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(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!
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.”
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.”
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!
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
- Last organized worship gathering for 2018: December 1, 2018 @ 6:45pm. Check back here to verify location.
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:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Six years ago, I sat down with a friend who had planted a couple of churches and told him that in my next season of ministry I was thinking of starting a church.
“What will your church be about?” He said.
“What I want to do is build a church focused on developing deeply surrendered disciples of Jesus.” I was glad he asked.
“The trouble is, Jesse, I don’t really know what that is. Can you tell me what that is?”
I provided a bunch of words, a number of activities, and a heap of superlatives. But the more I talked, the more confused he looked. And I was talking with a pastor. I had to admit, what I was saying wasn’t clear to him because it wasn’t clear to me.
My friend told me, “I don’t think you can do that because you don’t really know what you want to do.”
The truth hurts. And the truth helps. A year later, still before starting LoveFirst Coast, I was able to say with much more clarity what we were going to be doing, how we were going to do it, and how we’d know if we were making progress. We have kept trying and learning. What we are about has continued to grow clearer.
Here’s the latest iteration on what we’re doing in terms of mission, strategy, and goal.
Mission: Our mission is to be a part of God’s mission. We recognize that our church doesn’t really have, doesn’t really own a mission. The mission belongs to God and God’s mission has a church. God is at work making all things new. Also, there is only so much we can do and so much only God can do. In his grace, God allows us to be a part of it! This means we have to stay close to God. We have to pray and pay attention. The mission unfolds as we walk with God. If we neglect our relationship with God and with one another, we’ll miss it.
Strategy: Our strategy is to adopt Jesus’ strategy. The strategy that Jesus focused on was to equip a small group of people, teaching them how to live like he did. The word for this is discipleship. There is much misunderstanding about discipleship. We have found Dallas Willard’s definition is very helpful. Discipleship is learning from Jesus how to live like Jesus. It’s about imitating Jesus and to help others do the same. Jesus discipled twelve guys until they could imitate him. After a season, he empowered them and authorized them to represent him and to help others to the same. They received the promise of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus sent them (and still sends them) out to do the same things they had seen him do. They were equipped and motivated to be disciples who could make more.
Putting mission and strategy together, you get this: At LoveFirst Coast we want to be a part of God’s mission by learning to imitate Christ and helping others do the same.
We also have a goal. And as both the mission and strategy belong to God so too does the goal. Most churches adopt something they want to address, like developing programs that attract young families. Their goal (usually) is to grow the church younger to keep it going. Not a bad goal. Good things happen when that’s the goal. But such a goal is just very small – worthy of a swim and racquet club, maybe, but not worthy of the church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ goal was big and straightforward. He told his disciples that the church, his church, would prevail against the very gates of hell. Hell, Jesus implied, would be no match for the church. But we see it hanging around in our city. If you live here, you probably see it, too. And I hope you see God’s Kingdom advancing as well. Let me say a little more.
First, by hell, I’m not suggesting a fiery dungeon of punishment led by a foreboding figure with a mask and red cape. I speaking of something more in keeping with our daily experience. Hell is on display at any place, in any relationship, and in any organization where the will of God is thwarted, ignored, or discarded.
Hell seeks to negate heaven and where hell is prevailing, you see broken relationships, divorce, poverty, despair, ignorance, division, factions, distrust, violence, and fear. This is not okay with Jesus, and it’s not okay for us to ignore it, either. Where hell prevails, you see addiction, abuse, broken families, unemployment, fear, hopelessness, and crime. When hell prevails in a family, marriages get cold and bitter, parents abuse and neglect children, leaving them wounded and raising themselves, and grandparents are forgotten, left to grieve and die alone. When hell prevails in a church or neighborhood, community is lost. People get divided, suspicious, and isolated by generation, race, politics, and personal preference. When hell prevails in the halls of justice and government, cynicism, suspicion, and factions dominate. Resources get horded. Needs get neglected. The common good is supplanted by greed. When hell prevails in a city, people begin to live in fear, afraid to connect, to speak, to create, and to share. Crime grows. Neighborhoods, even whole zip codes become too dangerous to go out in alone. When hell prevails, work places become dehumanizing and fear based. Beauty is corrupted. Honor is torn down. Truth is twisted. Virtue is mocked. It’s not okay with Jesus. This is not how he wants things to go in the world he loves. When hell prevails in a heart, isolation sets in. The suffering and hardship of others is ignored, explained away, even dismissed. When hell prevails, people lose sight of the truth. They begin to disbelieve in God, or worse to believe terrible things about him. And they begin to believe terrible, false, enslaving things about themselves, about others, and about the world. Hope fades. Joy is lost. Faith shrinks. Love grows cold. When hell prevails in a church (and it happens) people can become deceived, cold, selfish, afraid, and ineffective in the battle against the gates of hell. It is not okay with Jesus that hell prevails anywhere.
