The Way We Live

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By Josh Hughes

Our recent Orphan Care and Adoption Sunday on November 12th was powerful. If you missed it, please carve out an hour and click this link. Since we gathered, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about and thanking God for the many families in our church who have answered God’s call to get involved in orphan care and adoption, and for the glorious reality of our adoption by God. The Lord has been so gracious to us. 

A question that’s been knocking around in my mind the last few days has been, “What does God want to do in us in light of what we heard on Sunday?” I’m certain there will be a number of answers to this question, but the first and most urgent answer seems clear: God wants us to pray.

DA Carson, in his book Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, writes that “one of the most important elements in intercession is to think through, in the light of Scripture, what it is God wants us to ask for.” Friends, God wants us to ask him what and how. What would He have us do? How should we steward this call to care for orphans? Let’s pray for more families to foster children, more families to adopt internationally and domestically, and more individuals to serve as Guardians ad Litem and use their gifts and resources to serve those who are in the trenches. 

That’s what I’ll be praying for in the days ahead. I’ll also be praying that God would teach us what it means to know and experience Him as our Father. Specifically, I’ll be praying through this checklist that draws out the difference between “the orphan mindset” and “the child of God mindset.” It was created by two of my spiritual heroes, Jack and Rose Marie Miller, and I hope you’ll take a minute to reflect on it and apply it to your own spiritual life.

No Change in Plans

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By Scott Stake

Have you ever had to change your plans? Ha, of course! We all have. Whether it's an unexpected work project, the unwelcome flu taking 2 weeks to pass through the family, a surprise visit from a friend, or a last-minute invitation to a party, the events of life require us to adapt and change our plans all the time.
 
But what about God? Does He change His plans? In short, no! Since the very beginning, God's has only had a Plan A—to rescue and redeem a people for Himself from every tongue, tribe, and nation. And ever since that time, God has been revealing and carrying out this marvelous plan! Just look at a few passages that express His heart for the world.
 
"Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go...I will make of you a great nation...in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'"  -Genesis 12:1-3
 
"It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” -Isaiah 49:6
 
"And Jesus was teaching them and saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'?" -Mark 11:17
 
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb...and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"  -Revelation 7:9,10

 
From Genesis to Revelation, we see that God's plan has never changed. His heart has always been to set apart a special, chosen people for Himself from among all the nations to worship and enjoy Him. But this plan is not yet complete; there’s still work to be done!
 
So, you might ask…if this is God's plan, how can I align my heart and life with it? There are tons of ways, but let me give you a few right now with Four Oaks:
 
Learn. Through our Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course beginning in January, you will enjoy instruction from 15 different visiting missionaries and church leaders, outstanding readings from world-renowned authors, and a fun dynamic learning environment! You can even take the course for college credit and transfer it to FSU! Learn more at perspectives.org/tallahasseefl

Welcome. Would you like to plant gospel seeds among the nations? Open your home to a young Chinese student for a 2-week stay while they participate in an educational program in Tallahassee in late Summer 2018. You can go to http://hostfamily.ef.com/LearnMore.aspx for more info. There also is an opportunity to host a Christian high school exchange student from Norway for the 2018-19 school year, so contact Arielle Cleary if you’re interested.
 
Support. Mike & Bonnie Snider, our gospel partners serving with Cabaret Mission Haiti, will be in town to share their story with us at a luncheon after 2nd service on Sunday, November 5. We’d love to have you join us for this special occasion, as well as consider supporting them! Sign up here to come to the luncheon.
 
Care. Throughout the year, we seek to encourage and uplift the spirits of our gospel partners serving around the world through such things as prayer meetings and care packages. If you’d like to join in, please contact our deacons of missionary care, Mike & Kay Andrus.
 
God invites us to be part of His plan to reach the nations with the gospel. Whether we pray, give, welcome, mobilize, or go, may we all join Him for His global cause to make His name known to all peoples!

The One Over Storms

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By Scott Stake

So today I ran out of gas. Ever had that happen? I wish I could say this was my first time or that I had a gas can in the trunk because I tend to play the game of how below "Empty" I can go, but alas, I was totally unprepared for this storm. Thankfully, God was not! In His kindness, He planned that I would run out of gas at just the right spot where a friendly Four Oaks person would pick me up and take me to the gas station. Isn't He amazing? And thank you, Janet Hutchison!! 
 
