Return to Haiti

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By Rob Pifer

In Four Oaks Students, we have always prioritized our summer trips as a vital part of our ministry and I’m excited to say that we’ll be taking that to the next level this summer! Our middle schoolers will embark on another wilderness adventure up in the mountains of Kentucky in June. This trip is all about team building and living in gospel community...more on that in a minute.
 
Last summer, rather than our usual mission trip to New Orleans with Urban Impact Ministries, we took a group of high schoolers abroad for the first time in our history and served the Cabaret Haiti Mission for a week in Cabaret, about two hours north of Port au Prince, Haiti. My plan going into last summer was to begin a rotation of mission trips for our youth, alternating New Orleans and Haiti on an every-other-year basis. After all, Haiti is much farther away, more expensive, logistically challenging, and potentially dangerous, so doing it every year might just be too much!
 
Then I went there, and all of that went right out the window. That week was the highlight of my year, even trumping seeing U2 perform the entire Joshua Tree album live with my wife and three boys!  I fell in love with Haiti and its people. I forged a deep bond with the missionaries there, Papa Mike and Mama Bonnie. I played with children who had barely the clothes they wore, but yet who woke up each morning singing praises to God. I met men who looked different, spoke a different language, and came from a world that I can hardly fathom, yet they became brothers. It was perhaps the most impactful week of my life, and I was not alone. CLICK HERE to learn more about Cabaret Haiti Mission.
 
One of my own sons took this trip with us, and I have seen the impact it had on his young life first hand. Parents of other kids who took the trip with us have told me the same, and I know it’s true because almost immediately upon our return, those kids told me quite emphatically that we HAD to go back! They didn’t have to twist my arm much at all, but what about New Orleans and our longstanding relationship to Urban Impact?
 
Well, I decided we’re just going to have to do both! We have a team of younger high schoolers who will travel with me to NOLA at the end of June, and another team made up of older high schoolers and college students making the trek with me down to Haiti. It’s ambitious, I know, but I cannot wait!
 
Last year, God moved in a mighty way in the hearts of so many people and our trip to Haiti, which costs around $1500 per person, was mostly provided for. One of the biggest ways that trip was funded was through a really special event at Maple Street at FSU that so many of you attended. The silent auction and ticket sales brought in over $7,000! Those of you who attended know what a fun and special night it was!
 
We are so excited to be hosting another event on April 27th, this time at Maple Street right next door to Four Oaks Killearn! We are gathering items like vacation homes, party packages, jewelry, and gift baskets for our silent auction. We will have live bluegrass music with outdoor seating.
 
And of course, there will be biscuits! Our neighbors, Maple Street, are serving up their usual delicious fare, but this time with a bit of a twist. We will have a build-your-own-biscuit bar set up for you to make your favorite Maple Street treats, just the way you like it!
 
To help make this a fun night out for parents with young kids, we are offering free childcare at the church for babies, preschoolers, and elementary school age kids.  Tickets are on sale now for $20 each, but if you gather your Community Group or friends and family, you can get the special group rate of $10/ticket if you buy 10 or more. CLICK HERE to buy your tickets now and register for childcare.

If you have already bought your tickets in the lobby, from a Haiti Team member, or through your community group, but haven't signed up for childcare, click here
 
This event combines two of the things I love most about our church: people living in community with one another, and an emphasis on reaching our kids, our community, and our world with the gospel. Join us at Maple Street on April 27th and enjoy fellowship with your church community while supporting our mission to Haiti.

A New Look

By Debbie Tanis

Last Sunday in our worship services we introduced a new visual identity for Four Oaks Church, including a new logo. You’ll see this reflected in our publications, on our website, our social media pages, and building signs. Wherever the old, familiar leaf appears now, you will see a new image emerge, designed to be a fresh expression of our identity as a gospel-rooted, local body of Christ in Tallahassee.

Every touch-point of communication, both digital and print, internal and external, is an opportunity to put Jesus Christ on display and reinforce our church’s mission and values. The message we communicate is meant not only to connect with our church family, but also to connect with our communities and our city. As we seek to share the gospel in these spheres, our voice should be loving and humble, consistent and unified. While a logo and a brand are only elements of the way we are perceived within and outside of Four Oaks, they should express our God-given identity as His church that stands the test of time and it’s ever-changing visual trends. In developing our new look, we started by examining our roots, remind­ing ourselves why Four Oaks Church was planted to begin with, and followed the branch­es to where we are now – a church that seeks to treasure, grow, and go in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With this in mind, you will see some similarities between our current logo and our new logo which attempts to bring together traditional imagery with a modern style. At the center is a cross – symbolizing the foundation from which everything comes. The four points represent our four values and the leafy arms of the cross allude to our name and roots.

