Month: September 2014


By: Karl Lee

Ever felt ashamed? My Webster’s New World College Dictionary lists three definitions:

  • feeling shame because of something bad, wrong or foolish
  • feeling humiliated or embarrassed as from a sense of inadequacy or inferiority
  • reluctant because fearing shame beforehand

If you are anything like me I have been guilty of all three.

As you ponder on these definitions it is easy to visualize how one can embarrass and shame themselves. I vividly remember the first time I was to stand before a class and teach. This was in the military and I was to teach on scheme and maneuver. For civilians that means how to approach and get in the best possible position to engage the enemy. Stammer, stutter and feeling inadequate, that was me.
Have you ever felt that way when it comes to giving your testimony or sharing Jesus with someone? A bit timid, stammering a little or maybe get a bit flushed in the face? Been there and done that. But you know what? Once you get started and get past the first hurdle it is amazing how well it goes. The Word of God has something to say about being ashamed.

Consider these bits of Scripture:
Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33.
If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels. Mark 8:38
Better yet is Paul’s encouragement in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of….” Well, you finish reading it for yourselves it will encourage you!


By: Karen Polich

We place such value on being prepared. We plan everything from vacations to what we are going to have for dinner. We plan our careers, our weddings, our lives. We plan for excellence. The question is do we really prepare?

The best athletes work tirelessly to be ready for any situation the game throws at them. They know what they need to do to be ready, to build on their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. We celebrate their success, but never see the endless hours they put into the preparation before the big moment. They always come prepared,  leave nothing on the table, and give everything they have.

That is how we should approach our Lord when given the opportunity to share in The Lord’s Supper. We should be ready to offer everything we are, everything we have. Do we prepare for this in the same way we prepare for the things that occur in our daily lives? Do we prepare with the best we have?

Pastor Michael Cook shared what it means to be prepared spiritually. Our preparation is truly an act of faith. Each small action leads up to something that impacts the days ahead. God has placed us here to be extraordinary. We are here to touch lives. We should be pursuing Him with everything. Pastor Cook shared how we can be prepared.

Six areas we need to look at when it comes to preparing ourselves.
1. Surrender Yielding to God in surrender is the beginning point in approaching Him. We are each unworthy, but made worthy in Christ. (Matthew 16:24-25)
2. Know Him We need to really know Him. Matthew 22:37 says, “Jesus replied; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind.”
3. Attitude Many times we drag cultural influences into our worship. We think about our rights, what we like or don’t like. Our attitudes and thoughts should be one of a servant. (Romans 12:2)
4. Words/Communication How clean is our communication? Not just our words, but every way we communicate in this fast paced world. Are we ready to account for every empty word? (Matthew 12:36)
5. Relationships The relationship we have with our Lord and with others matters. We should love the unlovable and be willing to restore what is broken. (John 13:34-35)
6. Search our hearts We need to search our hearts for the sins laid out biblically, but also for the sins of omission. The sins we commit because of something we have been called by God to do that we don’t. (Luke 6:46)

Preparation can bring us closer to God. We have every opportunity to prepare ourselves in everything we do. If we are simply willing, we can prepare ourselves to come before our Lord with great reverence and intimacy.

He is waiting. Are you prepared to approach Him?

For Everything There Is a Season

By: Becky Cook

Ecclesiastes 3:2 says,
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
A time to be born and a time to die
A time to plant and a time to uproot
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to tear down and a time to build
A time to weep and a time to laugh
A time to mourn and a time to dance
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing
A time to search and a time to give up
A time to keep and a time to throw away
A time to tear and a time to mend
A time to be silent and a time to speak
A time to love and a time to hate
A time for war and a time for peace

My husband and I spent some time this week sitting at the bedside of one of the sweetest godliest women ever to be in our ministry. Life is wavering for her. Change is inevitable! How does someone leave a home they have known for fifty years? How does one accept that they may never walk again but be confined to a wheelchair?

My husband asked me to pray over her before we left. I found myself praying for peace in the decision making and comfort for her physically. But throughout the week I have found myself being burdened for another prayer, “Lord, help her accept this new season.” Why didn’t I think of that then?

