Missional Easter Morning

  • May 5 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)
  • May 19 – Dinner Together (6:00pm.  Place TBD)
  • June 4 – Worship Gathering
  • June 23 – Dinner Together

Today is Easter Sunday, 2019.

I love Easter Weekend.     Many churches are very busy over Holy Week.  Traditions vary, but many churches hold services Thursday night (Maundy Thursday), Friday night (Tenebrae), and of course Easter Sunrise services and Easter Sunday services.  Because we have a value for blessing churches and with our focus on missional living, we encourage one another to invite friends and neighbors to a worship service somewhere, or to do something missional, (or if needed, just rest.)  We do hold a gathering at sunrise on Good Friday.  As far as I know, we’ve got that time slot pretty much to ourselves.

This year, Heather and I did something missional in our neighborhood with our family on Easter morning.  Also, I want to offer a few photos provided by Bob Davenport from our Good Friday Gathering.  First, Easter…

Easter: Recently, Heather and I have begun being more intentional about living missionally in our neighborhood.  The goal is simple.  We want to see our neighborhood become more like heaven.  Period.  So as part of that mission, we decided to host an Easter breakfast and have a short family-friendly worship service in our home.  To prepare Heather and I prayed for our neighbors – specifically for open doors.  Then we walked around and knocked on doors, handing out an invitation saying, “if you don’t have plans for Easter, we’d love to have with us.”

It was great to connect with neighbors that way.  Most doors did open.  We caught up with some neighbors we’d not seen in a while, met one for the first time, and of course, some doors didn’t open.  Once the invitations were out, I didn’t know if anyone would come or not.  That’s the hard part for me.  Sometimes, ministry feels like the ongoing experience of inviting people to a party and wondering if they will come.

Well, we asked for RSVPs to get an idea ahead of time.  And here I sit on Easter afternoon, after a delightful morning with three families from our neighborhood.  Two families we knew well and a third family we are just getting to know.  And they brought extended family.  So thank you, Lord!  The food was great.  The conversation lively.  We had young kids in our house!  We sang Amazing Grace.  I shared the Easter Story from the Rhyme Bible (fun!) and then talked about shalom, God’s plan, and the importance of the resurrection (Which frankly, I don’t think I did well, but the Spirit was present.)

Then the younger kids went out to find the hidden Easter Eggs in joy.   

And here’s the thing.  I think our neighborhood is a little more like heaven as a result.  I know some people and know a little better how to pray for them.  I really love our neighbors, especially the ones who joined us today.

Reflecting Good Friday Morning:  Every Good Friday since 2009, a group of us have gathered at Mickler’s Landing to worship, to remember what Jesus has done for us, and prepare our hearts for Easter. This tradition pre-dates LoveFirst Coast, but the core of this group is still the same.  Kent and Kris Wehmeier came up with the idea way back when, and what we do is simple.  We bring food for breakfast.  We sing.  And I offer a brief message inviting us to prepare our hearts for Easter.  Good Friday, of course, is the day Jesus was tried, condemned, rejected by his people, and crucified.

Personally, my week had put me in a gloomy Good Friday mood.  Death and unanswered prayer came near this week.  People who had been making progress stumbled and suffered setbacks.  Then, through ministry, work, and friendship, I was a part of the story of five people passing away – this week.   

Disappointment was real, and death seemed to be coming close, looming large. As one story after another came near, things seemed to grow a little darker. I was okay, but hope started feeling like wishful thinking. Joy seemed to be leaking away. I felt myself growing numb.  It felt like Good Friday. I could relate a little to well to the phrase put together by S.M. Lockridge. “It’s Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered. and Satan’s just laughing.”

But you can’t forget the next line… “It was Friday. But Sunday’s comin!”  Thinking about his words, I was reminded of the hope that is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ! And at sunrise on Good Friday, I got to share that news with good friends at the beach. We were not expecting to see the sunrise that morning – but the sky grew bright and then the sun broke through the clouds on the word, “Alleluia!”

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” “Thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”   

May your seasons that connect to Good Friday be marked by the hope that Sunday is indeed Coming!  May your life be characterized by the hope we celebrate every Easter!

At our gathering, we met “Bucket Bob” Davenport.  He has a great appreciation for the beauty of Mickler’s Landing and works to keep it free of trash for others to enjoy.  He noticed our worship gathering and took these pictures.  Thanks the photos, Bob.  Your gift will help us remember a beautiful morning.  And thanks for loving the First Coast!

