Month: June 2015

Then and Now But Always the Same

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 NIV

Will There Be A Next Time For Brian?

Weary and worn was the feeling from the top of my head to the tip of my toes as Parents’ Night ended Vacation Bible School. I anticipated the wonderful feeling of my bed after a long, busy day. Though I closed my eyes, sleep did not come. The faces of forty boys and girls in my department danced in the visions of my mind. 

One little boy whose name was Brian stood out among all the rest. It was as though he had stepped from the pages of a book instead of off a church bus. He was not a handsome boy. He was from the wrong side of the tracks and his hair dirty and uncombed; his fingernails were grimy. His clothes didn’t fit and needed to go through the wash. 

Only five years old and already a smirk on his face, he didn’t know how to share. His main objective seemed to be destruction. He hit, kicked and clawed his way through a week of Bible School. There was no hope for calm with Brian around. As Friday noon came, so did my sigh of relief – It’s over!

As we cleaned the room, I discovered the lock to our supply cabinet missing. One of the teachers said, “I saw Brian with it. I asked him where he got it and he said, ‘from home.’” I shrugged my shoulders, propped the doors to, and thought, “Oh well, it’s over.”

Home for a few hours and then back again for Parents’ Night. But where were the parents? Busloads of kids poured in but only a handful of parents. Brian came in, his usual robust self. After we marched (prodded) to the auditorium, I found myself seated next to this defensive little boy. He squirmed, wiggled and asked who is that man (the pastor), why are they taking money, why this and why that. 

Brian pulled a Bible from the rack and thumbed through it upside down. He said, “Is this God’s book?” I said, “Yes” and whispered “I love you.” He grinned and asked, “Can I sit in your lap?” The love I felt in my heart for that little boy must be a glimpse of the love our Heavenly Father has for us.

Back in our room again, I remembered to ask Brian about the lock. “Brian, did you take my lock today?” He replied, “I’ll bring it back when I come next time.” 

Vacation Bible School was Brian’s first experience in our church. Will there be a next time for Brian? With a lot of strikes already against him in life, will there ever be a next time for Brian?

The misplaced lock only costs a few cents. And without the combination it will be useless to anyone. Is Christ-like love the right combination to Brian’s heart? It is my hope and prayer that it is. 

The above article was originally printed in the Albuquerque Journal on July 11, 1975. Author Unknown

Fast forward forty years. This week we had over 200 children attend Vacation Bible School at our church. Children came from all over the city. Times have changed and now we have Vacation Bible School in the evening. The church bus is no more. Instead, Nate Bruch drove one of our vans from nearby Seville Park.

Like Brian, the kids were loud and rowdy. They ran. They screamed. They came from all kinds of backgrounds and some had never set foot inside a church before. But like Brian they all came looking for one thing, love and acceptance. And they found it. They found it in the hearts of their group leaders and the many other adults who gave their time volunteering this week. They found it in the Bible stories that were shared. They found it in Pastor Trey and Ms. Kristi. They found it in the Rice Krispie sushi and Lottie Moon cookies. But most of all they found it in Jesus Christ.

Will they come back? Will there be a next time? We certainly hope so but should they never darken our doors again we pray that they will always remember this, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NIV

Thanks to Ms. Betty Danielson for providing the Journal article.

Remembering Dad

By LuAnn Edwards

“I will never go to church with you again,” said Dad. “Those people are crazy!” He meant it too.

My soon-to-be husband sang in a Southern Gospel quartet and the group was singing at a church near our home one Saturday evening. My mom and I thought this would be a good opportunity to invite Dad to church with us. Surely he would want to hear Ken sing. He loved music and with all of us working hard to persuade him, he caved and agreed to go with us.

Dad enjoyed the singing, but the rest of the service was a little too much for him. An older gentleman got up to preach a little and held up a newborn baby with one hand as he walked back and forth at the front of the church. I think Dad thought the preacher might drop the baby.

Even though Dad said he wouldn’t go again, the following morning he was dressed and ready to go to church with Mom and me. Mom and I had accepted the Lord into our hearts the previous year and had been praying for Dad. Even though he thought the people at the other church were crazy and didn’t want to ever go to church again, the Lord had other plans.

Once Dad accepted the Lord and started attending church, he didn’t stop. In fact, when he retired from his regular job, the church became the place where he spent his days volunteering, doing everything he could do to serve the Lord. He served as the church’s clerk and in other capacities for many years, and he took to heart Psalm 100:2 “Worship the Lord with gladness…”

My earliest memory of him was sitting in his lap as a young child combing his hair. As I grew older, I remember him dancing and singing around the house and acting very silly at times. I’m sure I didn’t think he was all that funny as a teenager, but as an adult, I loved his enthusiasm for life.

