Happy Father’s Day

You know I’d like to come to the First Coast on Father’s Day weekend?

How about John the Baptist?

Here’s something prophesied about him in Luke 1:17  “And he will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Lord, we could use some of that around here!

One sign of the Kingdom of God being ushered into a place is that fathers will have hearts stirred up with love for their kids!  There are some great dads here on the First Coast who love their kids really well  – but too many dads are absent, distant, or distracted – and many kids don’t even know their dads.  That is at the heart of many of our challenges.

Some of us are going to gather to pray for fathers (among other things) tomorrow night.    Would you do me a favor?  Wherever you are – whenever you are reading this – would you mind taking a few minutes, thinking of the dads you know, and asking God to stir up their hearts to love their kids.

May the Lord bless you and keep you and give you shalom!

 

 

Posted in Discipleship | Leave a comment

One Thing to Change Everything

Worship Gathering this Sunday (June 2)  at 6:45pm in the St. Johns Room at Faith Community Church (3450 CR210, 32259).

What if there was this one thing, and if you were intentional about this one thing, you would have more passion for mission, greater love for your neighbors, a richer walk with God, a deeper connection with the people you live with, and greater strength to resist temptation?

It’s just one thing.

Jesus operated with a steady awareness of it.  And it wasn’t actually something he had to do, but it was something he was intentional about eliminating from his life.  And we can, too.  But it is very much contrary to the American way of life.

We would be more at peace with one another if we learned it.  Facebook would be a much different place.  People would be less tempted to pass on fake news, less tempted to write people off, less threatened by contrary arguments, and frankly, kinder.

American Christians are often much less attentive to this one thing, but our churches would be different, too.

Back in 2002, John Ortberg called his mentor, Dallas Willard, who was the head of the philosophy department at the University of Southern California to ask for some spiritual direction.  (Wouldn’t it be cool to have a mentor like that?)  Here’s what it their conversation looked like:

I described the pace of life in my current ministry. The church where I serve tends to move at a fast clip. I also told him about our rhythms of family life: we are in the van-driving, soccer-league, piano-lesson, school-orientation-night years. I told him about the present condition of my heart, as best I could discern it. What did I need to do, I asked him, to be spiritually healthy?

Long pause.

“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” he said at last.

Another long pause.

“Okay, I’ve written that one down,” I told him, a little impatiently. “That’s a good one. Now what else is there?” I had many things to do, and this was a long-distance call, so I was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.

Another long pause.

“There is nothing else,” he said. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

I’ve concluded that my life and the well-being of the people I serve depends on following his prescription, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry destroys souls. As Carl Jung wrote, “Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.”

For most of us, the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.

“Settling for a mediocre version of our faith.”  That challenges me.  Anyone who has felt the call to live life on mission is probably repelled by the notion of settling for mediocrity.  And I know he’s right.  Whenever I have had to hurry, my effectiveness in mission and ministry has been diminished.  I bet mediocrity is not acceptable to you.

I also know it’s hard.  I’ve tried to eliminate hurry from my life.  Everything seems to push against it.  And so much is at stake.

I can’t remember when I heard it, but you can’t love people in a hurry very well.   The scriptures teach us that love is patient: patience, by definition, takes time.

I see it very clearly as I try to live life on mission.  The more I have to do, the less time I have for relationship.  We’ve lived in the same neighborhood for twelve years now.  Over those twelve years, I’ve had greater and lesser connection to my neighbors, greater and lesser effectiveness in mission here.   The effectiveness correlates very closely with how much hurry I had in my life.  Not long ago, I stopped serving as the associate pastor at Sawgrass Chapel.  A driving motivation behind that decision was to create margin to have more time for ministry and mission in my neighborhood.  Sawgrass Chapel wasn’t a demanding place to serve.  But I’ve felt called to my neighbors.  After some time of discernment, I knew that if I was to answer this call to my neighborhood, I would need to say no to Sawgrass Chapel.   it was the one thing on my plate that seemed to crowd out space for other things.   And doors are starting to open!

Through the scriptures, the voice of God both commands and invites us to, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  So much is at stake.  So much is available to us.   A little more from Ortberg:  “If you want to follow someone, you can’t go faster than the one who is leading; following Jesus cannot be done at a sprint. Jesus was often busy but he was never hurried. Being busy is an outer condition; being hurried is a sickness of the soul.”

What are you doing Sunday night?  Slow down.  Come join us for worship.  Let us consider together how to might encourage one another to follow Jesus.  We are gathering for worship at 6:45 at Faith Community Church.  I hope you can be with us.  Come and be equipped and encouraged for life on mission.

Excerpts from “Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry,” Leadership Jornal, 2002 and available at ChristianityToday.com

Posted in Discipleship, Worship Gathering | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

For Life on Mission – Eat Together!

Jesus loved dinner time!  He was always sharing meals – with friends, family, disciples, strangers, tax-gathers, sinners, and even enemies.  He loved eating with people!
This coming Sunday night (May 19) at 6pm at the Alexander house you are invited to a cookout so that we can “…consider how to stir one another up to love and good deeds.”  (Heb 10:24)
We’ll do more than eat. We’ll talk.  We’ll sing.  We’ll share.  We’ll pray for one another.  We’ll have dessert!  I bet there will be laughter.  Tears are a good possibility, too, though.  We’ll do what we can to listen with love and then to pray for one another.
If you cannot make it – please pray for us!
If you CAN make it – please let us know you are coming and we’ll include you in the
communication about food coordination.  (You can send an email pastorjessealexander@gmail.com or text 904-599-2889.)
Hope to see you there.  If you don’t have a community that gathers to eat and encourage one another, I pray that you find one.  Because the mission God has called you to matters, and it’s hard to stay on course without a supportive community!
May the Lord bless you on the journey!
Posted in Discipleship, missional living | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Productive Suffering?

  • May 5 – Worship Gathering (6:45pm @ Faith Community Church 3450 CR210, 32259)

In 53 years of weekly church attendance, I’ve heard a lot of sermons on how to have a happy life, but not too many on the certainty of suffering. Maybe I wasn’t listening carefully enough – because Jesus promised his disciples that we would have trouble (John 16:33). Suffering is a given for a follower of Jesus. To borrow from Princes Bride, “Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

But for the Christ follower, persevering down the path of suffering leads to some really fantastic gifts, like wisdom, compassion, character, and hope.  Few things clarify our understanding of the love of Jesus, the faithfulness of God, and the coming Kingdom of God like persevering through suffering.  Though suffering may be inevitable, the other gifts and clarity about the Kingdom are invaluable. No one lasts on long on mission without hope.  No one truly blesses the world without compassion.  No one loves another sinner without knowing the love of Jesus.  What suffering produces are essential resources for life on mission.  In the face of trouble and difficulty, where does your hope come from?

Let’s work on that together.  This Sunday night, we’ll gather for worship at 6:45 in the St. Johns Room at Faith Community Church (3450 CR210, 32259).  May the Lord bless you as you follow him!

  • May 19 – Dinner Together (6:00pm at the Alexanders 320 S. Buck Board Dr, 32259)  Place TBD)
  • June 2 – Worship Gathering
  • June 23 – Dinner Together
Posted in Discipleship, missional living | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in holy week, missional living, Worship Gathering | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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.

 

Posted in Discipleship | Leave a comment

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.

###

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?

 

 

Posted in Discipleship, missional living | Leave a comment