Month: October 2014

A Time for Excellence

By Karen Polich

Excellence is a choice.

God didn’t create us to be average. He didn’t make us to barely get by; we were created to excel. – Unknown

Defined as the quality of being outstanding or good, excellence is something of beauty. Choosing excellence brings us to a place where our integrity is pure and we are giving our very best. It requires discipline and commitment. Excellence brings focus and is free of distractions. Just reading the word, excellence, can evoke a desire to pursue a higher purpose.

Excellence doesn’t have room for complacency or mediocrity. It cannot be half done or involve only part of a heart and mind. When we are bringing our very best to God, we are bringing Him the essence of who we are and who He made us to be. Excellence involves doing what is right, regardless of who is watching. It is striving to always make things better, even if things are already good. It is a choice that involves the details.

We are called to bring excellence in worship. in Exodus 34:26, we are called to bring our first fruits, Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God. God wants our attention, our focus; He desires that we bring Him excellence in what we offer. A sharpened sense of belonging comes with excellence in our worship. It brings a deeper intimacy with our Creator.

Perfection is not a requirement since we are made perfect in Christ. God wants us; our whole self and everything we have to offer. For God did not give you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

We can choose to bring excellence in our worship. We can choose to open our hearts with complete abandon. We can choose to give with excellence and trust God. What might we see God do when we bring Him our very best?

What do you choose? Are you ready to bring excellence in worshiping our Holy God?

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. Psalm 29:2


By Karen Polich

Every one of us are rebuilders. Our lives weave in and out of rebuilding and restoration. At times the process seems to flow smoothly, then the reality of conflict sets in. Sometimes the conflict is internal, we struggle to move forward and see things through. Other times it comes from those around us; not wanting to see us succeed in restoring what has been lost. Wherever it comes from, distraction can lead to destruction if we aren’t ever mindful.

Many things that can distract us from the restoration that we set out to complete.

In reading Nehemiah 6, we learn that distractions came to Nehemiah during a critical time; the walls were complete, but the gates were not. His enemies tried to lure him away, they wanted him to be vulnerable. Nehemiah handled them with wisdom and focus, not allowing them to divert him from the goal. He realized that they were desperate.

Pastor Michael Cook gave us 4 points to remember when it comes to distractions during restoration.

  1. Your progress affects more than just you.
  2. Your derailment affects more than just you.
  3. What if God uses our spiritual growth as much for others as for ourselves?
  4. In the midst of restoration, one must discern God’s voice form the voice of the enemy.

Listen to Pastor Cook’s Restore series via podcast here.

Often fear sneaks up on us during our rebuilding efforts. Fear can hold us back from achieving the very thing we have been called to do.  It shakes us, making us question ourselves until we can become paralyzed.

Nehemiah refused to let fear devastate him. If he had given into the fear, the outcome would not have been the same. We must seek God’s discernment. The seductive voice of this world can take us away from the significance of what God has called us to accomplish.

What I choose affects more than just me. How I journey through the struggle will impact others. I can choose to listen to God, fighting to see the results of my rebuilding efforts, or I can choose to see the results of my derailment. Rebuilding something is never easy, but perseverance is always better than quitting. God is constant and near, He will walk this journey with me and my heart will rejoice each time I can stop and say, “Yes, it is restored!”

Will you ask God for the discernment to follow through and finish today?


A Perspective on Victory

By Kristi Sullins

One of my favorite parts of being a pastor’s wife has been the opportunity to build friendships with people from all over. 15 years of ministry has given us scattered “family” that we stay connected to through email and social media.

It was one of these connections that God used to take me on a journey of understanding.  At the beginning of the year I was introduced to a blog about a little boy named Ben.  His mom Mindy had started a blog to journal their journey through Ben’s battle with cancer, specifically, a brain tumor.  As a mom, my soul became caught up in their journey, and I found myself praying for this little boy often.

In the beginning, the prayers came as a claim of the healing I knew that God could bring.

