Cheer Leader

God is at work through many people on the first coast.  Tonight’s blog entry is from Rose – who has been living missionally on the First Coast for several years.  This is the first of a series.  What insights and encouragement do you find from her words below?

We all need a cheer leader, someone who sees the best in you at all times. They know your short comings and failures but they are there to uplift you. A reminder that you are worth it, they see your potential more than your failures. They understand understand what it took for you to get to where you are, as well as what it takes every day for you to stay, keep up keeping it up. They are ready to encourage you, remind you that your best outshines your failures daily. With them cheering you on, reminding you of the best you there is. There is no failure, just a bump in the road, a rough day that will soon change, that tomorrow will be so much better than today. They never give up on you.

For me my best cheer leading team has always been my family. However there are times even they get tired and need help. In those moments they need their own cheer leader, reminding them who they are.

The last 19 years I have had a great cheer leader. He has never given up on me. He knows my faults better than I know them. However, what is best about Him is that He sees the best in me and always reminds me that He will never leave me nor forsake me. He reminds me to be courageous, taking away the fear.  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Deut: 31:6)

             He always wants the best for me, never gets tired of me, never lets me down. What is even better than that is I can never let Him down or disappoint Him. He is the best friend I could ever have, the best parent, the best everything. Yes He is that good.  You have searched me, Lord,  and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise;  you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down;  you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before,  and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalms 139:1-6)

Yes He is that good. So in the next few weeks I will share with you how much He has taught me. He knocked on my door and invited me to a dance. A dance that is unlike any other. Once I answered the knock and let Him in, He invited me asked me to ‘come dance with Him’. So I have been on a dance like no other. Welcome to my dance with Jesus, who has promised to love me, who reminds me that each day is a new beginning. Each day I learn a new dance routine.

What is your dance with Jesus look like. Mine is a continues searching, learning and changing for the better with His help.  Search me, God, and know my heart;  test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,  and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps 139:23-24)

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Worship Gathering Sunday Night

The greatest privilege, I believe, is to experience and express the heart of God.  Both of these are intended to come together in prayer.  When we pray, especially when we pray in agreement and in community, we experience the heart of God as we are pulled into the perfect community of love found in the Trinity, a love that has existed from eternity past.  Through our prayers, especially our prayers together, we express God’s heart to the world.  The Kingdom of God is revealed as heaven’s grace and power are unleashed on earth.  Doors are opened.  Bonds are broken.  Relationships are healed.  Love grows.
This Sunday night, we’ll be looking at Colossians 1 and 2 in order to gain insight and motivation to pray.  I hope you can be with us.  Come and be equipped and encouraged for life on mission.  Sunday, 6:45pm, in the St. Johns Room at FCC, 3450 CR210, 32259.
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Identity, Work, and Worship

Ah… Breathe deep one more time!

At LoveFirst Coast, we cut back our ministry activities for the holidays.  It gives a little space and time to rest, reflect, and remember who we are.  When we have been busy for a long stretch, it is tempting to believe we are what we do, that our work defines us, that our significance is based on the roles we play and accomplishments we can claim.  But in fact, our identity as God’s child is far greater than any of those other things.  We are God’s children.  By the power of the Holy Spirit we are made new.  We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 1:1-10)

Our identity in Christ is the greatest gift.  It cannot be added to.  God loves us no less when we rest and He doesn’t love us more when we are productive. Taking a break and really celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas creates margin in our lives for remembering who we are in Christ, for worshiping God for who he is, giving thanks for all he has done.

And the holidays are ending.  The work that flows from who we are in Christ begins again.  Recalling that we are greatly loved, once again it is time to love the First Coast.  Discipleship gatherings and missional engagement are returning.  Our next worship gathering is January 13 at 6:30pm in the St. Johns Room at Faith Community Church.

Come and be equipped and encouraged for life on mission!

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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.  Implication: 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 open, joyful relationships 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 for his own glory and our deep joy.  Out of the overflow of who he was, he created you in love and loves you still.  Know and accept that God, in Jesus Christ, died on the cross to take away your sins, and rose again, giving all who belong to him and eternal place in his family, an eternal home in heaven, and an eternal life worth living.  Know and accept that in Jesus Christ, the maker of heaven and earth has come to earth, reclaiming, redeeming, and re-newing what rightly belongs to him.  God has claimed you as his own and given you a new identity as his child.   Know that God invites you into his work of making all things new.  You are invited to join in a great work that leads 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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