Missional Living at Christmas

Christmas time is a time when we remember that God became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ.  It’s called “the incarnation.”  As Eugene Peterson put it in the message, “The Word” (Jesus) “became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  But why?  Why did Jesus come?  The simple, answer, of course, is that God loves us.

But couldn’t God have loved us from a distance?

Another simple answer, Jesus came “to save us from our sins so we could go to heaven.”   Of course!  Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins, to take our place.  But again, couldn’t God have done that in a simpler way?  I mean, to play with the idea, couldn’t he have saved us if he had died in an obscure way?  Did he have to die on a cross as a public figure surrounded by drama?  If Jesus had died quietly by falling off a mule when he was eight years old, would that have paid for our sins?  Why didn’t God do it like that?

I can hear the the objections coming.  “But if we didn’t know about how Jesus died, we wouldn’t have faith.  And God wanted us to have faith in Jesus.”  (Warning, if you are new to this sort of thing, know that I’m playing with ideas and questions that flirt with heresy in order to take us a little deeper.  Hang in there.)  Does God need our faith to save us?  Couldn’t he just write off all our sin like a bank writing off a bad debt and let us into heaven. That would be a lot less trouble.

But when I read the story of Jesus, it seems to me that God wanted to go through a lot of trouble.  According to the Bible, in Jesus, the Word who is fully God – who made all things and for who all things were made – becomes fully human.  God the Creator becomes a part of the Creation.  That was a lot of trouble.  Why?

God had more in mind at that first Christmas than getting us into heaven when we die.  Theologians talk about the Missio Dei – the Mission of God.   God’s mission is rescuing, redeeming, healing, and restoring all that was his.  If we think God’s purpose is only for you and me to believe in Jesus in order to get to heaven, we may miss the larger point.  God’s intention for our world was for a thriving humanity to lead purpose-filled, satisfying lives in this creation enjoying open, joyful relationships with other human beings and in partnership with himself.  That got messed up in Genesis 3.  And God’s doing something about it.  God has a mission.

God’s mission includes our salvation, but that we go to heaven when we die, as wonderful as that will be, is a stop gap solution.  According to the Bible, the end of the story happens when creation (all things) are being made new.  The end of this story is the beginning of a better one.  Revelation 21-22 talk about the holy city, the new Jerusalem, being remade and coming down out of heaven to the earth.  Get that.  It doesn’t end with us all going to heaven.  It ends with heaven coming to earth.  And in that city on earth, God will live with the people, face to face, marking each as his own.  The people will enjoy and open, joyful relationship with one another.   The curse which seems to touch everything will end.

In that made-new earth there will be healing, abundance, worship, music, feasting, and life.  No illness.  No war.  No injustice.  No death. No regret. No un-wiped tears.  No more curse.

God has a mission and here it is.  What God created rightly belongs to God, and God is at work reclaiming it all and making it as it should be and even better.

In Jesus Christ, God entered into his creation.  All of history before that point set it up.  And all of history since that point is the unfolding – hard as it may seem – of finishing the work.  It was the strategic invasion and everything in this great mission turns on it.

When God became one of us in Jesus Christ, he showed us what God himself is truly like.  No more trying to figure it out.  Just look at Jesus.  In the Old Testament, we learn that God, “The Lord is the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, yet not leaving the guilty unpunished…”  By looking at the life of Jesus, by walking with him, we grow and learn what this means.  But also, by looking at Jesus, we see what a human being’s life can be like.   And it’s clear from the life of Jesus that he lived like a man on a mission for the last three years of his life.

Now, that raises questions, doesn’t it?

We know that Jesus grew up.  He was part of a family.  Jewish kids were educated with some formality.  We don’t have stories from the Bible, but we can be sure Jesus went to school.  We know he worked.  The Bible says he was a builder/carpenter.  But we can gather that he also went to markets.  His parables show he was very familiar with the agricultural life that dominated 1st century Palestinian life.  His best friends were fisherman.   God, who became a human being, participated in those everyday little things that make up life.  In Jesus, God was doing more than just living so we could be forgiven.  He was redeeming the everyday things.  He was redeeming family life, childhood, education, work, commerce, and culture.  And at Christmas, Jesus became a baby.  Weak, helpless, vulnerable.  Yes.  Jesus was on mission – at work redeeming human life from beginning.  He lived every moment for the glory of God.

