Michael Cook

Compassionate Community – Compassion “In Tandem”

By Karen Polich

When transformational teaching and humble servanthood collide, fusing together in tandem, the magnetic overflow is compassion.

Pastor Michael Cook continued his Compassionate Community sermon series, teaching from Acts with a look into the early church. Listen to the podcast here. We find believers about fifty days post Jesus’ death.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:46

Why was it important that they heard God’s teachings daily? We have the gift of digging into our bibles, but they learned straight from the disciples who had lived with Jesus for the previous 3 years. New Testament text was yet to be written. The Jesus way was being taught daily by the disciples.

Along with daily teaching, they were living lives of humble servanthood. (Read “Why” Compassion) Transitional teaching and humble servanthood result in compassion. It is the fruit of a life focused on Jesus’ commands.

Solid biblical teaching and people helping people…

Things were going well and the church was growing. Then complaining and divisiveness started. (Why can’t we all just get along?)

Acts 6:1-7 tells us, In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Pastor Michael Cook broke it down into four parts that demonstrate transitional teaching and humble servanthood in tandem.

  1. The Crisis. Everything was going well and as it does, the whitewater moments hit.
  2. The Proposal. The Disciples knew they couldn’t do it all. They remained focused on teaching and chose seven men to oversee the needs related to the conflict. Neither teaching nor servanthood should be neglected. It takes many (THE BODY…)
  3. The Response. Everyone was pleased with the proposal. (FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT). The chosen men were full of the Spirit and full of wisdom.
  4. The Result. The Word continued to spread and the number of disciples grew. Compassion that stems from transitional teaching and humble servanthood moves lives in a mighty way.

Soaked in the Word over and over, God whispers into our hearts and lives are changed. More than a “church” experience, it becomes a way of living, a result of transformation teaching. Add to this a servant’s heart and compassion flows.

Who are you looking out for?

 

Compassionate Community- WHY Compassion?

By Karen Polich

Who are you looking out for?

We know compassion is typically inconvenient and inefficient. If we are looking for easy, compassion rarely travels  the easy road. When we stop for compassion, life takes on a different pace. Compassion throws off our routine from the normal and may ask a lot from us.

Compassion can also be a magnetic force. It can alter a bad moment or transform a life.

Pastor Michael Cook’s sermon series, Compassionate Community examines the idea of living a life of radical compassion. Listen to the podcast here. We learn what believers in the early days of the Church did to help those in need.

The “what” is impressive, but the bigger question is, “why”?

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Acts 4:32-35

Why were they motivated to live a life full of compassion?

Their compassionate community stemmed from three things.

  1. Compassion envisioned by Jesus. The idea came directly from Jesus. He demonstrated compassion from His days on earth to His ascension into heaven.
  2. Compassion is fueled by grace. Until you receive God’s grace, you cannot give it away. Jesus looks out for you, ready to offer grace.
  3. Compassion is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 We are equipped to help through the Holy Spirit.

You are His forgiven, empowered, beloved child.

Compassion is a life changer. Through Him, we can bring about a compassionate community, which sees the needs of those around us and stops to make a difference.

Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

 

 

Choose Gratitude

By Michael M. Cook

While many people believe God is real, many also believe He is only “watching them from a distance” and has no real desire to know them personally.

Actually, God is very interested in you and desires for you to have a personal and meaningful relationship with Him.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the gains of sand! Psalm 139: 17-18b

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11

God showed how much He loved us be sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. 1 John 4:9

By the world’s standards, we each have a life of incredible blessing, and the Lord is aware of the reading on our “Gratitude Meters”. He knows you, knows what He’s done for you, and has a clear reading of your thankfulness right now. God is very aware of your heart response to His grace.

When you choose an attitude of gratitude toward the Lord, something changes in your life. Thankfulness leads to wellness at a deeper level.

Celebrating “the gift of Jesus” provides your faith the opportunity to grow. Faith grows in the soil of thankfulness.

Compassionate Community – Please Disturb

By Karen Polich

Compassion is empathy or concern for the suffering and misfortune of others. – Michael M. Cook.

