Gathering Next Sunday Night

Have you ever noticed that our God loves to do great works through small things?   Zechariah 4:10 warns us not to despise the day of small things, because “‘It’s not by might, and not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord!”
 
Next week we’ll gather to share a meal at 6:00 and worship and pray together afterward.  
We’ll be having grilled pork.
Let us know if you are coming and we’ll coordinate food!
 
Hope to see you next Sunday.  Put the following dates in your calendar so we can be together.
Because it’s a lot easier to do all those “one another” commands when we get together
 
  • Sunday, Oct 27 – 6-8pm – Gathering place to be determined
  • Sunday, Nov 3 – 6-8pm Healing Prayer at Nicholl’s Barn
  • Saturday, Nov 9 – 9:00-1:00 Half Day Retreat at the Bays
  • Sunday, Nov 17 – 6-8pm Gathering (place to be determined)
  • Sunday, Dec 8 – 6-8pm Gathering at the Tabers
  • Dec 20 or 21 – 6-8pm Party
  • Discipleship Groups and Bible Studies are on-going.  Stop by a gathering to learn more.
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Upcoming Events

Here are some dates to put on your calendar.  If you want to host one of the gatherings, send an email.

Missional Community Gatherings:  Throughout the New Testament, you will find the phrase “one another”:  love one another,  pray for one another, be kind and compassionate to one another, encourage one another,  etc.  We can’t do these one- another things alone.  They require community, and community requires spending time together.  We encourage people to spend time with each other two ways: 1) coming to organized events.  2) just getting together organically.  The organized gatherings are a great way to start, and a great way to come into the community.  We typically get together in an organized way twice a month in order to “spur one another on to love and good deeds…” (Hebrews 10:24-25)  If you’d like to be a part, let us know!  

  • Sunday, Oct 13 – 6-8pm – Gathering at the Alexanders
  • Sunday, Oct 27 – 6-8pm – Gathering
  • Saturday Nov 2 – 6-8pm Healing Prayer at Nicholl’s Barn
  • Saturday, Nov 9 – 9:00-1:00 Half Day Retreat at the Bays
  • Sunday, Nov 17 – 6-8pm Gathering
  • Sunday, Dec 8 – 6-8pm Gathering
  • Dec 20 or 21 – 6-8pm Party
  • Discipleship Groups and Bible Studies are on-going.  Stop by a gathering to learn more.

Threshold Crossing Opportunities  Jesus would often pull his disciples out of their daily routine and lead them to a place and time where he could let them know more about who he was.  Breakthrough often resulted – and the disciples saw the world differently.  That’s why we encourage and recommend retreats, mission trips, and time at camp.  We get out of our routine and see Jesus differently than we did before.  There are several upcoming events.  If you feel Jesus is inviting you, maybe now is a good time to respond!

  • Oct 17-20: Womens Great Banquet
  • Nov 7-10: Mens Great Banquet
  • Feb 21-23: LFC Retreat @ ECO Lodge

Opportunities to Serve

  •      w/ Young Life – see Jesse, Nicholl, or Tom
  •      w/ an Evangelistic Outreach team around Jacskonville – see Nicholl
  •      w/ Teen Moms and Babies through Young Lives – see Lee or Rita
  •      w/ Grieving Families -see Norma
  •      w/ Special Needs Kids & Families – see Heather
  •      in Nocatee – see Tom or Barbara
  •      on the 210 Area – see Sara or Brandon
  •      in Julington Creek – see Jesse or Heather

Prayer Focus

  • For us to grow more deeply aware of how Jesus touches every aspect of our life.
  • For us to grow in our ability to speak the truths of Jesus into one another’s lives.
  • For Christ, who lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, to do something in us and through us wherever we find ourselves.

Hurricane Dorian Update

At one of our gatherings a few weeks ago, we talked about how to help with relief in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian.  You can read about that here.  But we decided to send some money.  As of today, we’ve sent $2555 to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM.ORG).  We chose that route mainly because they work through churches in the affected areas that are a part of the relief effort.  We did something similar after Hurricane Michael.  If you want to give, here’s a link to their Dorian Relief Page.

