LoveFirst Coast Worship Gathering

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?

 

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Sunday Night Worship Gathering

Do you know who you are?  And who has the right to tell you who you are?  One of the great challenges of our time is the widespread confusion about our identities, about who we really are.
One of Jesus’ great strengths was his absolute confidence about who he was.   There were many voices clamoring to tell Jesus who he was.  But to Jesus, only one voice mattered.  As recorded in Luke 3:22, the Father declared to Jesus: “You are my son whom I love; with you I am well pleased!”  There was power in that declaration!
What has God said about you?  Does his voice get the final say?  Would your life change if you knew without a doubt that God loves you, delights in you, and is with you in every place and circumstance?  How would that impact your life and the lives of the people around you?
This Sunday night, we’ll take some time to remember.  Come and be equipped and encouraged for life on mission.  6:45 in the St. John’s Room at FCC (3450 CR210).  Hope to see you there
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Prayer and Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough

Our next worship gathering is September 2 at 6:45pm.  Right now, we plan to be in the St. Johns Room at Faith Community Church (3450 CR210, 32259).  But check back here.

It’s a holiday weekend and the location is subject to change.  Are you in need of spiritual breakthrough?  Have you been praying and working for something and feel like you’ve hit a brick wall?  Consider prayer with fasting.   I realize that may sound a little odd or extreme.   Most conversation about fasting these days relates to fasting for health reasons.  Many people who follow Jesus have never fasted for spiritual reasons and may consider it beyond the comfort zone.   But Jesus taught about fasting in the Sermon on the Mount like it was a common place, spiritual practice, like prayer or giving to the poor.  He began that teaching with the words: “When you fast…”  He offered instruction on how to fast in a way that honors God (rather than ourselves).  For Jesus, the idea that his followers would fast and pray was a given.

Earlier this month, a number of us agreed to fast and pray for ten days.  Our agreed upon purpose was to empty ourselves, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to gain God’s heart for the people in our path.   I invited people to pray for two groups of people over our time:  1) five people whom they thought God might be inviting them to connect with in terms of discipleship, and 2) close friends and family.  I also encouraged them to pray for  other matters God may be laying on their hearts, too.

I have learned it’s important to offer extra instruction when I invite my people to fast. I encourage them to be creative, practical, and to plan ahead.  Many elected to fast from food for a portion of time.  One person made plans to go five days.  Many adopted a restricted diet – refraining from something they craved.    Most everyone refrained from some other form of appetite,  for example news, movies, talk radio, social media,  going out for lunch, buying sodas, etc.  My personal plan: I fasted from food for two days from Wednesday night to Friday night.   Afterward, I cut out dairy and sugar.  Additionally, I refrained from Facebook.  Oh, and I was a guest at a friend’s house on Sunday, I took that day off electing to graciously eat whatever was set before me.  (Drawing from what Jesus taught, I think it’s important that our fasting doesn’t create work for those around us.)

We kicked off the fasting with a meal and broke the fast with communion.  We encouraged one another through the ten days with texts and updates.

Some good reports started coming in right away: increased self-control, opportunities to share faith with a loved one, openings for prayer with others, and steps toward new discipling relationships.  That’s what leads to multiplication!   I think a new discipleship huddle is coming together – and that excites me.   One person gained insight about a new sense of calling.  Another was filled with the Spirit of the Lord in ways I’ve not seen in him before: joy, love for others, and a enriched prayer life.  We’ll see what happens.  Should more unfold, I will share their stories.   More breakthrough seems required, though.  Forgive this play on words, but we may need more praying through for breaking through.

On a side note, we had a worship gathering right in the middle of our ten days.  Wow!  That was easy!  I shared with Dan, who enriches our worship gatherings with song and music, that it would be a pretty easy night.  Very often in worship experiences, we have to work at encouraging people to freely express their love for God and to listen for his voice.  When most everyone in the room is fasting and praying, that work is already done!

Personally, when it ended, I was kind of glad. I really missed dairy and sugar.  I also fasted from Facebook – and am considering giving it up.  It’s such a negative environment most of the time.  I feel better about my country and humanity after ten days without it.

