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. 
 
 

Relevancy

Relevancy

Dear Friends,

Not long ago I passed a church with a sign out front that proudly read, “We sing old fashioned music!”  Now, aside from the fact that music is timeless, it made me wonder, “What do they mean by that?”  Have they installed a harpsichord?  Perhaps they’ve gone back to Gregorian chants?  Ok, I know what they meant.  They’re singing hymns and none of these new-fangled choruses that don’t sound right with an organ.  That’s their preference and I can respect that, but who are they trying to attract with that sign?  Certainly not unbelievers or anyone not raised in church with similar preferences.

Maintaining societal relevancy can be an unnerving process for many church people.  It’s a simple formula that we tend to hold; World (Society) = BAD, Church (God) = GOOD.  I’ve preached it many times!  We, church people, also tend to be guilty of getting things just the way WE like them and doing everything we can to keep it that way.  We come to believe that anything new, modern or different must be bad because its conforming to the world.  While no one wants to be in a church that’s irrelevant to their life, the idea of churches being relevant to prevailing culture can elicit a strong negative response for those who associate it with gimmicks, pageantry, and shallow messages light on the gospel.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Bible paints relevancy as a godly attribute that’s required for disciples to effectively communicate the gospel of Christ to an ever-changing culture. But just like any attribute, relevancy can be twisted beyond its God-given intent and misused by sinful people.  So, as a church that desires to impact our community and beyond, I believe there are ways we should strive to remain relevant while protecting our Biblical foundation from compromise.

In Luke 7:12, Jesus sums up how God’s people are to treat others in what we call the Golden Rule: “Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them.”  How do we like people to treat us? We like them to meet us on our level. To show an interest in things that matter to us. To use vocabulary that we can understand.  No one likes to be talked above or around or to be confused about what’s being said or going on.  If we like to be treated in a welcoming and understanding manner, we should likewise strive to be relevant to  those of our culture in the methods and styles we use to communicate the gospel and in the way we live out the Christian life.

The foundation of the gospel is the incarnation in which God the Son, Jesus, put on flesh to be one of us, to understand us, to show us the way back to God.  While remaining sinless, Jesus adopted the language and customs of His people and engaged in common cultural activities of the day. When He taught, Jesus used parables and illustrations relevant to first century Jews.  In Luke 13:4, Jesus taught using a recent news event and connected Old Testament Scriptures to common life experiences applicable to His audience.  When a church strives to be relevant to its community, it imitates our Savior who took the initiative to come down from heaven and live among His people and speak their language.  He didn’t water down hard truths but He attracted people to Him so that they could hear the message of the Kingdom of God.  He could have lived as a hermit or an oracle in the far reaches of a desert only accessible by a difficult journey.  Instead, He made it easy to approach Him and He welcomed those who came with compassion for their lostness.

While being relevant requires intentionality, it also happens naturally as a church body engages its community and fulfills the Great Commission. This is because when Christians interact with unchurched people on a regular basis, they gain perspective on how nonbelievers view the church from the outside.  This in turn, enables Christians to remove manmade stumbling blocks (vocabulary, rituals, rules) that may have crept into church practices.  These are barriers that unnecessarily hinder people from hearing and understanding the Good News.  Sometimes, this is as simple as making stylistic changes. These might include music, décor, signage, logos and marketing, dress, color schemes or any number of things related to design or method.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once quipped, “You can always tell what was the best year of your father’s life, because they seem to freeze that clothing style and just ride it out to the end.”  While that’s fine for an individual, it can be death to the effectiveness of a church!  We must ask ourselves, are there any “frozen styles” at our church that have nothing to do with the gospel or being faithful to Scripture, but have remained unchanged just because they have grown comfortable or they are sentimental?  As a church we should seek to model Jesus in being relevant to our community.

There are temptations and traps, however, that come with the godly pursuit of relevancy that many churches have fallen into that we must guard against.  The greatest of these is compromising Biblical truth.  Cultural relevancy, although a good thing, can become an idol when it leads the church to compromise Biblical values or make concessions to teaching truth.  This will lead to poor theology and an acceptance of sin.  This should never be!  There’s a big difference between helping people make sense of hard passages by explaining them in contemporary and relevant language, and watering down hard passages to make them say something other than what God intended them to mean.

