Change

Change

Dear Friends,

Well, it’s been two years since I first preached here as your pastor.  Wow!  What a challenging two years it has been!  However, as I sit here in my Covid induced quarantine I am remined over and over how blessed I truly am.  Yes, there will be storms in life, bad storms that threaten to blow us over with fear, uncertainty or grief.  We will lose loved ones along the way and we will encounter failures and mishaps.  God, however, is always near and He will always give us the strength to carry-on when we live surrendered completely to Him.

It is so easy for us to try and hold on to things, people, practices, and ideas in this life.  They are comfortable and provide structure and definition to who we are and how we live.  Unfortunately, time, like sand through a sieve, constantly changes the landscape of our lives.  What is here today may be gone tomorrow.  What was relevant yesterday may be struggling for recognition today.

Many of you may have watched the popular BBC television show, Downton Abby.  It follows the lives of an aristocratic English family from pre-World War I through the post-war years.  Before the war, the landed aristocracy was the backbone of English society.  Everything and everyone revolved around these families and their large estates.  The war and its terrible human toll broke down their society and began elevating the common man.  Industrialization moved wealth away from the landowners and countryside into the hands of merchants and cities.  New ideologies like Marxism, Socialism and Capitalism replaced the old feudal norms and gave the common man hopes and dreams of becoming more than what they were born into.  The television show does a wonderful job of showing the struggle of the various classes dealing with these monumental societal changes that occurred quickly over just a few decades.  Those who tried to ignore the new order of things soon failed and were replaced.  Those who adapted, albeit reluctantly, were successfully relevant in their new culture.

Charles Dickens once wrote, “Change begets change. Nothing propagates so fast. If a man habituated to a narrow circle of cares and pleasures, out of which he seldom travels, steps beyond it… his departure from the monotonous scene on which he has been an actor of importance would seem to be the signal for instant confusion…. The mine which Time has slowly dug beneath familiar objects is sprung in an instant and what was rock before, becomes but sand and dust.”  Change, I think, is like a line of dominoes.  Once they start falling onto each other, there is very little we can do to stop them.  Take a moment and look back at society and culture along the timeline of your own life.  Consider all the changes, some good and some bad.  Doesn’t it seem, however, that the pace of change has somehow sped up?  What was once without question is now challenged.

As Christians, as a church, our rock and foundation is the Bible, the Word of God.  The Bible contains divine laws, principles and intentions given by the inspiration of unchanging God.  To these alone we must cling and dig in our heels.  However, everything else is subject to change as long as they do not oppose what we find in God’s Word.  These changes, for some, may be uncomfortable.  That is to be expected and respected.    I heard a preacher once say, “When I’m 80 years old, the only thing in my church I should be comfortable with is my Bible!”  Those who were visionaries 19 years ago, starting Frederica Baptist, may be wary of anything that alters what they began.  It could be music, style, artwork, colors, dress, outreach techniques or any number of things we could come up with.  Our new building, to many, is their crowning achievement but even it will be vastly different from what we are used to.  God is not unchanging because He’s stubborn.  He’s unchanging because He is perfect and any change would mean that He either was or is becoming less than perfect.  Since He is perfect, He is always relevant so no change is ever needed.  That can never be said of us as individuals or collectively as the church.  So, for us, change for the right reasons can be very good!

Change for the sake of change alone is unnecessary and uncomfortable.  Change for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of reaching lost souls is imperative and should be done with joy!  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 “When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.  When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”  I don’t believe that God cares what type of building we meet in or what color scheme we choose or what we wear to worship.  He cares about the hearts and eternal souls of His children because this world and everything we have built here will one day all pass away.  How we act and what we look like then has less to do with what we like or are comfortable with and much more to do with who we are trying to reach with the gospel!

John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”  My life has changed a lot!  This past year alone has been fundamental.  But I must look forward.  I don’t want to miss the future!  I believe that in this present life we must contend with death and life, angels and demons, the present and the future, powers that I don’t understand, things high and things low…  However, the Bible tells us that nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord (Rom. 8:38-39)!  Taken in that light, change is the easy part!

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



E Pluribus Unum

E Pluribus Unum

Dear Friends,

As we plunge into another round of Covid-19 lock-downs, mask-ups and vaccination drives, I began considering how we, as a church, might preserve our unity and common purpose. Divisiveness is a tactic of Satan to steal away the church’s effectiveness.  The Deceiver knows that if he can distract believers away from their primary mission with other seemingly righteous pursuits, he can remove us from the cosmic battle for eternal souls.  Better yet, he knows that if he can turn us against each other, dividing the church against itself, we actually become agents of darkness whom we are meant to do battle against!