Compassion can be a challenge. It isn’t always the easiest thing.

  1. Compassion may extend for a full season. There are times when it is one and done, but often it may go on. Those in need of compassion aren’t always a quick fix.
  2. Regaining life’s balance is an essential result of compassion. Deep hurts block the bigger view. Our compassions towards someone can begin the process of rebalancing their life after tough circumstances. (Ruth 2:10-12)
  3. True compassion honors initiative. We see this with Ruth and Boaz.

Are you wired for convenience? There’s so much to get done in our busy lives. We move through our routines with efficiency and speed. Really, there’s just so much to do!

True compassion will require most of us to re-wire. Demonstrating compassion will force us to travel at the pace of the person in need. It may not be convenient or easy.

Compassionate Community, Pastor Michael Cook’s new sermon series, takes us into the lives of Ruth and Naomi. (Ruth 1-2) The story pulls us straight into the concepts of life showing us vulnerability, tragedy and hope. Listen to the podcast here.

Ruth was looking out for Naomi and Boaz was looking out for Ruth. Their compassion was life changing. In each circumstance, compassion brought hope and empowerment that thrust them forward.

We have the opportunity to bring the kind of compassion that can transform another life. Who are you looking out for?

It may seem like a simple question, but it could require us to move into a place where things aren’t convenient and the pace is slower. We must be willing to allow God to open our eyes to the needs around us and ask Him to take of the “Do Not Disturb” sign from our hearts.

God is more than able to take our lives, completely redistributing and reprioritizing, giving us a heart that says “Please Disturb”.

 

 

 

 

Unite

By AFBC Staff

“I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”
Psalm 118:17

While the Apostle Paul frequently admonishes us not to look back the psalmist reminds us that it is good to recount the deeds of the Lord.

On Sunday October 4th Pastor Michael M. Cook took us for a journey, a journey that led us back in time. Is it possible that just a short season ago our church was 7 million dollars in debt? We were struggling with a property that could not be sold, interest payments that were hard to meet and frankly, a future that was unsure.

Pastor Cook shared that as of today we have sold the downtown property, paid off all debts and settled with the BNSF Railroad. We have 1.6 million dollars in the bank and are completely debt free. God is faithful!

Let’s sit back and rest? No! There is work to be done. Souls to be won! We must move forward with fervor. Pastor Cook now redirected our attention to the future.

Where do we go from here? Pastor Cook reminds us that whatever we choose to do we must be united in thought and deed. The enemy would like nothing more than to divide our congregation.

In 2013 – 2014 our church leadership conducted a needs assessment and identified five areas that needed to be addressed by our fellowship. These are what we consider “Tools for Success.”

• an outdoor play area for our children
• additional classroom space for children and preschool ministry
• the relocation of our church offices to the main campus
• signage
• storage

We are thrilled to report that today through monies from the Eternal Stones project and gifts from the congregation, our children are all smiles as they slide down slides and climb on the bars in the new playground.

Earlier this year AFBC launched the two year Hope Effort to raise just under 1 million dollars to provide for additional needs, namely the addition of the space that will accommodate the children’s/preschool ministry and church offices. To date we have had approximately $496,000 pledged to the Hope Effort. Of that amount approximately $141,000 has been received. As you can see, we have a little ways to go.

Setting our sights on these important improvements is all well and good. But Pastor Cook reminds us that we cannot neglect our general operating budget to fulfill our desires for the future. We must be good stewards and take care of today.

Pastor Cook proposes a two phase approach. Phase One would include using a portion of the funds from the railroad settlement to complete the building addition and the signage on the corner of Paseo del Norte and Richland Hills. It would also allow us to place $225,000 in a reserve fund should we need it in the future.

Phase Two challenges the fellowship to a new project, a basic building that would be situated to the north of the existing building. This new building would allow a large multi-purpose room that could be divided into smaller rooms. It would also provide a needed storage area. Off the back of the building would be a recreational area that could include basketball hoops, etc.

