Letters from Pastor Mike
 
 
Each week, Pastor Mike Bowles shares his thoughts and God’s Word to the congregation of Frederica Baptist Church through email. 
 
 

A Great Day!

A Great Day!

Dear Friends,

What an exciting time we had this past Easter Sunday!  The Sunrise service at the new building was amazing!  We had 112 people, many of whom were not from FrBC but had responded to advertisements and invitations to join us.  Our deacons did a great job cleaning up and getting the property safe and ready.  They also were excellent parking guides and greeters.  Several other men of the church helped as well for a combined effort that was special and meaningful.

Our 9:30am service was full as well with 121 people.  Again, many were guests!  The music was phenomenal and really lifted me up in worship.  Cameron led his first youth life group with 12 youth in attendance.  At 4pm several of us watched as he baptized a young man from his previous church at East Beach while Paul led us in singing amidst the crowds enjoying the sunshine.  All around, a great day!

I continue to be amazed at the speed with which the walls are going up on the new building.  There is still some inner framing that needs to be done in the youth and children’s area but now you can really see everything taking shape.  My understanding is that the roof trusses will begin arriving over the next few weeks.  Several of our charter members were obviously overwhelmed as we conducted our first worship service inside the walls of a building they have dreamed and prayed about for so many years.  If you have not been out to the Marsh’s Edge property lately, I encourage you to go take a look.  It will lift your heart!

Our home groups continue to meet and our attendance numbers are really standing strong.  It is my conviction that we must use this platform to reach out to and impact our neighborhoods.  This is first and foremost a kingdom effort.  Our desire must be to “seek and to save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10).  If we are faithful to God’s goal, He will be faithful to our goal of growing and strengthening our church both numerically and spiritually.  To do that we must divide and expand our current groups.  It is so very easy to get comfortable with the way things are.  However, the history of Frederica Baptist Church would demonstrate that when we step out of our comfort zones the Lord blesses in surprising ways!  If any of you are willing to facilitate your own home group, please let me know so I can help you get started.  You won’t be alone!

Kudos to our ladies who coordinate our Tree House program.  The faithfulness and creativity with which they continue to build this ministry is inspiring!  This is not only a vehicle for the gospel but it is a wonderful community building endeavor.  Whenever Amy and I deliver bags, goodies or materials to some of the kids, their parents are always overwhelming with their gratitude for what they and their children are receiving.  On Sunday, April 25 our Tree House kids will perform in our worship service.  We are hoping that their parents will join them as well.  Make sure you are there to support them and to greet our guests.

This Sunday, we will take another step in our return to normalizing our church services.  We will move to making masks optional for those who choose not to wear them.  Please don’t allow that to dissuade you from attending.  If you want the added protection of a mask, please wear one.  The number of Covid-19 cases in Glynn County continues to go down and more and more people are being vaccinated.  Hopefully we will not see a dramatic spike in cases after spring break.  After consulting with Church Council, it was decided that we could safely take this step.

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



Redemption

Redemption

Dear Friends,

I wanted to write something fun about Easter but instead I have been thinking about the importance of redemption.  It seems like you cannot even look at the news without seeing some official, celebrity or sports star involved in some public scandal.  The world watches as the media follows them relentlessly for days, weeks, or even months.  Once the attention evaporates, what’s left behind is usually a scene of complete and utter self-inflicted personal destruction.  Often, that’s where the story ends.  Many just fade away, living out their ruined lives in bitterness and brokenness, but not always.  Sometimes hitting bottom opens people up to healing and to saving grace.

No one likes to remember their past mistakes, but when they are viewed in the context of sins atoned for by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, they become only a chapter of a longer story of victory and healing, not the last chapter. In most cases, the final story is much more important than the earlier scandal.

