A Pro-Life Way of Life

By Jamie Brown, Executive Director, A Women’s Pregnancy Center

Are you pro-life or are you pro-choice?

Forty six years ago in one of its most controversial decisions, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in the infamous Roe v. Wade case. In 1984 President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation that designated January 22nd as National Sanctity of Human Life Day and thereafter would be recognized on the closest Sunday to that date.

Since Roe V. Wade, we have lost nearly 61 million innocent babies to abortion!

Abortion continues to be one of the most divisive issues facing our country.

“As believers,” Christy Britton writes for True Woman, “we consider ourselves to be pro-life. To be content with the murder of lives forming inside the womb is unimaginable. But being pro-life is more than being anti-abortion… Being pro-life must be a way of life.”

So the fundamental question becomes: Is pro-life a way of life for you and for me?

To be pro-life means to value the life inside the womb even at a cost to ourselves. The moms we see every day at A Women’s Pregnancy Center struggle with this question. Our culture tells them that their lives, their future, their plans can trump the value of the life growing inside of them. But Jesus calls us to live differently.

“The pro-life ethic doesn’t allow us to see the vulnerable as burdens,” Britton writes, “it requires we see them as image bearers of a holy God. Being pro-life means championing, celebrating, and fighting for life. It means valuing all human life, particularly the lives of the vulnerable who need our protection.”

 
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Being pro-life is so much more than valuing the unborn. It’s also caring for those with special needs, orphans and children in foster care, those caught up in sex trafficking. It’s honoring life from conception to a natural death. “People are vulnerable because of many different reasons,” Britton explains, “including age, race, disease, disability, imprisonment, and poverty. Pro-lifers don’t see these people as burdens; we see them as bearers of God’s image and therefore valuable. We care for them while honoring their inherent dignity. We value the vulnerable not because of what they can do but because of whose they are.”

How as Christians can we compassionately respond?

  • Pray for the unborn and the moms and dads who are at risk to choose abortion.

  • Pray for our three local pregnancy resource centers as well as those in our surrounding communities.

  • Support these centers with your time, gifts, and talents (there is something for everyone to do).

  • Come alongside a single mother who may be struggling

If the Lord is pricking your heart to explore deeper what your involvement should be, please call me at the center at (850) 297-1174.

Together… changing hearts and saving lives,

Jamie Brown

Executive Director

A Women’s Pregnancy Center

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, Deuteronomy 30:19


The Cry of a Broken Heart

By Paul Gilbert

If you've ever experienced crushed dreams or a broken heart, the disciple Thomas can relate to you. If you've ever labored under bitter disappointment because God didn't "come through" for you, Thomas knows where you're coming from.

He had attached all his hopes and dreams to Jesus. Thomas was with Jesus for three years, saw Jesus perform astounding signs and wonders, and was ready to dedicate every moment of his life to following after the one he thought was the Messiah. Thomas was all in on Jesus.

And then Jesus was crucified.

For Thomas, it seemed like the entire house of cards came down in that moment. All his hopes and dreams died when Jesus died. He had pushed all his poker chips to the middle of the table and lost on the final card. He was shattered to the point that when the disciples told him that Jesus had risen from the dead, he said in return, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

This was not a cry of defiant doubt. It was the cry of a broken heart. Of a man whose hope and dreams were executed along with Jesus.

Can you relate? Maybe your children aren't following the Lord and you feel such despair over it. Or maybe your spouse doesn't fulfill you the way you dreamed they would. And so you're tempted to doubt God and his word. Maybe you're even tempted to reject parts of God's word because of your doubts.

 
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But Thomas didn't reckon on a God who could resurrect the dead. He didn't understand that God was even bigger than his doubts and even bigger than death itself. That even though things appeared hopeless, things were not at all as they seemed.

Jesus was indeed alive, and with him all of Thomas' hopes. It turns out that the resurrection changes everything. Because Christ is risen from the dead, we can have hope even in the darkest of situations.

And because Jesus is gracious and merciful and loving even to those who doubt, he said to Thomas, "See my pierced side and hands." He wanted Thomas to know that he was bigger than his doubts.

