Month: July 2014

Empowered by Doubt

By: Jacob Merritt

I had the unique privilege of preaching to Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church on Sunday July 27, 2014. I knew I wanted to preach on doubt because the topic kept coming up in my mind. But, I did not really know where I was going with my sermon or how I was going to address doubt until I found myself pulled into the story of John the Baptist questioning Jesus about being the Messiah. Matthew 11:2-6 became my central passage.

Trying to let my sermon reflect my content and passage, I made my points questions. My main question was: Why do we doubt? The following questions completed my outline.

  • What kinds of doubt are there?

  • How do doubts affect us?

  • What do we do with our doubts?

These were questions that challenged me, so I hoped they would touch a few others in the audience. I explored each of them and found an answer in the writings of Josef Pieper.

Josef Pieper wrote a meditation on the virtues which I read for a class in seminary. He considered the various virtues of temperance, justice, fortitude, and prudence. How they connect and interact and grow within us and can be vital to a person as a human being and a Christian. In this work he had a section on anger where he turned the typically negative aspect of anger into a positive almost-virtue. Anger,  if controlled and directed, could become the force which drives us to live better lives. I wondered if the same could not be done with doubt. Could the negative and terrible existence of doubt be a positive force that could drive us to better lives or closer to God? I realized through my own struggles with doubting my calling and God’s plan for my life that as I answered my doubts my faith and calling to ministry was deepened and strengthened.

I feel I am often taught to ignore my doubts for one reason or another. But, I wonder now if maybe our doubts can be used to call us and push us somewhere? Maybe we are supposed to attack them head-on and ask questions of our doubts seeking the answers like John does by asking Jesus. In the passage, John is told by Jesus to look for the truth to his question in the good things happening. Our doubts might be pushing us to find an answer that we need to find, answers to questions about our own abilities or God’s nature. Or, perhaps when you doubt that you’re following God’s plan.  You need to find the answer and confirm that you are. Finding these answers can strengthen our faith. Our doubts also might be prodding us because we have strayed from God’s purpose for our lives. Of course, there are doubts we should seek to ignore and let go.  They might exist purely to hold us in place and paralyze us.  An example for this kind of doubt would be one that prevents us from sharing the gospel. How do we know which doubts are which? I don’t know.  It’s the same as wondering if the voice we hear is God’s or our own. We have to make this determination based on what we know from Scripture and our own reasoning and the wisdom of those around us.

I haven’t found the answer to my main question of why we doubt. But, I have found another answer that comforts me.

Doubt can weaken and destroy us if we let the doubts pile up. They pile up when we ignore doubts which we should explore finding the answer to or we listen too much to doubts we should not. However, if considered with wisdom and prudence doubts might be able to empower us. They can drive us to God’s plan and lead us into deeper faith and understanding.

It’s difficult and challenging, yes, but it can be done as it has been for years by many great leaders of the church. They drive forward despite and sometimes because of their doubts changing themselves and those around them and always chasing God and the Truth.

Listen to the full sermon here.

EUREKA! I Found It!

“Are you excited? I’m excited!” Pastor Kevin’s voice echoed throughout the sanctuary of the Cherry Street Baptist Church in Clarksville, AR.

Thirty-one men, women, and children had traveled from Albuquerque to Clarksville to partner with the members of Cherry Street in community missions. We had two assignments: help the church members provide a neighborhood carnival and movie night and conduct Vacation Bible School for the church using the same material that we had used at Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church a few weeks prior.

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See pictures from this year’s trip.

“On Monday we passed out flyers like we did at Seville Park,” said Libby Edwards, one of the five students that made the trip. While many of the AFBC team circulated flyers throughout the residential neighborhoods and nearby business district, others like Kevin and Ryan Cook set up games and bounce houses for the kids to enjoy.

Teri Butler, VBS Coordinator for Cherry Street Baptist said, “It was exciting to see the many families who stopped throughout the day to find out what was happening at the church.” Many returned later that evening to enjoy carnival games, hot dogs, snow cones and cotton candy, followed by a viewing of the popular Disney film, Frozen. Pastor Trey sang along with most of the songs.