Surely, He would bring victory and healing to this four- year old boy.  I would watch for her blogpost with confidence that there would be signs of healing.  Month after month, post after post, this is not the story she shared.  Each post revealed a reality much different than what I had claimed.  As thousands around the country joined in prayer, I held onto the fact that God’s power would be clearly revealed if He would just heal Ben.  His grace and sufficiency was on full display in the life of this sweet family, but we did not see the power and healing we were all praying for.

The reality of God’s plan came into full view recently when God brought Ben home.  Local papers in Buffalo, NY, posted that Ben had lost his battle with cancer. My mind agreed.

It was while in the shower, I questioned God.  I laid out what I thought would have been best and pointed out all the times He had worked miracles.  It was then that God had what my dad always called “a come to Jesus meeting” with me.  What did I define as a victory?  Had my human heart lost perspective on what a God victory really was?  He walked me through the realities in my life.

Were the struggles of the church that I love failures?  Could I see victory in a church that had walked hard roads for so long that they would not dare move without God? Could I see it in a job loss and unplanned move that dropped us right in the will of God?  Could I see victory in the death of a beloved saint of our church as evidence that there are still those who live their lives serving God?

Was I willing to hand over the black and white definition of my world to see that in the death of a four- year old boy an entire city was impacted by the life of this boy and his family who constantly pointed to God?

Our human hearts tend to take on the world’s definition of wins and losses, victories and failures.

We hold God to that tainted standard and then suffer defeat when His perfect plan does not match up with our sightless one.  The clearest example of failure and victory is in the death of our Christ.  On the day of His death the Jews were clear that this Messiah was a failure.  Three days later it became clear for those who knew Him that by His death and resurrection there was VICTORY.

Oh, that my heart will be softened to God’s definition of victory, and that my eyes will search for His victories in all parts of this journey.





Internal Destruction

By Karen Polich

Pastor Michael Cook’s Restore sermon series brings us to Nehemiah Chapter 5. (Listen to the podcast here.)

Here we learn that the fight continues, but this time it is not from an outside enemy. The conflict against restoration comes from within. The battle comes from insiders involved in the restoration. Those working on rebuilding the walls faced the challenges of having walked away from their livelihoods and all supporting elements that kept their families fed and cared for. This meant that they were in a position of having to borrow money. Interest was piling up and children were being lost to pay debts. They began to cry out with the frustration of a difficult situation.

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are charging your own people interest!’ Nehemiah 5:6-7

Those Nehemiah accused remained silent. Isn’t that the way it goes when we are called out for our selfish ways?

There is usually little to say in return. This brings us to the question we must ask in the middle of restoring anything.

Who am I here for?                         

  1. I am here for me.
  2. I am NOT here for me.

The difference is like two hearts with no way of recognizing the beat of the other.  It brings us to the simple, yet monumental command from Mark 12:31, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

God has called us to serve Him. When we have a heart of service, we stop focusing on ourselves and are able to love others as we should. It is easy to love ourselves. It is easy to look out for our own interests, but what about putting the needs of others first? If you have a heart that beats for others, restoration will look completely different.

Nehemiah’s leadership was courageous. He challenged the officials and nobles to give it all back and made them take an oath holding them to their promise. He called them out in front of God, saying ‘In this way may God shake out of their houses and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!’ Nehemiah 5:13 He knew that accountability was necessary.

We all face difficulties and situations that need restoration. The first step is asking God to join us in the rubble so that we can begin to restore what has been lost.

The question remains, what kind of heart will you have in the midst of restoration?

Pastors Are People Too!

By Kelsey Bruxvoort

Growing up as a Pastor’s Kid I loved the attention. How could you not love getting candy and cookies all the time because people found you cute as a button. However, I hated the fact that I felt pressure to be perfect in every way, from how I looked to how I acted to what I said.

Those expectations are not just of pastor’s kids they are of pastors and their wives as well. People automatically look to pastors as the example of godliness. Now, several years later, I can look back and understand that pastors are people, too.

Because of my experience growing up as the child of a pastor I can see that there are several things that we can do as members of the congregation to support our pastors and their families. Here are a few.

