Month: December 2014

What Does Christmas Mean to You?

By Gerry Wakeland

We may think children look at Christmas from a different perspective than adults. But a recent survey shows us that the children of AFBC think of lots more than Santa Claus and presents at Christmas.

On a recent Sunday the children in our Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grade Class and our Pre-Teen group were asked this question:

What one word describes what Christmas means to you? Here are their answers.

The Kindergarten Class is led by Jim and Dawn Carmody.

Evie Dorroh Jesus
Toriana Sciarrillo God
Dustin Nieto Love
Tyler Pitz Presents
Brianna Meisner Jesus
Mr. Jim Jesus
Ms. Dawn Joy

AFBC 1st and 2nd Graders are taught by Robyn Savage.

Kamden Glade Jesus Christ
Christopher Valenzuela Jesus’ Birth
Lewis McFadden Family
Blake Nieto Jesus’ Birthday
Adalynn Day Christ
Elise Robert Lord
Brooklyn Sciarrillo Love
Isabelle Savage Giving
Kaitrin Polich Savior
Rachel Alexander Love
Trevor Mee Family
Ms. Robyn Celebration

Our Pre-Teen Class (5th and 6th Grade) is led by Robert Thomas and Jameson Anderson.

Jeremiah Leetham Joyful
James Woffard Family
Sophia Sullins Festive
Denise Alexander Exciting
Carolyne Savage Holy
Ellie Pitz Calm
Bailey Dobson Birth
Juliet Valenzuela Wonderful
Ashley Thomas Joyful
Mikaela Glade Bright, wonderful, merry
Robert Thomas Bright
Jameson Anderson Stupendous!

What one word would you use describe Christmas!


Are You Ready for Christmas?

By Karen Polich

Matthew 1:23
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us).

“Are you ready for Christmas?” With only a few days left until we celebrate Christmas this year, this question seems to pop up in every conversation. If ready means having gifts wrapped and meals planned, then no. I am one who has not found the time to finish taking care of the Christmas details, but if it is the condition of my heart, then yes. My heart is ready for Christmas. There is joy and excitement in reading the Christmas story. There is awe in the knowledge of ‘God with us’.

Schedules are packed during the Christmas season. It is easy to fill every moment we have with something to do. Spreading Christmas cheer takes time! The hustle and bustle of Christmas is nothing new.

There was so much activity going on in Bethlehem surrounding that first Christmas, that Mary and Joseph could find no place to stay other than a stable. The town was buzzing with people who had come for the census. Bethlehem was bursting at the seams.

Amidst all the activity, Jesus was born. Immanuel, God with us, made His arrival! Angels rejoiced and shepherds came to see the King. I don’t think Mary would have imagined Jesus’ birth involving travel and a stable, but there He was, laying in a manger as the angels rejoiced.

This Christmas, let’s embrace the joy of God’s gift through His son Jesus Christ. Our schedules may be busy and things may not go just as we have planned, but God has already given us the greatest gift.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

May you have a heart full of joy this Christmas.

Days of Suffering – Friendship Woes

By Karen Polich

Bringing us to Job 4-5 (read at, Pastor Michael Cook discussed what it means to be a true friend and the responsibility that comes with it.

Job was suffering and Eliphaz, cloaked in the guise of friendship, offered counsel. How many times have you received this type of counsel? How many times have you given this type of counsel? We will all have opportunities to speak into the lives of those around us. What message are you speaking?

Misguided counsel often comes from well-intentioned friends.

It is one of the biggest tools Satan uses to spread discouragement.  Eliphaz was thought of as wise, but he was far from any biblical wisdom in his counsel to Job. There is much to be learned from Eliphaz about what not to do as a friend.

Pastor Michael Cool shared six potential woes of friendship as he continues teaching from the book of Job.

  1. Misguided Attitude
  2. Theological Incorrectness
  3. Spiritual Experiences
  4. Accusations
  5. Instruction
  6. Clichés

Listen to the podcast here to learn more.

When engulfed in suffering, words spoken can shed light or merely add to the pain. A friend who comes with a humble heart full of love and compassion has the ability to speak hope in the midst of anguish.

We can learn much from Eliphaz and his condemnation of Job. He is a clear case for what not to do. Sometimes in the suffering, it is the mere presence of a real friend who speaks no words that brings the greatest comfort.

How many solid, real friends do you have? A friend who will stick with us through anything is a blessing. Are you that type of friend?

Do you reflect the love and compassion of our God?




Life Changing Christmas

By Ken Edwards

Unique gifts are not easy to find. It takes work to find the right gift that truly expresses our feelings and our love. There is a heartfelt joy when we see that smile from ear-to-ear when they receive that prefect gift.

The best gift might be a special toy, or the newest electronic gadget this year. For some clothes may be perfect while others will cry, “Next package please.” Gift cards can be an easy way to shop, but we lose the joy of finding the right gift.

Our goal should be to inspire a special moment that changes the life of both the giver and the receiver. Unfortunately, Christmas has become more about, “What will I get” rather than “What can I give.”

What happened to the idea that our mother told us about; “It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts”?

Here is an idea that may bring some of that back into our Christmas. Something that is unique, expresses our love and leaves a lasting impact. A gift that teaches our family about giving and not just receiving. This sounds too good to be true, but it’s not.

There are many simple, low cost ideas that make good teaching moments with our children. Try turning this Christmas into a family ministry Christmas. Here are five low cost ideas that could change your life and someone else too.

Bake some cookies and deliver them to a shut-in down the street. Use this opportunity to pray with them in front of your children.

Send a military care package with goodies to someone away from home this Christmas. Get your children involved with the packing. Include a small Bible or devotional book, and explain to your children the importance of studying God’s Word.