One of the primary purposes of movie night was to promote Vacation Bible School and throughout the evening we could see the excitement for VBS building.

Tuesday night arrived and we waited with anticipation to see how many kids would show up. Slowly they trickled in and then suddenly the sanctuary was filled with shouts of excitement as Pastor Trey took his place on stage. Eureka had begun.

Each night brought new boys and girls, each one looking forward to a fun-filled evening of music, games and Bible lessons. Church secretary and Cherry Street member, Margie Yarbrough said. “I love it! We had several saved and that’s the point. It shows that the church is trying to reach people for Christ.”

As the final session grew to close, Pastor Trey encouraged the children to stay involved in church. “Tell your parents to bring you on Sunday mornings.” Ronnie Butler, youth leader at Cherry Street loved Pastor Trey’s enthusiasm and excitedly jumped in inviting the kids to be part of Pastor’s Pals at Cherry Street.
Ice cream sandwiches and goodie bags in the Fellowship Hall capped off the evening.

“Our whole mission was to help this church,” said Robyn Savage. Our mission was accomplished. Children found the Lord. Two churches located hundreds of miles apart discovered that by working together they could accomplish something exciting in the community. With a renewed enthusiasm and vision, the folks at Cherry Street Baptist Church will continue to make a difference in their community and thirty-one men, women and children from AFBC return home knowing that they made a difference for the Kingdom of God.

Eureka! We found it!

Hope in the Midst of Hurting Marriages – Part III

By: Karen Polich with Curtis & Michelle McFadden

God designed more for marriage.

His Word calls husbands to an uncompromising commitment to consideration. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1Peter 3:7)

Pastor Michael Cook continued the “10 Characteristics of Consideration”.
1. Be the spiritual leader.
2. Tenderness.
3. Intimate conversation.
4. Affection.
5. Give her security.
6. Time.
7. Help.
8. Romance.
9. Personal development of her life.
10. Spend time with God.

Curtis and Michelle McFadden share their thoughts.

 

Reflections of a husband.
These sermons grabbed my attention. I was reminded that I need to improve as a husband. My wife is my friend, life partner and lover. Our relationship is second only to my relationship with the Lord. I liked how the ten characteristics of consideration started and finished with God. Husbands need a solid foundation in making important decisions. A strong relationship with God starts with daily time spent with Him. This will allow me to be the spiritual leader in my household, not that my wife cannot, but because God has instructed me to lead my family.

I need to have a routine to date my wife. During our younger years, before marriage and three lovely kids, I wanted to know Michelle as a person. What she liked to do, her favorite foods, hobbies and activities. I just wanted to spend time with her. Time becomes scarce but I cannot make that an excuse. Weekly dates might not always work, but I need to spend time with my wife daily. Have a cup of coffee, talk to her during dinner, pray with her before bedtime, so when the kids are gone and life slows down I will not be sitting in front of a stranger. I need to constantly study and learn the subject of Michelle.

Reflections of a wife.
A recent survey found that on average husbands and wives spend only 37 minutes together a week. I was shocked until I took a look at my own life. With three young children, it takes creativity to spend quality time together. Neither of us can really be a helpmate without quality time. We have been known to put our kids to bed when there is still daylight just to have a date night in our home. These have been special moments when I have seen my confidence build as a woman and truly felt like my husband helped me see the gifts that God has given me. This is why time is so precious to me. Time is all the areas of security, romance and personal development.

Knowing that my husband is called to honor me as we are coheirs in God got me to thinking, “Hurray, bring on the chivalry!” It doesn’t mean I just want him to give in to all I say or think. There will be disagreements. God made us unique. This is where I realized I may not be allowing my husband to honor me. Society tells us to be “superwoman” or “supermom”, that we can do it all and on our own. Not true. I have seen what this does to me and how it hurts my husband as well. As a wife, I should welcome the honor my husband shows me.

I was deeply encouraged to pray for my husband. I would never want his prayers to be hindered. Without that connection to God, it could lead to disaster in our home. I pray his relationship with Christ always stands firm and that it remains a priority.