On Wednesday, October 14 at 10:30 a.m. and Sunday, October 18 at 3:00 p.m. we will be holding our quarterly church conference. At this time Pastor Cook will discuss the details of these projects and offer the congregation and opportunity for discussion. Plan now to attend.

Our World- Samson: The Cost of Low Living

By Karen Polich

Judges: 13-16

You and I live in times of chaos and confusion. Moral lines are blurred and biblical foundations ignored. It really isn’t new, though at times it can feel out of control.

Pastor Michael Cook’s sermon series Our World, continued with a look at Samson. The story of Samson is one many know well, but we must not miss the lessons to be learned from the choices Samson made. Listen to the podcast here. Pastor Cook explored the cause of Samson’s fall, the collapse of his faith and the forgiveness in his comeback.

Samson was a man set aside by God. His strength was both physical and spiritual. His hair was a symbolic picture of the distinction of being a Nazarite chosen by God. The source of all of that incredible strength was the spirit of the Lord upon him.

Samson demonstrated a bundle of contradictions. Bold before men but weak before women. He was graced with the spirit of the Lord upon him, yet weak in the flesh. Samson fought the Lord’s battles by day while breaking His commandments by night. His name means sunshine, but he ended his life in darkness.

Samson’s choices charted the course of his life. Time after time Samson made decisions that were clearly outside of God’s standard. Ultimately, God still remembered him for his strengths not his failures.  (Hebrews 11:32)

Choices are made every day. Some are easy while others can be hard.

Choices can bring us closer to God or send us spiraling into darkness. If we choose low living, we will pay the price.

God has called us to something more. He has called us to a life beyond our imagination when we choose Him first.

Like Samson, we have been given the ability to choose. Even if we had made the wrong choices in the past, we serve a loving God who forgives. Despite the chaos in this world, we can choose Him.

What will you choose today?

Our World – Jephthah: Leader from the Wrong Side of the Tracks

By Karen Polich

Guilt is real, but grace is wonderful and forgiveness is free and full.– Michael M. Cook.

Pastor Michael Cook discussed what we can learn from God’s choice of Jephthah to lead His people. Listen to the podcast here and read about Jephthah in Judges 11.

There are three marks of Jephthah’s character that we can apply to our own lives.

  1. In the face of great difficulties, he showed character. Jephthah could have used his past as an excuse for poor behavior. For us, we must not blame our background or circumstances. We get to choose each day how we will live.
  2. In the face of great danger, have confidence. Jephthah did not let what he was facing intimidate him. His first focus before facing his enemies in battle was on prayer. We need to focus on God and stay connected to Him. People of faith are people of prayer.
  3. In the face of great disappointment, he showed commitment. Jephthah had made a commitment to the Lord and he stuck to it. When we start something, we should see it through. The integrity of our word matters.

In this messed up, upside down world, we can learn much from Jephthah about developing our character. Wherever you are today, there is a loving God that desires the best for you. (Jeremiah 29:11) His Word never changes and you can count on Him in all things.

Our World: Stumbling at the Finish Line

By Karen Polich

Everyone has troubles. Some are part of everyday life. (Ecclesiastes, a time for everything). But, there are many that come from a greater power.

Have you thought about how much of our life is tracked and monitored? The idea that my every move is tracked annoys me. Interests, demographics, location, shopping habits (even online window shopping), every address I’ve ever been attached to, education…the list just keeps going. The world’s tracking methods are endless. While it all annoys me, the impact is minimal.

Satan is the ultimate tracker. This enemy knows us. He knows the stuff that matters and seeks to use it when we are at our weakest. While he is not the authority, he does hit us in the weak spots with the plan of us falling into sin. Sin that will do tremendous damage, full of consequences and pain. The impact is more than minimal.

Pastor Michael Cook’s Our World sermon series took us to Judges 8  and another look at Gideon.  Gideon had almost completed his victory over the Midianites. In Judges 8, we see Gideon at the finish line. From victory forward. The hurdles he faced are things we must be aware of in our lives. Listen to the podcast here.

Hurdles at the finish line can cause us to fall flat.