We need to give our pastors permission to be who God created them to be. We are all of the same sinful nature. We should not place unrealistic expectations on them. Let’s not compare them to the previous pastor or to the television evangelist we watch on Saturday night.

God created each of us with a purpose. This goes for pastors too. First and foremost our pastors are children of God and should be encouraged to live as such. God wants our body and our head to work together. To make this happen pastors, just like all other individuals, need to take care of themselves physically and spiritually.  They need to allow for rest, for time to spend with God, for time to enjoy hobbies. In other words, they need balance. God created the Sabbath for a reason and He created it for all of His children.

We need to help protect our pastor’s time and commitments. I can remember so many times when my father was not able to attend my school or sports events because of church commitments. It still hurts to think about it. We need to understand that pastors have families and need to spend quality time with them. It’s okay for them to say no to some of the invitations that we as members of the church issue. They can’t possibly attend every meeting, every gathering, every celebration and party. We need to allow them to set realistic priorities. I believe that God would have their priorities be, God first, family next and then the church. In the world we criticize men and women who put their careers before their family but in the church we expect that of our pastors.

We need to pray for our pastors and their families. We need to pray for

  • their spiritual protection
  • their opportunities to transform lives
  • their ability to set good boundaries
  • their health and welfare

And finally, we need to encourage our pastors.  The Apostle Paul tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up.” We need to do this consistently, not just during Pastor Appreciation Month. A card, an e-mail, a text, a gift card, these are all great ways to show our pastors that we care about them.

God has given our pastors an awesome responsibility to lead and guide His church. God has given us an awesome responsibility to support and encourage our pastors.

Remember, a healthy pastor means a healthy church.



By Karen Polich

Restoration is simply part of life and cannot be avoided. Much of our lives will be spent restoring someone or something. Pastor Michael Cook continued his sermon series Restore. Read Nehemiah 4 and listen to the podcast here.

Nehemiah came to Jerusalem on a mission, but his effort was not without challenges. There were those who did not want restoration. Restoring Jerusalem would jeopardize the authority of those who benefited from the rubble. The workers who were committed to restoring Jerusalem found that the situation was increasingly complicated. What did they do?

They prayed, then did all they could do, leaving the struggle to God. They persevered.

What can we learn from Nehemiah that speaks into our own lives? Pastor Cook explored 4 questions in the process of restoration.

  1. Who hurt you?

What are you going to do with the pain? The process can quickly become complicated. How we handle the hurt of betrayal, embarrassment or ridicule impacts restoration. You can hear “the sting” in Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 4: 4-5. He pours the hurt out to God.  We too often think about the revenge we would like instead of giving the pain over to God. Romans 12:19, Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. 

  1. Are you in the beginning, middle or end stage of restoration?

The beginning stage is new and exciting, there’s adrenaline but it carries you only so far. In the end, there’s a second wind that helps you push through. It’s the middle that can be most difficult. The middle stage is where you realize that it isn’t going to be easy. The rubble doesn’t increase, but it can sure feel like it has.

  1. Where are you in the greatest danger?

Are you trying to restore too much at once? Step back and ask yourself where the greatest danger is. Decide that you will restore that first before working on any other area.

  1. Who are you fighting for?

Nehemiah never asked anyone to fight for themselves, he asked them to fight for those around them. He understood that retreat would be difficult if the fight was for someone else. When you fight the battle for those beyond yourself, that perseverance will bring courage.

How are you handling restoration in your life today? Have you moved from the grief of your situation into the active choice of restoring what has been broken?

The choices you are making today are going to impact those around you now as well as in the future. The choices of today will build the legacy of generations to come.

Perseverance through restoration will bring blessings downstream.

Are you ready to ask God to join you in the restoration today?




What I Did On My Summer Vacation

By Trason Sullins as told to Gerry Wakeland

When I decided to go with my grandparents on a mission trip to Haiti I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pretty sure that it would be very hot and there would be lots of kids. I knew it would be a different culture from New Mexico.

As my departure date grew closer we discovered that my Grandpa, Mike Campbell, would not be able to go with us. So I went with my Nana, Marie Campbell and members from her church, Long Hollow Baptist Church in Gallatin, TN. There were 23 altogether.