To listen to Pastor Michael Cook, click here.

 

 

Vessels

By: Kristin Overman

My grandfather passed away this past spring. As I stood by his coffin all I could think of was that he was not there. I was just looking at a vessel. That’s all we are, vessels. I thought of 2 Corinthians 4: 7-10 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves …always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body”. I like to know exactly what words mean. So I looked up the word vessel. People of the time had different types of vessels for different uses. This vessel was probably a clay pot of the cheapest kind. It was used for collecting trash, or excrement and used to transport and dispose of waste. Wow, Paul basically compares us to a trash can or a toilet! But, this cheap vessel with the most menial use holds a great treasure, the surpassing greatness of the power of God. In our weak and insignificant state God can use us. He uses us to hold the treasure of His power, and manifest the life of Jesus. That is incredible!

I am amazed sometimes that God would even consider using us to complete His work. He could do it by Himself. We mess up and sin so much. But yet He gives us the privilege of working with Him to accomplish His plans. There is such a privilege to serving on a mission trip. Yes, you can witness and serve others right where you are. But there is something about being out of your environment, routine, and comfort zone that brings you closer to God. My youth pastor always had this quote up,

“Be transformed by the uncomfortable or conformed by the comfortable”.

There is a special exercise of faith, a special reliance on Him, and an awesome awareness of His work in you and around you. You are aware that you are that weak vessel carrying the treasure of Christ.

That is why I decided to go on the Arkansas trip. I want to live my life as a vessel. I want to be of use to Him and carry the treasure of who He is to others. I especially want my children to know that we are vessels. We can be of no use, little use, or a lot of use to our Savior. I am thankful for the opportunity our church gave me to allow a family of three young boys on a mission trip. I mean, how helpful can a family with a four, three, and two year old be? I really wasn’t sure about us going.

Then in the car the other day my four year old tells his grandma, “We‘re going on a trip to Arkansas. It‘s a mission trip. We‘re going to swim but not a lot because we‘re going to help do VBS, so the kids can do VBS like I did. I‘m going to help daddy do snack and games.” He stopped for a second to think and then asked, “Am I going to be the teacher?” Well no he’s not going to be in charge and teach from the front of the room. But my four year old does understand that God is Holy, that he is not, and he is separated from God. He knows Jesus died on the cross to pay for his sins so that he can know God. He knows that God’s desire for his life is that he obey Him. So, yes, in his range of ability he can be a teacher. He can be a vessel and useful to His Master. God taught me that maybe a family of three boys all under five can be vessels for Him.

Hope in the Midst of Hurting Marriages – Part II

By: Karen Polich with Matt & Nicole Dobson

What is destroying marriages today? Self-centeredness.

Chaotic and hurting marriages are not what God designed. His Word calls husbands to an uncompromising commitment to consideration. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1 Peter 3:7)

This week Pastor Cook began to look at what husbands are called to do in marriage. Husbands, consideration is key. It will give insight and understanding.

4 areas of “consideration” for husbands.
1. Be the spiritual leader. You must be IN God’s Word.
2. Show tenderness. You don’t treat your wife the way you treat others.
3. Intimate Conversation. You honor her like nothing else when you listen.
4. Affection. Value her and show her genuine affection.

Husbands, are you studying your wife? Always learning her ways?

Matt and Nicole Dobson share their insight and perspectives on Pastor Cook’s teaching.

Thoughts of a husband.

Nicole & Matt Dobson

Nicole & Matt Dobson

To have an uncompromising commitment to consideration for my wife, I have to be willing to compromise. I have to be able to see through her eyes. Without compromise there can be no consideration, I will only be focused on myself. Pastor Cook’s visual of the cast iron skillet and the fine china plate really put things in perspective. Strong and sturdy versus fragile. As a husband, I am responsible for keeping myself in check. I have to turn off work and turn on being a husband when I get home. Listening to my wife and not focusing on myself and my day is what I should do. A major effect comes from the choice I make. I really studied the end of 1 Peter 3:7, “so that nothing will hinder your prayers”. How I handle my relationship with my wife affects my relationship with God. I am called to treat my wife as I should so that my prayers will not be hindered. It goes back to being the spiritual leader of our relationship. I have always focused my leadership on teaching and continuing my own learning of God’s Word. I haven’t put my focus as a spiritual leader on praying for my wife and our marriage. Dramatic results will come when I am praying for her and for our marriage daily. It is extremely important. For people thinking about marriage, this information is critical. I believe it is equally important to learn what the bible teaches about divorce. God’s Word is clear on what we should and should not do regarding marriage.

