God

Hide and Seek

By Karen Polich

Are you a seeker or a hider? Jesus’ teaching, using parables, will help us understand where we are and how to make a choice about our obedience.

Parables are meant to point us in one direction, towards God. Dr. Trey Sullins continued, The Parables of Jesus, with Hide and Seek. Stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin take us to the core of what Jesus is asking us to decide. (Luke 15:1-10, Matthew 18:12-16) Listen to the podcast here. Will we hide, not choosing to follow Jesus? When we know Him, will we seek Him and the lost?

Jesus has a heart for the outcast. He calls the righteous to go out and find the lost. When they are found – rejoice! Just as He teaches in the parables, the love of God is huge. He will always seek us out when we are lost. When we know Him, He equips us to seek after the lost for His name’s sake.

Who are the lost? The lost are those who are without a relationship with Christ, a follower who has wandered off or a follower hiding from God. The righteous know God but aren’t doing anything about it or are doing good deeds but missing something related to doing the right things.

“You are either lost and need to be found or found and need to go find the lost.” – Dr. Trey Sullins

God’s Word tells us to go and do, so we need to get up and get going. We can choose to be found; we can choose to seek the lost. Anything less is disobedience. Seek God’s will in your life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6

We don’t have to rest on our understanding. When we seek God’s will in our lives, He will direct us. Trust Him. Today, make a choice. Make the decision to follow Christ and to do what He has called you to do.

 

 

Living Water – Part 1

By Gerry Wakeland

Did you know that water is the most critical need of the human being?

Life cannot exist without water. Our bodies are comprised of 80% water. A person can go weeks without food but only three days without water.

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-40 NKJV

Using this Scripture as a foundation, our guest speaker, Dr. James T. Draper reminded us of the importance of reading Scripture in context. He took us into the passage in John 7 and painted a vivid picture of the scene and its significance. Listen to the podcast here.

It was the last and most important day of the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacle. This feast was the highest, happiest and most holy of the Jewish festivals. We would see it much like a large carnival. It was a feast about water.

Each day the temple priests would lead a procession through Jerusalem’s water gate and pour their jars of water through a great funnel. The crowds would cheer. This was an act of thanksgiving to their God. However, on the last day when the priest would start to pour there was no water in the jar? Why? Because it was the belief of the Jews that the Messiah had not come. The lack of water indicated the absence of a savior. The crowd was silent.

It was during this stony silence that Jesus chose to stand up and cry out. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Let’s look together at the significance of Jesus’ words and actions.

In this day and time Rabbis did not stand and teach; they sat. The only time standing was appropriate was when they were making an official announcement. At the moment when the Jewish people were focused on the jar with no water, Jesus was proclaiming Himself to be the water. He was announcing His place as Messiah.

There are only four passages in the book of John where the writer uses the term “cried out.” In addition to this passage, others include the baptism of Jesus, the triumphal entry, and the crucifixion. All pretty significant passages. This gives you some idea of the magnitude of this announcement at this time.

Now that you have a picture of what was taking place, let’s go back and look at the words of Jesus. He was offering an invitation. An incredible, amazing, wonderful, marvelous invitation. “Come to Me and drink.“ Come and receive the gift of salvation.”

A gift…He was offering them a gift, the greatest gift of all. And all they had to do was receive it.

What about you? Have you received the gift of salvation? Have you drunk of the living water? Water is vital to our life here on earth. Living water is essential to our eternal life.

Don’t delay. Receive the gift. Open the gift and enjoy the gift, today and forever.

 

Confident Living

By Karen Polich

A solid foundation means we can live in complete confidence. It means we can walk with assurance all the time.

At the suggestion of Dr. Sullins, I placed a rock on my desk this week and started to think about my foundations. (You can listen to his message on foundations here). I found myself in 2 Corinthians and was reminded of God’s great power. I came back to the following post that first appeared on Beyond First in 2016.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians (NT8)

This isn’t shaky ground. We can walk through life with the confidence that comes from God. Yet, why do we often sit in worry and fear? Of course it is easier to live with confidence when the path is smooth, but God has called us to be used in His kingdom regardless of circumstances. God chose to fill us with His mighty power.  We are “jars of clay”, fragile and sometimes broken, the perfect place for Him to shine.

