Freedom in Forgiving

By LuAnn Edwards

Why is forgiving others so hard? We know it is what the Lord desires – what He asks us to do in His Word. We know this, but the hurt is real; the pain is deep. How can we let go of it and truly forgive?

Apparently we can, for the Bible says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another” (Col. 3:13a). Forgiveness is our choice. We may choose to forgive from our heart or choose to hang on to our bitterness and resentment which often leads to anger and hatred.

I have been hurt many times over the years. A friend’s snide remark behind my back, deceitfulness on a job, a supervisor who thought I was incompetent, and a friend not wanting me in her life any longer are just a few of the times when I needed to forgive. These events were painful and forgiveness did not come immediately or easily. I had to pray and ask the Lord to soften my heart so I could forgive them. I asked Him to allow me to see them through His eyes of love.

When we hold on to unforgiveness, we make it an idol in our lives. It becomes more important than God and honoring His Word. We feed it by justifying that we have the right to hold on to it, but does holding on to it ease the pain or fuel it? Our unwillingness to forgive keeps our past alive, and the bondage of bitterness can destroy us and our testimony for the Lord. When we fail to forgive, we allow the person who hurt us to continue their control over us.

There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). One truth is that forgiving others sets us free!

When we forgive, we are set free from the painful emotions that rob us of our joy. We can then let go of the past, the hurt, and the anger so we can move forward in faith, love and healing.

Whether your pain came through rejection, abandonment, abuse, or betrayal, forgiving those responsible for your pain will bring healing to your hurting heart. Forgiving those who have hurt you brings you freedom!

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32).

The Lord’s Supper – Preparing Your Heart

Sunday brought the observance of The Lord’s Supper. How will you prepare your heart?

Focus on a very important implication rooted in the phrase “new covenant”; accepting God’s forgiveness. In the Old Testament, Proverbs 4:25 suggests we are not to be followers that hang our heads in shame but who look straight ahead with confidence.

God wants to forgive you. Part of the new covenant in Christ is anchored in the blood sacrifice for our sins…to cleanse every one of them. Imagine a giant blackboard with all of your sins written across it and God comes along with a giant eraser and erases it all. It’s like an Etch a Sketch: you turn it upside down and shake it; turn it back up and the slate is clean. That’s good news, isn’t it?

WE NEED ONLY TO ACCEPT GOD’S FORGIVENESS. We may know about God’s forgiveness intellectually, but we need to believe it, deep down inside, accepting in faith that it is true, because it is!

Our problem is that we want to keep reminding God of things He’s already forgotten. It’s forgiven and forgotten. You’ve already dealt with it. Someone once asked Eleanor Roosevelt, “How did you accomplish so much with your life?” She replied, “I never waste time with regrets.”

Why would a person continue to carry a burden that God has removed forever? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9

Why would someone take up what has been forgiven? As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Why would someone remember guilt when God has buried it completely? Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

How wide and how deep is God’s grace? His grace is beyond measure. There is rest and restoration in God’s forgiveness.

Don’t waste time with your regrets. Accept God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself.

We have a God of greater encouragement than any discouragement or struggle we could ever have. – Pastor Michael Cook

God has a plan and purpose for your life. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. He desires for you to be successful and will cleanse you from all sin. Will you choose forgiveness today?



Some of My Least Favorite Verses

By LuAnn Edwards

By nature, I am a pessimist. It is something I am very good at; I don’t even have to try. To me, the glass is always half empty. For a pessimist like me, there are some verses in the Bible that are hard to accept. When we do accept them, however, they bring hope and grow our faith.

In the midst of a pity-party and feeling as though nothing is going right in my messy life, I read Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Really? What about that job that went sour?

James 1:2 states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Joy? When I could barely go into work each day?

When I want to bring up past hurts and dwell in them, I find, “…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13). But I have to attend this function and she will be there! She deeply hurt me! I cannot forget that!

As a pessimist, these verses were not very helpful. That is, not until I accepted them as truth. By faith in Christ and His Word, I have learned to acknowledge, “…all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). These verses have become a source of strength and power in my life.

When my faith overpowers my pessimism, I can focus on Christ and His power in me working all things together for my good.

I know I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). I can find joy in my trials knowing God is in control and nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:17). By faith I can press on and let go of my past hurts because I know that if God is for me, who can be against me (Romans 8:31).

I have also learned that when pessimism tries to creep back into my mind, I can pray and gain strength and victory over its lies. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). I have confidence in prayer to come boldly before the Lord to ask Him for what I have need of and to believe that He hears me and will answer.