Now I wish I could tell you that all of my problems are solved that quickly and easily or that I always knew what God was up to or that I was ready for and trusted in His plan completely. But sometimes when the storms of life come, it's tough, isn't it? 
 
Well, if you're like me, last Sunday's sermon was a real comfort for my soul (thank you, Pastor Josh!). As I meditated more on this passage this week, there are 3 truths related to God and our storms that really stuck out to me and that can help us to trust and endure when they come.
 
God is over the storm. He is sovereign and has complete authority over all things, including the sometimes chaotic circumstances of our lives. He stirs up the waters, walks on the waters, and calms the waters at His command. God is the powerful ruler, and all things are subject to His authority. He is not surprised or impotent but is over all things, including our storms! He has a plan that will not change, and He will accomplish all His purposes. While we might be confused as to what's going on, we can take comfort that God is over everything in our lives.
 
God works through the storm. He is not only over the storm, but works through the storms of life to accomplish His good purposes in our lives. Paul Tripp provides a helpful reminder: "God sometimes employees the difficulties of life as tools of grace to produce character in you that would not grow any other way. So your trials are not a sign that God has forgotten you or is being unfaithful to his promises. Rather, they stand as a reminder that he is committed to his grace in your life until it has completed its work." Or as Pastor Josh reminded us, "All storms are father-filtered." While it may sometimes be difficult, we're invited to trust in our Father who lovingly and graciously uses our storms to make us more like Jesus. Or as the hymnist William Cowper writes, "Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face."
 
God is with us in the storm. God is not far off but is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18)! He is Immanuel, God with us, and invites us into communion with Him when we're afraid, confused, angry, or alone. He comforts, cares, listens, and draws near. Even when the storms continue to hit us, He promises He will never leave us or forsake us. So, Four Oaks, run to Him and cling to Him. He loves you and is with you!
 
While all our storms look different, may we together look to God as the one over the storms, working through the storms, and with us in the storms for our good and His glory!

The Holy Land Heresy

Four Oaks Israel Trip 2017, Part 2

The rock where Jesus prepared the fish for the Disciples

The rock where Jesus prepared the fish for the Disciples

By Paul Gilbert

Let me begin today’s update with a most sincere, heartfelt apology to our dual US/UK Four Oaks citizen, Jo LeBlanc. She has assured me in good, Englishwoman fashion that it was all France’s fault! I believe it, as the French airport brought Jack’s and my suitcases 48 hours late just a few hours ago, while my dad’s luggage is, well...we are not sure where it is. None of these international shenanigans have deterred us in our Holy Land endeavors, thankfully, so here is a recap from the past couple of days...

It’s pretty cool how God arranged the first part of this trip. We have been able to hit many of the areas around the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of his life and ministry. Interestingly/providentially, we have been seeing many of the places that we are studying right now in the Four Oaks sermon series in the Gospel of John - the miracle of the fishes and loaves; Jesus walking on the water; and the Bread of Life sermons in the synagogue at Capernaum. However, there is one John passage that has come particularly alive to me this trip, surprisingly so:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him John 4: 21-23

Jesus makes the point here that true Christian faith and worship is not about a Place, it’s about a Person. God can and should be honored wherever we go – church, home, work, and football games (I’m not making a joke here). There are no sacred objects and spaces – only sacred hearts set apart to God through the person of Jesus Christ.

It’s interesting that of all the major world religions, Christianity is the one whose sacred writings, the Scriptures, places the least amount of emphasis on visiting “holy” places. There are no commands to make an annual trek or spiritual pilgrimage to a city. No encouragement to hoard holy objects for the sake of securing a spiritual blessing. Zero mention of granting special status to certain saints.

And, thank goodness. God knows the human heart all too well. We are always going to be tempted to make idols of things that we can see and put our hands on – which is precisely what has happened to the modern day Holy Land experience.

I call it, the Holy Land Heresy –where Ceremonialism trumps the Spirit.