We can choose to set our life on the foundation of Christ’s sacrifice for us and approach each day with the full confidence that comes when we truly live by faith. Great season? Faith. Crushing season? Faith. Serving Him in all things? Faith.

This is what sets us apart. Living by faith is what opens doors for others to see the glory of God. His light shines through us when we focus on Him. Paul did not refer to “jars of clay” because of their strength. He referred to them because though fragile, they served a great purpose for what filled them.

List the ways you have seen God work in your life and share them! How has He shown His strength and faithfulness? You might be the encouragement someone else needs today.

Have faith and choose to live a life filled with confidence. It is God who works through us in all things. What better foundation could we ask for?

 

 

 

 

 

Components of the Gospel, Continued…

By Karen Polich

“In your own faith, how firmly established and steadfast are you? Are you deeply rooted or easily moved?” – Kevin Linthicum

Colossians 1:13-23

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—  if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Last week Pastor Kevin Linthicum started his two-part sermon series on the Gospel, and shared the components that sin is a reality. There is a penalty for sin and the penalty must be paid. The remaining components bring the great news that leads to eternal salvation.

The penalty was paid by Christ. (Romans 5:8, Romans 5:10) One of the greatest challenges in sharing the gospel is the reality that a person even needs to be saved. What if they are happy where they are? We have the joyful expectation that comes only from the sanctification of Christ as Lord in our hearts. This is the account we give for the hope in us.

Salvation is a free gift. (Ephesians 2:6-8, Romans 3:24-26, Titus 3:5) It is truly free.

You and I need to accept this free gift. (John 1:12, John 6:37, 1 John 5:11-12) When the gift is extended, we have to receive it.

Who have you shared the gospel message with recently? It should be an outpouring of our hearts when Jesus has been given authority in our lives. As a follower of Christ, we should be ready to offer an account for the hope in us. Guard against spiritual apathy. When we become indifferent to the lost, we need to take a hard look into our own hearts.

While the way is narrow, (Matthew 7:13-14), a choice can be made to turn from the broad path and enter through the narrow gate. Sharing the message of Christ doesn’t mean forcing acceptance of such a gift. It should be done with gentleness and patience. Be available for God to use you. He will do the work of the heart.

Listen to the podcast here.

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing it Home as a Family

By Bethany Bentley

We went to camp with a lot of expectations. We were ready to have that “night where the whole youth group cries together”, ready to worship with thousands of students, ready to make new friends, ready to play loud rounds of Uno, just like we did last year. We had a lot of those things.

But this year was not like last year. We had our old moments, our new moments, our angry moments, our joyful-beyond-words moments, and the moments when we were all really done with the humidity and the giant hill.

I don’t think any of us would trade any of these moments for a repeat of last year. Here is a list of my moments.

So much brokenness got brought into the light in our small groups. We poured ourselves out and allowed Christ to bring restoration. We got to watch God grow and heal our friends. Many of us took steps and leaps in our faith, and it had less to do with being in Oklahoma and more to do with all of us just seeking God. He met us where we were.

We saw Delia Pierce respond during the altar call on the last night, after so many of us had been praying for her all week. Sarah and Becca Woffard were jumping. Jay Magnant threw both his hands in the air in praise. Everyone was crying; it was amazing.

The small groups prayed for each other one night. The middle schoolers came together in friendship and openness. The high school boys listened to and prayed for the middle school girls, and they did it in gentleness and love. The girls bonded over similar struggles. It was incredible to see.

During the ‘open-mic night’ many of us shared what God is doing in our lives. Connor Powell made us all cry, laugh, and took us on an emotional roller-coaster that none of us were ready for. Tyler Geldmacher, though terrified of public speaking, got up and shared how much God has stretched him the last few days, weeks, and months.

As a family we laughed, cried, and praised God for what He was doing.

By the end of the week, we saw those who had been quiet and distant finally surrender to Christ. We watched several of our friends surrender to ministry. During our in-cabin worship we were able to just lay it all down and worship with complete abandon.

