Month: April 2017

The Power of Names

By Elizabeth Thomas

When I first became a teacher, I considered what I wanted my students to call me. At the time, I worked with several teachers that let their students call them by their first name. It seemed refreshing and trendy to let my students call me “Miss Elizabeth” instead of the very formal “Ms. Thomas”. I thought using my first name might keep my classroom relaxed and comfortable. But my mentor teacher taught me the importance of my last name. It’s a sign of respect to use your last name. Your relationship with your students needs to be formal at times.  You are the leader in your classroom, and they should follow you.

I have been thinking a lot about the power of names this week. Last Sunday in Kid’s Klub, we began a new series focusing on the Lord’s Prayer. Most of us have heard it before, Jesus’ guidelines for how to talk to God. He starts His prayer by saying “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). It’s interesting because Jesus uses the word “Father” here, when the most commonly used name for God at that time was Jehovah. Jesus starts many of His prayers in the Bible by acknowledging His relationship with God, by calling Him “Father”. Jesus taught us that although God is our creator, He is also our Heavenly Father, and we can speak to Him directly whenever we like.

He is someone we can maintain a relationship with, someone we can go to with our troubles, someone we can rely on in difficult times.

Jesus goes on to say that God’s name is “hallowed” or holy. This is extremely important, because Jesus is teaching us how to approach God with the right heart. He doesn’t start His prayer by addressing His own needs. He doesn’t start His prayer by asking for something. He shows reverence to God by acknowledging His Holiness first. How often we forget that God is not a magic genie in a bottle, ready to grant wishes. He is righteous and worthy and deserves all of our respect. When we pray, our first step should be to acknowledge Him for everything He is and does.

When I think about the many names of God, I am reminded that He chose to be called Father. He chose me as His child.

Even in my sin, even in my rebellion, even in my brokenness, He calls me daughter. I have an open line of communication with the Maker of the universe, because He wanted a relationship with me. He sent His son to die for me, so I could spend eternity with Him. His mercy and love is something I could never earn, but He gives it to me anyway. The holy, perfect, all-powerful God chose me.

He chose you, too. He wants a relationship with you. He wants you to let Him guide your life. When you pray this week, don’t forget who you pray to. Acknowledge His name and His holiness. Delight in the fact that you get to call Him Father.

Making Disciples – Consecration and Impartation

By Karen Polich

Pastor Kevin Linthicum continued his sermon series, Making Disciples, with the next two steps in true discipleship. Listen to the sermon series via podcast here. Consecration and impartation were added to selection and association.

Consecration. Jesus required obedience. He simply said, “Follow Me.” Those who chose to follow him, trusted him and believed in him. They went the way of the cross.

“Is Jesus satisfying you right now?” – Kevin Linthicum

There is a price to discipleship. It costs something to be all in. We must let go of worldly pursuits and acknowledge Jesus above all things. Few choose to pay the price. We need to recognize and embrace the truth that spiritual apathy is at an all-time high. We shouldn’t be satisfied with where we are, but should be answering the call of the great commission. Are we willing to pay the price?

“You don’t find Jesus by running after those who have run away.” – Kevin Linthicum

Impartation. Jesus was the perfect example of what it means to be a servant. He gave Himself away. A follower of Christ who is a disciple will be a fruit producer. Disciples are compelled to share the gospel. When we are yielded to the work of the Holy Spirit, we will see the people around us who need to hear that message.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12

You can’t give something away you’ve never had. God will overcome the world with or without you. Will you choose to be a disciple?

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of Discipleship

By Kristi Sullins

“Go therefore and make disciples”. It is a straight forward command Christ gave to the new church in Matthew 28:19. He did not give the followers a five-point plan or a “how-to” list. It was a straight forward command of action.

For most Christ followers that statement is translated as go and lead people to a saving faith in Christ. There is a clear call to evangelize in that statement, but it does not stop with belief. Christ called the church to do more than accumulate converts. He wanted those whom He had invested in to pass on the investment by making learning, lifetime believers. Believers who grew deep enough to disciple others.