Wherever our group has gone, it seems, whole industries and businesses have taken over the historical sites like the kudzu. It’s not just the Jesus trinkets, apostolic bubblegum, and holy Jordanian water that is pawned off on tourists for confiscatory prices. That’s bad enough. It’s heartbreaking seeing how so many professing Christians connect their very spiritual lives and souls to being able to touch, kiss, smell, handle, and bow down to inanimate objects. There is a sense among the throngs of Christian pilgrims here that somehow these places are just more holy, closer to God - full of some kind of spiritual mojo that is essential to their spiritual walks.

Folks, I am so glad that I am on this trip right now, and I hope to return again one day. I am learning a ton and having a blast. It is absolutely amazing to be able to connect the words of the bible to the life and history of a land. Maybe you will get to come one day – I hope so.

However, I want you to know that even if you NEVER make a trip to Israel, your worship and devotion to Christ will not be hindered one bit. Your bucket list might include a trek to Jerusalem to see the tomb and the temple site or to see the cave where Jesus was born in Bethlehem (good luck on that one - it's a 4 hour wait). If you never get to, though, don’t fret: God is looking for worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Wherever you are, if you know Jesus, God is there. 

Grounded and Grumbling

Four Oaks Israel Trip 2017, Part 1

Pastor Paul after being told their flight was cancelled and their luggage was lost.

Pastor Paul after being told their flight was cancelled and their luggage was lost.

Jack Gilbert looking out on the Sea of Galilee from his hotel room

Jack Gilbert looking out on the Sea of Galilee from his hotel room

By Paul Gilbert

I am bound to my hotel room this afternoon on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. There’s worse places to be stranded for sure, as it’s a beautiful setting, but I would much rather be with the Four Oaks group. They are now, even at this moment, walking the paths that Jesus walked in Cana and Nazareth. I am here trying to warm up instant coffee in a plastic pot and waiting on our lost luggage.

It’s a story worthy of a very long and very entertaining sermon illustration at some point in the very near future, but here is the condensed version…

I looked at my watch last night at 3 AM as we pulled into the hotel, realizing that we had left Tallahassee over 30 hours ago and had accumulated exactly 1.75 hours of sleep along the way. Heathrow airport, British Airways, and the distant relatives of my assistant, Jo LeBlanc, all conspired to delay our trip at every point along the way. And, they also thought it would be fun to send me to bed wearing the same clothes I put on two days ago.

Of course, the way I am describing our Around the World in 40 Hours trip feels (and is) pretty fleshly and worldly: Why did this happen? Who is to blame? Why isn’t someone else from the group stuck at the hotel instead of me? Where are my socks and phone charger?

What’s eerily providential about all of this is that on the way over, I am in the middle of studying a passage about bread and grumbling. The people in John 6 are growing increasingly hostile to Jesus, even after he has miraculously provided them enough food to feed 20,000. It seems that they were mainly interested in Him doing more stuff for them. Jesus was mainly interested in doing more soul work in their hearts. So, instead of giving them more bread, Jesus wanted them to see that HE was Bread – He was what they needed most.

The people didn’t see it this way, so John 6: 41 tells us that they grumbled. The word in the Greek literally means, “they had a smoldering discontent.” Something that had begun in their hearts as a small complaint had slowly grown into a cesspool of toxicity. They weren’t getting what they wanted.

It was at this point in my study that I wanted to quickly stow my bible away and watch “War for the Planet of the Apes”, as this passage was striking a little too close to home. I was wanting my bread, but God wanted to give me His Bread - Himself. So, God had to “ground” me in order to get me to look at the root of my grumbling, which was an idolatrous drive to have everything go like I wanted it to. I’m still kind of wrestling with this, to be honest.

So, I want my main prayer and desire to be not for luggage to be found or strength to be restored or tours to begin anew. Instead, I pray that God would give me spiritual eyes to see and a heart of faith to receive the Bread of Jesus Christ.

Stay tuned for more updates as the Four Oaks group makes its way around the Sea of Galilee in the next few days, visiting many of the places we have been studying about in the book of John.

Praying for you as you are praying for us,

Pastor Paul