What we hope you will see is that our new logo represents both a rich past and a hopeful future, elements that we experience daily in our Christian walks. Just as this journey as disciples of Christ can be uncertain, our faith for the future is strong because of God’s grace in the past.

No logo, old or new, plays much of a role in the only certainty upon which we can depend: that God is with us and we will spend eternity with Him. But it can communicate a commitment to God and a willingness to follow him through whatever changes He wills for us. As we contemplate our history, mission, values and vision, and most importantly the gospel, our hope is that the new Four Oaks Church visual identity reflects our unique story as well as the larger narrative of God’s work in and through us. Our intention is that it mirrors what we value at Four Oaks Church – a spiritual vision for our church family, both corporately and individually, to treasure, grow, and go in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I would like to thank Pastor Josh Hughes for leading us through a journey that started with an idea to "update our logo," Pastor Zach Simons for pursuing the project enthusiastically with wisdom and an understanding of the process, and Forrest Hughes for designing our new visual identity.

Gospel Stories

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by Scott Stake

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”  - Matthew 16:16-18
 
I absolutely love this passage in Matthew 16, because it reminds me of the overwhelming power, love, and grace of our God. He is the one who lovingly and graciously gives spiritual sight to the blind, powerfully and faithfully builds His Church, and sovereignly and miraculously grows His Kingdom. And nothing can stop it, not even the gates of hell!
 
Like Jesus did for Peter and His disciples, we must continue to remind ourselves of this amazing good news, particularly when the darkness, pain, and brokenness of our world casts a shadow on the marvelous light and love of the gospel that has invaded our hearts. We also must tell stories to one another of how the church is being built and overcoming the dark places!
 
So, I want to invite you to a 5-week class we’ve entitled “The Gospel for the World” in which we’ll hear powerful stories of God’s amazing, redeeming love changing the darkest and hardest of hearts.
 

Come hear Dennis Cochrane (March 28), who served among the 20,000 Duna people of Papua New Guinea. After devising an alphabet for this previously unwritten language, he and his wife Nancy taught the Duna to read. They then translated the first portions of God's Word into the Duna language, and several thousand Duna came to faith in Christ. Today there are many churches among these people!

Come hear Dean & Kathy Thomas (April 4), who served among the Guji people in Ethiopia and helped bring the Scriptures to train and equip them for the work of ministry. You'll not only see pictures and hear stories, but also participate in a Bible literacy lesson like they led for the Guji people. (Please note that Don Richardson is no longer able to come April 4 due to some health issues.)

Come hear Kate (April 11), one of our gospel partners whose work is focused on literacy work among women and children of a Muslim-background people group, where the gospel is being preached, lives are being changed, and the church is growing!

Come hear Ted Esler (April 18), who served as a church planter in Bosnia during the 1990s and saw the gospel transform hearts in the midst of a war-torn society. He now serves as president of Missio Nexus, an association of agencies and churches representing over 30,000 Great Commission workers worldwide, and will share amazing stories of the Kingdom of God coming on earth!

Finally, come hear Scott Stake (April 25) share stories about the work of our Four Oaks gospel partners around the world and different ways we can support, encourage, pray for, and be a part of what God is doing to build His church! And then, come to the Mission Haiti fundraiser (April 28) to support our team heading there this summer to support the work of Mike & Bonnie Snider at Cabaret Mission!

Something Special

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By Scott Stake

There is much sadness in the world over the loss of a great man of God, Billy Graham. Graham preached the gospel to over 215 million people, ministered in 185 countries, and met and prayed with 12 U.S. presidents. As a result of his ministry, up to 30 million people trusted in Jesus, including my father at the age of 12 at a crusade in Chicago. And while we may never have the audiences of dignitaries and stadiums full of people, I do think it’s right and good to consider, admire, and seek to imitate this man, similar to the way the Apostle Paul instructed the Philippians—"What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things” (Phil 4:9). So, below are a few things that I greatly admire about Billy Graham that I hope can inspire, challenge, and convict you as well.
 
