Month: June 2016

Bound to God

By LuAnn Edwards 

What can we learn from a belt? In Jeremiah Chapter 13, during a time when most of the Children of Israel were worshiping idols, God told Jeremiah to buy a belt (sash) and bind it around his waist. In the same way, God wants us to be bound to Him.

God told Jeremiah to hide the belt in the rocks, and many days later He told him to go back and get the belt. When Jeremiah retrieved the belt, he found it ruined and completely useless.

This tattered belt represented the people who had not listened to God, who were ruined and no longer bound to the Lord. People who once had intimacy with God were now without Him and bound instead by pride to counterfeit gods.

Are we, too, bound to idols and counterfeit gods? Has something or someone taken God’s place in our lives?

“An idol is whatever you look at and say in your heart, ‘If I have that then I will feel like my life has meaning, then I will know I have value, then I will feel significant and secure.’” – Timothy Keller, author

Pastor Cook described three examples of counterfeit gods in our lives: money, another person, and ourselves. Listen to the podcast here.

Money is good for buying necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing. However, money can be unreliable. 1 Timothy 6:17 tells us not to put hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put our hope in God who provides us with everything. Money can also cause us to wander from the faith. 1 Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

We often elevate another person to the place God should hold. We bind ourselves to our spouse, a friend, or a child. They become the object of our deepest affection, the most important thing in our lives. God desires this place of honor. He wants us to love and enjoy other people, but He should be the one we adore and worship.

It is not difficult to find people consumed with themselves. “I deserve to be happy. It’s all about me and making me feel good. How many likes can I get on my selfie? How important am I to my friends?” We need to be on guard to make sure we do not elevate ourselves to the place where God longs to be.

What is God asking you to live without? Which idol is of greatest value to you? Are you going to place your security in money, another person, yourself, or be bound to God?

 

God Does Amazing Things at Youth Camp

By Bethany Bentley

We had all been hearing about Falls Creek for months. We’d been hearing about how much fun it was, and how there were going to be about 5,000 other students. We were praying that God was going to do great things, that He would change lives. But I don’t think anything prepared us for what happened last week. How could any of us have been prepared to watch Dani Nieves walk from Death to Life and then watch her become a New Creation literally overnight? How could we have been prepared to stand up with I don’t know how many other students and pour out our hearts in worship?

I think everyone who went to camp could babble about it for hours and hours, because as much as we talk about it, I don’t think we can truly describe what we saw. At least I can’t. You can’t accurately describe to someone how unspeakably amazing it was to watch literally hundreds of students rush forward to the front of the room wanting to make a decision to follow Christ. We saw the Lord call hundreds of His lost sheep home; four of them were our friends.

During one of those times, Laurynn Dreher came down to the front and Dani (who had given her life to Christ only a few days ago) walked with her. As she was going back she was literally jumping over seats because she was so excited that Laurynn was giving her life to Christ. When we say we saw lives changed, that is exactly what we mean.

If you ask Ashley Tafoya what her favorite part of camp was she will say (paraphrased), “I liked that the focus was on God, not the activities.” And she’s right. At the end of the day we didn’t go to bed exhausted because we had played on the lake all day. We went to bed exhausted because our “evening” small groups had lingered until “1:30 sometimes 2:00 in the morning” small groups. We didn’t go to bed weeping because we were sunburned, we wept because what else can you do when confronted with such a strong Family that the Lord has given you? When your heart is so full of love for those around you and awe of the Lord what else can you do?

Falls Creek was fun, yes, but more than that we all left with our lives changed in amazing ways. We left prepared to stand up as one and fight for a broken city. As a youth group and as a church have work to do, and it’s time to get going.

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God Rescues

By LuAnn Edwards

How do we endure the hard times? What about those seasons in our lives that we would never choose for ourselves? Do we remain faithful, sharing patience and grace?

Pastor Cook began a new series Sunday called, Quitting Time. This series is based on the book of Jeremiah dealing with long-term faithfulness in extremely challenging situations.

Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet at the time of Jerusalem’s exile. Jeremiah was not too excited about the task and came up with a couple of excuses which did not deter God in any way. Jeremiah said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). God’s response should be an encouragement to each of us who feel as inadequate as Jeremiah did to step out in faith and trust the Lord. “…Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you…” (Jeremiah 1:7-8).

God was preparing to send judgment upon His people due to their forsaking Him and their worshiping of idols. He wanted Jeremiah to be prepared for the difficult times ahead and again in verse 19 said, “…for I am with you and will rescue you…”

When faced with life’s challenges it is good for us to speak to God. Tell Him what we are feeling, and ask Him to show us why. Lean upon His strength. He is with us during our times of struggle and major setbacks.

The knowledge of the presence of God in our lives, walking with us, rescues us from defeat and discouragement. –Michael M. Cook

God is with us no matter what the circumstance.

Even if we are currently not going through a challenging life situation, we should always be prepared to share from our heart a message of hope and strength with those who are hurting, “God is with you and will rescue you.”