In 1776, the Continental Congress of the thirteen original states declared independence from Great Britain.  After they adopted and sent the Declaration of Independence to King George, they set about crafting a unified country out of the very diverse colonies and peoples that stretched from Hew Hampshire to Georgia.  They knew that in order to stand against the might of Great Britain they had to stand united.  Along with the flag, one of the symbols they created to announce that unity and to rally around, was the great seal with our national motto, E Pluribus Unum, “Out of many, one.” 

In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul compared the church to a body.  Our bodies have many parts with different functions but there is only one body.  Likewise, the church is made of many diverse parts (people), who are very different and perform various functions but they all come together in unity to form one church.  E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. From diversity, unity.

This is such an important concept in our day and age.  Our country is divided as never before.  Those divisions (political, social, racial, intellectual, even geographical) run very deep.  Trust and compassion are rare commodities.  We cannot allow this divisiveness to infect the church, our church.  As with anywhere else, there are as many opinions as there are people.  These opinions often come in conflict with others that we are close to.  Sometimes, there can be healthy, non-judgmental, unifying debate between parties but more often than not, one party or another will take offense and division occurs.

Unity in our church, our body, must center around the person and message of Jesus.  We are not called to be Democrats or Republicans.  We are not called to be liberal or conservative.  We are not called to be vaxxers or anti-vaxxers.  We are called to be sons and daughters of God and ambassadors for His kingdom of light, working together in unity to bring the good news of the gospel to the lost who now live in darkness.  I am convinced that anything else is a distraction and will lead to division.  Division in the body, which is the church, cannot be godly under the headship of Christ. He has brought us together out of our diverse backgrounds to fulfill His purposes, unified as His church.  E Pluribus Unum.

 “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”                          

                                                                                                                                        1 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT)

 

I am so thankful to be part of such a loving, unified church!

 

Only by Grace!

 

Pastor Mike

 



Missions

Missions

Dear Friends,

We have made August a missions focus month and it could hardly be going better.  So far, we have heard from the five local ministries our church helps to support through our collective giving.  We have also heard from some of our own, Brenda Clifton and Becky Parker who have gone on mission to Romania as well as Chris and Nikki Pope about Haiti!  Last Sunday IMB missionaries Chris and Debbie Mauger told us about their ministries in Chittagong, Bangladesh.  This Sunday we will hear from IMB missionaries to Southern Thailand, David and Pamela Taylor and their children, Hudson, Katie and Elliott.  We will also hear from Lisa Warren and Rick Shellnutt about Nicaragua, Robin Shelnutt and Amy Bowles about Haiti and Todd and Lara Carlson about Israel.  Finally, our annual dessert auction to support mission trips, will be held Sunday night, Aug. 29.

Many times, the term “missions” is reserved in the church to denote going away from our home area to spread the gospel or to do some type of humanitarian work in the name of Jesus.  It is separated from “evangelism” or the more generic, “ministry.”  In reality, missions involve the on-going cycle of going, evangelizing, discipleship and church planting wherever that occurs. Hopefully, as an established church we are already acting in some, if not all, aspects of this cycle.  At one time we were a church plant and now, hopefully, we are an active participant in evangelizing, creating disciples and sending out ministers of the gospel which may result in more churches. Missions are the way that healthy churches participate in the Great Commission.  

As if that is not enough, what are some other reasons that our church (collectively and individually) should be involved in missions?  Why are prayer and monetary support essential to local, domestic and foreign missions?

First, we are commanded. Not every one of us can go ourselves to spread the Word but we should be obedient to support missions in some capacity. Jesus called us to participate in making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to keep His commandments (Matthew 28: 18-20). There are many ways to be involved with this effort.  We should encourage those who are studying to be ministers of the Gospel, pray for missionaries and mission fields, and lend financial support to those who have heeded the call to go.

Second, how else will they hear?  The fact that so many still have not been told about the hope that is found in Jesus should be compelling enough. Grace has been extended to us, and grace is required of us. In Romans 10:14-15 the Apostle Paul says, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” We must be involved in this effort.

