Month: February 2017


Most tithing testimonies start with “We didn’t think we could afford to tithe”. Our testimony is different. We didn’t think we could afford NOT to. Not because we had lots of excess money each month, but rather we had recently gone “all in” with our commitment to Christ. Nothing in our lives was more important than growing in our relationship with Him. Work, social engagements, sports, etc. were put second to Him. Notice we didn’t say finances. 

We were convicted with how can you say you trust God with your life, health, marriage and children but not your finances? How can you say to your children, “God will always provide,” if you are acting contrary by not tithing? To call ourselves Christians, to be true followers of Christ, and not follow God’s clear instruction to tithe made us walking hypocrites.

Could we afford it, no. But we often found money for things we couldn’t afford, so that really wasn’t a legitimate excuse. We decided that if God didn’t provide for our mortgage payment after we had given to Him, one of the pastors would have to provide us a comfortable couch to sleep on. It was then we took Malachi 3:10 out for a spin.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

It’s not often you get to test God, so if He says to test Him, who are we to not listen? 

Did we start with 10%, no, but we started with something that was uncomfortable and scary? It’s not fair to say we trust Him with something we could fit into the budget. We needed to start with an amount that forced us to put our faith in God to provide. 

Every time we’ve had an increase in finances we’ve increased our giving. There have been random increases that would make no sense if trying to understand by a human standard. God handled the IRS for us on multiple occasions. Every time God provided money we gave back to Him and He has truly opened the floodgates of blessings.

We don’t tithe to AFBC because we want to see our pastors employed. We TITHE to GOD. AFBC is just who God has gifted our money to. Our tithing isn’t contingent on anything other than our relationship with Christ and our commitment to loving Him the best we can and following His direction in all aspects of our life. We don’t give because of the tax break at tax time. We give because nothing we have is ours, everything is His to start with and we are more interested in our eternal kingdom in heaven than anything on earth.

Dealing with Others

By Karen Polich

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:2-6

Christian life is difficult at times because we keep getting in the way – Michael M. Cook

Pastor Michael M. Cook continued the Fragile Growth, sermon series in Colossians, with Dealing with Others. Listen to the podcast here.

Christ followers have an important responsibility in how we deal with “outsiders”. The differences between someone who knows Christ and someone who doesn’t are huge. Jesus was separate from sinners in that He was set apart (Hebrews 7:26), but he was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). He kept Himself separate from the sin while being a friend.

We are to emulate Christ as closely as we can. Christian separation does not mean isolation. We should be insulated, but never isolated. The Gospel is needed most in the darkest places. To live as God as called us we can look to Colossians 4:2-6. Pastor Cook’s key sermon points give us clear direction from God’s Word.

Our character must be prayerful. We are instructed to pray continually, to be devoted to it. This can be difficult because most of us would rather do something than pray for something. In prayer, we are lifting it to God. Prayer lifts the Gospel above the circumstances. As we focus our character, it needs to be anchored in prayer.

Our conduct must be careful. Paul is calling Christ followers to live with purpose and action. We will not win people to Christ with passive niceness. When we exhibit love to others, it is the argument of all arguments. It demonstrates who Christ is. We are not called to isolate ourselves, but to engage.

Our conversation must be graceful. Our words are important and should be full of grace. God is pouring grace into our lives which allows us to pour His grace out to others. When others can see the Gospel in us, something can happen.

I’ve never won anyone to Christ in a debate. It is possible to win the argument but lose the person. – Michael M. Cook

Not only are we in Christ, but we have the responsibility of winning others to Christ.





Family Part Two – Children

By Karen Polich

God’s plan for families begins with parents who seek Him first and follow His direction. This partnership has a profound impact on children. God’s Word teaches us how, when living with trust, we can lead our children in His ways.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Colossians 3:18-21

Children obey your parents. For this to function, there must be structure in the home. Proper leadership establishes direction. Children crave structure and order. When they have it, it brings freedom. When they know the boundaries, they too can begin to grow into who God created them to be. Structure in the family means there is accountability. It is the same for each of us with the Father. It also means mercy and grace can flow into the lives of children. Parents can teach them about forgiveness and why boundaries matter. God has set boundaries in every life for our own protection.

Fathers, do not embitter your children. Children crave approval from their fathers. Fathers must be willing to say “I’m sorry”, when they are harsh beyond what is needed or speak with words that should not have been said. Leading children comes with great responsibility. Children are fragile and fathers are called to love them. Leading from a “God first” life builds trust.

To live with submission, love and obedience, we must start with trust. Trust is over all of it. Husbands and wives, you must put God first. Seeking Him before anything else builds the trust that leads to obedience. An obedient life bears the fruit of a life with God at the center. Obedience is a mixture of submission and love. When we yield to the Father, we can live the life He intends for us, a life beyond our imagination.

What would our lives look like if we were doing everything we are supposed to do from a biblical perspective? Do not settle for anything less. He offers us His best. We can choose to embrace it.

Listen to the Fragile Growth sermon series here.



Family Part 1 -Husbands and Wives

By Karen Polich

“A godly marriage and family is the masterpiece of a godly life.” – Trey Sullins

The family has a God-ordained structure. Society and culture would diminish it and make it seem unattainable. The erosion of the family isn’t new. As the family goes, so goes our culture. God has a specific plan of order and purpose. On our own, it is something we will fall short of achieving, but when we live a “God first” life, we put ourselves on a path set forth by His commands. Listen to Pastor Trey Sullins sermon, Family, from the Fragile Growth series here.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Colossians 3:18-21

These verses hold a lot. It’s important to look at them with an open heart. There’s real beauty in families that put these verses into practice.