You may remember the story of the late Chuck Colson.  Colson was known as President Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man” and the mastermind of Nixon’s “dirty tricks.”  Colson was eventually identified as one of the “Watergate 7” of the infamous Watergate Scandal that led to the impeachment and resignation of President Nixon in 1974.  That same year, Colson pled guilty to obstruction of justice and served 7 months in federal prison.  Colson lost his license to practice law, his career, his reputation and his freedom.  That could have been the end of his story but Colson’s disgrace led him to the foot of the Cross, and from there he has become one of the greatest Christian heroes of our time.

Facing arrest and the downfall of the Nixon administration, a close friend who was a Christian, gave Colson a copy of C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity.  After reading it, he became a Christian and joined a prayer group with other believing government figures where he became convicted to tell the truth leading to his imprisonment.  After his release from prison, Colson founded Prison Fellowship in 1976, which today is the nation’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families.  He went on to become a sought-after Christian worldview speaker, theological apologist, radio personality and author of more than 30 books. 

This life redemption would not have been possible without the public brokenness.  Chuck Colson would have never become the man that God used to minister to literally millions of people, both in and out of prison, without this experience.  That’s called grace, and it is at the crux of the Easter story.

As Christians, we believe that Christ, the Son of God, died specifically not for the righteous, but sinners (Matt. 9:13). Who is a sinner? We all are. Every single one of us who has ever been unkind, lied, or been disobedient. All of it counts! Jesus was the only sinless man ever born, and yet, He stepped in to take our punishment and, in the process, conquered sin and ultimately death. He rose to new life and, through his atonement, offers a clean slate before a Holy God, redeeming those in bondage to sin.  That’s what Easter is all about.

I know it’s interesting to read and watch bad people get their just desserts or to even feel a sense of self-righteousness watching the lives of celebrities and political figures come crashing down because of bad choices and dishonesty. But we need to remember that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 6:23).

I am one of countless broken humans redeemed over the past two millennia who claim Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. He is risen for all the people caught in scandals, and for those who were never caught, and for those who are just plain broken. Jesus on the Cross took the punishment I deserve for my sins and now because of His resurrection I stand forgiven and redeemed by His grace. He will do the same for any who come to Him in brokenness. He is risen. He is risen indeed!

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



Celebrate!

Celebrate!

 

Dear Friends:

Isn’t this turning out to be an exciting week?  Monday, lumber was delivered for the walls of our new building!  Thursday, men with hammers and saws are supposed to start working and Sunday we will welcome Cameron Reed to our church staff!   Spring is in the air; Easter is two weeks away and Covid deaths continue to decline.  We certainly have a lot to celebrate! 

This Sunday we will begin the celebration of Passion Week.  That was the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  It is referred to as Passion Week because during that time Jesus, our Messiah, displayed His passion for us by willingly suffering on our behalf culminating with His death on the cross.  Some of His most poignant teaching to his disciples and to us occurred during this very brief and emotional time.  However, it all started with a celebration!   On that first day of that week, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey’s colt, one that had never been ridden before. The disciples spread their cloaks on the donkey for Jesus to sit on, and the multitudes came out to welcome Him, laying their cloaks and the branches of palm trees out on the road ahead of Him. The people shouted, cheered and praised Him as the “King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38).
 
Jesus’ purpose in riding into Jerusalem that way was to openly declare to the people of Israel that He is their Messiah and King in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 (NLT):
                                                   “Rejoice, O people of Zion!
                                                    Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
                                                    Look, your king is coming to you.
                                                    He is righteous and victorious, 
                                                    yet he is humble, riding on a donkey
                                                    – riding on a donkey’s colt.”                 
                                                                 

The people of the city hailed Him as a conquering King.  They praised Him with many “hosannas” and acknowledged His right to rule through the line of David.  The meaning of the Hebrew word, hosanna, is “save us, we pray!”  The streets of Jerusalem, the royal city, were open to Him and He ascended to His palace, the temple.  Unlike other occasions, He received the worship and praise of the people. No longer does He tell His disciples to be quiet about Him but to shout His praises and worship Him openly.  It was a great celebration! 

