Month: October 2016

The Spiritual Growth of a Child

 

PART ONE
By Pastor Trey Sullins
I am often asked, “How do I know if my child is ready to accept Christ?”

Parents often wonder at what age a child truly understands that they are a sinner and need to invite Jesus into their lives and be saved. The Bible does not give a specific age. If you have children, you know that children develop individually and understand things at different ages and stages. There is not one age where a child automatically understands that they are sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness.

Children can go through several steps of salvation.

• The first step could be that they know asking Jesus in their hearts is a good thing and it would make their parents happy. However, they do not fully understand that they are sinners. You can ask some children and they will tell you they have not sinned. You can’t become a Christian until you have sinned.

• Another step could be that they know Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. They know that they may have sinned and want to please the pastor or their parents. There could be many different reasons that the child may make the decision to ask Jesus in their heart, but the child must understand that they have sinned and have done things that are wrong. Once they understand that, they can then begin to understand that sin is what separates them from God and the only way to have a relationship with God is to accept the forgiveness that Jesus gave us when He died on the cross.

• Children will often times ask Jesus in to their hearts a number of times. This should not concern you; this child is searching and trying to understand as they grow.
Are you supposed to wait until the child fully understands the whole process and the details of being a Christian? The answer is no. Do you fully understand the Bible as a whole and your relationship with God? Probably not. As a parent, the task given to you, through God’s Word, is that you are to lead your child to an understanding that we are all sinners and need to ask Jesus to forgive our sins and come into our lives and be our “boss”.

Conquest to Victory

By Karen Polich

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are!”  John C. Maxwell

We each have the opportunity to live a victorious life. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 contains the elements of a victorious Christian life. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s Sermon, Conquest to Victory here.)

Are we aware of the Savior’s purchase? We have been purchased at great price and are not our own. That can be a hard concept for us in America where we are so focused on freedom and independence. As Christians, we signed up and are free from sin, but discipleship of our lives is not ours to control. We need awareness of Jesus as Lord and Master over us.

Are we awake to the Savior’s presence? We’re sealed by the Holy Spirit. 1 John 4:4 says, You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. We have been given the power of the Holy Spirit, living in us.

Are we available for the Father’s purpose? The call on our lives and the gifts we are given differ, but we all have the same purpose. We are called to bring glory to Him and His name. What gets in the way of living out our purpose? Sometimes it’s fear. It can also be the result of our casual approach that puts distance between us and God. Distance is a killer. The casual moments may be our weakest. Without intentional focus we are prone to drifting.

Living a victorious life brings us closer to God. It allows us to live with the intent of bringing Him the glory He deserves. When we understand we have been bought at a hefty price and know our purpose, we can move into the dimension of success. It’s the conquest to victory.

 

 

Praying For Our Pastors

By Gerry Wakeland

October is Clergy Appreciation Month here in the United States. It’s a time when we pause to say “thank you” to our pastors and church leaders. Perhaps you have already given your pastor a note or a card, maybe even a small gift. Every one of those gestures are sincerely appreciated.

No one other than a pastor’s wife or children know the demands made of our leaders. They are available to the flock 24/7 ready to pray with us, cry with us, counsel us and sometimes rescue us. They even go to sporting events to cheer our children on. They make great sacrifices to fulfill the call God has placed on their lives. It seems only fitting that one out of 12 months of the year we would pause and express our gratitude for these sacrifices.

Wait…we only have to be grateful for our pastors one month out of the year? That’s not even a tithe. It seems a little unbalanced when we think of all they give each and every day. They don’t ask for anything in return. They give out of love and obedience.

There must be something that we can do on a more regular basis. Of course there is.

We can pray.

I am reminded of the words in Matthew 26:40, “Couldn’t you keep watch with me one hour?” All Jesus asked of His disciples was one hour of prayer.

Recently I heard someone say this, “Time is more valuable to me than money.” It made me stop and think. I came to the conclusion that maybe he was right. We live in a fast-paced society with many demands on our time. Are we willing to sacrifice sixty minutes a day in prayer? Are we willing to spend a portion of that time praying for our pastors and the needs of our church when we have so many prayer requests of our own?

There are those in our church who have made a commitment to pray for our pastors, our church and its leadership every day. At least one has taken that commitment one step further. Every morning at approximately 7:30 he makes his way to the steps of AFBC and kneels to pray. Would you be willing to join him?

Maybe morning is not the best time for you. Can you stop in on your way home from work? When you’re out running errands? What if you picked up your kids at school and all of you came by to pray? If you’re coming to the church for a meeting or a Bible study could you come a little early and stop to pray on the steps.

Many of us pass by our church at least once, if not several times a day. Could you, would you, take the time to stop and pray? It might be the greatest gift you could give our pastors.

I’ll meet you on the steps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Pail of Water

When was the last time you walked four miles to collect one pail of water for your family? My answer would have to be never.

