Work in Progress

What People Are Saying About Work in Progress

By AFBC Staff

After four weeks of studying the same material together we can now look back see the impact it has had on individuals, couples, families, and our church fellowship.

Recently we distributed a survey asking for people to comment on their experience with the Work in Progress study. Here are just a few of the responses.

Highlights of the Study

Everyone doing the same study at the same time

Dealing with wounds

Hearing different points of view

Connecting with new people

Learning about why the Sabbath is so important to my spiritual walk

Taking time to focus on our priorities as a couple and a family

Realizing my priorities are out of whack

Understanding what commitment looks like

“I really loved having the three different ways to study the book: reading the book, the Sunday sermon and the small group discussion.”

Most Valuable Take-a-Ways

Don’t settle for mediocrity

The importance of persistent, passionate prayer, even in small things

Forgiveness and how to deal with it

Setting priorities

Persevering through something I promised regardless of how tough it gets

Regular re-evaluation is needed

Love those who have hurt or wounded me

Praying for people, not just things

“God needs to be our first priority in whatever stage of life we are in.”

The Benefit of Small Groups

Getting to know more people

Multiple views and perspectives

Connection with others

Developing a deeper relationship with God’s family of believers


Hearing that we often struggle with the same issues

Pastor Cook closed the Work in Progress sermon series with a message on commitment. The question now is, what are you going to do? How will you make a more personal investment in our fellowship as a result of this study?


Convinced or Committed?

By Karen Polich

“How committed are you to God’s call on your life and what He is doing in you?”–Michael M. Cook

Jesus gave us a clear picture of true commitment. He practiced a rich prayer life and cared for others. His commitment ran so deep, that He gave His life for us.

During the Work in Progress series, we’ve looked at our priorities, how we deal with our wounds and stewardship of our resources. Now it’s time to decide how committed we are. Listen to the podcast here.

Pastor Michael M. Cook described the commitment progression as unfolding this way: First there is understanding, followed by contribution and finally ownership. Commitment comes in terms of choice, not conditions. Luke 14:25-35

“Nothing happens until we make a commitment.” – Michael M. Cook

Working in the non-profit world, I see ministries and organizations meeting countless needs. I’m convinced there are numerous organizations helping in big ways, but that doesn’t mean I’m committed to supporting all of them with my time and resources. It’s easy to be convinced a cause is worthwhile while never committing ourselves by getting involved.

What happens when we do commit to something? It can be the beginning of greatness. Commitment creates hope and builds trust. Our ability to commit will determine our ability to succeed, prevail and overcome.

Ordinary people with commitment can make an extraordinary impact on their world. Committed people live with passion. They spark change and share joy.

God has called us to greatness. It can only be accomplished when we are fully committed to Him. Start by asking God how you can be more committed to Him today.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He shall establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3.

God’s Financial Plan

By Jason Deshayes

This week, Work in Progress touches on a topic that many Christians would prefer stayed about 100 miles from the church – financial resources.  Talking about money in church tends to put Christians on edge as if someone were questioning every financial decision they have ever made and whether it was appropriate or not.  It’s very easy to get protective of our finances. Money is an important part of life. In fact, it is so important there are over 2300 verses on money in the Bible!

When my wife and I got married, I was not a believer. Tithing was about the last thing on my mind. I remember as a newlywed having a heated “discussion” about whether the tithe was based on net income (after taxes) or gross income (before taxes).  Seriously, how could ANYONE possibly get by on only 90% of what you earn before Uncle Sam and Aunt Susana get their cut? I barely gave $25 a year to UNM in order to say I was a proud alum. I reluctantly went along with tithing on our gross paycheck in order to fulfill the second Golden Rule – “Happy wife, happy life.”

Part of adopting a tithe is taking on a viewpoint that “our” financial resources are not ours – they belong to God.

In Sunday’s message Pastor Cook focused on 1 Corinthians 16. This passage speaks about the collection as being on the first day of the week as a portion of what was earned. Giving this portion back to God first is an act of obedience AND an act of worship.