Something to Think On

“If we are to help one another grow up into Christ in every way, we need to learn how to speak the truths of Christ into everything – every aspect of life, every situation we face, and every issue we address.” Gospel Fluency, Jeff Vanderstelt.

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“So we see Jesus living Up-In-and-Out, and we’ll be trying to do the same…”

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Dinner and Worship Sunday Night

(This Sunday night, we’ll be at the Wehmeier’s (258 ConquistadorRoad) for dinner and worship from 6:00 to 8:0.  How to see you there!)

Maybe I spent too much time in seminary, but one of my favorite words is atonement. I have found that understanding what Jesus has done and is doing essential for sustaining hope and living with courage for life on mission – and we tend to make it narrow – but Jesus’ atoning work has changed and is changing everything!

And how does the atonement connect to the gospel? to the good news of Jesus Christ?  to the good news that God’s Kingdom has come near?

Let me know if you’re coming (email pastorjessealexander@gmail.com) so we can share preparation for food and responsibilities for our worship time!  Looking forward to seeing you there!

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This is my email to our people:

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Good Evening, everyone!

I am grateful for our conversation last night and the shared wisdom about ways to help provide relief to the Bahamas.  We want to help and be wise stewards, seeking the better paths to bring relief to those in need.  Some of us have been a part of disaster relief efforts that were well-meaning but wasteful (and sometimes obstructive) in getting relief to those in need.  This is how we have decided to proceed:

If you want to help financially

1)  We decided to make a donation as a church to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.   (Click on the link to learn more.)  We felt that the active presence of Nazarene churches and missions in the affected areas would be strategic, God glorifying, and consistent with our value of being a blessing to local churches.  If you have friends who are wondering about ways to help, that’s a good direction to point them  – or you can have them make checks to Love First Coast and get it to me before Wednesday morning (the 11th).

2) We also wanted to make you aware of a cool thing that Royal Caribbean Cruise lines is offering.  With its many logistical resources, along with its corporate and personnel connections to the region, it is well positioned to help, AND they are currently matching donations (i.e. your money can go further).  You can learn more here.

If you want to drop off supplies (which, by the way, is a great way of getting kids involved and nurturing generosity and compassion in their hearts), we want to point you to two places:

3) Before tomorrow night (Tuesday the 10th), you can take supplies to Baptist Primary Care.

4) Before next Wednesday (the 16th) you can drop supplies off at Faith Community Church (3450 CR210).

Here is a list of items being collected:  Those transporting the items request that you don’t deviate from the list:

  • Blankets and Sheets
  • Insect Repellent
  • Non Perishable Food Items (Dried goods, Canned, Manual Can openers)
  • Solar Lights and Lamps
  • Flashlights and Batteries
  • First Aid Kits
  • Baby Supplies (Diapers, Bottles, Wipes, Formula)
  • Kitchen Items (Pots, Plastic Dishes, Cutlery, Garbage Bags, Bleach)
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • NEW, IN PACKAGE undergarments and socks for all ages
  • (Baptist Primary is also accepting toothpaste, toothbrushes, and shampoo).

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world…”   I love seeing God’s light shining through each of you!

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Hurricane Relief and Recovery 101

(Next LFC gathering: 6:00 to 8:00pm at Plantation Park- 875 Davis Pond Blvd, 32259 – on Sunday, September 8.  We’ve reserved the pavilion.  Bring some picnic for yourself and some to share.  Bring your own wisdom about the best ways to offer relief to those impacted by Hurricane Dorian.)

Relief precedes recovery after a disastrous hurricane.  Relief is about providing food, water, emergency medical care, and a safe(r) place to sleep at night.   It’s about “treating for shock and stopping the bleeding” to use the first aid metaphor.  Recovery follows.  It’s a longer process.  It is about returning to communities to vitality and health.  Relief is on a time line.  You only have weeks from an initial disaster to prevent the onset of compounding disasters, like famine or plague.

