And he’s always among the first to step up to the plate when there is a financial need.

Dr. Malry’s book, Let’s Roll This Train will be available for purchase on the concourse on Sunday, October 2nd.


Expectations and Standards

By Karen Polich

Once Jesus has entered our life, we all start with the same potential for Kingdom impact.    – Michael M. Cook

What expectations and standards matter in our lives? We all face the ultimate final exam. It is not a judgment of salvation, but a life audit that looks at our service. This exam is not related to our salvation, which is a matter of its own. We either choose Christ or we don’t. (If we don’t, the final exam doesn’t really matter.)

Good works do not take you to heaven but they do accompany you to heaven. Michael M. Cook

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

I’d like to do more than escape from the flames. We have a choice about how we establish our standards and expectations. We can begin each day with a goal to serve Him. What we do with that opportunity is up to us.

Yet, there is no comparison or envy that comes with the judgement. The calling on each of our lives is as unique as the creation God made us to be. My potential is mine and your potential is yours. Jesus is the cornerstone. The similarities come in the principles impacting the time when we will stand before Jesus Christ.

God is concerned with every single minute of your life. – Michael M. Cook

We will all have a life reviewed. It is impending. It will be intense and exhaustive. There will be no negotiation or argument. It won’t resemble anything like a debate. It will simply be what it is. We will have a labor rewarded because we are called to be co-laborers with Christ. How and what we have done will be reviewed. What matters is the “why”. It isn’t about quantity, but about the quality and motives of our heart. Did we do what we could? Was excellence (our very best) at play?

We don’t work “for” God, we work with Him so He can work through us. Think about that the next time you are bringing something to God in prayer. How can He work with you, not for you? How can He help you stay focused on the prize?

Setting standards and expectations with our eyes on Christ brings new perspective to the daily distractions of this world. What really matters? How can I be a person of excellence in His eyes?

Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon series, Forming the Church We’re Called to Be, here.




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.


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.


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?