That is the type of celebrating spirit we should bring with us to worship this Sunday!  Our King has come to save us!  He did not come as a war hero to look down on us, but humble and lowly as one of us.  Let our shouts of Hosanna! Hosanna! (Save us, we pray!) echo across St. Simons as we come into His royal presence this Lord’s Day! If Jesus has made His triumphal entry into your heart, let the world see the true King, living and reigning on His throne by celebrating!

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



Fellowship

Dear Friends,

I was reminded again last night how desperately our church family is missing the fellowship of regularly getting together both for and outside of worship.  This has been and continues to be a difficult time for many of us, as our times and size of fellowship activities are restricted.   Of course, this hole in our lives creates a wide range of emotions from sadness to annoyance to anger and resentment.  This reinforces the importance of fellowship as a vital function of the church and teaches us the need we have for relationships and unity with each other.  It also shows us that there is a difference between fellowship with believers and unbelievers.

The early Christians clearly emphasized the importance of fellowship. Acts 2:42 notes, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The Greek New Testament word for fellowship, “koinonia,” expresses the idea of being together for mutual benefit. Hebrews 10:24-25 shares this idea, saying, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”   That verse tells us a lot about the purpose and need for fellowship; to boost each other to greater acts of love and good works and to encourage each other in our Christian walk.

Christian fellowship is a privilege among believers enabled by God’s grace. Those who believe the gospel are united by the Spirit through the work of Christ to the Father, and that unity is the basis of our fellowship. This relationship is described by Jesus in His high-priestly prayer for His followers in John 17:23: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” The “complete unity” He refers to is the oneness that Christians experience in true fellowship, oneness with each other, oneness with Christ and oneness with the Father. Just as the Father is in Jesus, so Jesus is in us, and we have unity with one another because of the uniqueness of that relationship.

That relationship is the basis of Christian fellowship. We can have friendships and relationships with unbelievers, but true Christian fellowship can only occur within the body of Christ. We are united to one another by common beliefs, purposes, and goals.  We are united to one another by our kinship with each other and with Jesus as joint heirs and children of God.  We are united to one another by our not of this world kingdom affiliation.  We know that we are strangers in this world, we know that this world and its rulers are opposed to us and we long for the time when we will be united in our true eternal home.

The importance of true Christian fellowship is that it reinforces these things in our minds and helps us to focus on Christ and His desires and goals for us. As iron sharpens iron, in true Christian fellowship, Christians sharpen one another’s faith and stir one another to exercise that faith in love and good works, all to God’s glory.  In true Christian fellowship we stand united against the “rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Eph. 6:12.

Many of you believe that we as a church are taking an overly cautious approach to gathering together and requiring masks.  Others of you believe that we are not being cautious enough.  I want you to know that we hear all of you and understand your heart felt needs for fellowship.  We continue to prayerfully seek the best most prudent path through these troubling times for our church.  I believe that we are nearing the end of this latest trial of our faith and that God has used this incredible challenge for our benefit.  I longingly look forward to building our unity through increased fellowship in the near future.

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



Sickness

Dear Friends,

I’m sick.  I hate being sick.  I really don’t get sick that often but when I do, I’m a big baby!  I sigh and moan a lot.  Amy tells me that’s a man thing.  She’s probably right, men are just not built for sickness, discomfort or pain.  At least, I’m not, evidently.  Even I can tell I’m whining just by writing this.  It’s not like I have Covid or cancer or anything like that, I just have the Crud, a head cold!  There are many, many people who have serious illnesses or lingering sicknesses who have much more justification to whine than I do.

The issue of sickness is always a difficult one to deal with. If God loves us so much, why does He allow sickness, suffering and death?  The key is remembering that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). When we are suffering with a sickness, disease, or injury, our focus is usually on our own suffering.  It is very difficult to focus on what good God might bring about as a result. Romans 8:28 reminds us that God can bring about good from any situation. Many people look back on times of sickness as times when they grew closer to God, learned to trust Him more, or learned how to truly value life.  God’s perspective is much bigger than ours and He sees beyond the suffering.

