Month: March 2016


By Karen Polich

Shock rippled through many groups when Jesus’ tomb was found empty. Pastor Michael M. Cook shared an Easter message related to the shock of the resurrection. (Listen to the podcast here.) We can learn much from what happened when the tomb was empty.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:1-8

What do you do when nothing will ever be the same? How do you explain the unexplainable?

The lesson is in the responses. Each group handled the situation differently. Beyond fear, the women remembered the words of Jesus. This remembrance brought them to joy. The guards fled, shared their story with the priests, then caved-in to the pressure, choosing dishonesty. The disciples were in a state of unbelief which led to examination before they moved to worship. When things don’t go according to our plans, we can find ourselves gripped by fear.

Our God has given us promises! Circumstances will not go away, but the joy of remembering brings us to a place of peace. This leads us to worship. – Michael M. Cook

Where do you find yourself today when it comes to the shock of the resurrection? Most of us would probably line up with the disciples. We may need to examine the truth again and again to erase our unbelief. Ultimately, we will worship what is most important to us. If it isn’t Jesus, we’ve got work to do.

NT8 Final Wrap Up

By Michael M. Cook

Congratulations!  As of today, we have completed 8 weeks of intensive reading and concluded reading through the New Testament. Wow!  We stop for a moment and reflect on a job well done. For those that read every page-remarkable. For those that did much of the reading-well done. For those that….let’s skip that part. I was asked to summarize a few thoughts on the NT8 process.

History’s Turning Point

In Levi Zacharias’s book Questions I Would Like to Ask God, he references a quote by talk show host Larry King. King was asked, “If you could select any one person across all of human history to interview, who would it be?” King said he would like to interview Jesus Christ.

When the questioner followed with, “And what would you like to ask him?” King replied, “I would ask him if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.”

Zacharias says when he requested permission to quote the talk show host, King sent word, “And tell him I was not being facetious.”

Perhaps we would all like to interview someone special. Yet without an official interview, we have taken a close up glimpse of Jesus Christ through our NT8 reading. We have read His quotes and connected with His invitation to follow. Author after author have taken us to special places to hear Christ’s life-changing message. Our hearts were once again moved when our Savior healed, resuscitated and performed wonders. Although the virgin birth is significant (understatement), on this Easter week I am reminded that Jesus is Jesus because of His total character. The resurrection speaks to who He is. The miracles address that. Every aspect in His Word points us to the fact that Jesus is God!

As we pause to reflect, we thank God for who He is and preserving His Word for us. His Word has changed history for all those that know Him.





The Grand Finale

By Robert Thomas

It’s the final day of reading for our NT8 series and as we read through the very end of the New Testament I hope you take some time to ponder the positively splendorous way this book ends.

Revelation contains page after page of imagery and prophecy, depicting the judgment of the earth, until finally the judgment is done. We see that suffering ends, we see God’s people are with Him, and “He who was seated on the throne” is making all things new. The Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, the One from whom flows the river of life, declares in no uncertain terms: “It is done.”

How can we not get swept up in the excitement? A loud voice is crying out in this passage, declaring that God is not separated from His people, He lives among them. God Himself will be with them! The old order has passed away.

Regardless of what occurs to us in this world, what we go through in our lives, if our names are found written in the book of life, this is our future.

Encouraging words that offer a challenge are given near the end, as the Bible says “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” This offer is open to anyone who wishes. If you thirst, you need only come to Christ, and He will give you the water of life.

Finally, may these final, solemn words John himself speaks be a blessing for you: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

Let it be so in our lives, both now and forevermore.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here

Where Do I Start?

By Ann Bentley

This section of our reading was entirely overwhelming for me. I went from the holiness of God and the worthiness of the Lamb in a beautiful and glorifying view of heaven to the Apocalypse.

There are the seven seals which contain the four horsemen with their powers of war and plague and death. Then the seven angels and their trumpets wreak catastrophe on the earth and the people on it. This is followed by seven angels again with seven bowls filled with the wrath of God poured onto the earth.

There are angelic wars and supernatural disasters. There are dragons and beasts. Miracles and wonders are performed. Through it all I am continually reminded that God is holy. Jesus is worthy. 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” 

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Through it all, God is holy. Jesus is worthy. We can trust God with our everything.

Our daily chaos and struggles may seem as nothing compared to the supernatural destruction that will take place at the end of days. But just as God is in control of those days, He is in control of our lives. We can trust Him. His power and majesty are unfathomable. And just as unfathomable is His love for us displayed through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.

