Month: January 2015

So Many Choices

By Sandy Woffard

It’s that time of year again when new Bible studies are beginning or have just begun. Those lucky men got to have a ribs kick-off event. I might have considered dressing up like Barbra Streisand, in the movie Yentl, if I wouldn’t have had to put up with all the football stuff to get the meat treat. And who is that Tony Dungy guy who developed the Dare to Be Uncommon Men’s Bible study anyway?

I love the Sunday evening COFFEE group led by Pastor Cook’s wife, Becky and it was a full house for the kick-off. COFFEE isn’t just for coffee drinkers. We have plenty of tea drinkers, too and there’s been M&M’s on the tables every time that I’ve been.

COFFEE stands for Conversations of Friends of Faith to Encourage and Equip. There’s no book to read or long homework. It’s a real “come as you are” group of ladies and I’m enjoying getting to know so many of the women of the church in this Sunday night crowd.

Monday mornings are going to be interesting for me, going to Priscilla Shirer’s book study Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath. I really like the idea of getting some breathing room and margin in my life, so I’m going to pack one more thing into my busy schedule and learn how. Seems silly, but I guess if that’s what you need then you make the time? It makes perfect sense to me. Kristi Sullins, our children’s ministry leader, is an excellent facilitator for this group.

My husband was really torn about going to the ribs kick off or doing another James MacDonald book, When Life is Hard, with Pastor Michael Cook on Sunday evenings. A little bird told me that there are more ladies than men in this group. It must have something to do with the ribs.

My husband and I have enjoyed a couple of small groups that meet on Sunday mornings. We enjoyed Kenn Edward’s group of multi-generational folk, now studying the book of Mark together.

Currently we’re in the couples group led by Jay and Sarah Battle where we’re studying the book of James. This has tied in magnificently with Pastor’s sermons on Job. My father-in-law has been incredibly blessed by an early Sunday morning group of older men led by Frank Gilmer. It must be good for him to be at the church at 8:30 in the morning!

This is just a sampling of the many small groups going on at Albuquerque‘s First Baptist Church with many others to choose from as well. What groups interest you?

Days of Suffering – The Challenge of God’s Silence

By Karen Polich

Pastor Michael Cook brings us to Job 32. Listen to the podcast here. We meet Elihu who though younger, turns out to be wiser than Job’s three “friends” who have been speaking to him. Out of respect, he waited until they were done before speaking.

Elihu is angry but respectful. He is upset with the supposed friends as well as Job for his continual arguments with God as he struggles. It is God who endows true wisdom and Elihu shows wisdom despite his age.

Job has experienced deep loss and pain. Added to all of the despair is his frustration with God’s silence. But unlike Zophar, Bildad and Eliphaz, Elihu begins to speak words of life to Job. He questions the three “friends” for their words and speaks with great passion while remaining impartial.

What do we do when we feel like God is silent? Do we listen to all of the voices around us? Is God’s wisdom something we seek? What God has called, He will sustain. Even in the midst of opposition, God’s plan in our lives cannot be stopped by other people. We are here to please Him.

When things become hard, we may ask if we are really where we are supposed to be. It may seem like God is being silent. Has God placed a calling on your life that you are struggling with? Continue to seek Him, you may be surprised by the messenger He sends your way.





Overwhelming Abundance

By Karen Polich

Malawi brings me thoughts of abundance. While lacking needed resources, there is an abundance of many things; smiles, joy, voices singing, hospitality, passion, and friends. Malawi is a place of simple abundance surrounding things that touch hearts.

It’s the rainy season in Africa. It is a time to watch crops grow after the labors of preparing fields and planting. It is a time of planning for the harvest that will provide food in the coming months. But this rainy season is different. Malawi has seen record flooding in recent days. The abundance of rain is overwhelming. Lives have been lost in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar, while there are those still missing. Thousands and thousands are displaced from their homes. Crops are ruined. Now and in the coming months, where will the needed food come from? How will lives be restored after such devastation?

This abundance is not welcome. It brings with it destruction and pain. It brings the abundance of difficulties now and in the time to come.