For those affected by Hurricane Dorian, this is the time for needed relief.  One of our values at LoveFirst Coast is hands-on and face-to-face mission.  That said, if you are not sure how to get connected to relief efforts at this point, then probably the best way to help is through sending financial and material support as requested by relief agencies.  We don’t have anyone (that I know of) heading for the Bahamas.  We plan to give.  A good resource for researching and considering how to give is Charity Navigator.  They have a page dedicated to Hurricane Dorian.   If you want to give locally, contact your church, look on-line.  If you have influence in a network, consider finding a creative way to help others give.  My friend Michael has connections with Missionary Flights International.   That organization has been working in the Bahamas for decades.  They have thrown their aeronautical resources toward relief, making the short hop from Fort Pierce to the Bahamas with much needed relief supplies.   Michael and some friends created a resource on GroupRev (kind of like a charity friendly GoFundMe) called Hope for the Bahamas to raise awareness and gather resources to support Missionary Flights International.  Another friend, Tom, created a link for donations to Samaritan’s Purse on his Facebook feed.  (Try clicking on this link.)  He also encouraged people to see if their employers would match their donations.  I bet you could do both.   

There are opportunities to volunteer with existing organizations.  If you are healthy and strong, skilled, or experienced in hurricane relief, connect with support that has already has been organized.  If you are a leader in a corporation with things to offer, find a way to offer it!  If your corporation can provided logistics, shipping, supplies, or provisions, then please use your influence to address the need.  I noticed Publix is partnering with the American Red Cross.  That’s good stuff.  I met a pilot who flies supplies for a corporation.  His company is sending him and his plane to the Bahamas.  He’s collecting food and water supplies.  I saw on-line that there is much volunteering going on.  People with small boats and planes have been heading out from Florida to the Bahamas.  (If you want to do something like that, do your research, plan carefully for you own safety (many well meaning people add to disasters by failing to plan) and send us a prayer request. 

And don’t forget your local church!  One of our mission partners is Faith Community Church (3450 CR210, 32259).  They are collecting relief items through 1pm on September 15 and working with through connections in their denomination to deliver.  Here’s the list of what they are collecting:

  • Blankets and Sheets
  • Insect Repellent         
  • Non Perishable Food Items (Dried goods, Canned, Manual Can openers) ·         
  • Solar Lights and Lamps ·         
  • Flashlights and Batteries ·         
  • First Aid Kits ·         
  • Baby Supplies (Diapers, Bottles, Wipes, Formula) ·         
  • Kitchen Items (Pots, Plastic Dishes, Cutlery, Garbage Bags, Bleach) ·         
  • Feminine Hygiene Products ·         
  • NEW, IN PACKAGE undergarments and socks for all ages

Last Thing: recovery efforts will be going on for a long time.  There are still recovery efforts underway in Houston and Panama City from last year’s hurricanes.  Recovery in the Bahamas will be going on for years.  Look for an opportunity to take part.

The Last Last Thing: Pray for the Bahamas.  Pray for the Outer Banks.  The Lord often meets people in their darkest places.  It’s where his light shines the brightest.

 

after dorian

(Self-attributed image from the internet.)

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Jesus and Storms

(Next LFC gathering: 6:00 to 8:00pm at Plantation Park- 875 Davis Pond Blvd, 32259 – on Sunday, September 8.  We’ve reserved the pavilion.  Bring some picnic food to share.)

“Do you know God?”  Someone once asked Soren Kierkegard that question.  He was a well known philosopher and a theologian and the father of Christian Existentialism.  Ask a smart guy a simple question, and may get more than you bargain for.  His answer:  “Do I know God?  No, I cannot say that I know God.  I’m coming to know him, and so are you.”   So, what did he prove?  Well, he proved he could annoy people who ask questions.  He proved semantics were important to him.  But he also made a good point.  There’s always more to God than we realize.