We will come up against some challenging times in our own lives, but we can count on God and His promises to us. His Word says in Hebrews 13:5, “…Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” If you have surrendered your life to Christ, this promise is for you.

Seasons of Life

By Kristin Overman

I went straight into earning my master’s degree my senior year of college. After six years of full-time college I was so ready to be done. I wanted to move on to the next phase of life, get a job, and make money. Now I am a mom of four boys and wish I had more time to read and write. Life happens in seasons.

God ordains the seasons. He made seasons for creation, changes that cycle, constants that repeat. Every summer brings heat, animals store up their food. The winter brings cold, animals burrow and hibernate. Matthew 6 describes how God provides for the lilies and the sparrow. He does not clothe the lily in winter, nor provide food for the sparrow in cold. They have to be where He has made provision. Could the same principle, that there are repeating cycles apply to us as well? Could we experience seasons that are common to us all? I believe a purposeful God has given us patterns and cycles we can predict.

Being aware of these seasons can help us succeed, be better prepared, and skillful at dealing with life. Within His plan is where the blessing is.

Psalm 90:1-2 says, “As for the days of our life they contain seventy years, or if due to strength eighty years…For soon it is gone and we fly away…So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” I believe wisdom is to do the right things, at the right time, and in the right place. When you are young, learn all you can about the Bible, history, and people. Learn to be good at something. Become an expert. Believe me, when you are in the next phase you won’t have as much time. As a young adult build your wealth, work hard, invest in your children and establish your home. In the next phase those kids will be gone. In middle age invest in the church and younger generations. Pass on the wisdom you gained from going through it. As an elder use it all to influence and lead your community.

God’s plan works and it is good!

 

 

 

 

In the Presence of the Almighty

By Kevin Linthicum

When you place people in the presence of the Almighty, the outcome is always life changing.

The 2016 Malawi team witnessed more than 9,000 people come to know Christ. The team’s journey began in November 2015 and peaked in Malawi May 26th – June 8th. The impact continues today.

Preparing for this journey, there were far more unknown factors than known. We knew for certain God had called and set our team aside for this time. Often the greatest work is done in the lives of the individual team members. This team was no exception.

In a dramatic turn, the Good Shepherd sought out two of our team members and through His mercy and grace brought these two lost sheep into His fellowship. For these two individuals God began working in their lives well before our journey began, in ways almost undetectable.

For Ryan, it may have been when God placed him before 1,000+ students at a school to communicate the gospel message. Maybe in those moments, he realized he was not in fellowship with the Father. It could have been that God spoke to Libby’s heart as many believers were being baptized, revealing the true power and authority of His Word.

It might have been during one of the cold nights of the Jesus film events when God began to communicate with Libby and Ryan the significance of a personal relationship with Jesus and the false sense of security they had based their lives on. Maybe it was as the film ended and the gospel was being proclaimed with the Holy Spirit drawing hundreds into fellowship with Christ that the hearts of Libby and Ryan changed.

I suppose it could have been during our day at the prison. Our team had the opportunity to deliver the gospel message to thousands of inmates. Everyone listened intently to Nicole speak about how God has rejuvenated her life. Nicole related her personal journey and struggle with drug abuse, and how these circumstances destroyed her life. Every person in the room focused on Nicole and the impact of the decisions we make in life. She completed her story by communicating how God has restored her life. As our group prayed for these women, the Holy Spirit was moving. When the gospel message was delivered by Gai Gai, God brought more lost sheep home.
It could have been during the Sunday morning worship hour that Libby and Ryan recognized a significant difference in the church services in the United States and what they were experiencing in Malawi. Ryan and Libby were experiencing for the first time what it means to worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

All in all I believe the total journey impacted the lives of Ryan and Libby in a life changing way. I am very concerned about anyone that can walk away from this experience and say they have not been changed forever. We serve an awesome God, and our team was reminded of that fact during our time in Malawi.

 

Taking God’s Truth Across the Globe

By Stewart Linthicum

In October of 2015, God began assembling a team of 21 individuals who were called to take His message of salvation to the small country of Malawi. For over eight months, these men and women prayed, studied, and worked to prepare for the trip. On May 26, the group left the Land of Enchantment and quickly found themselves at work in the Warm Heart of Africa.

For ten days the 2016 Malawi Mission Team partnered with local pastors and church leaders to take the gospel to the uttermost parts or the world. Knowing this was the largest team AFBC had sent to Malawi since 2006, expectations were high, but no one was prepared for the incredible results God had in store.

This year’s team was able to reach nearly 14,000 people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Groups took part in school evangelism, hut to hut evangelism, prison ministry, church planting, leadership and skill training, baptism and more.

The week began with a visit to the new well site at the Kamwendo Village. Last fall, AFBC was able to fund the digging of a new deep-water will for this community. The team took time to pray for the people and hold a dedication service for the new well. The week concluded with the drilling of an additional deep-water-well near a brand new church plant.

The Jesus Film was shown to three different villages throughout the week. This included preaching and testimony from six of the team members. For many Malawians, this was the first film they had ever seen and it was the first time they had heard the Gospel message. It is no exaggeration to say that hundreds came to know Christ each night.