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Death Will Not Have The Final Say

Upcoming Love First Coast Gatherings

  • April 19 – Good Friday Sunrise at Mickler’s Landing (6:55AM)
  • April 21 – Easter Worship Gatherings (Visit any church in Jacksonville, or come to the one the Alexanders are hosting in their neighborhood at 10:00am at 320 S. Buck Board Dr., 32259)
  • May 5 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)
  • May 19 – Dinner Together (6:00pm.  Place TBD)
  • June 4 – Worship Gathering
  • June 23 – Dinner Together

Question for the day: What do you do that helps you to follow Jesus?

Tomorrow is Friday.  But Sunday is coming!

Because of what Jesus went through Friday, and because of Sunday, we can receive these words:

“Listen up church!  These flesh and bone bodies we walk around in cannot inherit the kingdom of God.  What is becoming more corrupted doesn’t get to enjoy the full benefits of being incorruptible.  But pay attention to what I’m saying and I will tell you a mystery: all of us won’t sleep in death, but all of us will will be transformed.  It will happen instantly – faster than a fleeting glance – at the  at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  It makes good sense to take off what is perishing in order to put on what will never fade, to swap what is mortal for what is immortal.  And it will happen.  The saying that is written will come true:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

For where, death, is your victory?

Where,  grave is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear sisters and brothers, my beloved church, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

 

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Reflections from a Year of Missional Living

Upcoming Love First Coast Gatherings

  • April 19 – Good Friday Sunrise at Mickler’s Landing (6:55AM)
  • April 21 – Easter Worship Gatherings (Visit any church in Jacksonville, or come to the one the Alexanders are hosting in their neighborhood at 10:00am at 320 S. Buck Board Dr., 32259)
  • May 5 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)
  • May 19 – Dinner Together (6:00pm.  Place TBD)
  • June 4 – Worship Gathering
  • June 23 – Dinner Together

At LoveFirst Coast, we try to be very intentional about living missionally.  Our annual meeting is a point to report and provides a little accountability.  What could we point to that reveal our communities commitment to missional living?  What follows is a brief summary of that report.

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The fruit of the gospel flows from the imitation Christ.  A tool we use for evaluation is the Up-In-Out triangle: Up, nurturing a relationship with God, In, investing in one-another in terms of discipleship, and Out, going out to meet needs in the world the God’s grace, love, and power.  (Based on I Corinthians 4:16-17 and Luke 6:12-19).  Here are some highlights.

Up: Worship Highlights.

  • We held bi-monthly worship services which include services of prayer and healing and special gatherings.
  • Our worship gatherings are more closely connected to our own initiatives in mission and leadership. We commissioned covenant partners to specific works and to work in places of mission (their work place, neighborhood, etc.)
  • The focus of our worship gatherings is about equipping and encouraging those who are living on mission. Gatherings offer a time to report and prayer.  We also have invited guests to share during a time in our services called “What Is God Doing on the First Coast.”

In: Discipleship

  • We have three weekly Up-In-Out (or Hebrews 10:24-25) groups gathering.
  • Our Wednesday night group that met for five years has ended its time together. The fruits of the season together included members engaged in mission wherever they find themselves and engaging in discipleship activities and involvement with other organizations in the city.
  • We have learned a helpful term: “missional incubator”.  Hebrews 10:24-25 calls us to “spur one another on to love and good deeds.”  We go “in” in order to go “out.”

Last year, I was able to report ways our covenant partners were touching the lives of people in various networks around the city.  And it still holds true.  Our people initiate mission wherever they are – without making a long list, we have come to “see ourselves as sent” to several neighborhoods, to our workplaces, and we work alongside area churches and ministries.  A number of these now fall into “organized outs”, (i.e prayer groups.)

Additionally, we are cultivating partnerships with other ministries and churches in the city, including participating in a mission trip to Costa Rica.  (Shout out to Axis Point Church, J1:9 ministries, Clearer Vision Ministries, Iron Sharpens Iron, and some new missions coming into place.)  We continue to emphasis a relationship based partnership in mission.

All Three came together at the annual retreat.  With a focus on Clarity of Calling, twenty-five folks, including a number who were guests, enjoyed fellowship, food, worship, times for prayer, encouragement, and conversation.  The group that came together represented a wide swath of the body of Christ across the First Coast.  This was a cause to celebrate!  And it is also something from which we might build.