This, of course, doesn’t mean sickness is always from God or that God is always trying to teach us something when we are sick.  We live in a world that is cursed by sin with sickness, disease and death. We are fallen beings, with physical bodies prone to disease and illness. Some sickness is simply a result of the natural course of things in this world affecting our physical, imperfect bodies. Other sickness can be the result of a spiritual attack. The Bible describes several instances when physical suffering was caused by Satan and his demons (Matthew 17:14-18Luke 13:10-16). So, some sickness is not from God, but even in these instances, God is still in control. God sometimes allows sin or Satan to cause physical suffering. Even when sickness is not directly from God, He will still use it according to His perfect will.

Sometimes, however, He intentionally allows sickness to accomplish His sovereign purposes. Hebrews 12:5-11 describes God disciplining us as His children to “produce a harvest of righteousness and peace.” Sickness can be a means of God’s loving discipline. He may use sickness as a consequence of sin or as a deterrent to more or greater sin.   If we believe in the sovereignty of God, there is no other option than suffering being something God allows or, at times, causes.

The author of Psalm 119 looked at suffering from God’s perspective. It was good for him to be afflicted. It was faithfulness that caused God to afflict him. The result of the affliction was that he learned God’s decrees and obeyed His Word.  Now, I don’t think my case of the Crud can truly be considered suffering.  It’s actually more annoying than anything else but it has caused me to consider God’s control over my life.

Sickness and suffering are never easy to deal with. The story of Job shows us that Satan will use suffering to attack us, so we must guard against losing our faith in God during our trial. God is good, even when we are suffering. He loves us and is always working for our greater good.  Even death may be an act of God’s goodness.  I would imagine that once we are in Heaven most of the hardships in this life will fade away behind the all-consuming joy of being in the eternal presence of God.

I’m sick.  I hate being sick, but I know that God is in control.  I may not understand it and who knows if I will ever appreciate its purpose, but by God’s grace I know that my Heavenly Father stands with me through any suffering.

Only by Grace,

Pastor Mike



Optimism

Dear Friends,

We can finally announce that our new Associate Pastor of Student Ministries, Cameron Reed, will begin his ministry with our church on Sunday, March 28th.  I appreciate everyone’s patience as we have moved through this process.  He has now given his church his notice and for the next two weeks he will be finishing his time there and working on transitioning to our area.  Please be in prayer for Cameron, Brett and Jordan that God will continue to show them His favor. 

I’ve mentioned this before, optimism is not my natural disposition.  I prefer to be called a realist but that label means different things depending upon one’s perspective.  Since I usually assume that in any given situation something will probably go wrong, my perspective of reality is, let’s face it, pessimistic.

So, when I am feeling very optimistic about something, it is an unusual experience. What I feel optimistic about is the direction and future of our church!  It occurred to me recently that this pandemic, while a terrible plague that has cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives and livelihoods, has worked to the good for Frederica Baptist Church.  God, I believe, has used this unusual time of testing to push us to places we would not have gone on our own.  Mass quarantines required us to increase the use of greater technology to reach out to more people.  Bottoming out interest rates boosted real estate sales which enabled us to sell all but our most essential space in the building at 1700 Frederica Road.  This in turn gave us the ability to support a much-needed student pastor, and forced us to look for creative ways to meet together, pushing us out of our comfort zones.  Four home life groups have been started and more are in the works.  We are taking church directly to those who need it, our neighbors!  This, I know, will make us stronger!

Tuesday night, fifteen people met at my house for our home life group. Six of them have no relationship with Frederica Baptist Church, but I’m optimistic!  We ate together, told stories about our lives to each other, laughed together (a lot), studied and discussed one of Jesus’ parables together, prayed together and made plans together!  This group, I realized, is a melding of my church community and my neighborhood community.  It is amazing!  I want it to grow and expand!  I want all of you, my dear friends, to experience this same optimistic joy.

To do that, we need more groups in more neighborhoods.  This isn’t just about growing our church, although that is one of our goals.  This is about growing our community of friends and neighbors.  This is ultimately about growing God’s kingdom and making sure our friends and neighbors are a part of it!