Dad modeled how a man should treat his wife. He loved Mom and honored her daily. He teased her a lot, but she played along. He was open with his affection and took care of her throughout her life.

Dad loved to tell stories about being in the Army and about the people he had worked with over the years. His eyes would twinkle, and his smile would brighten my day as he laughed at things he had shared with us many times before.

In his sixties he took part in a video skit with his church’s music department. Dad was not a great singer, but he liked to have fun. The skit ended with four men singing a song called “Moving on up to Glory.” The song was beautiful! However, they weren’t really singing; it was a recording of the Cathedral Quartet. Dad and the other men were just lip syncing but it appeared that these four tone-deaf men had become an overnight success. It was this song that was playing in the background when Dad took his final breath. He moved on up to Glory to dance and praise the Lord as I held his hand and rubbed his hair five years ago. I miss you Daddy!

Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp” (Psalm 149:3).

The Lord’s Supper – Preparing Your Heart

Sunday brought the observance of The Lord’s Supper. How will you prepare your heart?

Focus on a very important implication rooted in the phrase “new covenant”; accepting God’s forgiveness. In the Old Testament, Proverbs 4:25 suggests we are not to be followers that hang our heads in shame but who look straight ahead with confidence.

God wants to forgive you. Part of the new covenant in Christ is anchored in the blood sacrifice for our sins…to cleanse every one of them. Imagine a giant blackboard with all of your sins written across it and God comes along with a giant eraser and erases it all. It’s like an Etch a Sketch: you turn it upside down and shake it; turn it back up and the slate is clean. That’s good news, isn’t it?

WE NEED ONLY TO ACCEPT GOD’S FORGIVENESS. We may know about God’s forgiveness intellectually, but we need to believe it, deep down inside, accepting in faith that it is true, because it is!

Our problem is that we want to keep reminding God of things He’s already forgotten. It’s forgiven and forgotten. You’ve already dealt with it. Someone once asked Eleanor Roosevelt, “How did you accomplish so much with your life?” She replied, “I never waste time with regrets.”

Why would a person continue to carry a burden that God has removed forever? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9

Why would someone take up what has been forgiven? As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Why would someone remember guilt when God has buried it completely? Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

How wide and how deep is God’s grace? His grace is beyond measure. There is rest and restoration in God’s forgiveness.

Don’t waste time with your regrets. Accept God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself.

We have a God of greater encouragement than any discouragement or struggle we could ever have. – Pastor Michael Cook

God has a plan and purpose for your life. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. He desires for you to be successful and will cleanse you from all sin. Will you choose forgiveness today?

 

 

Does God Weep?

By Karl Lee

I have a question and perhaps you can help me with it—“Does God weep?”

When God looks down upon the earth He created and sees how man has raped and spoiled the earth….Does God weep?

When God looks upon man and sees the depravity and inhumanity of man upon man…Does God weep?

When God looks upon the rebellion and the rejection by man of His beloved Son…Does God weep?

When God looks down and sees a lost soul entering Hell…Does God weep?

If God weeps do you think these are the things that cause Him to weep?

Is it always joy around the throne of God? Do you perceive God as always having a “Pollyanna” smile and nodding and winking at what man does?

I have at times pondered this question, does God weep? I have read and even heard sermons of God’s jealousy, His anger and His wrath. Also I have read and heard sermons of His love, His grace, forgiveness, compassion, and loving kindness. And yes, because He exhibits these attributes I want to believe that God also weeps.

A.W Tozer wrote a two volume book on the attributes of God and I suppose you know most of them like He is love, His omnipotence, omniscience, faithfulness, holiness, etc., but I didn’t read a thing about God weeping.

Scriptures record that the Holy Spirit grieves and that Jesus wept. The Holy Bible tells me man is created in the image and likeness of God. I weep and I want to believe because and I weep perhaps God does also. I read in Revelation 21:4, it isn’t until the New Jerusalem, there will be no more tears.

So, my question remains– does God weep? What do you think?

Please respond with your thoughts and any scripture references below. We would love to hear from you.

Those who sow with tears, will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5

 

 

 

 

 

A Journey to The Warm Heart of Africa

 

Sign-up for our 2016 Malawi Mission Trip Today!

By Karen Polich

What moves you, stirring the depths of your heart?

We serve a God who does immeasurable things. When we say “yes” to Him, we find honor in being tools in His hands and our hearts are never the same.

Just back from Malawi, Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church’s 2015 Malawi Team shared their stories on Sunday. They described moment after moment of God moving in mighty ways. It gave us a glimpse into what their days in Malawi were like. Clearly, God stirred their hearts.

Villagers in far remote locations heard God’s Word for the first time from the team and their interpreters. They began to understand. Pastor Noah reported 3618 adults made decisions to follow Christ. Voices spoke prayers with conviction; hearts were changed, lives transformed. Lake Malawi hosted baptisms. God’s hand was evident in every detail. Many rejoiced over the gift of a bible giving them the ability to read God’s Word.