Third, the workers are few!  Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matt 9:37-38). We are ALL called to play a part in the process of planting, watering, and reaping the harvest.  Missionaries are normal everyday churchgoers just like us.  Is God calling you to join His workers in the field?  Might there be a way we could help others to go?

Fourth, missionaries depend on churches.  We are told in scripture to pray and provide support to those who give of themselves in taking the gospel to various parts of the earth. Paul asked the church to pray “that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified…and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.” (II Thessalonians 3:3).  Paul thanked the Philippian church for their contribution to his care (Philippians 4:10-18). Fulltime missionaries depend on prayer, encouragement and financial support to meet spiritual, emotional and physical needs, so that they can give themselves fully to the work of spreading the gospel.

Finally, we have been blessed for a reason.  “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). Look around.  We have been given so much (freedom, health, prosperity…) that is not seen in many other parts of the world. Are we fulfilling our responsibility as good stewards of all that God has given us? It is yet another reason to labor in love for those who do not have the eternal hope that we share.

Church friends, missions is the work left to us to finish by Jesus Messiah our Savior.  Sunday morning worship in a nice airconditioned building without fear of persecution, fellowship dinners with abundant food, Sunday school, playgrounds, padded chairs and such are undeserved benefits and a privilege – not our work. ALL born-again believers can and should be involved in missions to the greatest extent of our ability.  We can ALL do at least one but likely more… GO, GIVE and/or PRAY!

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike

 



Under Attack

Under Attack

Dear Friends,

We have a wonderful church!  I’m not talking about the buildings, though I like ours.  I’m talking about you!  I truly believe that the people of Frederica Baptist (in general) want to follow the Lord, do His will and remain faithful to His Word.  There is a desire to see more people encounter God’s saving grace and to serve as effective ambassadors for His kingdom.  These are my desires and I believe that they are yours as well.  That desire and the positive actions that accompany it make us individual and corporate targets of Satan’s ire.  In contemplating the last two years, I realized that while I have been abundantly blessed by God, I have also been pushing through many spiritual attacks on my person, my family and my spirit.  It also occurred to me that I am not alone in being attacked.  Understanding the nature of spiritual attacks, I think, often helps in defending ourselves against them.

I read a wonderful article by Dave Butts, the founder of Harvest Prayer.  The article, “Why the Devil is Interested in Your Church,” is an excerpt from his book, The Devil Goes to Church, (PrayerShop Publishing, 2009).  Following is my summary of that article.  I hope you find it enlightening.

The church, our church, is under Satanic attack.  The Bible tells us that there is a great cosmic war raging between the forces of God and the forces of Satan. Christians are those who have changed sides in the battle. Paul writes about this changing of sides in Ephesians 2:2-5 (NLT2); “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!).”

The enemy of our God has now become our enemy. We cannot be neutral. When Christians gather as the church, we become a real threat to Satan. We gather to worship, to pray, to teach and to encourage one another to live and proclaim the Kingdom of God.  The establishment of the Kingdom of God means the defeat of the kingdom of this world, of which Satan is prince. Satan will do all he can to prevent that from happening.

The real danger for the church is being unaware of the enemy’s schemes. We approach every difficulty, disagreement and division in the church as though it is just a natural thing when in truth, they are unnatural things.  When churches divide over whether or not to use hymns or contemporary choruses, it is not natural. When the flock turns on the shepherd, it is not natural. When the saints, called to live in love, spend their time criticizing and accusing or gossiping about one another, it is not natural.  We forget that our natural state is not one contaminated by sin.  We were created to live in relationship and harmony with God who is without sin as we were meant to be.

If nothing else, Satan’s attacks are consistent. He does basically the same thing over and over again in church after church, down through the ages. He sows doubt, deceit, discouragement, and division.  He uses these weapons to destroy the effectiveness of the church and its message.

Doubt is a favorite weapon that has been used since the garden and it comes in many different forms.  It may be an attack on the veracity of the Bible.  “Can we really trust what this old book says?”  Perhaps the attack is made against the nature of God. “How could a loving God allow this to happen?”  Doubt may also be used to attack an individual believer in regards to his position in Christ. The enemy doesn’t have the power to separate us from Christ but he can make us doubt our relationship with Him.

Deceit is a second weapon Satan uses against the church.  Jesus did, after all, call him a “liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44).  The enemy delights in twisting the truth.  Look at the mutilated state of theology across the spectrum of denominations in the church today!  This deception concerning the Word of God leaves the Church powerless and unable to function as God has intended.

