Love Your Neighbor

Love your neighbor!  But how?  The Wehmeiers are stepping opening their home this Sunday in an effort to learn more about that
Three things!
1) The prayer request: This coming Sunday morning, Kent and Kris Wehmeier are opening up their home and hoping to invite some neighbors in.  When Heather and I did that last Easter, it was a challenge for us.  Please pray for open doors for Kent and Kris, for easy conversations, and for the Lord to encourage them by moving neighbors to say yes and show up, and for discernment about how the Lord is leading them further into loving their neighbors!
2) Information about Sunday.  Gather at 10:00am at 258 Conquistador Rd, 32259.  We’ll be doing this “Good Friday Style”, patterned after our Good Friday sunrise gatherings.  So bring breakfasty/brunchy food to share. Come ready to spend time with friends while welcoming and meeting people you may not know.  We’ll sing a few worship songs and I’ll share a short message.  (No food thread this time.)
3) Your Part: Come join us if you can and Pray.  You may have to skip your regular worship service, but adjust your schedule to come to the Wehmeier’s if you can! Your being there will encourage Kent and Kris and their neighbors.
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Worship Gathering Moved to Saturday

Late notice, but we have an opportunity this Saturday evening to spend time with our friends Hollman and Carellia Mendoza.  To take advantage of the opportunity, we’re going to move our gathering to Saturday night we’ll meet at the Wehmeier’s (258 Conquistator, 32259).  We’ll enjoy a meal, fellowship, and learning more about what the Lord is doing through Vida Joven in Nicaragua.
I anticipate gathering to begin around 6:00pm, but details are still being firmed up.  Let us know If you plan to join us, and we’ll add you to the food thread and fill you in on the time.
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Worship Gathering Sunday Night

This Sunday night, let’s gather for worship at 6pm at the Alexander house, 320 S. Buck Board Dr, 32259.  Let us know if you are coming and we’ll include you in the food thread!
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Happy New Year, Everybody!  God is good!

In my news feed this week, I came across stories about the religious lives of young people.  One was about bright, well read, well connected students in elite schools who lack basic knowledge of the Christian faith.  I read another about a widespread, growing interest in astrology among millenials.  Still another story was about the aging and decline of the church. And finally, one was about science verses religion.  Mixed in it all is widespread anxiety over climate change, war, and politics. Oh, and they aren’t seeking solace by attending the church.
Jesus looked at the crowds and told the disciples.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the field.”  So how do we share the good news of the gospel and make disciples in this culture?  But I’ve learned that the hard supernatural part is up to  God.  And, not to suggest it’s easy, but our part is about as natural as going to work with friends.
This Sunday night, we’ll talk about it.  I hope you can be with us.

God is good.
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Prayer and Fasting Monday

(Next Community Meal and Worship Gathering – 1/12/20 – 6pm.  Place TBD)

Some of us are fasting this Monday.  Here is some guidance if you’d like to join in…

1) Choose a focus for prayer.  For Monday, I have asked people to focus the day on asking God to direct our next steps and to reveal how, where, and to whom he is calling us. This could be for personal guidance or for LoveFirst Coast.  However, you can customize the focus for your prayer for whatever is on your heart.

2) Have a plan.  It helps!  I plan to fast from food from after dinner on Sunday night to before dinner on Monday night.  That’s usually about 24 hours.  There are other ways to fast.  Feel free to be creative and practical.  Find something that works for you.  Refrain from some form of appetite, for example news, movies, talk radio, social media,  going out for lunch, buying sodas, etc.  One time, I cut out dairy and sugar – I really missed them!  Every time I went for coffee or craved a cookie, I prayed instead.   (A side note: drawing from what Jesus taught, I think it’s important that our fasting doesn’t create work or present a challenge for those around us.)

3) Do it in community.  Fasting alone is fine, but whenever I have fasted at a time I know others are fasting, it has helped me stay on track.  The times I’ve been able to be in touch with others through the day were even better.  If you’d like to be a part of a fasting text group, just let me know, and I’ll include you.  We can encourage each other through the day that way.

Let me know!  I look forward to knowing God a little better as a result.

Also, 40 Days of Prayer starts January 12 using Draw the Circle.  We have several folks who are already planning to be involved.  Let me know if you’d like to be one of us!  You can order a book or pick one up from me.