And the Resurrection shows that it wasn’t just wishful thinking.  The resurrected body of Jesus, free from the curse, life so vibrant that wrappings, tombs, and doors could not keep it out or keep it down.  Jesus redeems humanity even through death!   In his resurrection, God was showing us what “all things made new” looks like.  And that is our future, too.

God had a mission.  God’s mission was Jesus’ mission.

And into that work, Jesus was sent.  And into this work, into the work of making all things new, Jesus has invited us.

Jesus mission is our mission, too.   When we accept that God has a mission and God’s mission includes us – that’s when we are ready to live missionally.

Do you want to know how to have a missional Christmas?  Know and accept that in Jesus Christ, God became one of us because he loves you.  Know and accept that died on the cross to take away your sins, and to give you a place in his family, a home in heaven, and a life worth living.  Know and accept that in Jesus Christ, heaven has come to earth, God has given you a new identity.   Know that God invites you into the work of making all things new, leading toward a thriving humanity leading purpose-filled, satisfying lives in a redeemed creation enjoying open, joyful relationships with other human beings and in partnership with God.  Missional living.  It’s the family business of the family of God!

Merry Christmas!

Scriptures: Genesis 1-3, Exodus 34-45, the Gospels, especially John 1:1-17 and Matthew 28:16-20,  Acts, I John 1:1-4, Revelation 21-22.

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Worship Gathering Sunday Night

Jesus, full of love, entered into the mess of this world and that has changed everything.  The theological term for what Jesus has done is the incarnation.  Jesus, who is fully God, puts on flesh and becomes a human being.  He is God incarnate, God who is one of us.
But what does that imply for us?  What has he done for us?  Here are a few things to think about.  If God put on our flesh, what does that say about our flesh?  If God became human, what can we learn about the potential of human life?  And if Jesus, a human being, was fully God, what does this reveal about what God is like?  And how do we see him changing the mess of this world?
Two more thoughts.  Jesus invites us to follow him.  And Jesus sends us, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  (John 20:21)  And as we think about following Jesus, going where he leads us, how does the example of his incarnational life help?
At LoveFirst Coast, we remind one another that “Christ lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Jesus is with us wherever we go.  We encourage one another to engage in “incarnational ministry.”  This means that we encourage each other to go where people are with a willingness to enter into their mess in the same way Jesus entered into ours.  And Jesus is with us.  So, it is still about Jesus arriving and entering into people’s messes, making them different.
This Sunday night, we’ll look at this more closely.  We meet at 6:45 in the St. Johns Room at Faith Community Church (3450 CR210, 32259).  Come and be encouraged and equipped for life in community and life on mission!
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Prayer Gathering for Healing of the Nations

(Saturday, November 17, 6:30pm @ 3445 SR13, 32259)
Does our nation need healing?  Do the nations of the earth need healing?
If God has laid on your heart a desire for things in this world to be set right, and if thinking about it feels overwhelming, then I encourage you to accept this call to pray!  You know God’s promise: “if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their wicked ways.”  Let’s take God at his word and do it!
We will gather at 6:30 this Saturday, November 17 at Nicholl’s barn (3445 SR 13, 32259).  If you are willing to pray with us, please come.  We’ll have light food available for anyone who’s hungry.
Also, if anyone needs personal prayer for healing, that will be made available.
Hoping for healing and trusting that God is good!
Health+Healing
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Grateful for Duncan

This past week was a difficult one for me and my family.  Our dog’s health had been declining rapidly in recent weeks.  He lost much of his vision and developed some odd behaviors.  We visited the vet, got some insight and medication, but he wasn’t getting better.  This past week, he’d begun having episodes of severe pain.  On Wednesday night, Heather and I made the tough decision that we needed to put our dog down.   It was not easy.  We were meeting with our missional community friends.  We’ve been togehter five years.  They knew our dog, asked us about it, and prayed for us.