We flew from Nashville to Miami and then on to Port-au-Prince. From there we drove 12 hours and finally arrived in Jeremie. We stayed at the guest house and were pretty lucky because it was solar powered. We even had internet at the pastor’s house.

The first day we met our interpreter. His name was Dou Dou and he is 40 years old. He is married and has two kids.

The Haitians speak the Creole language which is a mixture of French and Spanish. It helped that I had taken Spanish in school. Some of the words I remember are allo, which means hi. Merci means thank you. And Jesu means Jesus.

In Haiti we served in three different villages. At Guest House Village there were about 26 people. In the village of Emmanuel there were about 50 people and in Londun there were approximately 200. In each of these villages we held Vacation Bible School for the children. In Emmanuel I got to tell the Bible story. I told the story of the unfaithful servant. We acted it out as a drama and it was amazing. I loved being able to share.

One of the local restaurants provided our meals. The grilled goat was amazing. It was chopped up and mixed with seasonings. They had the best rice. And coke.

We played games with the kids. Soccer was the favorite. There is so much more freedom in Haiti. We just hung out with the kids and we felt safe.

Haiti is a very poor country. Most people have only two meals a day and children have no shoes. Many of the children were making things like bracelets and selling them to make money. I felt bad because there was so much competition.

Church in Haiti is very different. First of all, it was two hours long. The preaching and singing were loud and energetic. The kids started out separate but we all ended up together.

What would I tell people that are interested in going on a mission trip?

  • Go somewhere that people don’t have as much stuff
  • Go on a mission trip not just a vacation
  • Go somewhere that’s not a travel destination
  • Go to share the love of Jesus

What would I tell youth who want to go on a mission trip?

Just go!

I learned a lot on this trip. I learned not to complain about what I don’t have. I learned how to share the gospel with the kids. Probably the most important thing I learned was to be grateful for what I have. I can’t wait to go back.


Restore – Cost Counting

By Karen Polich

Cost Counting – Assessing the Damage

 In a broken world with broken people, most of us will find ourselves participating in restoration numerous times throughout life’s many stages.  – Pastor Michael Cook.

(Listen to his Restore sermon series here.)

Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem carrying God’s mission in his heart. He began to look around, finding rubble. He found so much rubble in some areas that he couldn’t even get through it. Nehemiah knew that he needed to have a solid picture of the situation before beginning to rebuild and restore. (From Nehemiah 2:11-20)

Nehemiah did something very important. He looked around and did a full assessment. When we are trying to restore and rebuild, we need to be willing to shine a light into our lives. When we search our hearts, we can assess the damage. Some areas may be worse than others. We can see what is right and whole as well as what is wrong and broken. It is not easy, but it is necessary. Pastor Michael Cook reminded us that when we are humble and broken and we take those courageous first steps in putting things back together, God has a special place in His heart for us. So often we forget that God is with us when we seek restoration in our lives.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6b

When we have been living in the rubble for too long, we can get so used to it that we begin to think it is normal. The longer we sit in the rubble, the harder it is to get started. Keep in mind that thinking about getting started and actually getting started are like night and day. Restoration cannot occur until we take those first steps and start the process. It isn’t going to get any easier by waiting. Consider it the chair of resistance; the longer we wait to get out of it, the harder the struggle.

Moving forward in restoration, brings satisfaction and excitement, but don’t forget to make allowances for the pain that will come as well. There may be those who don’t want to see you rebuild your life. Nehemiah experienced that, but He focused on God’s grace and the desire to see Jerusalem restored. We must choose to push through the pain. We must choose to shine the light of God’s love into our lives and embrace what will come when we rebuild and restore our lives.

Will you take that first step today?


Why I Praise Him

By LuAnn Edwards

If you attend Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church, you may have seen me singing in the choir or with the Praise Team. You may have asked yourself the question, “Why does she raise her hands?” There are several reasons why I praise my Lord. A few of them include: (1) The truth has set me free (John 8:32); (2) He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3); and (3) Praise makes the enemy flee (2 Chronicles 20:1-24).