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Prayer and Fasting to Start the Year

Upcoming dates:

  • January 6: Day of Prayer and Fasting
  • January 12 – 6pm: Worship Gathering
  • January 12: 1st day of the 40 Day Prayer Challenge
  • January 26 – 10am: Worship Gathering
  • February 7-8 – Underground Open – Tampa, FL
  • February 21-23 – LFC Retreat – Fargo, GA

“The Son can do nothing by himself.  He can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (John 5:19) 

In the stories of Jesus, we often find him praying spontaneously.  On the other hand, we find him very intentionally setting aside time for prayer, often early in the morning and sometimes all night.  He habitually spent time with the Father but at times of starting new things or transitioning, he seemed to add to that habit.  He would strategically take extra time to prayer and sometimes to fast.   It’s safe to say that Jesus knew what his was mission was about and was skilled at executing it, but that didn’t stop him from dedicating time to prayer.

What was he doing in those times of prayer.  If you pay attention to what happens after he prayed, it’s clear he was seeking direction.  He seemed to take time  in the presence of his Father to reflect on what was happening, who was with him, and where he was.  From his own words, he was seeking to see what the Father was doing and that was part of discerning next steps.  Some of those steps were significant redirections.  He left crowds, (John 6:15), withdrew (Mark 1:38), or engaged (John 11) based on what he saw the Father doing.  

The beginning of a new year is a good time for us reflect on what has been happening in the presence of the Father.  It is a natural time to look back over the previous season, to seek the Lord, and to ask him to direct our next steps, to reveal how, where, and to whom He is calling us.

So I want to invite you to join me in imitating Jesus at the start of the year with a day of prayer and fasting on January 6.  (That’s a first day back to work for many.)

And I want to invite you to take part in the 40 Day Prayer Challenge beginning with Day 1 on January 12.  We’ll use Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle Book again, and with that start date, we should wrap up the prayer challenge just in time for our February retreat.  A lot of us already have a copy of the book, but if you’d like a new book you can order one from Amazon or just let me know – we have a few spare copies to give away.

In our time together, we have found that prayer and fasting are helpful under any conditions – but the experience is richer when done in community.  So if you want to join us, let me know and we’ll connect you to a texting group that on the prayer and fasting journey through text.

Our Next worship gatherings – Sunday, Jan 12, 6-8pm (place tbd) and Sun Jan 26, 10-12am at the Wehmeiers.

Underground Open in Ybor City –  Friday-Saturday Feb 7-8.  A group of us are going to learn about micro churches and missional living from Tampa Underground.  Cost is $79 for registration.  If you decide to go, let us know.  Some of us are getting together on lodging.  It’d be cool to have you with us or close by.

LFC Retreat is February 21-23 at the ECO Lodge in Fargo, GA.  This year we’ll focus on the sacraments and the connections between the sacramental life and missional living.  The retreat is already paid for except for food – and we all pitch in for that.  We’ll just need to know ahead of time that you plan to be there, and we’ll coordinate.

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The Grace of the Pivot

Recently, I preached a sermon and wrote a blog post called “Failing to Understand Success”.    It’s a play on words.   We get a better sense of what success in God’s Kingdom really is by failing.  It’s so tempting to believe we can go forth and accomplish good things for God.  That’s a common – albeit flawed –  missional line of thinking.

Jesus really meant what he said in John 15.  He’s the vine.  We’re the branches.  Apart from him we can do nothing.  Nothing is really not very much.  Because God loves us, our attempts to do great things for God result in many frustrated efforts and missed goals.  God created us to be in a right relationship with himself.  To achieve “success” without God would miss the point of walking with God.  But personally, I am so stubborn that if I feel like I’m succeeding at things, I’ll just keep pressing on and will probably grow prideful in the process.  Allowing me to fail is like a tool God employs to humble me and draw me back to a place of depending on him.  I am grateful.

But what do we do when the moments of failure arrive?

I find it’s tempting, (and easy) to freeze and do nothing.  Actually, we can even rationalize doing nothing by calling it “waiting on God.”  God does call us to wait, but in the waiting, we’re still called to put forth effort.  But toward what?

It’s tempting in another way to assume that if we failed at one thing, we should just go back to doing something that worked previously.  For example, if I trying to get people to come to a Bible study through incarnational contact work and fail miserably, I’ll just give up and advertise in the paper to see who shows up.   Knowing what has worked in the past does have value.  It’s great to be able to pull out a tried and proven idea – and “it” might work.  But I would encourage seeking missional solutions to missional problems, to depend less on “it” and more on God.

Just as a reminder, by missional, I mean that God has a mission and sweeps us into it.   It’s God’s mission and ultimately the success or failure of the mission is on God.  The mission’s outcome is not on us.

So, when we fail, rather than freezing or going back to old ideas, we can pivot to something better by putting the responsibility for the mission’s success back on God.  Don’t just freeze. Turn.  Go back to God and ask him what his mission is for this place, people, and time.