What does this discipleship look like? The book of Acts gives us a beautiful picture of how the early church obeyed Christ’s command. They shared their lives.

It was that simple. Those who had seen and heard from Christ shared that knowledge. They ate together, learned together, shared their struggles and victories and the realities of their lives. Acts 2:42 gives us a picture of those first disciples.

Could you do that?  Do you have struggles, victories and failures you would be willing to share?    Would you open your table to someone who wants to spend time with you?  Would you be willing to learn alongside someone who also wants to know more about the life God has called us to live? Do you have room in your life for a brother or sister in Christ?  Would you love to know that there is someone praying for you and someone who trusts you to pray for them?  Then you should be discipling.

If your answer was no then there are bigger issues. For EVERYONE who says they are a follower of Christ then you do not have the right to refuse to disciple. It was a mandate given by Christ to all those who would choose to follow Him. He was not speaking to those who would be church leaders or missionaries. It was to the church, period. He was calling those who make up the church to remain in Him, obey and bear fruit. Discipling others is a fruit-bearing step of obedience we do not have the right to reject.

Neil Cole, author of the Organic Church, goes a step further when he compares the success of a church to the success of discipling. He says, “Ultimately each church will be evaluated by one thing, its disciples. It does not matter how good your praise, reaching, programs or property are. If your disciples are passive, needy, consumerist, not moving in the direction of obedience, your church in not good.”

Are you ready to step out in obedience and disciple?  The first thing to do is pray that God would show you who He would have you journey with. Then start actively looking. You don’t get to just sit and pray about it. Then make the commitment to find the time. The reality is that we all have the same amount of time, and we find time for what we consider important. When you accept that discipling others was a mandate to all believers you will find time for it. Surprisingly, when you make that commitment you will find that time of your week to be your very favorite, and most fulfilling.

That is a truth I can testify to. I am a working mother of three teenagers with a husband who has gone back to school. Time is something precious, but more precious to me is the time I spend each week with a young woman that God blessed me by putting in my life. Those couple of hours of sharing, studying, and praying are priceless to me. Sometimes we are deep in the Word and other times our weeks have been so rough that we are talking through life lessons. There has been much laughter, frequent tears, deep discussions, and learning on both sides. She is my family, my friend, and my constant reminder that no matter the ups and downs of my journey in this life, God can use it.

Discipling, living life together with the goal of becoming more like Christ. It is time for you to start.

 

 

V

Silver Linings

By Elizabeth Thomas

We’ve all heard the expression, every cloud has a silver lining. It’s a poetic phrase that reminds us to look for the good in the midst of the bad. It helps us remember that even in dark times, there is light coming. It’s a the thing people say that provides a glimmer of hope in troubling times.

In Kid’s Klub this past weekend, we remembered Jesus’ troubling times. We showed the kids a crown of thorns like He wore. They felt a piece of rough wood, like the wood from the Cross. They saw what the nails might have looked like and drank vinegar like He drank. I prayed they would understand what happened. I prayed their hearts would be ready to grasp the significance of what He did. Sometimes I find it difficult to teach about the crucifixion, because it can be hard to explain that what happened was horrific, but God still deemed it necessary. What happened was terrible, but Jesus did it on purpose. It’s hard to show this black, ugly cloud had a silver lining.

I know it was hard for the people who loved Jesus. The disciples, Mary and Martha, all those who followed Him – they couldn’t see the hope in what He did. The Bible says the ones who knew Him watched Him die (Matthew 27:55-56). Those who weren’t there at the crucifixion went into hiding (John 20:19). Their hope was gone. The One who performed miracles, the One who brought the dead to life, the One who spoke of hope and salvation, was dead. The religious leaders had won and those who loved Jesus were heartbroken. It was really over. Can you imagine what those three days felt like, the days Jesus lay in the tomb? I can’t even comprehend the anguish they felt. What a hopeless, terrible time.