The first thing I recognized after starting our personal tithing was that all of my earthly concerns about how we were going to pay for everything just disappeared.  God was blessing our obedience with His money by lifting the burden of worry from our hearts.  I also noticed clarity in my overall spending habits.  Did I really need that DVD or video game?  Wasn’t the food we already had in the fridge good enough to not go out to eat?  All of that money wasn’t mine anymore – I was taking care of those resources for God, who gave it to me in the first place.

If I were to simplify the priorities the world places on our money, it might look something like this:

  • Pay the mortgage/rent
  • Feed the family
  • Fully fund all “fun” activities
  • Cover the (new) car payment
  • Think about donating funds somewhere

Proverbs 3:9 tell us, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops”, in describing the order of how money should be spent.  I would challenge you to flip the above order and put God’s resources into the Kingdom first…not last.

Imagine what the Church would be like if all of us got on board with God’s financial plan.  I see huge potential for the spiritual impact within our church, the community, and the world – if we all choose to honor God by returning to Him what is already His.  Our possessions and finances may seem to control us, but it is only because we are clinging to money as if it was ours.  By releasing that stranglehold on money, we become open to God working in our lives and redirecting us where He sees fit.


Our Collections

By Karen Polich

You don’t become a more generous person by changing your income. You’ll become a more generous person by changing your heart. – Michael M. Cook

Everything we have belongs to the Lord. There is nothing separate from His hand in our lives. Yet, it can it be so difficult for many of us to tithe on a regular basis. Why? Do we think it will be easier to give when we have more resources? Do we give sporadically because we feel like we should?

What if we didn’t wait to give? What if we didn’t give out of impulse, shock or emotion?

Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon series, Work in Progress, teaches us we are capable of making an impact and being who God designed us to be. Sunday’s message examined God’s plan for our resources. (Listen here.) Here’s a list of the important principles related to our giving. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

  1. Principle of planned regularity. This is a vital habit to develop. Our giving should be an act of worship.
  2. Principle of individual responsibility. God has called each one of us to give.
  3. Principle of proportionate return. Stewardship becomes a matter of God’s prosperity in our lives. Our giving should be reciprocal to His giving in our lives. Proportionate giving is fair and flexible.

As the tide of our income comes in, the first tenth is the starting point for our giving. Even when the tide goes out, we should remain faithful to our commitment to give.

How do we make that commitment? It speaks to our trust in God. Making the commitment is the first step in being fully obedient to God and giving Him what we are called to give. We do it by faith. We seek Him and give Him our best.

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:10

As Zig Ziglar said, “You cannot out-give God.” He has already done so much for us. Examine your heart. We are all a work in progress. Are we giving what God has called us to give as an act of worship?

Especially the Kids

By Robert Thomas

This week in the Work in Progress series, we talked about hurts, pains, and wounds in our lives. People in our world walk around day after day with mental, physical, and emotional wounds they may not be aware of. Our past experiences haunt many of us, and the effects spill over into our lives, causing us to show symptoms we often cannot explain. We are encouraged to begin the healing process by exposing these past wounds to the light, but it isn’t easy.

As much as we may try to hide it, we often carry around the baggage of our past experiences for years after they’ve happened. Even the strongest, healthiest-looking people in our lives could be carrying weighty issues. Perhaps the guilt and confusion over a lost friendship burdens their minds, or the adjustment to a new chapter in their lives is proving to be much harder than they thought. Do you know anyone going through something like this? Are you carrying around the weight of your past? It’s rare for any person to go through this life without going through these things. Everyone struggles at some point.

What has surprised me the most about this series so far has been the response I’ve seen from the Preteens Ministry. As I stood in front of them Sunday morning teaching this lesson, I was struck to see many of the preteens responding with weary recognition of these wounds. I didn’t have to spend much time explaining the hurts and pains of life, because most of the preteens knew about them firsthand. I thought about the faces looking back at me, and for a moment, I thought about their stories a little bit differently. And I realized that if you look deep down, these hurts, pains, and wounds we all deal with affect the lives of even some of the youngest members of the church.