This week I have encountered more people who are experiencing change:

  • A mother who has just taken her only child to college, her heart now in shock. Her text to me: “How did you do this?”
  • A mom who has just sent the last of three to college now facing an empty nest. Her tearful voice on the phone, “I can’t even talk about it!”
  • A woman who is adjusting to going back to work, with all three kids in tow! Her face expressing frustration as she has to peel one off her leg.
  • A newlywed facing the unknown of another deployment… it’s part of the job! Her response: I can’t get frustrated; I just wonder how to plan?
  • The 101 year old grandmother who has to change rooms because she can’t behave! Her question: “Why did they move me?” (She doesn’t play well with roommates anymore.)
  • A wonderful Christian lady who goes in for neck surgery and now has no movement in her right arm, why?
  • A great man of God whose days of traveling to preach the word are over…he watches church on TV. Is this all there will be now?

My question… Is this all fair? No, but it’s a season!

Why do we struggle with the seasons in life? It’s crazy to think that if we can respond to the seasons of nature that God set in place that we cannot respond similarly to the seasons of life that God ordains.

Fall brings change, crispness in the air, a new school year, football, pumpkin spice lattes! Can you feel it? We love it and respond to it with a fresh breath.

Winter brings change, fireplaces in full use, the beauty of snow, the sound of holiday music, the quietness of empty trees, the laughter of families at holidays.
We love it and respond to it as we cuddle inside watching out the window.

Spring brings change, the sight of new growth outside, the smell of fresh cut grass, the sun peeping out earlier and staying up longer, the sound of children playing outside again. We love it and respond to it with a slight spring in our step and thoughts of the approaching days of summer!

Summer brings change, rest for many, vacations, the sound of the ocean, the chance to mush sand between our toes, open pools, boats on the lake! We love it and respond to it by planning ahead to enjoy it!

Our response to these seasons is the key! Do we need to be reminded that God created these seasons?

Our response to the seasons of life is also the key. God is in control and has His purpose set in motion when these seasons roll around. As believers, we will all face change. How we respond is the true test of our faith. At the point of change, in the moment of questioning and with our doubting faith, is when God can really take hold and use us! The world needs to see believers walking through those seasons reflecting how FAITH can see you through anything!

  • Mother of the only child, let go, she belongs to Him; it’s your Season to TRUST.
  • Mother with the empty nest, invest in others; it’s your Season to SERVE.
  • Working mom, let others see you persevere; it’s your Season to REFLECT LOVE.
  • Newlywed daughter, boast not of tomorrow; it’s your season to LOVE TODAY.
  • Mammaw, keep looking to Heaven; it’s your season for ETERNAL HOPE.
  • Sister who needs healing, He is your Great Physician; it’s your season of HEALING.
  • Dad, fight the good fight; it’s your season to ENCOURAGE young men of God.
  • Mrs. Ruth, there may be a new mission field for you; it’s your season to TESTIFY of God’s faithfulness.

If you are facing change, a new season in life, grab hold and know your Savior has a plan! Until he calls you home, there is purpose in every step of your journey!

Your attitude and response is a light in this world of darkness! Let it shine BRIGHT!

Beginning Steps

By: Karen Polich

Last week Pastor Michael Cook looked at Nehemiah and his anguish. He was in mourning, fully in the “Kleenex phase”. Now, we watch Nehemiah moving into the “cup phase”. This is the defining moment. The grieving is over; he is leaving it behind. Read Nehemiah 2: 110. Listen to the Restore sermon series podcast here.

The idea of restoration suggests something is wrong. A significant loss has occurred. With it, we lose other things. We may lose our ability to trust others. We lose our next step, or we lose people.

What about in your life? What about my life? Are you and I moving forward towards restoration? If not, we risk getting stuck. We cannot rebuild anything when we can’t move forward. Nehemiah recognized this and made a courageous move in revealing his anguish to the king.

The concept of loss is deeply personal. How long should it take to be ready to move forward? Losing a loved one doesn’t invoke the same sense of loss as losing a job. Both are painful, but they are not the same. What a complex issue! Understand that in the complexity of this, there is no simple answer to how it will look when we experience loss and are ready for restoration. When we find ourselves at the extreme of either no grief, or stuck in grief, this should cause concern.