But I look forward to what happens next.  For me, the prayer with fasting has increased my desire to see disciples of Jesus engaged in loving, prayerful, action addressing every evil that comes against the people of the First Coast.  I want to see God’s Kingdom advance here!

Our next worship gathering is September 2 at 6:45pm.  Right now, we plan to be in the St. Johns Room at Faith Community Church (3450 CR210, 32259).  But check back here.  It’s a holiday weekend and the location is subject to change.

 

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Worship Gathering/ Home Dedication

God has a mission, and God’s mission has a church!  What’s your part in God’s mission?  What tempts you away from it?  And what can be done about it?
This Sunday evening at 6:00, we will gather to worship and to dedicate Norma and Andrew’s new home (10715 Michael Edward Court, 32257).  They have moved into the Carter Hall subdivision and are joining God in his work there by building relationships, praying for neighbors, and seeking to be salt and light in their new neighborhood.  We want to encourage them in that.
We’ll be eating together (of course).  Let us know if you are coming and we’ll let you know how you can help with the celebration.
Hope to see you there!
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Worship Gathering for Living Life on Mission

Over and over again, I have seen people make a strategic mistake after God invites them into his work.   I’ve made it myself.  Making this mistake leads to less effectiveness in ministry, lowers our defenses against burnout and discouragement, lulls us into self-righteous pride, alienates us from others, and makes it easy to be taken out of the game.
What is this mistake?  Going it alone.
This week, we’ll look at instruction from God’s Word and at the example of Jesus regarding fellowship.  It’s fairly basic and absolutely essential.  What does a missional group look like?  It’s time to focus on the “In” of up-in-and-out.
Also, this week, Jordan Whitmarsh will be with us to share what’s God’s been doing through the Young Lives team this summer.  Don’t miss the opportunity to bless and encourage Jordan!
We’ll meet at 6:45 in the St. Johns Room of Faith Community Church (3450 CR210, 32259).  Come and be equipped and encouraged for life on mission!
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Double Circle Time

Next worship gathering is Sunday, August 5 at 6:30 pm in the St. Johns Room of Faith Community Church, 3450 CR210, 32259.  Come and be equipped for life on mission.

We’re calling for ten days of prayer and fasting beginning Wednesday night, August 1 wrapping up on the evening of August 10.  Our fasting will be for this purpose: to empty ourselves and to seek God’s heart for the people in our lives.  We are praying and fasting to love the people God puts in our path with his love. We believe that kind of love which is transforming the world can transform us and the people we love.  Want to join in?

Jesus began his ministry with a 40 day fast.  (Matthew 4:2) And he began his teaching on fasting with the words, “When you fast…”, not “If you choose to fast….”  (Matthew 6:16)  When his disciples were faced with a particularly difficult ministry challenge, he instructed them to adopt a strategy that included fasting, “This kind only comes out through prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:21)

So Jesus fasted, assumed his disciples would fast, and encouraged them to do so when a breakthrough was needed.   We’re following the example of Jesus, his first disciples, and other followers of Jesus down through the ages.  We are asking for a break through for three groups of people.  First, we need breakthrough in our own lives.  We need God’s love to enlarge our hearts!  Secondly, we are asking for breakthrough in terms of the people we feel sent to.  God is placing people on our hearts and in our lives for his purposes.  Third, we are praying for breakthrough for our families and close friends.  This are the people we love the most – and some are far from God.  We want them to know God better, to know more of what Christ has done for them, and to accept his love and grace!  We want to see God’s kingdom come and God’s will being done in our lives and in the lives of those we love.  This time of prayer and fasting begins with us – with a desire for our hearts to be filled to overflowing with love of God.  We acknowledge that things need to happen in our own hearts so that we can love people better.

If you want to join, this is our plan.

  1. We’ll be using the Draw the Circle book by Mark Batterson.  We’ll let days 1 through 10 guide us.  (The book is widely available.)
  2. Each of us is planning to fast in the way that makes sense.  Many of us have fasted before.  (If you are new to fasting, the Desiring God ministry put together a handy guide for beginners.
  3. For me, its saying “no” to things I regularly consume.  (My first two days, I’m planning to fast completely from food and after that to eat more simply, cutting out dairy and sugar.  Also, for the whole ten days, I plan to stay off of social media.
  4. We’ll try to create a texting group, too.  We have found that a time of prayer and fasting can be very encouraging as we hear stories from one another about how its going and what we see God doing.  If you want to be a part of a group, send me an email to pastorjessealexander@gmail.com

I am looking forward to what God is going to do!