Do you remember the Kairos Circle – the Learning Circle?  The central skill for the learning circle is discerning when God is near.  When God comes near, we repent, which involves turning, or pivoting,  from our planned path to pay attention to discern how God is leading and what God is saying.  I have found that when I encounter frustration and failure, going back to that circle helps.  I have also discovered that God is near during the difficult times.  Have you encountered a difficulty in mission?   God was there.   Good news. That was almost certainly a kairos moment, a time when God had come near.  So it’s time to do some work to answer two questions:  What is God saying?  What will you do about it?

First step.  Make observations:  What exactly were we trying to do?  What do I observe about the frustration, roadblock, or failure?  What happened?  Who was involved?  What have I been learning through scripture, circumstances, and the church?  How have I been feeling?  Why?  What were other involved saying?  What were they learning?  What was going on in their lives?  Recently, I hit a road block in leading the Wednesday night group.  I had a nice plan for reaching out in my neighborhood and when I helped form the group it was, in part, to get a community organized for that mission.  They were supportive and willing.  We actually did a little neighborhood praying and connecting.  But as a group, we began to be limited by health problems, family challenges, distance apart, and time.  And really, God pulled this group together for those things.  We needed each other.  Building relationships in a neighborhood takes time and consistency and we couldn’t get a rhythm going.  I could have pushed through, but when a leader does that, the leader can often end up walking alone!  That kind of defeats the community part of missional community.  So I choose to try to pivot.

Second step: Reflect: What ties the observations together?  What do they mean?  As I reflected on the observations above, it struck me that we have more natural concern for the next generation than for our neighbors.  We are pretty well connected in the community, and several of us have experiences with Young Life. It just so happens that Young Life in our area needs support.

Third step: Discuss and Pray: Talk it over with the people who’ll be involved.  At our last meeting, we talked about how to move forward with mission.  Ahead of that, I’d had some formal and informal conversations about this with group members.  We are at a place where we need an “Out” – a dedicated direction for mission.  I still haven’t given up on reaching out to my neighbors, but that’s gone in a different direction and now involves a different group of people altogheter  (That’s another pivot story).

Fourth Step: Ask: What is God saying about himself, about us, or about our relationship with him?  Well, I believe God cares about kids.  I believe he’s heard our prayers for our kids and their friends.  We’ve been praying for them for years.  God has been opening doors for Young Life in this area – I believe his hand is in that!  Finally, I believe God is saying he cares about kids a lot, and he’s telling us that we are here to be a part of expressing his love to the next generation.

So what will we do?  We’ve already started.  We’re praying for Young Life.  We’re encouraging the Young Life Area Director, and we’re making plans to raise financial support.

That’s what a pivot looks like.  What will we do, though, if we fail?  Hmm.  Pivot again.

I find a lot of grace there – in these pivoting moments.  I find grace because, often, flowing out of these failures, I get to learn more of the height, width, depth, and breadth of the love of God.

But what if we fail really bad?

Well, if the failure is really big, God’s grace is bigger still!

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End of 2019 Announcements

A few things we think you may want to know before 2020!
Giving: If you’d like to make a donation to LoveFirst Coast before the end of the year, try to get it to Rita in the next week or so. You mail a check payable to LoveFirst Coast  (or FCMC), 252 Bridgeport Lane, Elkton, FL 32033, or you can use bill-payer to the address above with the phone number 904-826-1530.
Next Gathering – Christmas Party at the Alexanders December 21 – 6pm to 8pm.  Bring finger food!  Expect singing!
Our Next worship gatherings – Sunday, Jan 12, 6-8pm (place tbd) and Sun Jan 26, 10-12am at the Wehmeiers.  
 
Underground Open in Ybor City –  Friday-Saturday Feb 7-8.  A group of us are going to learn about micro churches and missional living from Tampa Underground.  Cost is $79 for registration.  If you decide to go, let us know.  Some of us are getting together on lodging.  It’d be cool to have you with us or close by.   
 
LFC Retreat is February 21-23 at the ECO Lodge in Fargo, GA.  This year we’ll focus on the sacraments and the connection between sacrament and missional living.  The retreat is already paid for except for food – and we all pitch in for that.  We just need to know you’ll be coming.
 
Fund Raiser Sarah Alexander and two of her friends are raising funds and awareness creatively to do something about human trafficking.  She wanted to let people know last night at our worship gathering, but didn’t get the chance.  If you’d like to help Sarah raise funds and learn more about something that stirred up her heart, check out The Dress Quest.
The Lord is good and worthy of praise!
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