The average American family of four uses 400 gallons of water per day. Approximately 70 percent of that water is used indoors; with the bathroom being the largest consumer (a toilet alone can use 27 percent!).

Not everyone is as fortunate. In Malawi it is not uncommon for people to walk as much as nine miles for one pail of water. One pail of water, perhaps five gallons, for an entire family.

With a population of 17 million people Malawi is among the smallest countries in Africa. It is also one of the least developed and poorest. Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa and despite signs of economic development many challenges remain  in rural areas as few as two in ten people have access to a toilet. While water sources are fairly numerous in Malawi, much of the population lives without access to a safe and protected water source.

Malawi suffers frequent droughts and floods. The last several years have been extremely difficult for the Malawians.  In an economy that is heavily dependent on the agricultural sector, it is crucial to understand the implications of these extreme climate events. About 2.8 million Malawians face food insecurity, making the country one of the worst hit in southern African drought.

Many people in Malawi live in rural areas where extreme weather, rapid population growth and pollution have made farming difficult. A reliable safe water supply is essential to grow enough food to eat.

Although official figures show Malawi to have 90% water supply coverage, the number of people with reliable access is far lower. Many hand pumps are broken, leaving no choice but to go back to unsafe water sources. Almost 90 percent of child deaths from diarrheal diseases are directly linked to contaminated waterlack of sanitation, or inadequate hygiene.

So here we are in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Can we make a difference? The answer is a resounding yes.

First, we can pray. Here’s a recent prayer request from a missionary our team met on their trip in May. As you can hear in her words this is a request from her heart.

Can you please join me in praying for the nation of Malawi….?

  • We need rain. Not too much and not too little, but God knows what we need.
  • We only get 2-4 hours of electricity every 48 hours. It normally turns on between 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. while people are sleeping.
  • Water is only turned on for 30 minutes three days a week. This normally happens about 5:00 a.m.
  • With limited electricity we are unable to pump water from one tank to the other. We are currently out of running water. We are still blessed with one water tank so we can collect water using buckets.
  • The lack of electricity means no maize mill…. no maize mill…. no ufa…. no ufa… no nsima…. This is the staple food for Malawians.
  • No water requires people to wait in long lines at boreholes. Sometimes taking all day. Walking long distances in the middle of the night to return with one pail of water.

Amidst this entire crisis God continues to provide for His children, but please let’s come together and let’s pray for Malawi. 

What else can we do?

On Sunday, October 23rd AFBC will hold its annual Night of Worship followed by our Chili Cook-Off. During the Chili Cook-Off you will have the opportunity to vote for your favorite chili using “change.” That’s right your coins, pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters can make a difference for the people of Malawi.

100% of the money collected on Sunday will go to the Malawi Mission Project, which includes digging and maintenance of a new well in Malawi. To us it may be pocket change but what a huge difference those coins can make in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Malawi.

We hope to see you there!

Scriptural Baptism

By Karen Polich

What does God’s Word say about scriptural baptism?
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“Baptism is the outward sign of an inward act of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Michael M. Cook

Baptism communicates an act of obedience, demonstrating the first fruit of salvation. Obedience is part of who we are as followers of Christ. When it comes to baptism, what any denomination says is irrelevant, what matters is the Word. The Bible uses the Greek word, “baptizo”, which means to submerge, place under, immerse. Authentic scriptural baptism demonstrates the death and resurrection of Christ.

Baptism is the commanded symbol of our obedience; it is not salvation. Mark 16:15-16 tells us, He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. In Ephesians 2: 8a we read, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…

We are called to:
1. Faith in Jesus (heart change).
2. Baptism (obedience).
3. Discipleship (teach, apprentice, share the gospel).

Baptism is the beginning of an obedient heart that seeks to grow in Him. As a follower of Christ, what hinders you from being scripturally baptized?

Listen to the podcast here.

Missing the Mark of Holiness

By Karen Polich

“A Holy life will make the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns, they just shine.”  – Dwight L. Moody

Have you noticed, at times Christians can stoop lower than even the most immoral non-believer in their behavior? We all fall short, but there is a difference between boastful embraced sin and sin we turn from. Within the church, a life of perpetual, unrepentant sin is a personal tragedy that leads to a negative public testimony without the removal of it from the fellowship. Sin in the fellowship that comes with no desire to change must be dealt with.

Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon, Missing the Mark of Holiness from the Forming the Church We’re Called to Be series here. Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 5: 1-13 focused on how the church in Corinth had lost its way. As believers, we are called to more. We are called to change the culture around us and show Godly influence in the world around us. We cannot have a flippant attitude toward sin. As a church, if sin is allowed to go on, what testimony does it send? God’s Word is clear. In sincerity and truth, the sin must be removed and put out of the fellowship. (Paul was clear that he was speaking about the immoral behavior of believers, not the lost. See scripture above.)

