Days of Suffering – Aftermath of Suffering

By Karen Polich

A faith that is untested is really no faith at all. – Pastor Michael Cook

Concluding his Days of Suffering sermon series with Job 42, Pastor Michael Cook examined Job in the aftermath of all he had been through. Looking at Job’s life, we really have no excuse but to praise God in every circumstance.

In his repentance, Job recognizes God’s sovereignty. He knows that God is bigger than any struggle. When God sets His will on something, Satan cannot thwart it. Nothing can stop God’s purpose. Job sees God’s incredible power and the intimacy of his walk with God is deepened.

God was finished hearing from Job’s “friends”. He let them know He would listen to Job’s prayers on their behalf. These men had not spoken truth about God when they came to Job, yet Job shows forgiveness without bitterness. Job prayed FOR them, not for any punishment against them. He shows us what it looks like to extend the forgiveness God has given us to others. Without this kind of forgiveness in our own hearts, we miss the fullness of God’s forgiveness in our lives.

Job’s repentance and forgiveness brought about the reward of restoration. God restored everything to Job. His ability to see God in the suffering deepened his walk with Him.

Often we are more impressed with and focused on ourselves. An encounter with God gives us the opportunity to know Him with greater depth. It may mean being brought to our knees to bring our focus back to Him.

Big faith says, “God, I am going to trust you no matter what.” (See Psalm 34)

Can you praise God today in the midst of your circumstances?

Listen to the entire sermon series via podcast here.


By Karen Polich

Every one of us are rebuilders. Our lives weave in and out of rebuilding and restoration. At times the process seems to flow smoothly, then the reality of conflict sets in. Sometimes the conflict is internal, we struggle to move forward and see things through. Other times it comes from those around us; not wanting to see us succeed in restoring what has been lost. Wherever it comes from, distraction can lead to destruction if we aren’t ever mindful.

Many things that can distract us from the restoration that we set out to complete.

In reading Nehemiah 6, we learn that distractions came to Nehemiah during a critical time; the walls were complete, but the gates were not. His enemies tried to lure him away, they wanted him to be vulnerable. Nehemiah handled them with wisdom and focus, not allowing them to divert him from the goal. He realized that they were desperate.

Pastor Michael Cook gave us 4 points to remember when it comes to distractions during restoration.

  1. Your progress affects more than just you.
  2. Your derailment affects more than just you.
  3. What if God uses our spiritual growth as much for others as for ourselves?
  4. In the midst of restoration, one must discern God’s voice form the voice of the enemy.

Listen to Pastor Cook’s Restore series via podcast here.

Often fear sneaks up on us during our rebuilding efforts. Fear can hold us back from achieving the very thing we have been called to do.  It shakes us, making us question ourselves until we can become paralyzed.

Nehemiah refused to let fear devastate him. If he had given into the fear, the outcome would not have been the same. We must seek God’s discernment. The seductive voice of this world can take us away from the significance of what God has called us to accomplish.

What I choose affects more than just me. How I journey through the struggle will impact others. I can choose to listen to God, fighting to see the results of my rebuilding efforts, or I can choose to see the results of my derailment. Rebuilding something is never easy, but perseverance is always better than quitting. God is constant and near, He will walk this journey with me and my heart will rejoice each time I can stop and say, “Yes, it is restored!”

Will you ask God for the discernment to follow through and finish today?


Internal Destruction

By Karen Polich

Pastor Michael Cook’s Restore sermon series brings us to Nehemiah Chapter 5. (Listen to the podcast here.)

Here we learn that the fight continues, but this time it is not from an outside enemy. The conflict against restoration comes from within. The battle comes from insiders involved in the restoration. Those working on rebuilding the walls faced the challenges of having walked away from their livelihoods and all supporting elements that kept their families fed and cared for. This meant that they were in a position of having to borrow money. Interest was piling up and children were being lost to pay debts. They began to cry out with the frustration of a difficult situation.

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are charging your own people interest!’ Nehemiah 5:6-7

Those Nehemiah accused remained silent. Isn’t that the way it goes when we are called out for our selfish ways?

