Set Free From Shame

By Paul Gilbert

Have you ever experienced crippling, burning shame? I'm talking the kind of shame that makes you want to hide. The kind of shame that makes you feel like the lowest of low. Crushing, overwhelming shame.

If so, you're not alone. The Apostle Peter experienced intense shame as well. After Peter vehemently denied ever knowing Jesus, Peter and Jesus caught a glimpse of each other as Jesus was being led away by the Roman guards. In that moment, shame hit Peter like a freight train. He was absolutely horrified over what he had done and he fled, gripped by overwhelming sorrow.

Peter knew shame. It was his close companion for some time.

But Peter knew something else as well.

He knew forgiveness. He knew grace. He knew mercy. That's what we see in John 21 when Jesus appeared to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. When Peter realized that it was Jesus standing on the shore, he leapt out of the boat and swam to shore as fast as he possibly could. He desperately wanted to be with Jesus.

This is NOT the behavior of a man gripped by shame.

Something else had taken hold of Peter.

So what changed?

Jesus showed up.

 
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And when Jesus showed up, Peter realized that he had been forgiven. That Jesus was showing him mercy. That Jesus was extending the hand of grace to him. This set him free from the shame that lay so heavily upon him.

Forgiveness is the great antidote to shame.

If you experience shame because of your past sins, let me encourage you to take the same antidote that Peter did. All of your sins, even your darkest, most shameful ones, have been forgiven through the blood of Jesus. In Romans 8 it says that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. If you are in Christ Jesus, then there is no shame or condemnation left for you. Jesus took your shame upon the cross and invites you to receive forgiveness and grace instead.

Don't live in shame. Don't let the dark specter of shame haunt you for the rest of your life. If Peter could be set free from shame, so can you.

Gifted to Serve

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By Joe Haverlock

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. —1 Peter 4:10–11

Meet my friend Dean. Dean volunteered as an usher and greeter at the church where I used to serve in Michigan. You couldn’t help but feel God’s love when Dean said hello with his warm, joy-filled smile. Though he’s experienced two brain surgeries and increasing physical challenges in his past that hindered him from many everyday activities, he never missed an opportunity to share an encouraging scripture or call someone during the week to pray for their specific need. He was unashamed to share Jesus with everyone he met. One day over lunch, he told me that he doesn’t know how long he has to live, so he doesn’t want to waste an opportunity to share Jesus with anyone he meets. Despite his physical challenges, Dean loves to serve the Lord.

Have you ever considered how God might want to use you to serve him? The good news is that God has gifted each believer to serve him in a unique way to build up the body of Christ and bring glory to God. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” That’s right! You have a God-given gift to be used in the service of the King! You only need to be a good steward. You were given a gift for a bigger purpose. You were gifted to serve others. Maybe you’re not sure what your gift is, but one thing is certain–you have at least one. Even better, you get to experience God’s grace when you use it. How do you know what this gift is? You don’t know until you try. Do you enjoy teaching children or youth, playing an instrument, welcoming someone new, or helping others in need with projects? Many times, I have seen people discover their gifts simply by asking where help is needed around the church. Maybe it’s as simple as asking a Christian friend over a cup of coffee how they think God has gifted you. It’s amazing how others can spot our gifts well before we can. As we look toward launching a new congregation in early February, we’ll be sending others out to serve the east side of our city. So, it’s a great season of opportunity to jump in here at Killearn.

It can be really easy to find reasons for not serving, like busyness, work, or other hobbies. Dean had many reasons why it would have been much easier to just be content to come, listen, and leave each week. Instead, he wanted to experience the joy of God working through him to show hospitality and extend a warm welcome to members and newcomers alike. I love how verse 11 reminds us that when we serve, we do it “as one who serves by the strength God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” God will supply the strength, so don’t miss out on being a conduit of God’s grace.

You were gifted to serve the body of Christ by the divine strength which He supplies in order to bring glory to God. This is not only an act of service; it is an act of worship.

Would you like to know about the many opportunities to serve here at Four Oaks Community Church? Click here to find out how you can get in the game!

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.