And it won’t. Hell won’t prevail when and where the Church of Jesus operates in the love, grace, and power of God. And as Jesus’ Church overcomes hell’s gates, God’s Kingdom is advances. What will that look like?
Where God’s Kingdom advances, people are valued, loved, and remembered. As God’s Kingdom advances, children are loved, wanted, noticed, educated, cherished. Parents give and receive grace. Generations support and encourage one another, care for one another, serve one another in good times and bad. Grandparents are remembered and celebrated in love. Marriages are held in honor, protected, encouraged, and sustained. As God’s kingdom advances, unity breaks out and conversations are marked by kindness, grace and truth spoken in love. Racial and ethnic perspectives are valued, too. Differences are celebrated. People – all people – are valued and appreciated. Men and women work together in unity, in trust, and in purity, encouraging and protecting one another, honoring one another’s commitments, learning to live as brothers and sisters should. The differences people bring (and each of us is unique) are valued, celebrated, and appreciated. Each person’s gifts are released for service according to God’s work in their lives. In God’s Kingdom, the resources God has graciously entrusted to us are shared, wisely managed, and provide more than enough. In God’s Kingdom, work has meaning and purpose, and the workplace is a place of thriving, of provision, and of living out our callings. Work itself grows constructive, dignifying, joy-giving, more noble, and worthy. In God’s kingdom, families are places where family members are celebrated and built up. It is where virtue is affirmed, sin is confessed, forgiveness is granted, grace abounds. It is a place for the healing of bodies, hearts, minds, souls. Moreover, it is a place of healing for families, neighborhoods, churches, cities, and the nations. As God’s Kingdom advances, faith is sustained, hope is renewed, beauty is revealed, and love grows warm. People know, each person knows, that they matter to others and matter to God.
It’s not just an idea. God’s Kingdom is an advancing reality ushered in by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God, the maker of heaven and earth. If you ever pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, you’ve prayed for it: “…Your Kingdom come; Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
So that’s our goal. To phrase it directly. We want to see hell kicked out of Jacksonville and see the Kingdom of God advancing in power, here!
So let me summarize.
At LoveFirst Coast this is what were about: We want to be a part of God’s mission by learning to imitate Christ and helping others do the same until the Church of Jesus prevails and God’s Kingdom is revealed in every square inch of our city.
How about you? That line up with anything you are up to? If so, we’re rowing in the same direction!
If you want to be equipped and encouraged for your part of God’s mission here, come join us for a worship gathering. Our next one is October 7 at 6:30 pm at 320 S Buck Board, 32259.
At LoveFirst Coast, we are all about equipping and encouraging people to live life on mission. Without an awareness of the depth of God’s grace extended to us, it is pretty much impossible to sustain an effective mission. How are you with grace? Are you aware of your own sin, of your own need for God, of your own inability to be the person you wish you could be?
It tends to be the “prodigals” who easily understand grace. Those who’ve hurt or rebelled against the people who loved them,who’ve wasted the best gifts of their lives in “wild living.” Those are the ones who readily appreciate grace and accept it gladly. It’s the “elder brother” types, those who’ve spent their lives trying to do everything right who have the hardest time accepting grace. They work hard. They try hard. They figure they have approval. So often, they can be acutely aware of the (sometimes imagined and exaggerated) shortcomings of the prodigal that they don’t even know how to acknowledge their own sin, failings, and limits that point to a deep need for grace.
God’s mission is grace oriented. If we don’t get grace, we can’t begin to understand God’s mission, let alone our part in it.
Pastor and author Tim Keller once said “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Which of those truths is harder for you to accept? Why do you think that’s the case?
Which can you identify with better – the prodigal or the elder brother? How hard is it for you to accept grace for yourself? How hard is it for you to show it to others?
With a deep and steady awareness of grace, it becomes possible for us to represent Jesus well. And the world around us needs that! This Sunday we’ll look at one of the best know stories in the Bible and consider how to respond. I hope you can be with us. Come and find some encouragement and equipping for life on mission this Sunday night at 6:45 in the St. Johns Room at FCC (3450 CR210, 32259).
What do you think God may be saying to you about his grace? What will you do about it?