If storms bring a gift, it is the opportunity to discover there’s more to God than we knew before.  Do we trust him?  Will he stay with us?  Is he really greater than the storm?  Does he keep his promises?  Many people simply pray that the storms will stay away.  And they may.  But God sometimes decides it’s better for us to go through it.  I don’t like that.  You may not like it either.  But I’ve learned that God isn’t deterred by our preferences for safety.  And that’s not just my experience.  It’s biblical.

There’s a story in the gospels about Jesus calming a storm.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story.  Look up Luke 8:22-25 if you want to read it for yourself.  The story begins when Jesus says to his disciples: “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.”  So they get in the boat and start crossing the lake.  Jesus falls asleep. And a squall comes and the boat starts to sink.

The disciples knew Jesus pretty well at this point.  They’d been with him for a while.  They heard him teach crowds, seen him heal, and even bore witness as he raised the dead.  What more did they need to learn?

So in the middle of the storm, the great men of faith, the twelve apostles, hand picked by Jesus himself wake him up in a panic: “Master, do you care that we are about to drown!?!”

Jesus wakes up, looks around, and speaks to the storm. “Be still,” he says, and everything gets still.  The raging sea gets flat calm.  (Mark notes that it happened “immediately”).  And Jesus says, “Where is your faith?”

The disciples who a moment earlier were afraid of the storm are suddenly fearfully amazed at the guy in the boat.  “Who is this who commands wind and water, and they obey?”  Who is this guy whom storms obey?

And don’t miss this point  Who is it who led them into the storm?  Who said, “let’s go.” 

Jesus.

Jesus led them right into a storm just to reveal more about who he was.

And do you think they needed to know him like that?    Do you think their experience with Jesus in a storm was beneficial for the life on mission Jesus had in mind for them?  Every one of his disciples would opposition, threat, rejection, and persecution.  But they knew Jesus was greater than any storm.

Where I sit today, we’re staring at a really big storm – the 2nd largest Atlantic hurricane in the record book is coming near.  In the next couple of days, we’ll either be very relieved that it stayed a out at sea or very busy hunkering down in the middle of the wind and rain.  All of the spaghetti models show it missing or glancing by the First Coast, but a direct hit is not yet ruled out.  Mandatory evacuations are on, even though the predictions suggest we’ll be spared the worst. 

Our neighbors in the Bahamas got the worst this storm has to offer: 185 mph sustained winds, a 23 foot storm surge, and a relentlessly slow crawl across the country.  36 hours of devastating wind!  Oh my!  Lord, please sustain, relieve, and be present with my brothers and sisters in our neighboring island nation!  They face a long, dark storm. 

Let me share three truths about Jesus and the storms we face:

Truth #1: Storms come. Expect them.  There is no safe path to follow to avoid them.  Some people adopt the Christian faith thinking it is a way to avoid the stormy troubles of the world.  But storms come even to people who twist theology to avoid them.  Back when I worked as a hospital chaplain, I was told that, on average, a tragedy or hardship will strikes the typical family once every four years.  A death, a divorce, a bankruptcy, a job loss, a foreclosure, a child in trouble, a medical crisis, mental crisis, dashed hopes, dashed dreams, shattering disappointments, disillusionment – they come our way and they come to the people we love.  And it may just be that Jesus, in his great love for you, will send you right smack into one storm after another.  Sometimes storms come in waves.  Storm follows storm.  Learn to welcome them.  There is grace is available to us if we can learn to do so.  Storms reveal far more to us about ourselves than the easy times.  More importantly, we learn something about who Jesus really is in a storm.  Our false impressions of Jesus, the ones that so need to fall away – the safe, good-luck-charm Jesus, the nice Jesus, the health and wealth Jesus – all that trifling emptiness melts – thank God!  Thank God that the false Jesus melts away as the real Jesus, Lord in and over the storms is revealed so that with the disciples, we ask in fear and amazement, “Who is this?”

Truth #2: Jesus is present in the storm – but it’s easy to forget that he’s there.  In fact, he will let us struggle in that storm on our own for a long time.  But here’s where grace is available to us.  In storms, we learn that Jesus is faithful.  He doesn’t send us in to storms to leave us or to harm us.  He is with us.  He is with us.