More than anything else, we left feeling like a truly united family. But this is only the beginning. Students, let’s take what we learned at camp out of Oklahoma. Let’s apply it all on our campuses and in our homes. The battle starts now, let’s start fighting as a family. This is only the beginning.

Never Waste a Moment

By Krisit Sullins

Vacation Bible School has arrived here at Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church. The decorations are being hung.  Crafts are being prepped and snacks are being planned.  After years and years of experience, we have a routine and a plan.  However, the reality is much greater than the plan.

For those who lead in ministry, volunteers who give their time, and those who, at all stages of life, find a way to serve, this week is a week of moments.  Moments that are made when teachers, in costumes, make the stories of the Bible come to life.  Moments when adults and children worship together.  Moments when our youth give up their time to decorate, lead and invest.

The best moments are when you see a child grasp the reality of God’s great love for them.

As the AFBC family prepares for Vacation Bible School, our prayer is that God moves in a mighty way.  Our theme, “Finding Messiah”, sets the stage for children to discover how they can know Jesus was truly the Messiah, sent to save us.  We will journey through the Bible finding proof within the stories in the Gospels.

This is more than a program we do, or just an average week in the summer.  It is a time that will be filled with moments for the children who attend.  Often a moment is all God needs to change everything.  Christ, Himself, understood the importance of taking a moment of time to be with children.  He knew their value in the Kingdom.

As each volunteer prepares for VBS, we pray they would see the importance of the task at hand and would embrace the sacrifice it requires to make a Kingdom impact.  We pray for each family that will be connected through VBS, that they would be changed by learning about the Messiah who loves them.  And we pray that God would move in His mighty way so that by Thursday night it would be clear that all that had been accomplished was through Him.

May each of us be able to answer like Peter when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-16

Ten Necessary Characteristics of People Called to Mission Work

By Karen Polich

Sunday was a time of worship and commissioning for those headed abroad this summer for mission work. Pastor Kevin Linthicum shared ten characteristics necessary in mission work. Acts 13:1

  1. Be called by God. A decision to embark on a mission trip must be driven by the Holy Spirit.
  2. Be willing to set the financial component aside; it is the least of your worries. God is faithful. He will provide for those He calls. Preparations are critical, but the money side should never take priority.
  3. Be led by the Holy Spirit. An individual needs to be mature enough as a follower of Christ to be led by the Holy Spirit.
  4. Be able to learn what it means to empty themselves. You must be willing to let God lead in all areas of the mission work being done. You should be set aside and He should be the messenger.
  5. Be bold. Speak the Gospel with tenacity. He has called you to proclaim the Gospel. It is not a time for timidity.
  6. Be a team player. No matter the size of the group, work together. Build each other up and help one another.
  7. Be singularly focused. Let the Gospel message be the sole purpose of your efforts.
  8. Be able to deny yourself. It’s not about you, but about Him and His Kingdom.
  9. Be a problem solver not a problem causer. Distractions will come, but stay focused on the goal.
  10. Glorify and honor God through the proclamation of the Gospel. This should be the sole focus of every effort.

This summer, pray for the mission work being done throughout the world. God has called many to go, beginning with our Malawi missions team who are leaving this week. Those He calls, He equips. We can each be a part of the work He is doing throughout the world with prayer. Pray for those away on missions. Those prayers will make a difference. Also, remember we are all in the mission field, regardless of location. Ask God to help you see those around you in your mission field today.

What’s a Church Supposed to Do?

By Karen Polich

What is the church? Some might say it’s a building, an address, a specific denomination or a charitable organization. Those things don’t define what a church is or its purpose. The church serves a purpose that has not changed.

Guest pastor, Dr. Earl Craig, shared four “centers” of the church. (Listen to the podcast here.)

The church is a healing center. (Acts 3:1-10) The church exists to help fix problems. (James 1) Hurting and broken people find hope at this center. When trials arise, we should go back to the basics of Who God is and His promises. We should pray and cling to His Word, seeking Him. Do you have a go-to verse you focus on in times of trouble?