When I get to know a kid, I’m often surprised to find that inside that little head there’s a person inside, complete with their own thoughts and feelings. I don’t know why it’s so surprising, but it is. In a typical work week, I’ll sometimes see over a hundred different kids. It never ceases to amaze me that each and every one of those kids has an original set of thoughts and feelings. All them are living their own lives, and many of them are going through incredibly difficult situations, often for the very first time. They may not know what to do, or how to move on.

The fact is, young or old, pain affects us all. Kids go through difficult situations just like adults do. Many times a child’s problems are dismissed as “kid’s stuff”, as if it’s no big deal. If I’ve learned anything about dealing with kids, it’s this: to the one going through a tough time, their problems are a very big deal. The effects of those problems, if not dealt with, can be carried with a child as they grow up and become adults. The healing process is every bit as important for a kid as it is for adults.

Let these words inspire you to action this week. People, young and old, are struggling. Did you know there are half a million (and more) people in this city? What do you think is running through their minds right at this moment? Are they happy? Do they feel safe, and loved? Or are they hurting? What kind of very-real problems are they going through today? Do they know how to begin the healing process? Even more important, do they know our God?

One final question: What role could you play in the life of someone who is struggling?

Wounded and Hurting

By Karen Polich

Our lives are not always filled with blue skies and constant sunshine. Life comes with hurts and wounds. We often get knocked down when we least expect it. We suffer scratches, cuts and even punctures. The degree of hurt determines the extent of healing that needs to take place. There is no do-over or reset button to erase the scars from the wounds we suffer. However, with God’s help we can overcome our hurts and our wounds and be all God created us to be.

Pastor Michael M. Cook’s current sermon series, Work in Progress, allows us to explore our hearts, evaluating where we haven’t let God in. (Listen to the podcast here.) Wounded and Hurting is based on the story of the woman at the well. (John 4:1-26)

Our lives can be framed by the biblical principles from a God who loves us beyond our comprehension.

Living on the fringe of her community, the woman at the well did not join the other women at the well. She had a past that was surely talked about. She had made poor choices, failed repeatedly and lived a life of isolation. Perhaps she felt trapped in the circumstances of her life. Love had broken her heart, not once but five times. Her life was filled with wounds. However, her encounter with Jesus took her life, full of hurts, to a place of joy.

Pastor Cook shared two truths about God and our hurts:

  1. God always sees behind the mask to the reality within. We must remember, without conviction of sin there can be no conversion.
  2. God often exposes our lifelong pursuit of happiness. The deep longing within us can only be filled by Him.

Jesus knew everything about this woman and still offered her the ultimate gift, living water, in the form of salvation that came from His love and acceptance. She was so overjoyed that she hurried to share the encounter with the very people who shunned her at every corner. She celebrated His knowledge of her baggage and painful life. This encounter with Jesus would lead many more to come to know Christ.

Could it be that Jesus wasn’t exposing her sin, but was naming her wound? – Michael M. Cook

Our wounds shouldn’t disable us from living a full life. Pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t move us forward. What are we to do? Feel stuck? Staying there doesn’t work.

God doesn’t ask us to leave our pain behind, ignoring it while we keep going. He uses our hurts. God can diminish our most excruciating pain and begin the healing process, if we only let Him.

Scars should be worn proudly, as part of who we are. But to wear the scar, we must first deal with the wounds and seek God for healing.

The wounds in our lives, whether a scratch, cut or deep puncture, can make us stronger and equip us for more. When we seek a relationship with God, we begin the reconciliation process. This will bring the return of a real hope and optimism for the future.

Do you have wounds you need to give to God today?