My First Love

By Susan Rasinski

Do you remember when you fell in love with Jesus? The first time you gave yourself over completely to Him? The way you chased after Him, wanting to spend every minute of every day with Him?

I remember that time so well. I was a new believer trying to learn everything I could about my First Love. I wanted to know Him more and more. I couldn’t think of anything else without filtering it through my new found Love. I wanted to please Him and spend time with Him. I told everybody about my Jesus – whether people wanted to hear about Him or not. I knew nothing except that Jesus loved me and that He saved me from hell and an eternity apart from Him.

I didn’t know the Bible inside and outside. I didn’t have verses memorized. I hadn’t heard catchy sermons or learned quirky anecdotes to keep my interest. All I knew was Jesus. I went to bed talking to Him. I woke up aware of His presence. Enthusiastic about my Lord and Savior, I lived life with zeal and vigor.

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”

As I read through today’s scriptures my heart is wounded by my own indifference. I love Jesus and my life belongs to Him. But… but, I am not living a life of zeal and vigor, chasing after my First Love. I have to ask myself, “When did I stop living with the joy of the Lord? How did I allow my relationship with my God to lose its freshness?”

“Repent and do the things you did at first.”

Today I choose to repent and do the things I did at first. I will rejoice in this day and in my Savior. I will pursue my First Love and live this life with renewed joy. I will find my hope and my pleasure in Jesus. After all, the God of the universe takes pleasure in me. Doesn’t that just blow your mind?

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.

Living In The Light

By Stewart Linthicum

This week as I read through First, Second, and Third John I found myself encouraged as if the author was speaking right to me at this exact moment in my life. The past few blog posts I’ve written have touched on a common issue, the fact that I often find myself looking at the world and the church through cynical binoculars.

It is very easy for me to take on the role of maintenance man. I constantly find myself making sure everything is running smoothly so that everyone else can engage in the church without technical distractions.

The problem with being cynical, and focusing on technical matters is that I continually fail to evaluate where I am on my spiritual journey. This NT8 experience has been incredible. For the first time in a long while, I have actually sat down to read through the Bible and opened up to what God has for me. I should have known that by doing this, I would be slapped in the face with all sorts of revelations, but I still found myself surprised day in and day out.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.”

Reading through these pages, I felt as though I was being talked to as a child who has clearly heard these things before, but failed over and over to understand them. By not spending consistent time in God’s Word, and failing to look at my spiritual walk on a regular basis, I find myself stepping out of the light. I am reminded of the great importance of continually being in the Word.

This journey through the New Testament has been a breath of fresh air and I am thankful it has challenged me to set aside time each day to engage with scriptures. As this journey ends, I pray that I will continue spending this time learning from and living in the light.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here



What Do You Know?

By Sarah Battle

Do you claim to know a thing or two?  Do you know the day or time of the next stock market crash?  Did you know the largest living organism is a mushroom in Oregon?  Having a wealth of knowledge is valuable and a great tool for all of us but having certainty is freeing.

The definition of know is to perceive or understand as fact or truth; to apprehend clearly and with certainty. Some things are facts and other things are unknown.   Today, we have an abundant amount of knowledge and information at our fingertips but how do we arrive at what is truth.  Do you rely on the internet for truth? On the opinions and chatter of others?

The word know seems to be the overriding theme in today’s passage.  It was used approximately thirty times. From the reading I understood Jesus knew the hour had come. Jesus knew who was going to betray him and he knew Peter was going to deny him three times.  Jesus knew who had sent him and understood why he was sent.  He knew the Father loved him. Jesus also knew the world would not accept him but he chose to die for us knowing there would only be a few who would believe.

Throughout the passage we have the disciples not knowing or realizing the fulfillment of Scripture.  Even Thomas, who spent time with Jesus, doubted and had a difficult time understanding.  Many times the disciples questioned Jesus.  The disciples had a hard time understanding the “big picture”. Jesus knew we would wrestle with the truth.  Jesus explained to his disciples, and to us, that he would send an Advocate which would guide them, us, into all the truth.  The Holy Spirit would tell them, us, what was yet to come.  We can give the disciples credit. They did have a moment of certainty when they knew it was Jesus who appeared walking along the shore while they were fishing.  I think that this moment they had longed to be in His presence once again.

My question for you is do you KNOW and BELIEVE with certainty that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name?

Jesus wants us to know Him beyond just knowing Him as a Good Teacher or Lord.  Who do you say Jesus is?  What do you know beyond a shadow of doubt and with all certainty?  If you answer nothing, that may be true, but I can tell with certainty that Jesus loves you and desires a relationship with you.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.