We have loved our dog very much.  In a day filled with stories, walks, treats, and tears, our family gathered as we could.  Together, we got Duncan in the van and went to the vet.  (They were gracious, helpful, and kind.)  We were all with him in a special room for his last moments – grateful and heartbroken.  Afterward, my son Seth and I buried him.  Our days with Duncan in our home are ended.

Our daughter Jordan summed it up well when she posted the news:

“Ten warm, wet-nosed, tail-wagging years later 💛 What a gift! He had many adventures and more friends than I do. He was a walking model of lightheartedness and a living lesson in contentment. He died as he lived: surrounded by family, with fingers buried in his fur, and with treats in ample supply. As I told him often, Duncan was never the noblest of beasts, nor the brightest, but he was still my favorite. His memory will linger even longer than the dog hair.”

Indeed.

He has been a missional partner for me.  Seriously.  Having that dog by my side helped me connect with people.   But I recognized Duncan, like many dogs, had a gift with people, especially kids.  A few years ago, I wrote about his bus stop ministry.   It was not unusual to hear kids call out his name whenever we were out.  They didn’t know me, but they knew the bus stop dog.  We gave that up when I became bi-vocational, but he has still been a regular partner in ministry.  In my neighborhood prayer walks, he slowed me down and helped me pay attention.  Anytime we were outside, he would pull me over to say hi to people.  With great ease, my dog broke down barriers and facilitated conversations.  He had continued to be a missional dog.  He loved his neighbors and expected me to do the same.

Like everything, God has lessons for us in this.  He wasn’t a perfect dog.  He made us worry, demanded attention, and got in trouble – especially when he was young.  But overall he just loved his people.  He forgave easily.  He trusted recklessly.  He had what I’ll call a community instinct.  He wanted us all to be together.  If a group of us went for a walk and we split up, he didn’t like it.  It was as if he was saying, “No.  Come back.  It’s better if we stay together.”  As Jordan said, he was a living lesson in contentment.  And when we were together, he seemed most content.

Love, trust, forgiveness, and community.  Jesus once preached, “Consider the birds of the air…”  There were lessons for people in paying attention to God’s creatures.  I think Jesus might well say have said to me, “Consider that dog in your home…”

Duncan was quite a gift.  Like all God’s creatures, he was created to bring glory to God.  And he did.  I miss my “missional dog.”

duncan2

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Missional Living Basics

November 4 worship gathering tonight at FCC – 6:45 pm at 3450 CR210, 32259

If we want to live like Jesus, the following questions will prove helpful…

Missional Living Questions:

  • Who are the people God is calling you to?
  • What are the evils that beset them?
  • How are you responding to God’s invitation?
  • Are you in community?
  • Who is praying with you and for you?
  • Do you have a clear, compelling, growing picture of God’s Kingdom in your mind?

Who are the people God is calling you to?  Because Jesus was very clear on this.  He came to seek and save the lost, and he started with the Children of Israel, gathered about 120 who followed him, and focused on a dozen.  Who are your people?

What are the evils that beset them?  Jesus knew this quite clearly.  He dealt directly with evil spirits and also addressed the systematic evils that accompanied poverty, illness, injustice, and oppression.  He confronted those in positions of political power, but he was especially direct in addressing the burdens brought on by the legalistic demands of the Pharisees and the empty religious ritual of the Sadducees. What’s destroying your people? What is good news to them?  What would God’s will being done and God’s Kingdom coming among your people look like?

How are you responding to God’s invitation?  Are you seeking God? Are you seeking guidance?  If the works of God are required to address the evils being faced by your people, are you going about it in God’s way according to God’s word?  Basically, are you engaging the evil that is besetting your people in a way that looks like Jesus way?