Thoughts of a wife.
I was struck by the thought that if my husband is going to study me like a book or school work, then I need to give him something worth studying. Since the sermon, I read Proverbs 31:10-31 where God’s Word talks about a wife of noble character. It is my job to be that kind of wife. It can be tough to remember that the Bible does not instruct me to fix or change my spouse. It can be my first thought, but it isn’t God’s will. We have many relationships on earth, none more important than the one we have with our spouse. Who we choose as a spouse is the most important decision we will ever make.

Listen to Pastor Michael Cook’s full sermon here and learn more.

Everyday Heroes – Followship

Chad Spriggs

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In the year 27 A.D. Jesus appointed the 12 disciples, shared the Sermon on the Mount, healed a Centurion’s servant, raised the dead, rebuked a storm, sent out the disciples, fed the 5000, and walked on the sea. In John 6 one year later many disciples desert Jesus. His teaching was hard to follow. He asked that the people step into a new way, a way that challenged the people to give up control of their own life and follow Jesus.

What about those that didn’t desert him? They accepted the truth and believed in Jesus. They were willing to follow Jesus even if it meant dying. This crowd included the 12 Disciples, but there were many others that stepped up to the challenge to be something different, unique, and saintly. These people were willing to do whatever it took to follow Jesus.

Being willing to follow someone you believe…

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Finding Hope as We Celebrate Our Nation’s Independence

By: Karen Polich

There is no greater apologetic than your life. It is the foundation of reaching others. Not a sinless life, but one that is upright and blameless. When others can see how Christ has transformed your life, true impact can occur. We live in uncertain times, much like 1st century Christians. In celebrating our nation’s independence, Pastor Michael Cook reminds us that we are called to show respect for our nation, submitting ourselves for the Lord’s sake to the authorities among men, for it is God’s will. (1Peter 2:13) Peter speaks to 1st century Christians who had deep hatred for Rome. They were frustrated and hurt. Peter reminded them that they were called to live on a different level, submitting to a greater Authority. (1Peter 2:11)

Peter speaks of three motives regarding being faithful to our government.
1. Submit to human authority in obedience to God.
2. Imitate our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus did not lash out or fight, but instead took the position of calling us to repentance. (1Peter 2:21-25)
3. Glorify Him. We honor God when we are obedient. God is always faithful.

There is still a battle, even as we submit ourselves.

We are engaged in a battle for what is right. We can’t change everything, but we can change some things. Our responsibility as Christ followers is to do all we can to build God’s Kingdom. God has not called us to submit only to the authorities we agree with, He has called us simply to submit and show proper respect for everyone. (1Peter 2:17). It may not always be an easy task. Pastor Cook talked to us about this and shared the words of radio personality Paul Harvey regarding the battle we face. Listen to Paul Harvey’s “If I were the Devil” from 1965 here.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get discouraged by the things that I see. I long for simpler days and less confusion, days where I don’t feel like I have failed to fully protect the innocence of my children because of the rampant images and sounds available to fuel the demoralization of our minds. But then, I am reminded that I am engaged in a battle that has already been won. God gave us the ultimate gift of salvation through Christ Jesus. I find hope in His Word, in His promises. I am called to be an obedient follower of Christ. To live a life that reflects the words of Peter and to do it for the Lord’s sake.

 

Take the Pledge

By: Deborah Dewart

On the 4th of July, we light up the sky
Firecrackers poppin’ way up high
Happy Birthday, America!