Christ set me free; I am so thankful to Him for this.

I was heading the wrong way in life and have a pretty good idea of what my life would be like without Him. He rescued me from a miserable existence. Had I continued on the path I was taking, I would be living without hope, trying to fulfill myself with meaningless relationships and material things. How can I not praise Him for all He has done for me?

The Lord desires my worship, and praise is an expression of that worship. Praise brings me into God’s presence and fills me with His joy and peace. To sincerely praise Him, we must do so in humility and true devotion; how can we truly praise Him and have animosity in our hearts toward others? Praise allows me to lift up the Lord and glorify Him. Do I only praise Him in church? No! I praise Him at home and in my car and even when I am alone at work. At times, I praise him loudly with singing; or I may worship Him quietly while listening for His still, small voice. I believe He desires this of me, and I totally enjoy honoring Him in this way. (Psalm 34:1; Psalm 98:4; Psalm 134:2; Psalm 150:4; Eph. 5:19-20.)

Praise sends the enemy running! The story of Jehoshaphat (found in 2 Chronicles 20) crying out to God for the people of Judah shares a wonderful truth from God’s Word. Jehoshaphat heard that armies were coming to attack them, and he knew they did not have the power to fight back. He prayed and looked to the Lord for help. The Lord spoke through one of the men saying, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (v 15). God told them they were to march down against the enemy, but they would not have to fight. Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah bowed before the Lord and began to worship Him. Some stood and offered praise to the Lord with a very loud voice. The next morning they went out to face their enemies. Jehoshaphat stood and told the people to have faith in the Lord. He then appointed men to sing to the Lord and praise Him saying, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever” (v 21). As the people began to sing praises, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies causing them to kill one another, and they were defeated! Judah did not have to fight!

What battle are you facing today? Try giving thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever. He will inhabit your praises, and His truth will set you free!









Kid’s Klub – Get in the Game

By: Karen Polich with Kasimira Polich

Looking for a game changer? Look no further than the children around you.

Sunday was special. Parents had the opportunity to join their children during Kid’s Klub as the leaders wrapped up the series, ‘Get in the Game’.  It was a time of worship and praise. Games, Bible stories and music revealed how these children seek God. Small voices poured out Bible verses and explained stories from God’s Word. It was beautiful.

I was reminded of the words Jesus spoke in Matthew 18:1-5. At the time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.’

I saw joyous faces and humble hearts, so ready to answer the next question. God’s Word, hidden in the hearts of children, was shining brightly.

I asked my 8 year old daughter to explain Kid’s Klub to me. What does it mean to her? Why is it important? She told me that she enjoys the games. She loves spending the time with her friends and with the adults who are so willing to teach. Then she started talking about what it means when it comes to God.

Praising God – It’s like He is right in front of you. You are giving glory to Him. We do cool moves when we sing to praise Him while having fun. It feels like He is there and He is going to give us the crown of righteousness. It is almost like being in heaven and He is shining bright right there. He’s just going to hug you and keep you in His arms the whole time. When we praise God and play games, it’s all for God, not just for ourselves. It brings us closer to Him.

Bible Stories – They teach me a lesson. We should try not to do what some of the people in the Bible did, but there are others we should copy. They all had consequences. Some of those consequences I don’t want. There’s always something to learn from Bible stories. It feels like God is right there telling us the story.

Review Time – Knowing answers and verses is like God is telling me, ‘You can do this’. Jesus is right there guiding me in His Word. It helps me to know God more.

Get in the Game – It was full of great lessons. If you are in sports or anything else, take time for God. He deserves your best and should be your first priority in life. If He isn’t, you aren’t really living a Godly life.

Attitudes – A bad attitude tries to get you to stop praising God, but a good attitude helps you praise God even more. With a good attitude you don’t talk badly to your friends, your parents, or other people. It helps you to live a better life, the life that God wants for you. Attitudes matter.

I was reminded of the immense value of Kid’s Klub and what it means to build a new generation full of hearts that seek Him. I couldn’t help but examine my own heart. How about you?