Are you in community? Jesus didn’t do it alone.  He invited 12 others to do it with him.  If you are seeking to represent Jesus by yourself, it’s just a matter of time before you’ll be picked off.  Do what it takes to get into community.

Who is praying with you and for you?  It’s not enough to be with others.  We need to be with others who will come before God on our behalf.  Who’s doing that with you and for you?

Do you have a clear, compelling, growing picture of God’s Kingdom in your mind?  If not, ask God to give that to you and dig into God’s Word.  (A good place to start is – Genesis 1 and 2, and Revelation 21 and 22.)  That’s where the story starts and gives you and idea of how it will end.  It’s a good idea to align your desires for your people and your place with the will and work of God!  Without it, some tough adjustments will be coming.

Blessings on the journey!

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Gatherings Thru the End of the Year

  • Next worship gathering – November 4, 2018 @ 6:45PM at the St. John’s Room at FCC.
  • Prayer Service for Healing for the Nation: November 17 – Nicholl’s Barn 6:30pm
  • Wednesday Night Huddle: Weekly meetings ending in January.
  • Thursday Night Huddle: One month underway.  Contact pastorjessealexander@gmail.com to learn more.
  • Last organized worship gathering for 2018: December 1, 2018 @ 6:45pm.  Check back here to verify location.

 

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Be Equipped and Encouraged for Life on Mission

This Sunday night – 6:45 in the St. Johns Room of Faith Community Church, we’ll be commissioning a group that is going to Costa Rica and we’ll be looking at II Corinthians 5.  I hope you can be there.
For many of us, the idea of shalom is so compelling.  We want to see shalom – wholeness, peace, things restored and set right –  breaking out everywhere.  It’s God’s work and we want to be a part of it.  We want to see things set right with people, especially those we love, in they way they relate with others, with work, health, and provision, with themselves, and especially with God.  And God invites us into this work of restoration and reconciliation.
But in order to do that which God calls us to do, we have to become who God is calling us to be.  It may be a truism, but the inability to change prevents growth.  Maybe you’ve heard the cliche, “If you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you got.”  We must change.  But how?
This growth I am talking about is something God does and we participate. The good news is God is delighted to shape us for his calling, to form us by sending us into situations which lead to our transformation. We become what we aren’t. It’s not easy. It’s not safe. But it’s good!
This Sunday night – 6:45 in the St. Johns Room of Faith Community Church, we’ll be looking at II Corinthians 5.  I hope you can be there.
Four more things:
  1. We spent a bit of time at Wednesday Night Huddle talking about what God may be calling us to do in light of Hurricane Michael.  After prayer, Nicholl shared a sense that God is saying “Feed my sheep.” And Heather shared yesterday’s verse of the day related to caring for a brother/sister in need.  I shared news and advice from aa friend on the scene who is in PC rebuilding  that now is not the time for unskilled volunteer teams in this disaster.  We also discussed that it’s probably not time for a group of us to physically go help – although that may come later – but for now, we feel a need to send money and are discerning  specifically where to send it.  (We have an idea but want to be open to God’s lead – so if you have a sense, please share).  So our task right now is to pray and pay attention.  Know that we would like to send some money soon.
  1. To get you thinking, here’s a link to the NY Times article that my boss shared about the house that survived and what happened to the area around it.  Wondering what God may be calling us to do.  If the link doesn’t work, here’s the URL:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/14/us/hurricane-michael-florida-mexico-beach-house.html
  1. We’ll be holding a prayer service for the healing of our nation on October 17.  Until then, please read, pray, think, and prepare to vote.  If you get the chance to talk about politics, please do so in such a way that respects others and shows you are not afraid of the outcome for you hope is in the Lord.
  2. Finally, worship this Sunday is pretty significant.  We’ll be commissioning Norma, Andrew, and Nicholl for their trip to Costa Rica.  I’m hoping we have a good number.  Please let me know if you can be there.

I’m looking forward to the season ahead.

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