If you, too, are a pessimist by nature, accept His Word as truth. Read His promises over and over to yourself; then read them out loud for His Words are powerful and worth hearing. Fill your mind with these promises and meditate upon them daily until they abide in your heart. Pray and ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you in a whole new way so you can acknowledge that “all things are possible with Him.”

Church or No Church – His Plan His People

By Karen Polich

Church DNA Part 1

Millennials say they have abandoned the church because church members are judgmental. Church is unfriendly and unwelcoming and they don’t connect with people in the church.

Too often as individuals we look for a church based on what it can do for us when we should be selecting a church because of the impact we can make. We are called to be the Light, serving others. We have not been called to be served.

God has chosen us and issued a call on our lives. We have been called to magnify His name. This is our purpose. God also called the church. It is His, not ours.

As a church, this is what should be seen by anyone entering the doors. Within the teachings, worship and people in the church, Christ should be visible. Pastor Michael Cook shared the biblical importance of the church and how the church should transmit the majesty of Christ. (1 Peter 2:1-10, Acts 2:37-40)

Recent church history shows that we are not taking seriously the call of Christ to BE the church. Some are frustrated with the church; they are also frustrated with many components of their lives. Often we work to shape the church into our image instead of God’s image. We “play” with things that should be taken seriously, like sin.

Pastor Cook reminded us of the importance God placed on the church. He chose us to stave off the degeneration of the world. Are we displaying His majesty?

Listen to Pastor Cook here.

A Living Hope

By Gerry Wakeland

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1: 3 NIV

Our God is a God of hope. Not just any hope but a living hope, a hope that is alive within us.

This hope comes as the result of Christ’s death and resurrection. Along with this hope is the promise of “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for us.” (1Peter 1:4)

HOPE! It seems like such a simple word, but in fact, it has a significant impact in our lives. Think about it. We all have hopes. Right now, as you read this you are hoping for something. What it is?

Hope is a desire with the expectation of fulfillment.  In other words, it is trust. You might even say it is faith. For Christians, it is the belief that God has a plan for our lives and that plan is far better than our own plan. That plan includes His provision for our needs and fulfillment of our desires.

Our church fellowship has hopes too. Recently we launched the Hope Effort with the goal of raising the monies to expand our current facility. This expansion would add new classrooms for our children’s ministry and allow us to relocate our administrative offices to the church campus. With this expansion we hope to reach more lives for the Kingdom of God.

As Pastor Cook led the church leadership in a discernment process preparing for this financial campaign, he was very intentional about how we would view this project. He pointed out the many trials and storms our church family had weathered since relocating to the west side. Debt, fires, and contamination are but a few of those. Sadly, there came a time when many of us were losing hope.

In 1 Peter 1: 6-7, the Apostle Peter reminds us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold – which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

As we the family of Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church look to the future, we do so with renewed hope. We trust that God will continue to do a great work not only in our church and through our church, but in and through each of us as individuals.

As you pray about how you and your family will be involved in the Hope Effort, think about how God may be stirring the hope that is living within you. Is He reminding you that you have an inheritance stored up in heaven? Perhaps He wants you to know that even through the trials that hope is alive.

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with the inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul.” 1 Peter 1: 8-9 NIV

My Identity – My Stuff

By Karen Polich

The older I get, the more I come to believe that nothing I buy can take away my loneliness, fill my emptiness or heal my brokenness. – Fred Rogers

Our identity is something big. We do not get our identity in a position, a house, a car or anything else this world has to offer. We bring our identity to that job or home or whatever it is we may be chasing. Continuing his Stuff sermon series, Pastor Michael Cook took us into the importance of our identity.

Identity in our adoption. Your most defining moment was not in the one that dumped you but in the Father that rescued you! Ephesians 1:5

God chose you. You were selected by Him and nothing can change that. Nothing about your identity has been formed by something done to you, it is wrapped up in what Someone did for you.

Identity of our redemption. Redemption is being bought out of one position for another. Ephesians 1:7

Jesus did not pay for you in coinage, but with His very blood. Jesus really loves you, really.

Identity in our seal. Identity in Christ is reaching a deep understanding that we are marked by something far greater than a physical mark. We have the mark of the Holy Spirit on us. Ephesians 1:13

Salvation has nothing to do with you. You can’t strive for it or earn it. It is about what He did. Self-rescue is impossible. Your God will be your God when you succeed and when you fail. If you fall back into an old sin, God is still your God.