What is there to do to help from so far away? Please join me in becoming a prayer partner for the people of Malawi and the mission work that Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church is a part of. Together we can do something with great abundance. We can pray. We can pray for:

  • safe water and food
  • restoration of homes and schools.
  • for immediate relief and for God to heal and restore lives
  • for events such as the upcoming Valentine’s banquet that will raise funds to send laborers into the mission field
  • the work our Malawi mission team will be doing when they arrive there in May

We can do something regardless of our location. We can pray!

Will you join me? Click here for information on becoming a Malawi Prayer Partner.




Days of Suffering – A “Grave” Subject

By Karen Polich

You need never fear the grasp of death when you are in the grip of God!  – Pastor Michael Cook

Pastor Michael Cook continued his sermon series on the book of Job and brought us to Chapters 18 and 19. (Listen to the podcast here.) Bildad continues his assault on Job. He wants him to know that he is going to die a horrible death because of his supposed hidden sins. He goes on and on about the fate that awaits.

It reminds us that the world will shake us at times, especially surrounding death. Darkness may seem like it will engulf everything and that there will be no way out. When death looms, it is all around. How much thought have you given death? Until you have been faced with the pain that accompanies death, probably not very much. There is such finality when death is viewed with worldly eyes.

Job doesn’t view death through worldly eyes. He responds to Bildad with a faith that awakens, a belief that there is more. He questions why Bildad doesn’t leave matters between God and Job alone. He reminds him that there is no getting away from God. Job understands something very important. He has looked at his own life and the death that surrounds him and is focused on knowing that he will see God with his own eyes when his flesh has disappeared.

I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:26



Your Wants or Your Needs?

By John Healton

And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

God will indeed supply all our needs. However, we must understand the difference between our wants and our needs. I have prayed for many things including a new pick-up. I have yet to receive one and have accepted that it might never happen! For you see my friends, this is one of my wants, not one of my needs. However, I rest assured that God will give me what I need, not necessarily what I want. Remember, God does answer all of our prayers, and while the answer is sometimes “no”, He knows what is best for us.

I wonder many times why God says “No.” Doesn’t He love me?

Remember, God loves us very much, so much that He gave His only Son, so you and I can live for eternity. Many times God has said no to me, and each time I realized it was for my best. Yes, it’s hard to accept no as the answer, but it is harder to live without our Heavenly Father watching over and protecting us. Give your heart to God, live under His protection, and experience true love. Psalm 63:3 says, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.”

Father, we thank you so much for everything you do for us, and yes, even sometimes saying no to us. That just means you love us and want what is best for us, and for that I lift your name on high. Thank you. Amen.

Reprinted with Permission, Refreshing Wind, 2013 Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Days of Suffering – Responding to Criticism

By Karen Polich

Are you facing a critic in your life? You just can’t please everyone. You try and try, but you can’t seem to get it right no matter what you do. Sometimes, criticism follows you despite your best efforts.

Continuing his Days of Suffering sermon series from the book of Job, Pastor Michael Cook describes four filters to use when dealing with criticism. Listen to the complete series via podcast here.

When the criticism starts, we want to immediately respond. Defending ourselves and proving that the critic is wrong often brings more trouble to the situation. In Job 12-13, we learn from Job how to handle a critic.

Filter criticism responsively. Reacting to criticism inevitably leads to regret. When forced to answer critics, we must first examine our own heart. The response should come without anxiety or retribution. Job speaks into the heart of his critic with caution.

Filter criticism Godwardly. We can’t always fix the situation. Our focus needs to shift from the critic to God.

If you please God, it does not matter who you displease…but if you displease God, it does not matter who you please!

Filter criticism personally. Ask the hard question, “Is there any truth to what is being said?” This is a tough question. We see Job seek God for clarification on the matter of his own heart.

Filter criticism spiritually. We need to look at the criticism in the light of who God is and what His Word says. When we become more impressed with the greatness of God and less focused on the critic, it changes the view of the situation. The sting of criticism lessens when we are overwhelmed by God.

There is much to learn from Job about responding to critics even in our darkest hour. We have the opportunity to learn from his anguish how to address the critics. When criticism abounds, are you ready to focus on God first?



A Man Called David – A Man after God’s Own Heart

By LuAnn Edwards

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Are you planning to lose weight, save money, exercise, eat healthier food, or get out of debt? All of these are beneficial and excellent goals. What about becoming more like Christ during this New Year? Possibly becoming a man or woman after God’s own heart?

I would like to tell you about David.