Church discipline is something done out of love, like the correcting of a child. It is about love for people but hate for sin. The church is to help, bearing witness to the testimony of Christ, not hiding in isolation. A church without holiness has nothing to say to a lost world. We are called to be different and to be the salt and light for a lost world. Matthew 5:13-14

It starts with the close examination of our own hearts. How are we choosing to live? If we are allowing sin to infiltrate the outpouring of our lives, how long before we are just another bad apple in the bunch?

The church must demonstrate within its own body what holiness looks like. Everyone is a sinner. Believers are forgiven in Christ but must choose to pursue a life focused on Christ and free from the shackles of sin. To miss the mark and fall short is one thing. To live a life saturated in chosen sin is another. As the church, we are called to live in obedience and shine the light of Christ into the world. Church discipline is a necessary part of a genuine testimony focused on His Kingdom.

I’m Bored with My Bible

By Kristin Overman

An older lady in the church once told me, “I get bored with my Bible so I read Christian books instead.” It made me so sad. The God of the universe wants us to know Him and has communicated with us through His word. Yet many leave it sitting on the shelf in exchange for books of men. There is nothing wrong with reading Christian books but when we read them in the place of the Bible it is like me trying to learn more about my husband by spending time with his mom instead of just spending time with him. To learn about God we must be in His Word.

“Never underestimate a cursory reading of the Bible”. My youth pastor always told me this. Many people get overwhelmed with studying the Bible. The best place to start is to just read it. I like to organize information so I have found that when I organize my Bible reading it makes more sense and I begin to see themes and common ideas. I read by type of book, for example all the minor prophets, the gospels, or the wisdom books. I sometimes will read the narrative books and insert the books that fit chronologically with in it. For example, Acts is the story of the beginning of the church and Paul’s missionary journeys. I insert Paul’s letters in chronological order as they come up through Acts. Or I read by author, all the books of Moses, Luke, or John.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nothing in life is worth doing or having unless it means great effort, pain, or difficulty.” I believe you have to work some to gain some.

I record as I read. I organize what I learn by making timelines, outlines, lists, maps or charts depending on the book or passage. In Leviticus I made a chart of the different types of sacrifices. In the gospels I recorded on a map all the cities Jesus traveled to. In the Pauline letters I listed all the one anothers. In Proverbs I recorded what it said about wisdom and foolishness.

“What are you going to do with what you learn?” is my quote.

Reading the Bible is not about gaining knowledge but about transformation. I pray that my life would change to reflect God’s truth. I use the lists, charts, whatever I’ve recorded and learned as prayer points and application. I believe that as we learn about God in the power of the Holy Spirit, He will change our thinking and as a result our behavior. So if you’re ever bored with Scripture try reading it a different way, find one thing you can record as you read, and most important ask God to use it to transform you.

Be Humble and Kind

By Karen Polich

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

God chooses to use humble people. Those with humility are nothing more than servants for the cause of Christ. His purpose becomes our purpose. With humble hearts, we seek gentleness, want to serve and have compassion for others. Though we may step on ourselves with our actions and words, true humility shines through. The most humble to walk the earth was Jesus Christ.

“Pride and fruitfulness are incompatible.” – Michael M. Cook

Teaching from 1 Corinthians 4:6-13 Pastor Michael M. Cook continued the sermon series, Forming the Church We’re Called to Be, with Be Humble and Kind. (Listen to the podcast here.) Paul was speaking to the church in Corinth. With no word in the Roman and Grecian language for humility, the concept couldn’t have been an easy thing to teach. How can we be humble and kind? Avoid conceit and embrace humility. The passage distinguishes the characteristics we should avoid and those to embrace.

Characteristics to avoid, as demonstrated in the Corinthians’ conceit.:
1. Puffed up. The danger comes in feeling so good about what’s going on in our lives and who we are following (Christ) that it causes a critical attitude leading to judgement and self-righteousness.
2. Boastful. It doesn’t make spiritual sense to boast. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7
3. Full. Are we actually satisfied with where we are and think we have it all figured out? We are called to press on toward the goal… Philippians 3:4a

Characteristics to embrace, as Paul described of the apostles.:
1. Spectacle. In contrast, Paul described the apostles as servants placed on display for others to learn from. The crown only comes after the cross.
2. Fools. When we are focused more on Christ than ourselves, it doesn’t matter if we are thought of as fools. Our focus is simply on Him. There is not concern for what others think.
3. Filth. At times we will be seen as the scum of the earth. Speak the truth and watch how satan will try to make you feel. ‘You’re intolerant…’ No. The truth is the truth, but we may not be regarded well.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

Humility is the great unifier. We are not deserving of what Christ has done for us. If our focus is on others and squarely on the love of Jesus, we will have the ability to be humble and kind.

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man given. Be thankful. Conceit is self given. Be careful.” – John Wooden