Clean water now pours from a new well. While waiting hours for building materials, team members shared the Gospel with children playing soccer. All accepted Christ and then the materials arrived.

Opportunities to serve God wait for you. Where is God sending you? Start by praying, asking for God’s discernment and wisdom to respond to His call.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. John 10:27

 

Some of My Least Favorite Verses

By LuAnn Edwards

By nature, I am a pessimist. It is something I am very good at; I don’t even have to try. To me, the glass is always half empty. For a pessimist like me, there are some verses in the Bible that are hard to accept. When we do accept them, however, they bring hope and grow our faith.

In the midst of a pity-party and feeling as though nothing is going right in my messy life, I read Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Really? What about that job that went sour?

James 1:2 states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Joy? When I could barely go into work each day?

When I want to bring up past hurts and dwell in them, I find, “…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13). But I have to attend this function and she will be there! She deeply hurt me! I cannot forget that!

As a pessimist, these verses were not very helpful. That is, not until I accepted them as truth. By faith in Christ and His Word, I have learned to acknowledge, “…all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). These verses have become a source of strength and power in my life.

When my faith overpowers my pessimism, I can focus on Christ and His power in me working all things together for my good.

I know I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). I can find joy in my trials knowing God is in control and nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:17). By faith I can press on and let go of my past hurts because I know that if God is for me, who can be against me (Romans 8:31).

I have also learned that when pessimism tries to creep back into my mind, I can pray and gain strength and victory over its lies. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). I have confidence in prayer to come boldly before the Lord to ask Him for what I have need of and to believe that He hears me and will answer.

If you, too, are a pessimist by nature, accept His Word as truth. Read His promises over and over to yourself; then read them out loud for His Words are powerful and worth hearing. Fill your mind with these promises and meditate upon them daily until they abide in your heart. Pray and ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you in a whole new way so you can acknowledge that “all things are possible with Him.”

Church or No Church – His Plan; His People

By Gerry Wakeland

Church DNA – Part 2

Does the church still have value? Or is the church a farce? These are questions that are regularly asked by millennials, individuals that were born between the mid 1980’s and the year 2000. Continuing in his current sermon series, Church or No Church, Pastor Michael M. Cook addresses these questions using 1 Peter 2:9 -10 as his scriptural reference.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV

Last week we examined what it looks like to be a chosen people, called by God to serve God.  This week Pastor Cook focuses on the concepts of what it means to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation.

Justin Bieber is a self-proclaimed follower of Jesus Christ. When asked about his personal relationship with the Lord, he was quoted as saying, “A lot of people who are religious get lost in their religion. They go to church just to go to church. I am not trying to disrespect them, but for me, I focus more on praying and talking to Him (God). I do not have to go church.”

Pastor Cook responded to Bieber’s statement by saying that he (Bieber) is missing the New Testament church connection found from engaging in a local church. “He has no community, no discipleship, and no accountability.” Bieber is a prime example of millennials who ask, “Why do we need to be a part of the church?” To answer that question Pastor Cook takes us back to the beginning.

In Genesis 1:1 we read that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Verse 2 uses this phrase, “and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” In verse 26, we read, “Let us make mankind in our image…” These three scriptures introduce the reader to the concept of the Trinity, three personalities, distinct yet separate.

Genesis 2:18 introduces the idea of community, saying “It is not good for man to be alone.” God has a purpose. We were created with a need for fellowship with one another and with Christ. This community is called church. As Pastor Cook put it, “We are made to be with one another, in harmony, unity and fellowship.”

Called to be a Royal Priesthood

As a church we are out of a priesthood that is

  • everlasting
  • born out of adoption, every Christian is adopted
  • brought out of mediation, the act of intercessory prayer

Called to be a Holy Nation

The word holy means set apart. The church is distinctively separate and different. At least it should be.

That takes us back to the millennial generation. These young men and women tell us the number one reason for vacating the church is that the church is judgmental and hypocritical. It’s possible that to them the church looks no different than the world. Or maybe this just gives them an excuse to avoid being part of a community that will provide sound teaching and hold them accountable. Sadly, this holds true for more than just the millennial generation.

Yes, our churches are imperfect and flawed. We are all sinners. Perhaps that is why Christ wants us in the church.

At the church’s lowest point in history, when He cleared the temple of money changers and corrupt priests (see Matthew 21:12), Jesus still loved the church. Jesus has always loved the church. This is not about a religion. It is about a love relationship with Jesus Christ and one another.

So where are you? Are you ready to accept the call to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation? Are you ready for an amazing relationship with the Lord and his church?

“I believe that God will take broken, sinful people and do something amazing.” Michael M. Cook

Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook here.