Not King David but a friend of my husband’s and mine whose funeral we attended two days after Christmas.

When David was 25 years old he met the Lord, and his life changed dramatically. His commitment to Christ took him all over the United States and around the globe sharing the Word of God. Not only did David love God’s Word, he also had a deep passion for the lost. He prayed for God to bring people to him who were open to hearing the Lord’s message of hope and salvation. Then he shared the Good News of Jesus with them and led many to a saving knowledge of Christ.

His daughters shared with us how he modeled Christ in their home. He was a strong leader yet gentle and compassionate. He deeply loved them and their mom; he lived what he believed.

David was a man of integrity and a good friend. He made people feel special with his warm smile and kind, encouraging words. He touched many lives and blessed people everywhere he went. David left a beautiful mark on this earth.

Jesus drove David’s life, and the joy of the Lord poured out from him. He left his family and all who had the privilege of knowing him a legacy of character and faith. David was truly a man after God’s own heart. He was an example of Jesus Christ.

I desire to emulate these qualities of Jesus in my own life so I too become a woman after God’s own heart. I want to step out in faith and share Christ’s love with others as David did. At the end of my life as I now know it, I want to hear the Lord say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21a) I’m certain David heard these words.

What about you? During this New Year do you desire to draw closer to Christ, to become more like Him and pray for others to see Jesus in you? Are you willing to share Christ with the lost and hurting?

“…You are my witnesses, ‘declares the LORD,’ that I am God” (Isaiah 43:12).

Days of Suffering – Confrontational Moments

By Karen Polich

Job 8-12

Job’s life had just been dismantled by unspeakable loss. Anguish engulfed him. His friends found him, but they brought no encouragement. Instead of comforting Job, they poured out words of confrontation and accusation.

Pastor Michael Cook takes us into the place where God can move confrontation and criticism into something that builds character. Listen to the podcast here. The crisis that comes in the midst of criticism and brutal accusation brings the need to focus on God’s character. It is a time when personal growth can happen in unimaginable ways. God stands in the gap for us when we are in despair.

The character of the critic builds from intimidation and the need to make an impression. The critic attacks you at your weakest. The hits come where you are most vulnerable, seeking to prove that you are wrong or worthless.

Regardless of circumstance, God’s grace runs deep. There is not a single sin our God cannot and will not forgive. God is amazing! He will take that despair and build something beautiful. His character is unwavering.

My dear friends, take note of this; Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

Sometimes we may not be the one in despair, but the friend with the opportunity to bring comfort. Be careful not to share misery or create more hurt. What if the situation is such that God is doing mighty work through the pain and despair? We can learn from Job’s friends what not to do. A true friend will seek to speak life not more destruction.

Confrontational moments will come. Regardless of which side of the situation we find ourselves on, we have a choice. Will we let God build character or will we add to the misery?

A Great Year Ahead

By Karen Polich

A new year brings the excitement of possibilities. The anticipation is energizing. What do you want to accomplish? What needs do you have? Make 2016 great with three simple things.

God first. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Life is full. The demands of our responsibilities and the choices we face can keep us busy, if not overwhelmed. Put God first in every area and watch as He moves in your life. Dig into the Word, making time with Him a priority. His abundance will seep into every circumstance. If you haven’t already, join a small group. Get connected with others focused on God. Spend time in prayer. Be intentional about your relationship with God.

Rest. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. Psalm 62:5

Study after study shows we are most productive when we get proper rest, yet our culture continues to applaud those burning the candle at both ends. Created to glorify God, our best isn’t available without proper care and rest. Do you need to go to bed earlier? Try adding thirty minutes of sleep each night and see what happens. Do something to relax. Enjoying a hobby can boost your energy. Carve out the time you need to have a well-rested body and mind.

Gratitude. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. I Chronicles 16:34

Take the time to be thankful for God’s blessings. Stop today and give thanks for His blessings in the past year. Be intentional about gratitude this year. Keep a list of three things you are thankful for each day. Serving others brings huge amounts of gratitude into your life. Give your time to others by volunteering or through simple acts of kindness. Gratitude keeps the negatives of this world in perspective. Gratitude creates abundance, helping us see the needs of others around us.

What will you make of 2016? Focus on God will bring transformation that is better than any resolution or goal. Will you allow God access to your life like never before?