Each and every one of us who claim to be followers of Jesus are called to be his “witnesses” (Acts 1:8).  Each and every one of us are called to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).  Honestly, where would you rather go, to your own living room or to a jungle shack with a dirt floor and no AC in Madagascar?  Think about it…  We cannot ignore the calling, we cannot pretend that it’s not there, we cannot say, “He didn’t mean me.”  No!  We are ALL called to go, disciple, baptize, teach and witness.  These things require action, they require speech, they require intentionality.  Jesus said “To whom much was given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).  My friends, we have all been given very, very much!  Is it too much for our Lord to hold us responsible to follow His universal calling on the lives of all Christians?  Remember the last part of Matt. 28:20 says, “Surely I am with you always…” We need not let fear paralyze our mission!

If you think you might be ready to follow your calling and impact your neighborhood, I want to help you do it!  On Thursday evening, March 11 at 6:30pm, Amy and I will host, at our home, a training small group to show you just how easy it can be.  If you would like to know more about facilitating a home life group please join us.  RSVP to the church office so we can be ready to receive you.  If you are unable to make it at that time, I will meet with you when it is convenient and explain our process.

I am optimistic (really!) that together we can make a huge impact in the Golden Isles for Christ through our obedience to His calling!

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike

 



Birthdays

Dear Friends,

I’m writing this article on my birthday.  I’m not reacting to a mid-life crisis but I find that I am being a little contemplative about growing older.  Do you remember turning 10?  How about finally becoming a teenager at 13, a driver at 16 or an adult at 18?  What about the big one at 21!  There was always a party, a celebration, a cake with candles.  It was always a day we looked forward to, a special day dedicated just to us.

Why do so many of us stop celebrating as more years pass? I suppose it could be that the farther away we get from those milestones, the closer we get to tombstones.  Every year adds a candle to our cake and after a while it starts looking like a fire hazard.  Anymore, birthdays come and go – maybe there’s a dinner involved, a few cards, some well wishes online but it’s really just business as usual. 

I remember an old TV commercial with a pretty wrinkle-free woman who would ask, “Why grow old gracefully? I intend to fight it every step of the way!” Of course, we all know that it’s a losing battle.  One thing we cannot stop is the passage of time and the effect it has on our bodies.  But what does God say about aging? If we listen to our Creator, we won’t hear about fear and resistance.  Instead, we hear about grace and goodness.

One of the verses that is particularly meaningful to me, given my appearance, shows us that growing older is an honor: Proverbs 16:31, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor…” The more years we live, the more experiences we’re given to learn from, and the more wisdom and perspective we gain to see life in new and beautiful ways. When we see someone in their later years (or when we look in the mirror and it’s us!) we should remember what a gift those years have been.

The media leads us to believe that youth somehow has more value than age, however the truth is, we are treasured by God at every age. Not only that, but He gives us specific gifts to share with the world in every season of our lives. In Titus 2, Paul reminds us of our great purposes, particularly the older men and older women.  He says that by living reverent lives of love, self-control, purity and kindness, we will teach and bless the younger men and women and their families. Those generations to come depend on our willingness to share what God has taught and given us.

Aging is often seen as a loss of control, independence and strength. Our bodies aren’t able to do what they once could; our memories aren’t as sharp; we begin to need more help than we used to. As the years pass, our fear of the unknown may grow stronger.  But the truth is, we’ve never been in control anyway! From the moment we were created, whether we’ve realized it or not, we’ve relied on our Creator for every step and every breath we take. Growing older helps us to understand that control is a transient illusion.  It becomes easier to rest in the promises of our loving God. Whether we’re turning 10 or 100, He promises to be with us every step of the way: Isaiah 46:3b-4 “… you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” 

So, whether you’re celebrating your birthday (like me) or that of someone you love, remember that every day in life matters. Don’t wait for a milestone to make it extra special. Look in the mirror and cherish your laugh lines and your gray hair; remember how they are created; remember you have a purpose and remember Who holds your future in His hand.

Only by Grace,

Pastor Mike