Making More than PB&J

By Kristin Overman

I’m in the thick of it, parenting that is. I spend my days picking up Legos, dealing with fights, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My days are busy, but I want to make them count. I want to pass on something lasting.

How do I choose to spend my time with my kids? I can sum it up in two words, love and train.

There are many ways to show love. I was at the park when a child ran up to her mom asking her to watch her. The mom was preoccupied with her friend and told her daughter no. The little girl sunk down and walked away. I was heartbroken for her. Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord”. A blessing is to be enjoyed. I love my kids by delighting in them. When they want to show me how they swing on the monkey bars, I stop and watch. When they want to tell me about their picture, I listen. I play, talk, and hold them as much as I can. God the Father showed delight in Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”, Matthew 3:17. The Father acknowledged Jesus belonged to Him and showed His approval. God was pleased with Jesus because He was His.

Do we take joy in our kids simply because they are ours? Ask your kids to look you in the eye just so you can say, “I love you”.

There are a lot of aspects to training, but it begins with God’s Word, not mine. One of the ways I try to instill God’s Word in my boys by reading it thematically. I’ll read stories that go together, for example we’ll read Jesus’ parables, Elijah’s miracles, Paul’s teachings, or David’s adventures. I just use a children’s Bible, no special curriculum. We each memorize a verse that relates to what we are studying. When we are done we draw pictures and write what we learned. It is really fun to see what they remember and what God lays on their heart.

Hopefully, my love and training will lead them to Christ. My children are my priority in witnessing. God placed four boys into my hands. I want to return four souls to Him. The greatest disciples I can make are my kids. There are no other people I will have a greater influence on.

“Love your children as if you won’t have them tomorrow; train them as if they won’t have you”.

How are you loving and training the children in your life?



By Karen Polich

In the span of eternity, our lives are but an instant.

We make hundreds of decisions every day. How do we decide what needs to come first? Can we see God’s light shining into us by the decisions we make? Our lives are defined by priorities.  If we are open and vulnerable to God, we can move towards setting our priorities according to His Word.

Pastor Michael M. Cook began his Work in Progress sermon series (listen here), walking us down the path of Godly priorities. He focused on five things for us to process in spiritual prioritizing:

  1. God first.
  2. Build a scriptural list of priorities.
  3. Make time for your priorities.
  4. Minimize and eliminate the expendable activities of life.
  5. Live in the light of eternity.

Sounds simple, right? I crave a life anchored in Biblical priorities. A life where I seek God first in all things and serve Him according to His plan instead of my own. But, it’s easy to become distracted and out of balance (John 10:10). Prioritizing according to His will allows me to return my focus to Christ and things begin to fall into place (John 10:10). What about you? Are you a work in progress like me?

We all need the light. Pray this week for God to shine His Son-light into us, allowing for growth that brings the life we were meant to live.

Scripture references related spiritual priorities: Revelation 2:1-5, Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30, Psalm 119:37, John 3:19-25.

Work in Progress

By Karen Polich

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10b

Jesus did not come so that we could have live a life of mediocrity. God desires for us to live abundantly. While many struggles can lead to setbacks, we have the opportunity  to strengthen our relationship with Christ and be the man or woman He created us to be.

It’s time to dig in and build a better you. This Sunday, our entire church family will begin the four week study, Work in Progress, designed to improve our Christian lives.

From Michael M. Cook’s Work in Progress:

Never settle for mediocrity again.

Our greatest challenges are setting and maintaining biblical priorities, poor management of our finances, appropriately dealing with life’s wounds, praying consistently, and sustaining total commitment.

God’s people are not museum pieces that are anchored on a shelf to collect dust. We are a living, moving, and active people called by God to make an impact.

Your fulfillment in life will not come from how well you explore your freedom and keep your options open. That’s the pathway to a frazzled, scattered life in which you try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one. Your fulfillment will come by how well you surrender your freedom.

We can’t wait to see what God is going to do over the next few weeks. To learn more or to get connected with a small group, contact us here.