Criticism can be handled best with a humble heart. (Proverbs 15:1) Handling criticism with discernment helps us understand the real motive of the critic. When we bring a tactful answer, it can breakdown the hurdle and we can take our hurt to God instead of escalating the situation.

How hard is it to control our tongues and our temper? (Ouch!) Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

Contempt can hit us hard. It’s a hurdle that can bring the erosion of what was once good. Sometimes we return it to someone who has hurt us. When we get hurt, our fallen nature can raise its ugly head. Sadly, there will be times when our own will disappoint and hurt us. Even in that disappointment, we should not be derailed from God’s purpose. We must continue to move forward.

Compromise is a hurdle that can turn into a trap. Gideon said he did not want to be king, but he lived like one. Compromise spiritually, morally or domestically destroys everything in its path.

We will all have our own hurdles. Be aware. We should seek God for protection and discernment. Our hurdles are not random. They come where the hit will count and we are likely to fall.

We must not yield to temptation. We must stand firm and be strong. Some hurdles are easy to see because they are hard, but there are hurdles that will deceive. Things like success and popularity can become a hurdle that brings us to the ground if our focus is not on God.

Seek God day by day. He is the ultimate authority. In Him, we can stand firm and be strong, avoiding the stumble at the finish line.

 

 

Our World – Four Steps to Triumph

By Karen Polich

Fear suits you for failure. Faith suits you for triumph. – Michael M. Cook

Are you seeking triumph in your life? Pastor Michael Cook’s message gave us four steps to a triumphant life. Listen to the Our World sermon series here. To be triumphant, we must guard ourselves against spiritual defeat. Unexpected temptation, undetected weakness and an unprotected life will destroy triumph. Discernment and focus on God matters.

Four Steps to Triumph
1. Vision. We must meet with God. Triumph never comes when we are focused on the enemy. If we spend all of our time watching the enemy, what time is left for God? When we turn to God and spend time alone with Him, we can go out with courage and face whatever the day brings.
2. Valor. We must step into a courageous position. Paralyzed with fear? God won’t use you. Fear and faith cannot coexist. Faith brings triumph. Is there anything you are not doing because of fear? God did not give us a spirit of timidity.
3. Vigilance. We need shrewd awareness. Are we paying attention? God will thin the ranks. Don’t live in fear, but don’t be careless. Be aware. God won’t use cowards or the careless. Discernment is critical. God will test us on the little things when no one is looking.
4. Vitality. We need inner strength. It is not who you are, but Whose you are. We forget God uses the broken that we would throw away. God’s call often comes in the moment of brokenness. Look back on life. Has God ever broken you? What have you broken in someone else’s life?

Pastor Michael Cook took us into the story of Gideon in Judges 6-7 to demonstrate how we can triumph. Listen to the message here to go deeper into God’s Word. God’s people cried out and God used Gideon to save them.

God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary so He can get the glory. – Michael M. Cook

Our World – Star Wars

By Karen Polich

Our Lord would much rather deliver those who cry out to Him than judge them. – Michael M. Cook

Pastor Michael Cook’s sermon series, Our World, continued with the story of God’s people and Deborah in Judges 4-5. Listen to the Our World sermon series here.

The Israelites never seem to learn. We find them back in the cycle crying out to God for deliverance. Once again, their sin has brought them into bondage.

God is always working for us. We find a woman, a warrior and a Wonder. Deborah, a prophetess was the moral compass of God’s people at this time. She sent for Barak to lead the army, but he would not go into battle without her. They faced a mighty opponent, Sisera who had nine hundred chariots.

God’s people could not win on their own, but had faith. Faith sees the way. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. Judges 5:20 God was with them. Even the stars were fighting for God’s people. They were victorious.

God is more than capable. He is at work in our lives even when we cannot see it. The one we fight against is sailing a doomed ship. Despite the crashing waves, seeming to ensure defeat, God’s tide is sure to win. In struggles, remember the worst cannot defeat you with God on your side. Have faith. He is working to deliver you.

Wrong cannot win. Faithfulness will not fail.  – Michael M. Cook