See, God isn't afraid of your doubts. They don't surprise him or shock him or appall him. God knows that suffering, in particular, challenges and stretches your faith in God. But he doesn't want you to stay in a place of doubt. Rather, like Jesus did for Thomas, he invites you to behold your risen Savior and to freshly believe the promises of God. Even in the midst of your doubts and struggles, call out to God, "I believe, help my unbelief."

God won't reject that prayer. He'll meet you right where you are and give you the grace to cry out with Thomas, "My Lord and my God."

Listen to the sermon

Dispatched for Mission

By Paul Gilbert

At Four Oaks Church, we are blessed to have a number of people who work in law enforcement, and we're so grateful for their service. I've seen first hand how seriously they take their duty. There have been times when I've been having coffee with one of them, and suddenly their radio bursts to life. They are being dispatched.

When this happens, their demeanor changes. They suddenly become very serious and focused on the task before them. Why? Because they have been sent on a mission. They have been given an assignment, and they take that assignment very seriously. They know that critical things are at stake in the mission they've been given.

We too, have been given a mission. You could say that we've been "dispatched." In John 20:21, Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." Just as the Father sent the Son on a mission to save sinners, so the resurrected Jesus sends his disciples (including each of us!) on a mission as well. You see, the resurrection of Jesus was not the end. Rather, it was the beginning of the church's mission to the world.

And what exactly is that mission? Is our primary mission to fix people's marriages or to carry out social justice or to give people a sense of community? While all those things are vitally important, they were not Jesus' primary mission and they are not our primary mission. At the heart of Jesus' mission was reconciling sinners to God through his sinless life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection.

This is the heart of our mission as a church as well. While we absolutely value marriage and community and social justice, we first and foremost are called to proclaim forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. Each of us is called to be an ambassador for the gospel. We're called to tell people the good news that Christ has lived, died, and risen for them.

This week, let me encourage you to live with your mission in mind. As you interact with your coworkers and friends and neighbors, ask the Lord for opportunities to speak the gospel. Ask the Lord to open doors so that you might tell the good news of what Christ has accomplished for you.

Jesus told his disciples that the fields were ripe for harvest. We believe that to be true here in Tallahassee. Speak boldly this week, knowing that God is with you on your mission.

Church Membership Matters

By Lance Olimb

Are you a member of the church? Have you considered it? If you are not a member but have considered it we would love to have you join us at one of our ENGAGE classes. I wondered if it would be helpful to answer one of the most significant questions I get in this whole process. The question is simple but meaningful. Why do we have church membership at all? We attempt to speak to that question in the class and I wanted to share the answer here. If you’ve been a member for a while it could be a good refresher, and if you’ve been sitting out it may stir some interest.

Is Membership Even in the Bible?
It is true that the Bible doesn't use the word "member" as a specific way to describe how you relate to a particular local church. It never commands local church membership the way it does to refrain from sexual immorality or pride. In fact, whether or not you ever attend a membership class or formally connect to a local body there is some good news. You are already a member of the body of Christ. You've been grafted into the eternal, invisible, pure body of Christ eternally.

If you are already a member in that sense, what do we mean when we say you'll be a “member” of Four Oaks? Why do we emphasize membership?

We emphasize membership because, although there is no explicit reference to membership, there are a ton of specific references to the way Christians are to relate to one another. We believe these commands implicitly require something like membership. Membership in that sense is about how you relate to the visible church temporally.

Some of those commands are beautiful and weighty. Let's look at just two describing Christians generally:

Galatians 6:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Christians are known to one another closely enough to confront sin. Which Christians do we restore? What are we restoring them to?

1 Timothy 5:9–10 (ESV) — 9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

Who enrolls these widows? Does Jerusalem keep track of the widows in Ephesus?

Here are two other passages which speak to the nature of the relationship between church leaders and the local body. They highlight why membership is important.