But we know, the story isn’t over. Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose three days later, and appeared to many different people. He shared His message of hope and salvation; He encouraged others to do the same. He completed His journey and fulfilled prophecy. His resurrection was the silver lining. His completion of salvation is our silver lining.

I won’t say that I’ve gone through times as troubling as Jesus, but I have had my share of hardships. I have had moments where I feel like all hope is lost. We all have. We have all had moments where we lose our faith. Dark clouds settle in our skies and we can’t see the light. For some, those clouds last for years. For others, it seems that there will never be a silver lining.

I don’t know what you are going through. I don’t know what dark clouds are in your skies. I don’t know if you feel hopeless. But I know that our Savior knows exactly how you feel. He has been where you are. He has experienced trauma, hardship and suffering. He knows the feeling of hopelessness. He knows because He was here. He walked on this Earth, He was tempted and tried. He was beaten and executed. For you.

Easter may be over, but don’t forget Jesus’ sacrifice. When your clouds get dark and gloomy, don’t forget the light. Don’t forget our silver lining, our hope, our salvation. Our Father sent His Son to die for us. When things get hard, don’t lose your faith. He is waiting for you to trust in Him.

Remember

By Kristi Sullins

Where were you when?  This question was part of a recent Ladies Bible Study class, and it immediately stirred up great conversation. Many of the answers were the same. The Challenger explosion and 911 were events that had left their marks on us as children, youth and young adults. A true blessing to our group is the diversity of ages represented, and the best of our group happened to be sitting right next to me that morning. Ms. Lucy Stevens held us all speechless as she shared her memories of the radio announcement after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and hearing about the dropping of the first nuclear bomb while she was in her kitchen ironing. These were memories seared in her brain. Memories of events that changed everything. Even years after each of us had experienced those life-changing moments we were able to sit and remember.

I must imagine that same question would have been asked years after that Friday, that Friday that changed eternity. The young and old, rich and poor, Gentile and Jew would have had a story to tell about Friday when Christ was crucified.

Maybe they were in the courts when Christ was falsely accused and charged with crimes as He stood in silence. They may have seen Pilate try to find fault in Him, and ultimately wash his hands of the whole matter. Did they hear about the beatings from the Roman soldiers or witness His destroyed body first hand?  Maybe they had strong enough stomachs to stand on the hill of Golgotha as the man who claimed He was Messiah was nailed to a cross and hung between 2 thieves. They would have heard His cries for mercy to God for those abusing Him, and His cries when the God of the world had to turn His back because of the sin resting on Christ. Those serving in the temple would have shared hearing the temple curtain rip from top to bottom with no explanation. All would have remembered the sky, black as night, and the earthquake that shook the ground after Jesus spoke “It is finished”. Everyone would have had a story to remember about that Good Friday.

It is time for us to remember too. The Easter season is always a time of fun and fellowship. We dress in our best for church, ready for a time of celebration. That is good, but we cannot skip Friday. Sunday is the day we celebrate the empty tomb and our risen Savior. But Sunday’s celebration could have never come without Friday’s sacrifice.

Take time to remember what Christ withstood on that Good Friday. Read the different accounts given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Talk with your children about that day. Remember His sacrifice driven by love. Remember His suffering driven by evil. Remember grace shown to the thief at His side. Remember the prophecy promises Christ kept to the letter. Remember the king of the world being laid in a borrowed tomb. Remember.

Do not over think the act of remembering. For my daughter and I, we remembered over the kitchen sink, peeling potatoes for dinner. Back and forth we shared the details we knew about that Good Friday. We talked about feelings, sights and sounds. I told her the part of the story I hate the most (God turning His back on Christ) and she told me her favorite part (heaven and earth reacting to His death). There was no fancy setting or preplanned speech. It was just the two of us, sisters in Christ, remembering.

It is your turn now. Do not reject the hard part of this Holy week. Sink deep in the story. Shed tears as you remember. Your Father’s love is so great that He sent His Son to die. Our Messiah’s love is so great that He willingly walked into hell on earth for all mankind. Let the story remind you of the impossible grace of our God, and the eternal hope we have because of that Good Friday. Remember.