Discouragement is one of the most effective weapons of Satan because it is so subtle.  A believer or even a church body may well stand up against the frontal attacks of the enemy only to be blindsided by discouragement.  A few words of criticism here and there, a “down” day, a little loss of fresh vision, a program that didn’t go according to plan, and suddenly we find ourselves discouraged and wondering if we can go on.  Discouragement can quickly take us out of the fight and move us to the sidelines.

Finally, one of the most effective strategies of Satan has been to bring about division in the Body of Christ. It makes sense that the enemy would push for a splintered, divided Church, since Jesus desired exactly the opposite. The main focus of Jesus’ great high priestly prayer of John 17 was that His followers would be united. A strong, united Church is a testimony to the world of the love of God. Satan is doing all he can to destroy that testimony.  Today, he is using the divisions in our society at large to create cracks and splits within our family of faith.

Friends, as long as we stand united for God and His Kingdom, we stand opposed to Satan.  The Devil is no match for Almighty God so he picks on us, the weaker links.   Unfortunately, we often fail to use the spiritual weapons that God has provided for us to counter or withstand these spiritual attacks (see Eph. 6:10-18).  We must stand firm against the attacks of Satan lest we be swept away and relegated as irrelevant and ineffective.  The church of Laodicea in Revelation 3 was neither hot nor cold, they just were…  They kept one foot in the church and one foot in the world.  That makes the Lord sick but certainly thrills the enemy.  We must not allow ourselves or our church to be infected by the luke warm “Laodicean Syndrome” that is so widespread in the worldwide church today.  I, for one, am glad that we can stand together, united against the attacks that are sent our way!

Only by Grace,

Pastor Mike



Rest

Rest

Dear Friends,

I truly enjoy what I do and so I don’t think much about vacations and such.  Usually, Amy has to remind me that we need to start thinking about and planning a time away from our normal pursuits.  She is always right, of course, because if I don’t plan times to get away and rest, I will go until I find I am having a difficult time functioning or am feeling tired and sluggish.  At that point I realize that I have overestimated my stamina and my work/life enjoyment and productivity begins to suffer.

“Rest” is defined as “ceasing work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” “Relax” means “to become loose or less firm, to have a milder manner, to be less stiff.” The Bible shows us that God takes rest seriously.  Beginning in Genesis 2:2-3 we see that God created for six days; then He rested, not because He was tired but to set the standard for mankind to follow. God used one of the Ten Commandments He gave Moses to make resting on the Sabbath a requirement of the Law (Exodus 20:8-11). The requirement to rest wasn’t something new; it had been around thousands of years since creation. God knew we needed it!  Now, this command to rest was not an excuse to be lazy. Nope, God said, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9).  That’s a command too.  (Personally, I like our 5-day work week!) God even commanded that the land needed to rest (Leviticus 25:4, 8-12).  Yes, God is very serious about rest.

I believe that God commanded us to rest because it does not come naturally to us.  Today, most people’s lives are built around either their careers or their passions.  These are super important to us because they are part of what defines who we are and provides for our nourishment, health, shelter and comfort.  To rest and relax we have to put these aside at least for a time.  That means we have to trust that God will take care of things for us. We have to trust that, if we take a day off, our world will not stop turning.  

As early as Genesis 3 mankind decided that we didn’t want to trust God that much.  We collectively decided, through our common ancestors Adam and Eve, that we would start making all the decisions.  Since then, stress has been our constant companion and we have become more tense, more violent and less able to relax. Disobedience exiled us from God’s rest, but obedience to Christ here on Earth promises a return to God’s eternal rest (Hebrews 4).  Ultimate rest is found only in Christ. He invites all who are “weary and burdened” to come to Him and cast our cares on Him (Matthew 11:28). It is only in Him that we find complete rest from the cares of the world, from the sorrows that plague us, and from the need to work to make ourselves acceptable to Him.

Jesus is our Sabbath rest.  He has fulfilled the law on our behalf.  However, even Jesus, while He was on earth and subject to the frailties of the flesh, took time to rest.  He would go off by himself to pray. He and His disciples would seek out places to get away from the crowds.  They also attended weddings and visited family and friends.  If the almighty, eternal and infinite God the Son saw the benefit in these times of rest, relaxation and refreshment, we should as well!