How many cheap substitutes will we seek? There are empty spaces of the heart and soul that God desires to fill with Himself. What if we cram so much “stuff” into those places that God Cannot occupy them?

Project of the Week: Spend one week fasting from any personal item you want to buy for yourself. (Work this out for you. It doesn’t mean miss meals or skip paying bills. It is about postponing something you think you need, focusing instead on our Creator.)

For more about the Hope Effort, visit Listen to Pastor Michael Cook via podcast here.

Fond Memories of an Old Story

By Karen Polich

Easter Sunday celebrates the story that knits Christians together. Everything rests on this story. God’s promise was fulfilled. His Son gave the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. God’s Word gives us the perspective of the disciple John near the end of his life. (John 19:20-20:8)

How often do we look at this story with the idea that Jesus was a victim? The death of Jesus was a victorious death that fulfilled prophecy. Jesus a victim? No, not for a moment. Jesus is the eternal victor. God’s mighty hand was displayed through the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb. Our hope lies within the story of all stories. On Sunday, Pastor Michael Cook shared three features of how God demonstrated His power. (Listen here.)

Jesus controlled His death. The unknown of death can hold us in bondage, but death did not hold anything over Jesus. Satan tried to kill Jesus time and again, even at birth. Jesus taught repeatedly about His control over life and death. Death had no power over Him. (John 10:17-18)

Jesus orchestrated His burial. Jesus should have been sent to the open grave of thieves. Instead He was buried in a new tomb nearby. Joseph and Nicodemus were secret followers of Jesus. After His death, Joseph asked for His body so he and Nicodemus could prepare it for burial. With the Passover Sabbath approaching, it was critical that no bodies were left hanging so they were given permission easily. (John 19:38-41)

Jesus fulfilled His resurrection. The disciples looked upon Him and believed. (John 20:1-8) You and I are called to make a choice just like the disciples did. We have the full account in God’s Word.

Do you see the VICTORY in Jesus’ death?

In Remembrance

By LuAnn Edwards

Graduation, my wedding day, the birth and adoption of my children—these represent memorable days in my life, days that I look back upon with fondness. While these were all special, the most memorable was the day I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart and life. Love flowed through me in a whole new way. Joy flooded my soul. Why?

On that day, Christ made me a new creature through His forgiveness. I received a special gift—Jesus and His salvation.

This past Sunday, Pastor Cook encouraged us to remember the Lord as we prepared our hearts for Holy Communion. He challenged us to look backward to what Christ did for us on the cross, to look upward at what He is currently doing in our lives, and to look forward to what He will do in the future.

“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given to you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-20). We bring honor to our Lord by remembering as we partake of this sacred sacrament.

As I think back to the cross, I remember His body that was broken for me. He took my punishment. When I think of His blood being poured out, I am overcome with emotion; He died for me. Not only did He die, but He arose and conquered death! Through His death and resurrection, I received forgiveness and eternal life with Him.

My ongoing, personal relationship with the Lord inspires me to greet each new day with anticipation. Through His death and resurrection, I am set free from the bondage of sin. I remember where He brought me from and the gift of grace He continues to offer me. I experience freedom in Christ and celebrate that I am in Him and He is in me.

My future is bright for the Son will continue to shine! I am looking forward to an amazing time in my heavenly home. I will see family and friends who are already there and participate in a celebration of praise and worship in honor of my Lord.

Holy Communion is a time of remembrance— a time to look backward, remembering all Christ has done, a time to look upward at all He is doing, and a time to look forward at all He continues to do in those of us who have accepted His forgiveness and confessed Him as our Lord and Savior.

DNOW 2015 – Living in a Dying World

By Karen Polich

What happens when you bring together an amazing group of volunteers who pour themselves into fifty youth during an intense weekend of D-Now? A phenomenal spiritual experience occurs.

With eighty volunteers, eight homes, spot on worship led by Adam and Julie West and a solid message delivered by Jason Boggs, the youth that converged on Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church were challenged to analyze where they are in reference to where God wants them to be. We are living in a dying world where God has called us to be the salt and light. Struggles come but no one is walking alone. Burdens can be shared. Difficulties can be overcome together in the family of Christ followers.

Life changing decisions were made. Many teens made decisions to truly walk in God’s plan. Being the light in this world requires intention. Nine teens gave their lives to Christ after hearing the message of salvation.

We are all living in a dying world. After an amazing DNow event, the challenge is there for each of us to examine how we are choosing to live in this world. What do others see when they look at you and me?