There is usually little to say in return. This brings us to the question we must ask in the middle of restoring anything.

Who am I here for?                         

  1. I am here for me.
  2. I am NOT here for me.

The difference is like two hearts with no way of recognizing the beat of the other.  It brings us to the simple, yet monumental command from Mark 12:31, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

God has called us to serve Him. When we have a heart of service, we stop focusing on ourselves and are able to love others as we should. It is easy to love ourselves. It is easy to look out for our own interests, but what about putting the needs of others first? If you have a heart that beats for others, restoration will look completely different.

Nehemiah’s leadership was courageous. He challenged the officials and nobles to give it all back and made them take an oath holding them to their promise. He called them out in front of God, saying ‘In this way may God shake out of their houses and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!’ Nehemiah 5:13 He knew that accountability was necessary.

We all face difficulties and situations that need restoration. The first step is asking God to join us in the rubble so that we can begin to restore what has been lost.

The question remains, what kind of heart will you have in the midst of restoration?


By Karen Polich

Restoration is simply part of life and cannot be avoided. Much of our lives will be spent restoring someone or something. Pastor Michael Cook continued his sermon series Restore. Read Nehemiah 4 and listen to the podcast here.

Nehemiah came to Jerusalem on a mission, but his effort was not without challenges. There were those who did not want restoration. Restoring Jerusalem would jeopardize the authority of those who benefited from the rubble. The workers who were committed to restoring Jerusalem found that the situation was increasingly complicated. What did they do?

They prayed, then did all they could do, leaving the struggle to God. They persevered.

What can we learn from Nehemiah that speaks into our own lives? Pastor Cook explored 4 questions in the process of restoration.

  1. Who hurt you?

What are you going to do with the pain? The process can quickly become complicated. How we handle the hurt of betrayal, embarrassment or ridicule impacts restoration. You can hear “the sting” in Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 4: 4-5. He pours the hurt out to God.  We too often think about the revenge we would like instead of giving the pain over to God. Romans 12:19, Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. 

  1. Are you in the beginning, middle or end stage of restoration?

The beginning stage is new and exciting, there’s adrenaline but it carries you only so far. In the end, there’s a second wind that helps you push through. It’s the middle that can be most difficult. The middle stage is where you realize that it isn’t going to be easy. The rubble doesn’t increase, but it can sure feel like it has.

  1. Where are you in the greatest danger?

Are you trying to restore too much at once? Step back and ask yourself where the greatest danger is. Decide that you will restore that first before working on any other area.

  1. Who are you fighting for?

Nehemiah never asked anyone to fight for themselves, he asked them to fight for those around them. He understood that retreat would be difficult if the fight was for someone else. When you fight the battle for those beyond yourself, that perseverance will bring courage.

How are you handling restoration in your life today? Have you moved from the grief of your situation into the active choice of restoring what has been broken?

The choices you are making today are going to impact those around you now as well as in the future. The choices of today will build the legacy of generations to come.

Perseverance through restoration will bring blessings downstream.

Are you ready to ask God to join you in the restoration today?




Restore – Cost Counting

By Karen Polich

Cost Counting – Assessing the Damage

 In a broken world with broken people, most of us will find ourselves participating in restoration numerous times throughout life’s many stages.  – Pastor Michael Cook.

(Listen to his Restore sermon series here.)

Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem carrying God’s mission in his heart. He began to look around, finding rubble. He found so much rubble in some areas that he couldn’t even get through it. Nehemiah knew that he needed to have a solid picture of the situation before beginning to rebuild and restore. (From Nehemiah 2:11-20)

Nehemiah did something very important. He looked around and did a full assessment. When we are trying to restore and rebuild, we need to be willing to shine a light into our lives. When we search our hearts, we can assess the damage. Some areas may be worse than others. We can see what is right and whole as well as what is wrong and broken. It is not easy, but it is necessary. Pastor Michael Cook reminded us that when we are humble and broken and we take those courageous first steps in putting things back together, God has a special place in His heart for us. So often we forget that God is with us when we seek restoration in our lives.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6b

When we have been living in the rubble for too long, we can get so used to it that we begin to think it is normal. The longer we sit in the rubble, the harder it is to get started. Keep in mind that thinking about getting started and actually getting started are like night and day. Restoration cannot occur until we take those first steps and start the process. It isn’t going to get any easier by waiting. Consider it the chair of resistance; the longer we wait to get out of it, the harder the struggle.