Truth #3:  Jesus is not concerned about the storms.  He’s greater than any storm you have faced, may face, or are facing right now.  For that matter, he will send us into storms so that we can learn how much we need him.  Oh, and he sends storms our way when we think we are safe.  He’ll send a storm that washes away our self-confidence, makes us uncomfortable, scares us near to death.  What are those things in your life that you depend on, count on, trust in?  Jesus will often strategically give us challenges right in those areas – because he is Lord.  We quickly learn to trust God.  And here’s where we find grace.  Jesus, who is not concerned about storms IS concerned about you in your storm.  If he put you there, he has a purpose for you there.

Jesus is not easy to follow.  Following Jesus scares the daylights out of me, sometimes.  He has led me into a number of situations I feared.  Some of those storms would have made the list of my greatest fears at one time.  I have learned that he’s very comfortable in those places.  In hindsight, I am very grateful for them.

How about you?  Has Jesus been with you in scary storms?  What did he show you there about himself, about you, and about your relationship?  I am convinced that if storms bring any gift, it is the opportunity to discover there’s more to God than we knew before.  So now it’s your turn to answer the question.  Do you know God?

Whatever storm you are facing, may you recognize the presence of the Lord with you in this storm.  May you know the Lord who is over every storm better next week than you do this week, and better still in the seasons that follow.  And may the Lord work through this storm shape you to be who he desires you to be!  

Side note from this story:  Jesus seemed to arrange things so the disciples didn’t have to go through this experience alone.  He piled them all into a boat.  We weren’t created to endure storms alone.   I could tell you tragic story after tragic story of people who decided to follow Jesus by themselves.  It doesn’t go well.  Don’t do it.  Make sure others are in “your boat”.  We were created, not just for fellowship with Jesus, but also with other disciples.  There is much grace, comfort, and strength to be discovered in going through storms in community.  Do you think the disciples ever reminded one another of that night.  “Don’t you remember when the storm came up on the Lake!  Don’t you remember what Jesus did that night!”   Who do you have with you in your boat?  If you don’t have anyone, may the Lord lead you into fellowship with others who follow him, and may the Lord give you courage to enter into that fellowship!

Along those lines, if you’d like, next Sunday night some of us are getting together, and you are invited and welcome. Presumably, the storm will have passed and we will be sharing a picnic at Plantation Park Pavilion (875 Davis Pond Blvd, 32259).  Come, share your experience of getting through the storm.  We’ll taking some of the time to worship the Lord who is greater than the storm!

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Praying for Courage and Eyes

Today at work, I had a little time to listen a *conversation on discipleship.  They covered a lot of ground, but two things struck me.  First was the reminder to gather with others to pray specifically for courage to be disciples who make disciples.  I cannot think of many occasions when a brother or sister prayed for me to have courage.  Discipleship requires risk – and without courage, risk won’t happen.  Just off the top of my head, I need…

  • courage to speak with people I don’t know or don’t know well,
  • courage to take conversations a little deeper,
  • courage to point to Christ
  • courage to hold my tongue
  • courage to avoid the easy conversations
  • courage to pray for someone out loud and in public
  • courage to proclaim the name of Jesus
  • courage to ask someone else to do the same
  • courage to love difficult people
  • courage to trust God
  • courage to represent Jesus well while inviting others to do the same.

The second thing was the call to ask God to give our eyes to see.  It reminded me of the old hymn: Open My Eyes – “Open my eyes that I may see, glimpses of truth you have for me…”  It’s a prayer to ask God to help us see:

  • who and what he’d have us see
  • with his perspective
  • with great love.

Give it a try.  See what happens.  Get some people together.  Pray for courage to be a disciple who makes disciples.  Pray for eyes to see what and who God would have you see.  (I’ll be praying that for Unity Day).  You try it.  Let me know what happens!

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* It was a conversation between David Platt and Francis Chan that I came across on YouTube.

 

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