These four steps will help us as we move forward:

1. Embrace uncertainty. We can’t plan everything. If we aren’t willing to move forward despite the unknown, we will never move forward.
2. Acknowledge fear. It is difficult. We can acknowledge fear without allowing it to paralyze us. It is huge to advance and not regress in the fear. Your sadness and hurt will not rebuild anything.
3. Anticipate God’s favor. We often forget this lesson. Always anticipate God doing something amazing. Communicate this with your life, your heart and your actions. God has His majestic Hand on the situation.
4. Expect complications. We all have people like this in our lives (Nehemiah 2:10). Complications will try to derail everything you are doing.

Condensed into one word moving forward equates to: COURAGE.

Joshua 1:9, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Are you ready to take the beginning steps of restoration? Embrace courage and let God do something amazing.

What Will Be Your Family Legacy?

by LuAnn Edwards

My parents were great examples of two people totally sold out to the Lord. They became very active in their church, faithfully serving together for 30 years until their health gave out. They left our family the legacy of their personal commitment and faithful service to the Lord.

This commitment to the Lord was not always a part of their lives, however. I grew up attending church on a not-so-regular basis. If I remember correctly, the church taught that if you became a member and took communion twice a year, you would go to heaven. Our family did the minimum; we wanted to make it into heaven! Our church was dull and lifeless. I knew there had to be more, and I needed it.

My mom, too, was searching for more. She began watching Billy Graham Crusades on television and telling me about them. We both decided we needed to find out more. We started attending a small church in our neighborhood. It had friendly people and was very lively; nothing dull or lifeless about it! There we heard about accepting the Lord into our hearts and lives and developing a relationship with Him. It was there we found Jesus!

About a year later, my dad accepted the Lord into his life as well. It was no more, “Let’s just get into heaven;” it was now, “What else can we do for our Lord?” My parents supported the church financially and became very involved. They would also faithfully pray at the kitchen table each morning for their children, grandchildren, and church family.

Years later, after moving 500 miles away, we would stay in their home when we visited. Their faithfulness in prayer touched my heart as I heard them calling out the names of their children and grandchildren to the Lord asking Him to care for them and for them to accept Him as Savior and Lord of their lives.

I, too, desire to leave a family legacy for my children and grandchildren. I would like to be remembered as a woman of faith who walked in the Spirit of Christ; a woman who loved the Lord with all her heart and found joy in worshipping her Lord and bringing Him glory; a woman who dearly loved her family and prayed for them daily and for others as well believing God would move on their behalf with blessings upon blessings; and a woman who lived for the Lord even when she thought no one was watching. What kind of lasting family legacy are you hoping to leave?

Matthew 6:20-21, But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

One Big Mess

By: Karen Polich

“Rebuilding your broken world begins with the premise that individuals who have failed must present themselves before God in openness and acknowledge responsibility and accountability.” -Gordon MacDonald

Many of us have one big mess piling up in some area. It could be health, family, marriage, integrity, or relationships. Restore, Pastor Michael Cook’s new sermon series investigates the biblical steps of true restoration. Read Nehemiah 1: 1-9.

Did you notice Nehemiah doesn’t shout? He begins to pray. “LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.”

He is inviting God into the mess. How often do we find ourselves in need of restoration and we haven’t yet asked God into the situation? Restoration from a biblical perspective cannot occur until we find ourselves in the place of brokenness and ask God to meet us there.

How do you begin restoring a life? Brokenness is often the launch pad. Invite God into the mess! Own the mess and the mess behind the mess!

Restorative grace is the act of God restoring usefulness, sanity and order in our lives. Often in a mess, God demonstrates His restorative grace and reminds us He has not completed our story. Did you hear that? God has not completed our story! Nehemiah was asking God what we should be asking Him today. “Heavenly Father, focus not on what we are, but on what we can become.”

Will you ask God to bring His restorative grace into your mess? Listen to Pastor Michael Cook via podcast here.

Me? An Apprentice of Jesus?

By Gerry Wakeland

For the past several months Pastor Cook has been preaching on becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ. He has shared repeatedly from the Word of God what that looks like. I have listened carefully, taken copious notes and strived to learn what this means in my own life. When all is said and done, I still come back to one thing. The goal of a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ is to become more like Christ. (See Colossians 3) To do so, we must know Christ, really know Him.