Moving forward in restoration, brings satisfaction and excitement, but don’t forget to make allowances for the pain that will come as well. There may be those who don’t want to see you rebuild your life. Nehemiah experienced that, but He focused on God’s grace and the desire to see Jerusalem restored. We must choose to push through the pain. We must choose to shine the light of God’s love into our lives and embrace what will come when we rebuild and restore our lives.

Will you take that first step today?


Beginning Steps

By: Karen Polich

Last week Pastor Michael Cook looked at Nehemiah and his anguish. He was in mourning, fully in the “Kleenex phase”. Now, we watch Nehemiah moving into the “cup phase”. This is the defining moment. The grieving is over; he is leaving it behind. Read Nehemiah 2: 110. Listen to the Restore sermon series podcast here.

The idea of restoration suggests something is wrong. A significant loss has occurred. With it, we lose other things. We may lose our ability to trust others. We lose our next step, or we lose people.

What about in your life? What about my life? Are you and I moving forward towards restoration? If not, we risk getting stuck. We cannot rebuild anything when we can’t move forward. Nehemiah recognized this and made a courageous move in revealing his anguish to the king.

The concept of loss is deeply personal. How long should it take to be ready to move forward? Losing a loved one doesn’t invoke the same sense of loss as losing a job. Both are painful, but they are not the same. What a complex issue! Understand that in the complexity of this, there is no simple answer to how it will look when we experience loss and are ready for restoration. When we find ourselves at the extreme of either no grief, or stuck in grief, this should cause concern.

These four steps will help us as we move forward:

1. Embrace uncertainty. We can’t plan everything. If we aren’t willing to move forward despite the unknown, we will never move forward.
2. Acknowledge fear. It is difficult. We can acknowledge fear without allowing it to paralyze us. It is huge to advance and not regress in the fear. Your sadness and hurt will not rebuild anything.
3. Anticipate God’s favor. We often forget this lesson. Always anticipate God doing something amazing. Communicate this with your life, your heart and your actions. God has His majestic Hand on the situation.
4. Expect complications. We all have people like this in our lives (Nehemiah 2:10). Complications will try to derail everything you are doing.

Condensed into one word moving forward equates to: COURAGE.

Joshua 1:9, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Are you ready to take the beginning steps of restoration? Embrace courage and let God do something amazing.

One Big Mess

By: Karen Polich

“Rebuilding your broken world begins with the premise that individuals who have failed must present themselves before God in openness and acknowledge responsibility and accountability.” -Gordon MacDonald

Many of us have one big mess piling up in some area. It could be health, family, marriage, integrity, or relationships. Restore, Pastor Michael Cook’s new sermon series investigates the biblical steps of true restoration. Read Nehemiah 1: 1-9.

Did you notice Nehemiah doesn’t shout? He begins to pray. “LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.”

He is inviting God into the mess. How often do we find ourselves in need of restoration and we haven’t yet asked God into the situation? Restoration from a biblical perspective cannot occur until we find ourselves in the place of brokenness and ask God to meet us there.

How do you begin restoring a life? Brokenness is often the launch pad. Invite God into the mess! Own the mess and the mess behind the mess!

Restorative grace is the act of God restoring usefulness, sanity and order in our lives. Often in a mess, God demonstrates His restorative grace and reminds us He has not completed our story. Did you hear that? God has not completed our story! Nehemiah was asking God what we should be asking Him today. “Heavenly Father, focus not on what we are, but on what we can become.”

Will you ask God to bring His restorative grace into your mess? Listen to Pastor Michael Cook via podcast here.