Hebrews 13: 17 - Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Acts 20: 28 - Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

From these passages, we can draw some conclusions related to church leadership and membership.
First, one of the pastors' and elders' primary responsibility before the Lord is to care for and shepherd the people of Four Oaks, one day giving an account before God for this responsibility. So, it’s important for church leaders to have clarity on these questions: “Which people” are they to give account for? Who are they? All the Christians in Tallahassee? Those people who come through the front door of the church? Those who attend a worship service, and if so, how many times? Is this care and oversight and authority to be exercised even when someone doesn’t want it or agree to it?

Second, one of the primary responsibilities of the church body is to submit to godly pastors and elders, which is why it’s important to have clarity about the nature of this relationship. “Which elders and pastors am I to entrust myself to? Who are they? All the pastors and elders in Tallahassee? What is the nature of this authority and accountability in my life?” The reason that membership is important is because it involves a mutual commitment to one another and to the Lord. More than just commitment, it is a clarified commitment.

Ultimately, we think it difficult to understand, and joyfully apply, these scripture passages apart from some sort of mutual commitment. We call this mutual commitment “church membership,” and it is a reciprocal commitment. Leaders define the "flock" they are caring for and members have defined which local church they are committing to serving.

The reality is that membership in a local church is the way we describe how our Christian relationships and obligations are going to be acted out in the real world. It is true that we could have called it something else. Partner. Associates. Whatever. We've borrowed the term member from scripture and applied it to our relationship with the visible church. You've already been inseparably grafted into the invisible church. Membership is our way of being committed to the visible church in the place and time we live.

So there you have it. Maybe that was helpful, maybe not. In the class we deep dive into our statement of faith and attempt to define how membership is played out. Overall, it is a really great time. I hope you consider joining us.

The Fiercest Storm

By Rob Pifer

As I write this word of encouragement to you, I do so sitting in the dark. Why? Because my power just went out. As the tinge of annoyance creeps in, I’m quickly reminded of the many folks to the west of us who are still without power, as well as the many more folks who remain homeless because of Hurricane Michael. It’s so easy for the “out of sight, out of mind” effect to take hold. Right before the power went out I was thinking of the cooler fall weather headed our way this weekend and how great that will be for the Saturday FSU Clemson high noon showdown. I’m back to reality now, in the dark without power.
 
For many of you, your reality now still involves Hurricane Michael. Maybe you have immediate family, or other loved ones to the west of us, who are still digging out of the devastation Michael left behind. Maybe you’re wondering how you can continue to help those in need. Maybe you’re discouraged as you try to make sense of all of the suffering people are going through as a result the storm. Understandably there’s a lot to process, but there’s also a lot of work to be done as the rebuilding phase moves forward. The Four Oaks team that went to Marianna last weekend saw this first-hand as they worked with the folks at Eastside Baptist Church serving the surrounding community. You can see from the pictures below, there was a lot to do. Thank you again to all those who helped!
 
As we move forward, there are a lot needs to fill, and if you’re like me it’s easy to slide into a mode of pragmatism that can easily spread us thin and leave us overwhelmed. We need to move away from that. Instead, let us move forward with faith-filled action that allows us to stay focused, productive, and dependent on the Lord and His promises to us.
 
In Acts 27, we find that the Apostle Paul faced one of fiercest storms of his life. The strength he needed to face and endure the storm came from a promise God had given to him years before. During the voyage, Paul warned the crew that a storm would come — and it did come.
 
Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. (Acts 27:18–20)
 
Into that moment of utter despair, God sent an angel to Paul, saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you” (Acts 27:24).

The promise that Paul would stand before Caesar was not new. Two years earlier, Jesus himself stood by Paul in prison and promised, “As you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11). In the midst of Paul’s terrifying storm, he needed to remember the promise God had given.

With whatever storm you are facing right now, be encouraged by the fact that God keeps His promises and that He will see you safely through. Remember that if you’re trusting in Christ, the journey that God has you on now is leading to the best there is, Jesus Christ Himself.
 
Be reflecting on these promises this week:

  • Philippians 1:6: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

  • Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

  • John 10:27–28: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

  • Philippians 4:19: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

  • 1 Corinthians 1:8: “He will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

On the journey with you, Pastor Rob