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



Storms

Storms

Dear Friends

Storms are such a wonderful metaphor for the times of trial and chaos that we experience in life.  Watching a large storm steadily progress across the vast ocean or up along the coast speaks to the great power that is beyond anything mankind can withstand.  It is often sobering to think of our smallness and fragility compared to the magnitude of power and size of a large storm. 

There are times when life is going well but we can see the storm coming in the distance.  That gives us time to prepare for it, to shore up our defenses.  Other times storms come upon us suddenly or unexpectedly strengthen in intensity and we are tossed about in the grip of a power greater than our own.

Life storms seek to knock us over—mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Our lives are full of troubles, so at any moment we are probably either in a storm, just heading out of a storm or about to experience one. We are going to experience all kinds of rain and thunder. We will need to navigate floods and blizzards.  We will be forced to rebuild after wind and hail. No one is exempt. Both the righteous and the unrighteous are affected by storms. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could say that following Jesus meant we will never have to face any storms? I wish I could say that following Jesus means that the waters of life will always be calm. I wish I could say that following Jesus means life will be rosy and all of our days will be sweet.  But I can’t.  Think about the disciples who followed Jesus, they rowed right into storms with Jesus on board! The disciples discovered, as many of us have also discovered, that we can be both in the center of God’s will, and still in a storm.  Following Jesus doesn’t offer immunity from troubles. What it does give is the opportunity to experience Him in the midst of trouble.

Storms affect us all. Life comes with troubles. However, when we follow Jesus and build a foundation with His Word, He joins us in our troubles so we need not go through them alone.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We will have tribulation, Jesus says. That isn’t negotiable. But in the midst of every storm, we can find the courage that comes from knowing the one who has overcome the world, who can calm the storm.

God has a purpose for storms. He doesn’t always reveal it when we want Him to. In some cases, we won’t discover what it is until we get to Heaven. But He has promised us that if we love Him, He will use the good, the bad and the ugly winds for our good, His glory and the advancement of His Kingdom.

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike

 



When We Fail

When We Fail

Dear Friends,

We all will fail at some point in our life. No one we know is perfect.  I would bet that most of us could readily give an account of some past failure that, at the time, seemed like the end of the world.  God knows we’re going to fail every once in a while. Yet, He also stands by us and helps us get back on our feet. Is it easy to accept failure? No. Can it make us depressed and feel down? Yes. Yet, God is there to help us work through our predicament.  Psalm 40:2 (NIV)
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Failing is a learning experience so we can do better next time. There were many Biblical leaders who failed; Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter and Paul just to name a few.  But they learned from their mistakes and kept moving forward. Determination and failure lead to success. We fail and we get up and try again. Eventually we will get it right.

When someone asked about his many failures prior to inventing the incandescent light bulb, Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  He went on to say, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  True failure is not even trying to get back up, but just quitting. We could have been so close, but we decide it’s not going to work and quit.

There are many ways to fail.  We can fail ourselves by not achieving our goals. We can fail others by not living up to their expectations or our promises to them. We even fail God by not following His commands, guidance or character.  But God is always near and if we fall, He’ll pick us up and set us back on our feet.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that there are not consequences for our failures.   Certainly, there are!  They are part of the process and help us to remember and avoid repeating our mistakes.

Likewise, part of overcoming our failures, particularly when we fail others or God, is owning up to our mistakes.  God wants us to acknowledge our shortcomings.   That allows healing and forgiveness and enables us to work to better ourselves. James 5:16 (NIV) “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…” and, 1 John 1:9 (NIV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Failures need not define us.  There is always hope and God stands ready to help us through.  We need only humble ourselves, admit our failure and try again. 

Only by Grace,

Pastor Mike

 



Mountaintops and Valleys

Mountaintops and Valleys

 

Dear Friends,

In life we all have mountaintop experiences and we all must walk through valleys.  We certainly like the mountaintops better than valleys.  Up there the air is clean, the sun is shining, and the view is amazing. But the truth is, the only way to reach the mountaintop is to travel through the valleys.  It’s inevitable, there’s no way around it.

Jesus warned his disciples and ultimately us about these “life valleys” in John 16:33b (NIV) “… In this world you will have trouble.” Notice that Jesus said, “You WILL have…,” it’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.  Of course, when we look out at the horizon of where our life path might take us, it’s easy to see and look forward to the mountaintops.  It’s the valleys that are dark, hidden and unanticipated.  There’s no way to prepare or schedule for these valleys of trouble.  How many of us are ever able to schedule a layoff or an automotive breakdown, a sickness or death of a loved one?