Today is time for a birthday party. Celebrate freedom! America threw off the shackles of a government that strangled freedoms we now take for granted—rights to worship, speak, and associate. God blessed America for decades, but Christians now face a multitude of challenges. Attacks on liberty multiply faster than bunny rabbits. Atheists are not satisfied to be free of government coercion. They file lawsuits to purge the public square, assaulting religious displays, legislative invocations, and even the National Day of Prayer. Others want to redefine marriage and family under the guise of “tolerance”—and silence opposing voices through crippling legal penalties. The right to life, a cornerstone of our Declaration of Independence, has been eroded—babies are no longer safe in their mothers’ wombs. Lawsuits sprout like weeds.

What does this mean for Christians? We have plenty to say. As a First Amendment lawyer, I constantly scour the news for cases where I can write briefs defending life and liberty. I love to give those courts my “two cents worth.” I wrote the book, Death of Christian Nation, to help believers understand the current legal climate.

Free speech is both a right and a responsibility. Taking the “P.L.E.D.G.E.” can help our speech honor God and edify others:

PRAY! My first brief about legislative prayer was also my first adventure in the federal circuit courts. At the eleventh hour, I had to get admitted—literally overnight—in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. After a series of mini-miracles, I remembered gratefully that my law practice was a permanent fixture on the church prayer list.

LISTEN. My head was in the “Christian sand” for years, oblivious to current events. We can’t change America unless we listen—to the news and our adversaries. Listen respectfully, praying for wisdom before you respond.

EDUCATE yourself and your children. If you understand the pressing issues of our times and the history behind them, you’ll be ready to engage the culture in fruitful discussions—and “give an answer” for your hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:14).

DEFEND. The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” No matter how godly or responsible your speech is, activists may try to squelch it. If so, defend your right to speak and help keep America free for others. If necessary, contact a legal organization like Alliance Defense Fund.

GLORIFY GOD. People are watching to see if we “practice what we preach.” Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson was formerly director of an abortion clinic, but the kindness and love of Christian protesters provided a safe refuge when she was overcome with the truth about what her clinic was doing.

EDIFY: Only God can change hearts, but our gracious speech can help build bridges. Ephesians 4:29 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Won’t you join me and take the P.L.E.D.G.E. today?

 

Deborah J. Dewart is a practicing attorney in both North Carolina and California and the author of Death of Christian Nation. She’s a member of Harvest Presbyterian Church in NC. When not writing briefs defending religious liberties, she travels throughout the US sharing the Gospel as a Christian ventriloquist. http://www.resurrectionrabbit.com

 

Hope in the Midst of Hurting Marriages – Part I

By: Karen Polich with Kevin Polich

What is on the other side of marital struggle?

The trouble doesn’t happen overnight, it builds over time with little things. But there is hope! God’s Word calls wives to a personal commitment of submission toward her husband. (1 Peter 3:1-6) This is something a wife chooses. It is hard. It is learned and it is scary. Adoration for a husband brings beauty to a marriage, motivating a husband like nothing else. The perfect picture of submission can be found looking at Christ in Philippians 2: 5-11. Continuing his series, The Other Side of Pain, Pastor Michael Cook began looking at marriage. To hear the sermon, click here.

A wife’s perspective.
Submission, a simple word that creates such a commotion in our culture. Should it? As a wife, God calls me to submit to my husband. Not as a servant or a lesser partner, but with confidence and trust. It is liberating. I can be me, basking in the love of a husband who honors me. My actions speak far louder than my words. I have a choice. How do my actions speak to my husband? I can show him how much I respect him when he chooses to do the right thing. I can honor him with gentleness. Belief in him and his abilities to provide for and lead our family is what I want to display. We are on this journey together, with God at the center. As a wife, I have the opportunity to champion him through my actions.

A husband’s perspective.
What impacted me? Hearing this sermon made me more aware of what our marriage looks like and who my wife chooses to be. It is comforting to see the confidence she has in me, confidence in who I am and what I do. I think the biggest part of this is trust. First, we both have to trust God. When we do this, it becomes easier to follow His plan for our marriage. This is how we work together as true partners.

What about you? What are your thoughts on Pastor Michael Cook’s message?