Our last day included a visit to a prison in the capitol city of Lilongwe. It is shocking to see poverty and desperation when you visit a Malawian village, but it is nothing compared to the desperation you see in the eyes of the men and women living in the prisons of Malawi. God was able to use the testimonies of our team members and the sharing if His Word to reach many people who have been living hopeless lives.

Throughout the ten days spent in Malawi God was able to touch the lives of thousands of people. It is overwhelming to know that more than 9,000 people received Christ as their personal Savior.

God is moving in Malawi in way that is indescribable. There is truth to His Word, power in His Name and He continues to change lives every day.

For more information about the Malawi Mission Project, or to sign up for our 2017 trip, visit fbcabq.com/malawimissionproject.

Believing

By Karen Polich

Dumb things Christians say… “It does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.”

Many believe in our pluralistic society, that all roads lead back to God. Our culture is okay with “recognizing” God in multiple forms.

Religious tolerance does not mean something is true anymore than sincerity can make something true. – Michael M. Cook

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” God takes sin seriously. Good people without clear content in their faith misunderstand the human condition of sin. Atonement of sin is necessary. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 Christ brought the final atonement.

Truth cannot be sacrificed on the altar of tolerance. Some religions are false and we know them to be false. To deem all religions equally true is sheer nonsense for the simple reason that they radically contradict each other.  – Ravi Zacharias, Author

Content matters. What we believe matters. It shapes who we are and ultimately where we will spend eternity. Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon series, Dumb Things Christians Say here. In the Believing podcast, you will hear the clear distinctions between Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.

Pastor Michael M. Cook boiled it down to one clear thing. Many belief systems focus on what a person has to “do” and who God is or isn’t. With Christianity, it is not about doing because it has already been “done” through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God is the one true God who set in motion this plan of redemption.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

 

 

 

The Greatest Gift of All!

By Becky Cook

Eighteen years ago my dad, Dr. Ben Rogers, traveled to Africa with a group of pastors to preach the gospel throughout the villages of Malawi. Upon their arrival they were greeted by a young man who would be in charge of their transportation for the week. His name was Gift and he was a bus driver for a company in Malawi. His smile was infectious and he had an obvious deep love for his homeland.

As the week went on my dad struck up quite a relationship with him as they journeyed together from village to village. He listened intently to the gospel being preached day in and day out. By the end of the week God opened the door of Gift’s heart and my Dad was able to lead him to Christ. His life changed forever! My dad’s life changed forever! Our family’s life changed forever.

As my dad’s evangelistic ministry continued to flourish in that country, each year Gift and Dad tracked thousands of miles on foot and by bus to the unknown parts of the area. God blessed Gift with the opportunity to own that bus company and continue to make a better life for his young family. His love for my mom and dad ran deep. Some may wonder why, but he saw my dad as being the reason he had received the greatest gift of all…SALVATION!

Today as I looked through posted pictures of the Malawi 2016 Mission team, I saw the infectious smile of Gift alongside the sweet smile and dimples of my daughter, Amber. Almost two decades later, the mission of sharing that gift is still going on. As my dad is no longer able to physically travel and continue to minister to a people and country he loves, Gift continues to make sure that the gift offered to him years ago, is still offered to the lost and dying of his homeland. I am grateful that men and family members who have traveled with my dad in the past continue the great work in this country. AFBC is blessed to have men and women living out the great commission in this country each year. To all who have given financially and to those who have prayed daily, you too have lived out this great commission!

As this year’s trip comes to an end and we anticipate hearing the great stories from our team, should we not consider the lives here in New Mexico that need the greatest gift of all, Salvation! How long has it been since you or I have listened to the prayer of someone receiving the greatest gift of all? Maybe there needs to be a new hashtag… #greatestgiftofall

John 4:35-36 says, “Lift your eyes and see that the fields are ripe for harvest.” Whatever your “field” may be… You have a gift to share! It’s the greatest gift of all!

Communion with a Heart of Worship

By Karen Polich

The act of observing The Lord’s Supper is a personal experience. Pastor Michael M. Cook shared three components of true biblical communion.
1. Preparation. This is key. Without preparing our hearts, we are not able to bring a heart of worship.
2. Commitment. Partaking in the Lord’s Supper publicly demonstrates our love for Christ. It is an opportunity to share that commitment with other believers.
3. Remembrance. The Lord’s Supper serves as a memorial for Christ’s sacrifice. He willingly gave all for each of us.

In 1 Corinthians Paul writes powerful words of the beauty involved in worshiping through communion.

1 Corinthians 11:23-28 (NIV)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.

 
It is not intended to be a ceremonial ritual or flippant engagement. The early church in Corinth had taken what was special and turned it into a thoughtless task. (Read more of 1 Corinthians 11.) How often do we approach God with mindless habit instead of a joyous heart? In preparing for communion, we are reminded of all Christ has done, is doing and will do for us. The Lord’s Supper allows us to bring an open heart before our Lord for true worship.