Rough Conversations

By Robert Thomas

These recent passages in John contain some rough conversations Jesus had with the Pharisees and Jews.  These are supposed to be the religious elite, the ones who knew Scripture the very best.  But when Jesus speaks to these men, He receives His strongest opposition. 

The fact that Jesus is the Messiah is beyond what these men will accept.  Their version of religion is awfully self-serving, which is an evaluation from Jesus Himself.  He calls them hypocrites and snakes, and he accuses them of leading people astray.  Jesus’ conversations with the Jews in these passages make them so angry; they attempt to stone Him to death.

 There is hardly any humility in Israel’s religious elite.  These Jews haughtily informed Jesus, “The only Father we have is God himself.”  Jesus told them in no uncertain terms that if God were truly their father, they would love Jesus as well.  They would hear His teaching and His mission and join in.  Instead, Jesus points out their rebellious hearts.  He is the embodiment of the fact that they have rejected God and God’s teachings.  If they truly accepted God’s commands, they would accept Jesus as well.

The challenge for us is clear: in the Bible, we see Jesus’ commands and His standards.  The teachings of Jesus do not differ from the commands of God.  Jesus said Himself, “I and the Father are one.”  This means it’s impossible to agree with the teachings of Jesus, yet disagree with the commands of God.  It’s all or nothing. 

The Pharisees and the Jews didn’t like being told this, because they had crafted a man-made religion based on works, and they were perfectly comfortable with it.  Our enemy, the devil, was probably happy with their religion as well – it didn’t involve any relationship with God.  Let these rough conversations from John penetrate to your soul, and ask yourself: am I following a Christ of my own design, or do I follow Jesus Christ from the Bible?

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.


By Michael M. Cook

Our NT8 reading plan takes us to the final author of this special arrangement…John.  It is appropriate that John be the final author because in real life he was the last living apostle.  His death was documented somewhere between 100-101 A.D at the approximate age of 95.  John wrote the Gospel of John, 1, 2, 3 John and Revelation.  As we read today we start the marvelous Gospel of John.  I want to encourage you to read it fresh and new.  Today, we read some of the most cherished Bible verses in the entire Bible.

As we enter these first few pages in John, there are three “classic” highlights. This is my takeaway on each.  The first two highlights will be examined as I lay them side- by-side in contrast.

Nicodemus…aka “Nick at night” was a man, a property owner, Ruler of Jews, Highly Educated, demonstrated great morality; he came to Christ at night with questions.

The woman at the well was considered property, a social outcast, without the opportunity of formal education, living in immorality. She wanted to argue and debate with Christ.

As I read these two encounters, I was reminded just how far Jesus will go to reach all different kinds of people.  Could we get a more stark contrast?  Jesus reaches people in all places of life, in all kinds of places.

There is no limit to the distance that grace will travel to touch a heart!

The Capernaum experience of rough seas reminded me that God always takes care of us…even in the roughest of seas.  He is in total control.  The moment He was seen walking on water…my heart melted.  Our Christ and our Savior superior demonstrated his supremacy to all nature.  Our Jesus is truly able to do all things.

These passages of scripture brought back childhood memories of growing up in church.  Great Sunday School lessons of Christ walking on water.  I recall this man Nicodemus coming to Jesus in darkness.  Often our teachers would turn the lights off in the classroom, making the story come alive when they told well-known stories.

As you go about your day, I pray that you might have a day that is filled with opportunity to serve others and saturate this world with light.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.

What Kind of People Are We to Be?

By Kristi Sullins

When I look at 2 Peter I am reminded of a father trying to cram the last bits of knowledge into his child before they go away.  This book is full of the loud messy desperation of a man who knows his time is short, and that there is so much for the people of God to know.

Peter is good at the loud and messy. He needs Christ followers to be aware of the dangers of false prophets who are everywhere. As he wraps up, Peter asks believers what kind of people they were called to be. How would you answer that?  The first part of Peter’s answer makes sense.  We are to be people that live holy and godly lives.  The end of that sentence is the part I think many get stuck on.  We are to be a people looking forward to the coming of God.  Not those people that hope God comes back when they are having a bad day, or when they think the world is going to hell in a hand basket. 

Peter reminds us that we are to live a life that displays our craving for the return of God. 

We are to live a life that displays our active preparation.  Through the things we place the highest importance on to the drive to tell others about our Messiah, we are to live a life that displays we are a people on the lookout.  Believers were never called to make themselves cozy on this planet.  His church, His bride, needs to show the world that we understand that all we do here is for the future we know is coming. We are not settlers. We are sojourners moving towards a future set with our King.  Be looking forward!

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.