 

 

 

 

 

Journey to the Cross Part Two

By Elizabeth Thomas

As a leader in Kid’s Klub, I am often surprised at how the lessons I teach the kids affect my life too. I find that although the material is written for them, it also speaks to directly to me. This week, I was faced with a difficult lesson – following God’s plan instead of my own.

Last Sunday, we taught the kids about Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. What a fun story to teach! Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, while people laid their coats and palm branches down. They shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:9) and everyone seemed excited that He had arrived! It’s the hopeful, joyful part of Jesus’ journey to the cross. But as we all know, the excitement didn’t last long.

The people were hopeful because Jesus had said He came to save them (Luke 19:10). But they wanted Him to save them from Roman rule.  Even those closest to Him thought He was going to establish His Kingdom here on Earth. But that wasn’t His plan. Instead of challenging the Roman government, He challenged the Pharisees and religious leaders. Instead of setting up His political throne, He cleansed the temple. He didn’t free them from Rome like they wanted. So, the people began to doubt Jesus. Was He really going to do what He said? The Pharisees took advantage of this dissention and started acting out their plan to kill Him. The opposition among the people grew when they realized Jesus wasn’t following through with “their plans”. Eventually, they turned on Him and pleaded for His crucifixion. When He didn’t fit their plan, they lost their faith.

Isn’t this just like us? When our plans unravel, so does our faith?

I have often wondered how the people who saw Jesus perform miracles could have turned on Him so quickly. How could they have crucified the Man who came to save them? To be in the presence of God, to see His power firsthand, only to abandon Him and turn away. But then, I remember how many times I have turned away from God. How many times have I seen His power in my life and then lost my faith in Him when things don’t go my way? How many times have I forgotten to trust Him when things are difficult? How many times have I questioned His plan, without remembering His sacrifice for me?

The great news is, Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. His plan was to redeem us eternally, and He did so on the cross. Aren’t you glad that He is up in Heaven now, preparing his Heavenly kingdom for all those who chose to follow Him? During this week of remembrance, don’t forget that God still has a plan. It didn’t end with Christ’s sacrifice. He has a bigger plan for your life. He is calling you to something greater. The question is, will you follow His plan or your own?

Hearing the Words from the Cross

By Karen Polich

Dr. Earl Craig delivered a Palm Sunday message on the words from the cross. Listen to the podcast here.

The cross is known around the globe but not everyone seeks to hear to what the cross is about. The cross is God fixing the human dilemma of sin. It goes beyond what we feel to what we hear and choose to tune in.

The family word. (John 19:26-27) Jesus is magnifying family relationships as he hangs dying on the cross. Families today need encouragement and the cross reminds us that God wants us to care for each other.

The forgiveness word. (Luke 23:32-34) The forgiveness of Christ was at its very best when man was at his very worst. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and showed no limit to forgiveness. In broken relationships, God is not concerned with who’s right or wrong but with who will make the first move.

The futility word. (Matthew 27:45-46) Jesus’s words come from the depth of human experience. The greatest enemy of a Christian is not disease but despair. Jesus knows what it feels like to be forsaken. When you are at a loss for words, the Holy Spirit will groan on your behalf. (Romans 8:26)

The final word. (John 19:30) Jesus’s first recorded words were about doing His Father’s business and his final words spoke of the completion. Finishing strong is important.

Regardless of where you are today, the words of the cross can speak light into your life. Everything can be overcome by the words of the cross.

Dr. Earl H. Craig was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina. He attended Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, on a golf scholarship. Dr. Craig has a Master of Theology and Doctorate of Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He served as Senior Pastor for over twenty years in three churches. Dr. Craig moved into stewardship ministry with RSI and became a Senior VP. This allowed him to be in over 130 churches a year for over 25 years. Dr. Craig has served on the Board of Directors for Dallas Baptist University, Mississippi College, Southwestern Seminary and Dallas Athletic Club. He and his wife Ann have been married for 50 years. They have a son and daughter and four grandchildren.