Take a hat or some winter gloves to a homeless shelter like The Rock at Noon Day Ministries. See if you can volunteer with an age appropriate activity for your children.

Sponsor a child in an orphanage or make a special donation for a missionary. Then keep their picture on your refrigerator. When you pray for them at the mealtime, you will remind your family that we can carry out the Great Commission in our own family.

Make some inexpensive craft items for the residents in a local nursing home. The residents love children, and your visit may bring a special joy to them as they interact with your children.

Unique gifts are not easy to find. When we make the effort, we may find that magical moment that changes the life of both the giver and the receiver.

During the hustle bustle of this Christmas season, remember, the greatest gift ever given was the birth our Savior Jesus Christ.

Days of Suffering – Navigating the Depths

By Karen Polich

Even in your darkest moments, God is there, never leaving His beloved child. He hears your cries; he knows your pain. His love abounds no matter the circumstances. The Bible has many examples of God’s fierce, uncompromising love and how He will use someone who has walked through dark times and depression.

Pastor Michael Cook took us into the darkness of Job’s depression and how we can navigate the depths of our own worst times. (Read Job 3) Job’s dialogue resonates with honesty and reality. He pours himself out to God with complete transparency.

Three questions Job asks in the midst of his depression:
1. Why was I born?
2. Why am I alive?
3. Why can’t I die?

At the root of his despair, Job cried out “Why?” His intense pain brought him to utter brokenness. Beyond clear thoughts, Job was in the depths of suffering. Comfort seemed out of his reach.

In your darkest days, you are not alone. Jesus understands your pain and will not leave you. Never forget that God has a plan for your life and while you may find yourself caught in circumstances that bring utter desolation, God’s righteousness and love are unchanging. You can count on Him and trust Him even when all hope seems lost.

Proverbs 18:24 tells us, One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Pastor Cook gave us seven “helps” in time of trouble.
1. The strongest of God’s people enter into depression.
2. Realize that suffering occurs on many different levels.
3. It is unrealistic to look for someone to lift you out of your depression.
4. Take steps that will minimize the effect of the depression.
5. Trust God before you have the answers.
6. Give your hurt, pain, anger, bitterness and frustration to the Lord.
7. Understand God is at work.

Navigating the depths of suffering can seem impossible and the pain relentless, but God walks with you. Are you seeking Him today?

Listen to Pastor Michael Cook’s full sermon here.

Christ’s Arrival

By LuAnn Edwards

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” (Psalm 23:4). I was feeling very depressed while all alone in a hotel room. My friend had gone off for the day leaving me with nothing to do, which caused me to identify with the words I read that day from the Bible I found in the drawer. I prayed and asked God to help me to get my life on the right track; I was heading the wrong way and I knew it.

I grew up believing I was a Christian. I attended church, held onto the strong morals my parents taught me, followed the Ten Commandments (as best I could), and I believed in God. What more was there?

After graduating from high school, I found myself heading in the wrong direction. I didn’t always hang out with the “good kids,” which brought my parents much distress. After a couple of years of trying to find out who I was, I began to think more about the Lord.

Two months after praying in the hotel room, my mom and I started attending a nearby church. On our first visit, I knew this was where I needed to be, but I was afraid. “What did God want from me?” The church was just beginning a series of evangelistic services they called a revival, and I remember discussing with Mom whether or not we should attend. “What will they do to us? Will they make us go down to the front and pray for us?”

On the last night of the revival, something was stirring inside of me. During the prayer time at the end of the service, my mom looked at me and said something like, “If you go forward to pray, I’ll die of embarrassment!” I said, “I’m NOT going up to the front of the church – don’t worry!” We both knew we needed to pray to accept Christ into our lives but weren’t quite ready to take that first step.

The following Sunday, during the prayer time, I looked at Mom and said, “I have to go, NOW!” She nodded her head in understanding. I went forward and really met Jesus that day. He became my Lord and Savior. I realized then that in my head I always thought I was a Christian because I believed in God. However, I never knew Him in my heart. On this wonderful day, Jesus became my life. I was able now to confess Him as Lord. I began a life-long relationship with Him on that beautiful day. Soon after, Mom accepted Christ into her heart and life. Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

My hope and prayer is that each person reading this believes in their heart and not just in their head that God raised Jesus from the dead and you are able to sincerely say, “Jesus is Lord.”

I am so very thankful for Christ’s arrival in my life. Have you accepted Him into yours? If not, this Christmas could be your merriest one ever if you’ll invite Jesus into your heart and life.

Days of Suffering – Testing & Crisis

By Karen Polich

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

God is in control no matter what is going on in your life and God is always good. We choose to allow circumstances to dictate our reactions or we choose to bless the name of the Lord in all things. Job had experience after experience full of crisis. He was tested beyond measure, yet he chose to bless the name of the Lord.

Job 2:1-10
On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” Read more here at BibleGateway.

Pastor Michael Cook gave us two things to remember in times of testing and crisis. Listen to the podcast here.

Trust in God’s Sovereignty. God is always in charge. Satan never has the upper hand and must always report to God. You will be attacked time and time again, but the parameters are not set by Satan despite his ambition for total destruction. Complete control belongs to God alone.

You can express testimony. In crisis, a gentle response can speak into the heart of others. Job’s wife had also lost everything. Job responded to her outcry with the reminder of God’s control in all things. We should be bonded together in difficulty, not separated. How you choose to respond has a significant impact on those around you.

Job demonstrated what it means to truly walk with God. He showed us what it looks like to trust Him and bless the name of the Lord, despite circumstances. How about you? What sets you off? What will you choose to do?