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Prayer for School at School

Prayer happened in school.  I know.  I was there.  Don’t worry.  It was entirely legal.

Up-In-Out is part of what characterizes the ministry of Love First Coast.  It’s based developing a rhythm of doing what Jesus did and doing it intentionally.  Simply, Up is about giving time and effort to growing our relationship with God through worship, prayer, the scriptures and spiritual disciplines.  In is about being in a committed group where we challenge and encourage one another to follow Jesus.   Out is about seeking to bless others and meet needs with grace, love, and power.  (You can read more about Up-In-and-Out here.)

One of the groups we’re connected with is Young Life.  Young Life was started when a woman named Clara Fischer recruited a group of ladies in Gainesville, Texas to start praying for the teenagers at their local high school in the 1930’s.  As they were praying, God moved the heart of a Presbyterian pastor named Clyde Kennedy to lead his church to do something for high school students outside the church’s walls.  The church hired a young seminarian named Jim Rayburn.  Jim’s work and ministry there formed the basis for what would become Young Life.  It’s an organization that has brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to millions of people around the world.  Currently, there are over 2 million kids in 100 countries who have a Young Life leader who knows them by name.  This year alone, over 160,000 of those kids will attend a Young Life Camp.  Most of those kids will have the best week of their lives.  And they will hear a simple and clear presentation of the gospel of Jesus.  They will be surrounded by loving, responsible adults.  They’ll be shown and invited into a new way of life.

I was one of those kids.  God worked on my heart when I was at a Young Life camp.  Prior to that week,  I always felt that being a Christian was just a burden.  It was one I was willing to shoulder, but it was such a weight.  At camp, I discovered that following Jesus could be more fun than anything else I’d ever experienced, that God loved me and was pursuing me, and that he offered the promise of a life filled with purpose and joy.  The weight was lifted.

Young Life blessed me.  It is all over the world.  It’s in many schools across the First Coast.  But it’s not in the school my daughter attends.

So, a couple of weeks ago, our discipleship huddle and some of us on the Young Life Board met at my daughter’s school and we prayed.  In the spirit of Clara Fisher and her friends, we prayed for the teenagers who attend Creek Side High School.  We also prayed for God’s grace to cover the teachers, staff, and administrators.  We prayed for the area churches and youth ministries that touch their lives.  We prayed for God’s Spirit to move there, for God’s Kingdom to advance, and that every kid and every kind of kid would know this: 1st, that they are loved by God.  We also want them to know that they are loved by others, that they are surrounded by people who care.  School, we know, can be such a hard place, so we prayed for each kid there to have someone in their life who loves them unconditionally, gracefully, and wisely.   We prayed for kindness to break out all over the place in the school.  (I see glimpses of that sometimes when I visit.  Many young people today are pretty amazing.)  We pray they would love themselves, too, because God loves them.  They are precious to God and they need to know, to believe it.  We are praying that they would grow and learn and discover truth, and grace, and be filled with courage to bless each other and the world.  We want each one to know that they have captured God’s heart.  (And in case you need reminding, so have you!)  And we prayed for God to bring the ministry of Young Life there.

I don’t know what will happen as a result of these prayers.  But it felt good to be out together.  We debriefed afterwards at a local restaurant.  The mood was pretty upbeat.  Our faith is bolstered every time we do something like this.  And I can tell you that I am grateful for the prayers of Clara Fischer years ago.  How cool it is to be a part of this legacy of prayer. We’ll be going out again soon to other area schools.  We are asking God to bring ministries here so that every kid and every kind of kid hears the good news of God’s love and grace.

Hey, if you are leading a discipleship huddle or group, I encourage you to go out together to pray for God’s Kingdom to advance in the places in your city God is laying on your heart.  Go out.  Pray.  See what happens in your heart and in the hearts of your people.

(Next worship gathering – August 5 in the St. Johns Room of Faith Community Church (3450 CR210). 

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