What are some questions and considerations that will help us focus for the season ahead?

  • On-going question: What can we do to nurture and release God’s call and the God-given visions and dreams that are active in the hearts of the people of LoveFirst Coast?
  • Given that we have a number of well-equipped disciplers, what needs to happen in order for us to be engaged in discipling others?
  • How can we help, encourage, and equip others who are living life on mission on the First Coast?

 

 

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Serving By Giving – Reflecting on 2018

Love First Coast Gatherings

  • April 7 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)
  • April 19 – Good Friday Sunrise at Mickler’s Landing (6:55AM)
  • April 21 – Easter Worship Gatherings (We are hosting one at 10:00 at 320 S. Buck Board Dr., 32259)
  • May 5 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)
  • May 19 – Up-In-Out Gathering (6:00pm.  Place TBD)

Nearly everyone at LoveFirst Coast has a sense a personal call to live life intentionally on mission.  That said, we also worship through giving.  More than half of what we received in 2018 we had the privilege of giving away.  (We hope to do so again in 2019)  Much of it was given to organizations advancing God’s Kingdom in our area, some of whom we’ve partnered with.  Some was given when our hearts were broken by the devastation that occurred when Hurricane Michael impacted Panama City.   The report below, Love First Coast Serving Others, was compiled by Kent Wehmeier and presented at our annual meeting to share how we gave away funds entrusted to us in 2018.   We serve a generous God and it was a privilege to be generous.

LOVE FIRST COAST SERVING OTHERS

As Stewards  Andrew, Nicholl and I are tasked with over-seeing the distribution of the financial blessing  you have entrusted to Love First Coast.   I admit trying to decide who to support with so many places is really difficult.  All of us saw that the accumulating growth of the funds was not what we were called to do.  In my reflection some of these verses came to mind.

Romans 8 15   15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

That God first loved us He adopted us as sons and daughters.

Deutoeronomy 19 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him.

Jesus pronounces in Johns Gospel John 10:18  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Here is where our hearts felt compelled to give and serve those both here in Northeast Florida and in the broader world.

  1. Young Life and Young Life Nicaragua earning the right to be heard.
  2. Young Lives More than 20 years ago modeling unconditional love and mentoring young women
  3. Rose Shabaya, beginning a new ministry with women in our city.
  4. Clearer Vision Ministries, which, since 1979 has served the blind and visually impaired, originally formed to serve blind Bible college students.
  5. Pie in the Sky St. Johns County which builds wheelchair ramps, buys bus tickets, provides young mothers with baby food, and repairs home to serve those in need – since 2010
  6. J1:9 Ministries: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid do not be discouraged for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.” Working with children, especially orphans in Costa Rica, hosting mission trips, and proclaiming the gospel.
  7. Hiland Park First Baptist Church (Panama City) Hurricane Michael relief.
  8. North Star Church Panama City Hurricane Michael relief.
  9. DOTZ Direct Occupational Training Zone, providing blind and visually impaired individuals with the opportunity to obtain job skills since 2014
  10. Through our website on the internet
    1. Offerering prayer for those that requested it.
    2. Making available instruction for using discipleship tools.
    3. 11,445 total views on the web site in 2018 – up 55% from the previous year
    4. 2,861 views were from countries other than the US.  Top 7: UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, India, and South Africa.
    5. 7,070 total visitors – up 56% from the previous year
    6. Top 3 pages at LoveFirstCoast.org visited in 2018
      1. Discipling Lifestyle – Up-In-Out – 1,222 views, Learning Circle – 1,211 views.
      2. Discipleship Square – 1,143 views.
    7. Over the history of the site, the Learning Circle has been viewed over 4,000 times.
  11. We are honored to serve LoveFirst Coast and to bless others through the financial commitments all of you have made. Thank you.
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Our Story So Far – 2019 Update

What’s Going on at Love First Coast?