But be encouraged!  Valleys are temporary; they do have an end. Furthermore, valleys have a purpose. God never wastes our pain.  Jesus continued in John 16:33c (NIV) “… But take heart! I have overcome the world.” “The world” is used to designate all that is hostile, rebellious, and opposed to God in our human experience.  This includes other people, societal, political and cultural ideologies as well as the rulers, authorities, powers of darkness and spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12) that affect and control earthly experience. 

Jesus came to conquer and to overcome. He did just that!  Just after saying those words, Jesus went to the cross, then He rose from the grave. He has been exalted at the right hand of the Father where He has sent His Holy Spirit down into us.  The resurrected, overcoming, King of Kings and Lord of Lords dwells in us individually! His Spirit resides in you! So, no matter how dark the valley, no matter what might dwell in that darkness, we need not fear nor despair.  David wrote in Psalm 23:4 (NIV) “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…”  David refused to be filled with fear in the dark valleys, because God was with him in a very real and personal way.

We are undefeatable!  The overcoming, conquering King of all is living inside of us. He is with you! You belong to Him. He is your help. He is your strength. He is your joy. He is your peace. Lift up your eyes and look to Him. He is your hope. He is your victory. He is the one who has overcome and who will help you to overcome that valley you are facing.  Jesus is with you!  He never asks us to go through a valley alone.

One last thing, it has been my experience that once we go through those valleys, the mountaintops are even more stunning!  They are sweeter, more awe inspiring and give us the courage to head down the other side toward another valley, because we know that God has even more and greater mountaintops in our future!

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



Discipleship

Discipleship

Dear Friends,

As I continue to pray about and think about what our post-Covid church might look like, it occurs to me that the mission of the church, making disciples, will remain the same.  How we do that (programs and practice) will almost certainly need to change to meet the evolving needs and demands of the people we are trying to disciple.  Our challenge, as a church, is to not carry over anything from our pre-Covid practice into our post-Covid practice that hinders or eliminates our mission.

During our ongoing studies in the Gospel of Luke we are constantly seeing Jesus’ teaching and interaction with His followers.  We have even seen how Jesus chose and separated disciples who were advancing in their maturity for increased levels of instruction, experience and ultimately apostolic responsibility.  It was this master plan of discipleship that led to the establishment and vitality of the early church.  We here at Frederica Baptist stand at the crossroad of what was and what will be.  Our past is a tale of faithfulness and marching towards a God-given vision of establishing a new church on the north end of St. Simon’s Island that stands on the Word of God.  That vision is about to be realized!  It is time that we cast a new vision for the next leg of our journey.  That vision must be seen through the lens of our mission, making disciples. So, it behooves us to understand what it is to be a mature disciple.

(1) Mature disciples know God’s plan for salvation. In their hearts they know that they are slaves in bondage to terrible enemies: sin and death.  They see that they stand helpless and hopeless to save themselves so they need a rescuer—Jesus, our savior and redeemer.  Mature disciples acknowledge that Jesus exchanges His righteousness for our unrighteousness when He took on our sins at the cross.  He gives his followers eternal freedom from the just punishment for our sins and adopts us as sons and daughters into the family of God to be joint heirs of His kingdom.

(2) Mature disciples know the God that they serve. They recognize that He is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  They see that God wants a relationship with them.  Mature disciples never stop striving to learn what God is like from His revelation in the Bible and in creation around us. They view the Bible as the story of God’s relationship with his people over the millennia, and they see his workmanship throughout the world around them.

(3) Mature disciples choose their identity in Christ over who this world says they should be. Rather than focusing on who they are, they focus on whose they are. They affirm that God created them in his own image to be his representatives here on earth.  They rejoice that Christ came and died on the cross to offer them a new and redeemed identity.   

(4) Mature disciples serve out of love. Scripture paints a clear picture for how we should treat our fellow human beings. In Zechariah 7, the prophet chastised God’s people for going through the religious motions then treating others poorly. Immature disciples may serve others when it’s convenient or when it makes them look and feel good. But mature disciples follow Jesus’ example with continuous service. They serve others by taking God’s love for people and making it their own.