Trials are not meant to impair us but to improve us. Some problems are not meant to be solved. They are meant to be endured. – Dr. Earl Craig

The church is a training center. (Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-15) A call to follow God is a call to prepare. Every Christian is called. We should be prepared. A call to serve in any area is always a call to prepare. What are we doing daily to prepare?

The church is a warning center. (Matthew 25:1-46) Jesus gives us warnings about our readiness in this passage. Warning people of danger is not being negative. It is a sign you really care.

The church is a power center. (Ephesians 6:10-17) It is OUR responsibility. We must “put on” and “take”, just as this passage describes. God provides what we need, we must choose to use it. We should feel empowered and encouraged to be who God has called us to be.

What is next for you as a Christ-follower? Your answer determines the kind of Christian you are going to be.

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 48 years. They have a son and daughter and four grandchildren.

Press On

By Karen Polich

Pastor Trey Sullins delivered Sunday’s message, teaching God’s Word and His plan for His church. Colossians 1:18a says, And He is the head of the body, the church. AFBC is wrapped up in Jesus. This is His church. We are called to be the hands and feet. In times of change, it is about moving forward in obedience.

“God will move in a mighty way. In times of change we are called to press forward, not shift into neutral.” – Trey Sullins

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Jesus is the head of the church. He sets the course. The body carries out the ministry of the church and is made up of all who claim to be followers of Christ. We are never called to move backwards or stand still in ministry. We are called to move forward and follow God’s plan for our lives and His church. When a pastor leaves, the ministry of the church doesn’t stop until we get a new pastor. The ministry continues and during this time, more than ever, each member should commit to serve and minister as God directs.

Don’t be like the children of Israel. When something they didn’t like happened, they complained and struggled. They resorted to what they knew from the past, forgetting all that God had already walked them through. The leadership of Joshua and the elders was strong and followed God. When Joshua and the elders died, the next set of leaders did not trust or follow God and began worshiping idols and trusting in other things. This led to the next generation of Israelites not knowing what God had done and trusting in His provision. This responsibility did not only fall on the leadership, but the people themselves. We are all responsible for our relationship with Christ and our obedience to what He has called us to. AFBC is God’s church to which you are called.

We are called to pray for AFBC, but more importantly, we are called to pray for the team of individuals that will seek God’s man for AFBC. Pray daily for each member. Pray that we focus on God’s agenda and not our own. We must stand firm and keep our eyes focused on Him. If not, we run the risk of the next generation not following God. Where are you today? Are you seeking His will and moving forward?  I am moving forward, are you going with me!

Connection Offerings

By Karen Polich

There’s something about our habits. We usually do what we usually do. We usually don’t do what we usually don’t do. How do we make the shift? – Michael M. Cook

We all have a role in the body of the Church. Pastor Michael M. Cook wrapped up the Fragile Growth sermon series on Sunday. This eight week series focused on moving forward in our growth as followers. Connection Offerings, teaches from Colossians 4:7-18; looking at five people and their traits. What if we adopted these traits? Listen to the podcast here.

Availability (Tychicus). He was available and dependable. God is more concerned about our availability than our ability. Are we ready to say “yes” when He can use us?

Useful (Onesimus). He was faithful. We see in Philemon 1:11 that he had failure in life, but God still used him. Failure does not have to be final. In failures, we have a choice to give up or move on. It is important as a believer to have the capacity to move forward. God can do anything. There can be new starts and things can turn around. It’s all possible.

Reconciliation (Mark). There is a fine line between we are not right with each other and we are now right with each other. Choosing a church is simply a matter of deciding which group of radically flawed individuals you will commit your life to.

Be careful and be slow to write people off. – Michael M. Cook

Prayer (Epaphras). He was always “wrestling in prayer”. The opposite of prayer is self-reliance. What does a prayer warrior recognize? God is able to do things that we are not able to do. It is heavy, hard work. Not a prayer warrior? What would get you to become one? What can God accomplish that you can’t?

 Generosity (Nympha). Everything she had was at God’s disposal. Is this how we live? Much can happen when we have a generous heart and hold nothing for ourselves.

Whatever condition we find ourselves in, we are all in this together. What would it look like if we all adopted these traits, wrestling in prayer as we give and make ourselves available for His Kingdom? We are all needed somewhere right now.