Another temptation is to become self-serving.  The goal of being relevant to one’s culture or society is to exalt Jesus and build people up in the faith and to save the lost. But relevancy can be used as an excuse to change our message, focus and vision.  Over the past few years, pastors and church leaders everywhere have sacrificed their calling to preach and teach Jesus and the Good News to the “relevancy” of being active and vocal about politics and social activism.  That is not our calling!  Godly relevancy has nothing to do with being hip, cool, or trending on social media. It has everything to do with meeting unchurched and unsaved people where they are and communicating with them in ways and language they can receive and understand.

A church that desires to be relevant to its culture seeks to remove unnecessary alienation with the world that comes from differences in style, vocabulary and methodology.  Paul spoke of the need for this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.  You should read the whole passage but it ends with this; “…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.”  Let’s face it, the message about sin and the need for repentance are subjects that attract worldly resistance, even ridicule, in any culture. Likewise, God’s principles on issues such as marriage, sexuality, abortion, and the origins of the universe—just to name a few—fly in the face of people who don’t yet understand why they should trust and submit to Biblical authority and morality.  For this reason, we must never confuse cultural relevancy with cultural approval.

When a church seeks to be relevant to its community, it does so to make it easier for people to hear and believe the gospel.  Conversely, when a church strives simply for society’s approval, it creates a slippery slope where truth is compromised and faith is rendered useless. 

As we begin to emerge from this transition period in the life of our church and to stretch out at our new campus, we must set aside personal preferences and out dated looks and practices and endeavor to evaluate our relevancy to those in our community.  Not for the sake of numbers, increased offerings or change alone but for the sake of souls! 

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



Conflict

Conflict

Dear Friends,

Every day that goes by we, as a church body, get closer to occupying our new home at Marsh’s Edge.  The task that God set before this church so many years ago has been monumental but now, we are nearing its fulfillment.  But we are not done yet!  We are entering the final phases of construction and then the work of moving, the grand opening celebration and so forth.  We also have to pay for it all.  There are so many decisions to be made, details to consider and changes that will occur, heads will spin and stress will mount.  Even though everything is going great right now, this is a time that is ripe for disagreement, misunderstanding and conflict.  While I pray that it doesn’t occur, as your pastor, my mind naturally goes to how can we best prepare so that our church family and our mission is not damaged if it does.

I find conflict to be particularly uncomfortable in a church situation. We are a family but not a “blood” family.  I mean, we all have family members that we don’t like but because they’re family we have to love them.  So, we may yell and argue but, in the end, you know it will blow over and you’ll see them next Thanksgiving and act like nothing ever happened.  Church family doesn’t have that same kind of bond.  People get upset and they walk away many times waving the dirty laundry around for everyone to see and damaging the church for years.

Now, there are many areas of a church where conflict can develop. However, most of them tend to fall under one of three categories: conflict due to blatant sin in the body, conflict with leadership or conflict between believers. Admittedly, many issues can cross over and actually involve two or more of these categories. My personal experience is that the most frequent conflicts in church revolve around the budget and perhaps, to a slightly lesser degree, how things are done or how things look.  Certainly, this is not unexpected.  For as many people that attend a local church, there are just as many opinions for almost any topic that may arise.  In the same way, people are natural political creatures.  Anytime a group of 3 or more people get together, some form of politics usually occurs.  Politics, by it very nature, causes and exploits conflict.  We, as a church and as believers, are called to rise above politics in our interactions.  Paul says in Romans 15:5-6 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Being unified and acting with one heart and one mouth means working through conflict in a Biblical manner.

Believers who blatantly sin pose a conflict for the church as described in 1 Corinthians 5. The church that does not deal with sin among its members will open the door to more problems. The church is not called to be judgmental of unbelievers, but the church is expected to confront and restore believers who are unrepentant of sins.  Jesus provides a concise procedure for the confrontation and restoration of a believer in Matthew 18:15-17. Confrontation should be done carefully, meekly, and with the goal of restoration (Galatians 6:1). Churches that humbly and lovingly discipline sinning individuals will curtail a great deal of conflict in the church.

There will be times when believers might not be content with the direction or actions of those in church leadership.  When churches do not have a clear process for dealing with such concerns, people tend to create their own platforms. Individuals may begin polling others in the church, get involved in gossip, or even develop a group of “concerned people.”  So often these “concerns” are not really spiritual in nature but are born out of selfish concern for their own opinions and preferences.  Certainly, leadership should lead like selfless, loving shepherds with a servant attitude.  They should never lord their position over others (1 Peter 5:1-3). However, Hebrews 13:7,17 tells those in the church who may be frustrated that they should still respect their leaders.  Paul tells the church in 1 Timothy 5:19 that accusations against an elder (pastor) should not even be entertained without strong and sufficient evidence.  Be that as it may, leaders are not perfect and on occasion they need to be confronted, however, an individual should follow the pattern set down in Matthew 18:15-17 to ensure that there is no confusion as to where each stands and Ephesians 4:15 says that we should talk to everyone in a loving manner.