(5) Mature disciples eagerly share their faith story.  The Good News of Jesus Christ is the greatest gift we can receive. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we are adopted as God’s children. We are made holy, receive the Spirit, and enter into an eternal loving relationship with our Lord.  Mature disciples follow Jesus’ instruction to share his Good News with others: “Go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Mature disciples desire that the transformation experienced in their own lives occur in the lives of others as well.  So, they share the good news and how it shaped their story of faith with those who need to hear it most.

(6) Mature disciples worship regardless of circumstance.  Their hearts are aware of God’s constant presence, and they can’t help but marvel at his glory.  Mature disciples see worship as a lifestyle. Their worship is not dependent on location, music style, or any other external factor. Mature disciples worship God even during tough times because they know that God is always worthy of praise.

(7) Mature believers defend their faith, their hope in Christ, just as the Bible encourages us to do: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15). Mature disciples are equipped to communicate God’s truth in a world that is hostile towards Him. They don’t share God’s truth in an overbearing way, but they display a confidence and a willingness to unashamedly and respectfully engage our culture.

(8) Mature disciples don’t take the journey of discipleship alone. When we’re adopted as children of God, we gain millions of spiritual siblings who are on the same journey.  Whenever Scripture describes the life of a disciple, it’s in the context of a community of faith. Mature disciples seek unity and community with other growing disciples.

Each of us must individually evaluate the maturity of our discipleship.  Being a disciple of Christ is a life-long journey.  As a church we are called to help each other and those outside our walls to draw closer to Christ.  I hope each of you will pray with me as we look forward to the next steps in the growth of our mission.

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike

 



Stumbling Blocks

Stumbling Blocks

Dear Friends,

Recently, I have been thinking about ways that we as a church and as individual Christians inadvertently discourage people from encountering the saving message of the gospel.  I know that sounds crazy because we are called to be light and salt to the world around us (Matt. 5:13-16).  My guess is that none of us consciously want to exclude anyone from interacting with the redeeming love of Christ.  I am sure that, like me, it is your desire that everyone experience the amazing saving grace of Jesus just like we have!  That’s why I think it is so vital that from time to time we evaluate our lives and practices to make sure that we are not unwittingly placing stumbling blocks in front of the very ones we are trying to lead to the Lord.

Most of the time in the Bible, a “stumbling block” refers to something or someone who keeps another from a relationship with God. In Matt. 18:5-7, Jesus says, “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”   We don’t want to be that guy!

Stumbling blocks also arise in unintended ways. The mature Christian life allows some freedoms that seem contrary to an obedient, disciplined faith. The Corinthians were concerned about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Modern issues include drinking alcohol in moderation or dancing. “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor. 18:9). Our liberty is not worth another’s walk with God. If something God allows would lead another to sin, we need to avoid it. We are given great freedom as Christians, but the greatest is the freedom to consider others’ welfare over our own.

As a church we may create stumbling blocks to the unchurched as well.  These are things that make it difficult for people to walk through the doors and find a seat in order to hear the gospel.  For example, I believe our current location is a stumbling block to many.  Insufficient parking can be a stumbling block or poor directional signage.  How we present ourselves in print or on the radio may cause people to stumble in their walk to the cross.  Once people are inside the doors there are many more opportunities for stumbling blocks.

Can we as a church remove everything that may be a stumbling block to the non-believer?  Probably not, but the more we are able to tackle and remove, the more salvations we will eventually see.  The problem is that many of these stumbling blocks to others are personal preferences of our own.  These are the when, where and how we like things done in church and worship.  What are we willing to sacrifice for the salvation of souls?  How much was our Lord willing to sacrifice?

Refraining from being or creating a stumbling block and removing existing stumbling blocks is essential to our commission. How we accomplish this depends on our concern for others and the hearts of those around us. The security we have in God’s love and provision, both now and eternally, allows us to show concern to those who are weaker and those who need specific encouragement to understand who God is. In some situations, we may need to sacrifice our freedoms to build up weaker believers and not confuse non-believers. 

As a church, we need to be attentive to society around us and consider cultural changes and biases.  In various ways, Jesus, Paul, John and James, all tell us that we are not to be of this world but we are in this world as ambassadors of the Kingdom.  Without sacrificing Biblical truth or godly morality we need to be palatable and attractive to the lost all around us.  That is being “salt” so that we might share the “light.”  The light, of course, is the gospel and the gospel is the only stumbling block that we should want the lost to encounter.

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike 



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