Wives submit to your husbands. What does it mean to submit? Our culture would tell us submission is an ugly word that diminishes who we are. Not so. Submission has nothing to do with weakness or a lack of value. It has everything to do with “God first”.

In Matthew 26:39, Jesus is in the garden weeping and praying. He asks God to “take this cup from me” if there is another way. Yet, He says, “not my will, but Yours.” Jesus has never been weak. His value has never been lessened, even when he chose to submit to the will of the Father. It is the picture of true submission. Thine before mine. Submission is an act of obedience and has nothing to do with weakness or value. When a wife lives in submission to her husband, she is setting him as the leader of the family. She is entrusting him as a God-follower to lead the way. It is the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

Husbands, love your wives. This is not a love that is defined by our experiences but the love God created. Love your wife as Christ loves the Church. It is sacrificial. You cannot love without your whole heart. When a husband loves his wife as God commands, she will blossom as the woman God made her to be. Everything the husband does will stem from love. It will guide and lead, expanding their partnership. Jesus submitted to the Father. He followed the course set before him to the cross. He loves like no other. Loving us so much that he gave his life that we might live. This is the love husbands are commanded to give their wives. Complete and total love.

Take time to dig into these verses and ask God to speak into your heart. On Friday, read Family Part 2 – Children.


By Karen Polich

The gift of salvation is God’s grace in full display. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Baptism is the outward act of a heart that has accepted Christ. It demonstrates the life-altering change and is an act of obedience. Seeing hundreds of people in Malawi rejoice as they are baptized is an inspiring event.



Attention to Attire

By Karen Polich

How do we “bear with each other”? (Colossians 3:13) Are we cloaked in our old ways are wearing our new wardrobe? Pastor Cook’s message, Attention to Attire, from the Fragile Growth series, looked at how we interact with those around us. (Listen to the podcast here.)

A church family provides connection, comfort and passion. It can also bring irritation, frustration and unmet expectations. How we choose to deal with the others in our life sets us apart. This push and pull with people happens not only in a church family, but in all areas of our existence.

We’ve been given the gift of a new wardrobe. Through Christ we are given what we need to handle the challenges that come while experiencing life with others.

Colossians 3:11-16 has five characteristics of our new wardrobe.

Compassion. We should feel compassion for others. Do we have a mercy zone?

Kindness. This is the “doing”. Demonstrating our compassion with action shows kindness. What creative ways can we truly meet a need for someone else?

Humility. Jesus made himself nothing for us. Humility isn’t the absence of strength. It’s using our strength to help others.

Gentleness. Are we able to set ourselves aside and help others, demonstrating a gentle spirit?

Patience. This is the virtue of dealing with a difficult person over an extended period of time without writing them off or losing our cool.

We’ve all got choices. We can put on the new and seek to forgive when wronged, show patience for the difficult person and be kind. It may cost us something in return. We may have to let go of anger or disappointment. We may have to let go of ourselves and simply seek Him.

John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Christ is all and is in all. When we dress in these five characteristics, bound in love, Christ is reflected.


What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

By Karen Polich

We all have those times when we are in a situation and we don’t know what to do. The view is clouded and the waters are murky. Afraid to make the wrong decision, we feel stuck. When those circumstances come along, here are seven things to help you decide what to do.

  1. Remember who you belong to. You are a child of God. You are loved, cherished and cared for. Your love O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Psalm 36:5
  2. Stop and pray. Before you speak to anyone else about your situation, take it to God. Ask for His wisdom. Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  3. Give it time. When possible, allow time to provide distance that can bring clarity. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7
  4. Don’t make a major decision after a long day. The days are packed with responsibilities. Decide on major issues when you are fresh. Often a good night’s sleep can lead to a better decision. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14
  5. Keep perspective. Is this situation life changing? Things can sometimes seem bigger than they really are when we are in the heat of the moment. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
  6. Keep going. What’s the next thing you need to do? Work on that item. Take things one step at a time. Do the next thing, then the next thing after that. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
  7. If you seek counsel, choose wisely. Surround yourself with godly people who will bring biblical truth into any situation. Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Proverbs 19:20

We all encounter difficulties. How we handle those difficulties is what matters. Take a deep breath. God is with you and He always knows what to do.

The Difference

By Karen Polich

“Your tomorrow does not have to look like your yesterday.”  Michael M. Cook

Jesus loves you, not because you are good, but because He is good. He is the difference maker in a changed life. Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon series, Fragile Growth, continued in Colossians 3:1-11 with two big areas that should change when Christ is in our lives, sex and rage. Listen to the podcast here.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:1-11

As a Christian, ideas about sex will change. (verse 5) There are things that need to be put to death. Sexual issues have three common denominators:

  • The person is in a place they clearly do not belong.
  • It is difficult to get out of a situation alone.
  • Secrets have power in the dark. There is incredible freedom and liberation when secrets are pulled out into the light. After light shines into a secret, God will use it for good.

We should rid ourselves of anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language. (verse 8) When we desire something, but don’t get it these things can come out. Disappointment over not getting something we want or need can lead to anger. Desiring something is okay, demanding it becomes an issue. Demands at our center point can be destructive. We may make others pay a penalty when things don’t go as we wanted. These things are part of the old and should be put off with the old self.

When Jesus is the center point, we live in our new identity.

You are now His, not yours. Go back to where you are anchored. He has given us a new heart and new mind. Seek Him, read His Word and apply it to your life.