The Bible warns us that there will be conflict among and between believers.  Some conflict is due to pride and selfishness (James 4:1-10). Some conflicts come about because of offenses that have not been forgiven (Matthew 18:15-35). God has told us to always work toward peace (Romans 12:18, Colossians 3:12-15). It is the responsibility of each believer to seek to resolve any conflict. The Bible gives us some excellent advice on how to do that properly.  First, make sure that our heart attitude is correct.  We should be meek (Galatians 6:1); Humble (James 4:10); Forgiving (Ephesians 4:31-32); and Patient (James 1:19-20).  Second, we must evaluate our part or motivation in the conflict.  Matthew 7:1-5 says to remove the log from our own eye first before helping others with the speck in theirs.  Third, go to the individual (not to others) to voice your concern (Matthew 18:15). This should be done with loving care and not to just get something off your chest. Furthermore, always attack the problem rather than the person. This gives the person a better opportunity to clarify the situation or to seek forgiveness for the offense.  Finally, if the first attempt does not accomplish understanding or the needed results, go back with another person that can help with mediation (Matthew 18:16).   Always remember that the goal is not to win an argument or to get our own way; it is to win our fellow believer to reconciliation and maintain unity within the body of the church.

Please remember that as we go through these times of change, a bit of uncertainty and maybe even a little upheaval that our purpose, our mission for being a church remains the same.  To grow deeper in our knowledge and love of God and to reach farther to encounter the lost with the gospel.  Everything is done with the goal of glorifying God.  We can only do these effectively if we remain unified and deal with any conflict in a healthy Biblical way.

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

Dear Friends,

Recently, Amy and I drove down the coast of Maine.  One of our motivations for the trip was to see and enjoy the changing colors of the leaves.  We don’t get to see much of that this far south.  Having grown up farther to the north I find there are times when I miss that defining shift between summer and autumn.  The crisp morning air and the vibrant colors signal the changing seasons.  The same thing happens with the new growth of spring after cold, dreary winters.

Metamorphosis is the process by which a person or thing changes into something new and completely different.  The most recognizable example of this is, of course, a caterpillar changing into a butterfly.  We also see it between the seasons and around some holidays.  People can experience metamorphosis as well.  This could describe development from an awkward teenager into a confident adult or maybe even a complete change of character.  For believers, our metamorphosis came on the day that God transferred our individual citizenship from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:31).  Of course, the Bible promises a future metamorphosis as well, when our mortal bodies are transformed into bodies that will never die (1 Cor. 15:51-54).

Frederica Baptist Church is in the final stages of a metamorphosis of our own.  Nineteen years ago, this church was born by people with a new vision and a new focus.  For a while we wiggled around, growing and maturing, adding new people, new ideas and new direction, but always our eyes were on preparing for what we would one day become.  As the time drew closer, we began shedding things that would not be part of our new self and we entered that stage of pupation, of transformation into something that looks completely different from what we look like now.  Within the next few months, we will emerge into our bright new appearance.  It will be vibrant with color and purpose!  It will be attractive to everyone who has been watching and waiting for the big moment.  What a moment that will be!

Now, with all these good changes – and changes that update look and design are good and necessary – we must always hold strong to our unchanging foundation, God’s Word.  Even in our metamorphosis, the core of who we are will remain the same. 

If you have ever watched a butterfly emerge from its cocoon you will have noticed what a great struggle it goes through to break free. During these struggles the circulatory system carries essential nutrients to the developing wings as they fight against the wrapping of the cocoon. Whenever the struggling phase for the butterfly is disrupted (or made easy), the wings develop abnormally or not at all.  Our metamorphosis from who we were into who we will be has not and will not be easy.  That’s important, because the struggle is good for us!  As we struggle, we learn to rely upon the sufficiency of Christ and His provision for us.  That struggle should draw us closer to the truth of the gospel, knowing that the devil would like nothing better than to mire us down in internal squabbles or the external cares of the world.  If he can do that, we will develop abnormally and lose all relevance in the society that God has called us to reach.

So, embrace our metamorphosis!  Look forward to the beautiful changes to come as we emerge transformed!  Don’t shy away from the struggles but know that they will make us even stronger. Then, on that day when our moment has arrived, lift your hands to the One who has brought us through this decade’s long transformation process.  On that day our new journey begins!

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike



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