The Last Straw

By Elizabeth Thomas

As a third-grade teacher, I like to think I have a lot of patience. But lately, my students have been driving me crazy over something so silly – pencils.  They’re constantly losing them, stealing them and always, ALWAYS asking to sharpen them! I have tried to ignore it, but last Friday was the last straw.

I had refilled the pencil bin earlier that morning, but around lunchtime they told me it was empty again. As you can probably imagine, I lost it. I told them no more pencils! When you lose your pencil, find something else. Well, that was interesting. They found crayons, colored pencils or even markers to use. (Let’s just say the spelling tests were quite colorful that day….) I stood firm. I’d  had enough. It was the “pencil that broke the teacher’s back.”

This story reminds me of something we taught in Kid’s Klub on Sunday. In preparation for Easter, we’ve been teaching the kids about Jesus’ journey to the cross. People might say that His journey began when He triumphantly entered Jerusalem or during the Last Supper with His disciples. But I’ve learned that His journey started even earlier than that. It started with death.

More specifically, Lazarus’ death. The Bible says Jesus loved Lazarus (John 11:5). But when his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word that he was sick, Jesus didn’t drop everything and leave. He stayed where He was for two more days before going to see Lazarus (John 11:6). His disciples warned Him not to go, saying, “But Rabbi, … a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11:8). Now, Jesus could have saved Lazarus before He died, or even healed him from afar. But He chose to return, even if it was dangerous for Him.

When He arrived, Jesus learned that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days (John 11:17). Jesus mourned Lazarus, comforted his sisters, and then raised him from the dead. An amazing miracle which caused many Jews to believe in Him (John 11:43-45).

When word got to the Pharisees that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, a man who had been declared legally dead for more than three days, it caught their attention. They worried that people were starting to follow Jesus and they were losing control. The Bible says that from that point on, they plotted to kill Him (John 11:53). This might have been avoided if Jesus hadn’t raised Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus hadn’t made a mistake. He hadn’t “accidently” upset the Pharisees. He chose to perform His miracle, knowing that they would set out to kill Him. He literally set the last straw on their backs. Jesus was in control of His journey from the very beginning. He knew it would start with death, Lazarus’ death. And He knew it would include His death. But He also knew that His journey wouldn’t end in death.

Isn’t it a relief to know that our journey won’t end in death? Our Messiah came to earth and literally orchestrated His death to save us. Even more amazing, three days later, He rose and conquered death! He put Himself on the path to rescue us, because of His love for us?

As we enter this Easter season, don’t forget that Jesus did it all on purpose. He was tried, beaten and crucified on purpose. He saved You on purpose. Remember to be grateful that Jesus’ journey to the cross started with death, but ends with our resurrected life.

Elizabeth Thomas is a third-grade teacher with Albuquerque Public Schools. She and her family have attended First Baptist Church of Albuquerque for seven years. She is passionate about working with children and serves in Kid’s Klub on Sunday mornings.

 

Becoming Disciples

By Karen Polich

“To make disciples of Jesus Christ.” That is the mission statement of Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church.

Pastor Kevin Linthicum shared the Word on Sunday, teaching the beginning of what it means to disciple others. In his teaching, Pastor Linthicum interviewed Tom Neal about what it means to be in a discipleship relationship. Listen to the podcast here. We are called to do more than study God’s Word to make us feel good. We are here to produce fruit.

To be a disciple, we must follow Christ. It goes beyond our salvation. It is part of a willingness to grow and become who God designed us to be. Who can we then pour into? What lives might we impact for the Kingdom?

“You cannot take someone to a place you’ve never been. You can’t disciple if you haven’t been discipled.” – Kevin Linthicum

We are called to disciple others. Are we living as disciples? Do you yearn for more? If you don’t have someone in your life right now who is teaching you, ask someone. Commit yourself to a discipleship relationship.

In a few weeks, Pastor Kevin Linthicum will dig into a sermon series on discipleship. This series will take us on a journey of what it means to answer the call to disciple others. Get ready.