What does this mean? Literally it means becoming a disciple. Think about it. Jesus chose 12 men, common ordinary everyday guys. Just like He chose those twelve He has chosen us, you and me.

Those men left their lives, their families, their jobs, everything to follow Jesus. Perhaps God has not called you to depart from your family or quit your job but He has asked you to put the world aside and to follow Him, to become His disciples here and now in 2014. Much like Peter, John, James and the rest, we are confused. How do we become like Jesus? We watch. We listen. We learn. We ask questions and we wait for the answers.

I have discovered I cannot do this on my own. I came face to face with this reality on a very hot afternoon in July of 2009 as I sat in a hotel conference room in San Antonio, TX shoulder to shoulder with pastors, theologians and other lay leaders like myself.

I had arrived at the conference room intrigued with the topic of the seminar, Becoming an Apprentice of Jesus. I had no clue what to expect. As Professor James Bryan Smith began to teach I became captivated with this concept.

The word apprentice is defined as one who works for or with another in order to learn a trade. The idea that I could walk along side Jesus in a group of fellow believers and that together we could learn and live out His Word intrigued me. The more Jim Smith spoke the more compelled I felt to make this happen in my own life.

The Apprentice study encourages you to read, journal, pray, discuss and participate in weekly spiritual exercises with the goal that you will discover your heart being shaped by the truth of Jesus Christ and your life transformed.

My first step was participating in the study on a personal level. It wasn’t easy. I had to make a commitment of time and study. I had to be intentional about my goals. It did not take long for me to become hooked. Jim Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful God, was changing my life. I had grown up in the church but I had never been exposed to the attributes of God expressed in this way.

Having taken the study I could see the life changing potential of this material and I could not wait to share it. It’s been five years since that hot, humid day in San Antonio and I have led four groups through the Apprentice series.

If you are looking for a way to take your relationship with Jesus to a new level, a deeper level then this is the study for you. Join us and fall in love with the God that Jesus knows.

Download a free chapter of The Good and Beautiful LIfe, from the Apprentice Series, by James Bryan Smith, courtesy of InterVarsity Press. Good&BeautifulLife Ch.10 (click to download)

Learning to Live Without Worry

God is working with me, and his kingdom pace is one day at a time. He has wisely ordered and measured what I can handle. Adding tomorrow’s problems to today’s is actually impossible, but many of us try to do it anyway.

Taken from The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith.
Copyright (c) 2009 by James Bryan Smith.
Used by permission of InterVarsity Press,
P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.


The Other Side of the Fire

By: Karen Polich

Sometimes life can feel like you’ve been thrown into the fire. A setback turns into more than simply a tough situation. The flames just keep growing hotter no matter what I do. Encountering stumbling block after stumbling block, difficult days pile up on hard times. Sound familiar?

Walking through tough times is never easy. Some may take the approach of “it happens, no big deal”, while others may decide that God must have abandoned them. Pastor Michael Cook reminded us that neither approach should be our focus.

When God seems like He is not making sense, know that He is making sense like never before.

Our perspective is not His. While circumstances might not make sense to us, we can choose to trust Him, despite the fire. Continuing his teachings from 1 Peter, Pastor Cook gives us three things to look for when we are in the midst of the fire.

Instruction in the Fire
Peter makes it clear that we should not be surprised by difficulty. A Christian understands that tough times are going to come. As a follower of Christ, we can choose to trust God, even when we are discouraged and don’t understand. God’s Word tells us to rejoice in the suffering! Have you ever looked at suffering in your life as something that belongs to Christ, you are simply the vessel?

Evaluation of the “Why” of Suffering
Sometimes we may suffer because we choose to serve the Lord Jesus. Other times we may suffer because we have made a stupid decision. Sin takes you to a place of suffering.

Explanation of Difficulties
Part of what we go through is separation. God wants to know our hearts. There are those living Godly lives and those who are not. This is everywhere, even among Christian families and in churches.

Like a great coach who prepares his team for anything that may happen, Peter wanted Christ followers to be ready for anything that might come into their lives. He did not avoid suffering, but kept his focus on someone higher and on the understanding that God will do and allow things for our good.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God: And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:12-19

To hear Pastor Michael Cook’s complete sermon, listen here. How do you see the other side of the fire?