  • April 7 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)
  • April 19 – Good Friday Sunrise at Mickler’s Landing (6:55AM)
  • April 21 – Easter Worship Gatherings (10:00 at 320 S. Buck Board Dr., 32259 at elsewhere)
  • May 5 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)
  • May 19 – Up-In-Out Gathering (6:00pm.  Place TBD)

Our Story (so far) – March 2019 version

LFC HEART LOGOIn the Spring of 2013, God pulled together about twenty people from five different churches.  We had several things in common.  Many of us had been inspired by followers of Jesus we’d met on mission trips.  We earnestly desired to see Christ change lives and renew our city.  We had heard that God was doing that in other places through groups called missional communities.  We were willing to try so we met for a season and organized our life together around worship, prayer, fellowship, and mission. In our “trial missional community” we learned a lot about ourselves, our neighbors, and how to (and how not to) to do life on mission together.  We discovered strength in community, how to be more natural and public with our faith, more courageous in prayer, more adventurous in service, and how good God is.

After about six months together, about half who’d been with us returned to regular engagement in their home churches.  But the experience had a deep impact: we still valued our connections to traditional local churches, but we could not return to church as usual.  Several of us committed to journeying together and formed First Coast Missional Communities –now called LoveFirst Coast.  We gathered for prayer and discipleship, invested in each other, and looked for opportunities to bless our neighbors and serve in our city.  Over time, the administrative load became lighter as others stepped into leadership.  This enabled our pastor to be “bi-vocational”, working a full-time day job while helping to lead the church and created additional margin for generosity.

We began developing rhythms of doing life together around fellowship, worship, discipleship and mission.  Sundays, many of us engaged in local congregations, intent on being a blessing.  During the week, we served.  Some of us served together.  We gathered weekly in “huddles” to learn tools and skills for discipleship, to encourage one another, to pray, and to “spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Heb 10:25).  Once a month, we gathered for worship.

Our huddles became incubators for mission.  As a group and as individuals, we are seeing ourselves as sent.  This has led to missional engagement across our city, in our workplaces, and even around the world.  We have ministries in neighborhoods, two hospitals, on a college campus, in two elementary schools, in two construction firms, with Young Life and Young Lives, in several churches, with refugees, and often just “wherever we find ourselves.”  This has led to a shift in our worship gatherings beginning in 2018 to providing teaching and prayer aimed at encouraging and equipping one another for life on mission while continuing to celebrate what God is doing on the First Coast.

Along the way, we have developed some traditions:  retreats, prayer services, home gatherings, and a Good Friday sunrise worship gathering.  And there are the “organic activities”: neighborhood parties, game nights, prayer walks, going to events together, and just getting together.  At most gatherings, there is good food, good coffee, and celebration of being together.  Additionally, we consider it a tremendous privilege to support and encourage others we meet who are trying to answer God’s call, living life on mission.  The Lord has opened up relationships and partnerships with a number of individuals, ministries, and churches.  God is at work all around us!

We are a small group.   We are keenly aware of being redeemed, forgiven, blessed, and healed through the love, grace and mercy of God!  And with joy we can continue to report that what God has been doing for us we are seeing God do through us.  We exist to love the people and place of the First Coast of Florida.  We do so by imitating Jesus Christ, Up, In, and Out, and encouraging others to do the same.  We hope to keep at it as long as the Lord allows or until God’s Kingdom is revealed in every square inch of our city.

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Calling Retreat

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What’s Coming Up

What’s Going on at Love First Coast?

  • March 31 – Annual Meeting with dinner.  Text Jesse 904-599-2889 if you’d like to join us. (6pm at 3455 SR13, 32259)
  • April 7 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)
  • April 19 – Good Friday Sunrise at Mickler’s Landing (6:55AM)
  • April 21 – Easter Worship Gatherings (10:00 at 320 S. Buck Board Dr., 32259)
  • May 5 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)

Want to join a group or get connected to a mission- call or text Jesse Alexander – 904-599-2889.  I’ll connect with you someone who can tell you  more.

Groups: Discipleship Lunch, Book Club, Conversations that Matter, Food and Spirit

Missions,  w/  Apartment dwellers, w/ Young Lives Jax, w/ Young Lives St. Augustine, w/ North St. Johns County Young Life, w/ military funerals, w/ special needs kids, w/ ISI Evangelistic Outreach, w/ Neighborhoods

Are you feeling called to life on mission on the First Coast? How can we pray for you, encourage you, and build you up?

 

Posted in Discipleship, holy week, Missional Community, Prayer, worship, Worship Gathering, Young Life, Young Lives | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Question Worth Asking Yourself

If the Kingdom of God being more fully revealed in your city was dependent on the quality of  your relationships with your neighbors, how would you live among them?

I bet it would look a lot like the way Jesus lived among people.

You can learn more about that by reading…

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!

Have a great day!

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