Amazement at Jesus’ Love
At the age of 16, Billy Graham trusted in Jesus as His Lord and Savior and was so overwhelmed by God’s love for him. Growing up, Graham’s hero was Babe Ruth, but after the Spirit opened his heart while hearing the gospel preached at a revival service, his hero was forever changed to Jesus Christ. From that point forward, Graham would constantly meditate upon the cross where Jesus died not just for the sins of the world, but specifically for him. And as he grew in his affections for Jesus, he could not help but share this amazing news with others. Graham would say, "God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”
 
Heart for All Peoples
Graham desired for the gospel to be proclaimed among all races and ethnicities and for it to bring about reconciliation among different people groups. Graham advocated for non-segregated meetings in the US and included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a 16-week revival in New York City to communicate the beautiful truth that the gospel breaks down walls not only between God and us but also between races (Dr. King became a very good friend of Dr. Graham’s). While much of Graham’s early ministry was centered in the United States, he also desired for the gospel to be preached in all of the world. Eventually, he traveled to 185 countries to boldly declare that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
 
Humility & Moral Purity
Billy Graham knew that it was not his works or character that saved him—it was Jesus alone. Yet, Graham also understood that his character is what proved the authenticity of his message. Thus, early on in his ministry, he said to his team, “Boys, it looks like God has something special planned for us. I want you to go back to your rooms and write down on pieces of paper, ‘What are the problems that evangelists have faced over the years that have brought their ministries to shipwreck?’” In what came to be called the Modesto Mainfesto, the men made specific commitments to help protect them from giving in to various temptations and humbly asked God for help to keep these commitments. Billy Graham went on to say, "The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
 
Four Oaks, may we not only admire and learn from Dr. Graham, but also seek to practice these things!

The Power of The New Creation

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By Josh Hughes

Cause all my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
As for your tender heart, this world's going to rip it wide open,
It ain't gonna be pretty, but you're not alone.

- Over the Rhine, “All My Favorite People”
 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
- The Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:17
 
I recently listened to one of my fellow elders confess, in a rather large meeting of leaders, an issue of sin in his life. This wasn’t a general acknowledgement of weakness, but what an ancient creed would call “a particular sin confessed particularly.” I found myself deeply grateful and refreshed by his transparency; you see, elders, christian parents, and church leaders of all stripes are called to be mature exemplars of the Christian life, but not merely mature exemplars. They are to lead out of weakness (see: all of 2 Corinthians). They are to identify with the people they are leading as fellow sufferers, fellow partakers of the grace of Jesus, fellow new creations who are being transformed into what they already are positionally. Leaders need grace too, and they should lead and live like it. This is something we’ve had grace to embrace in our leadership culture at Four Oaks, and I thank God for it.
 
There's a story I love about Augustine, the early church father. Augustine influences us across the centuries because he is not merely a model of idillic devotion and piety, but a redeemed sinner who is able to comfort sinners with the consolations of the gospel. Before his conversion, Augustine lived a profligate and promiscuous life. In his spiritual autobiography, Confessions, he writes that in his youth he had prayed, “God, give me chastity… just not yet." It was his lifelong inability to tame the lusts of his flesh that ultimately drove him, carried along by the prayers of his mother Monica and the irresistible drawing of the Holy Spirit, to fall on the grace of God in repentance and faith in the year 386.
 
What’s notable about Augustine’s self-disclosure in Confessions is that he was already an aged, respected, and influential bishop when he wrote it. It was risky and bold for him to acknowledge the truth about his former life. The word “confession” in Greek literally means, “to say the same,” meaning to acknowledge what’s true. This is what we do when we confess sin or confess a creed - we’re telling the truth. I’m so glad Augustine was not too ensnared by pride and self-righteousness to tell the truth about himself. What gave Augustine the strength to do that, and where can we find that power? The glory of the gospel and the power of being a new creation.
 
One day, years after his conversion, Augustine is said to have been walking down the street when a former mistress called out to him. The bishop did not answer her; she called out again saying, "Augustine, it is I!" According to the story, Augustine turned and responded, "Yes, but it is no longer I."
 
What a beautiful picture of the transformation the gospel brings about in us. Augustine wasn’t the same person. The old Augustine died to sin and his life was hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). Augustine had been crucified with Christ, and it was no longer he who lived, but Christ who lived in him (Galatians 2:20). And because of the world-changing power of this truth Augustine was, from his high position of authority and influence, freed to tell the truth about himself.
 
My prayer for us today is that we would be a community that is so gripped by the beauty of the transforming power of the gospel that we are free to tell the truth about ourselves, too. Because we are great sinners, but Christ is a greater Savior.