Eat with, Encourage, and Pray for…One Another

You can’t do “one-another” things by yourself.
Have you ever noticed how many “one another” passages there are in the Bible?  Based on a quick google search, quite a few people have noticed because quite a few lists came up.  God’s word encourages us to be with one another.  “Be at peace with one another.”  “Love one another.” “Serve one another.”  “Bear one another’s burdens.” “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” “Care for one another.”  “Bear one another in love.” “Encourage one another.” “Be kind to one another.”  Those things are not very easy to do in isolation.  And there are so many more.
This is one of my favorites, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  (Hebrews 10:24-25)
I think one reason there are so many “one another” scriptures is because it is God’s plan for us to follow Jesus with people we know well.   I recognize my need for community most profoundly when I see myself as sent.  I find that one of the the surest ways to get discouraged  when seeking to live life on mission is when I find myself alone.  I need community or I am prone to give up.
And I bet I’m not  – alone – in that.
So if you are living life on mission or are thinking about it, you are invited to get together this Sunday night from 6:00 to 8:00 at Kent and Kris Wehmeier’s home to do what Hebrews 10:25 tells us to do!   Let’s get together, share life, and stir one another up to love and good deeds.  Email me at pastorjessealexander@gmail.com if you think you can make it.  Just let us know and I’ll fill you in on how you can help complete the feast!
I believe we’ll be eating brats and chicken.
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Fasting and Praying for the First Coast

 

I want to invite you to fast and pray with me.
Earlier this week, I was speaking with Heather about the early vision for the work that has become LoveFirst Coast.  It was seven years ago and I had just turned 47 – 20 years from retirement.  The church I was serving was struggling, and I had discerned a key problem was lack of spiritual maturity.  I began praying, thinking, and studying anything I could find on discipleship.  As a result, I developed a multiplying strategy that would start small and get us to 60 “deeply surrendered disciples of Jesus” in the matter of a few years.  I felt good about that.  I decided to apply the same multiplying strategy beyond the church and discovered the impact to be 500,000 twenty years.  That got me pretty excited.  Based on the math, it seemed doable.  I began to imagine renewed churches, vibrant ministries, and the Micah-6-8 impact of a half-million followers of Jesus loving mercy, doing justice, and walking humbly with the Lord.
You may notice that there’s a lot of “me” in that.  That was part of the problem in the church, too, no doubt.  But God had a surprise for me.
The unmistakable voice of the Lord interrupted my triumphalistic day dream to say, “add a zero.”
Humbled.  That’s the only word for it.  Add a zero to 60 and you get 600.  That would be larger than the church I was serving.  Add a zero to the already-crazy sum of 500,000 and you get 5,000,000.  Five million deeply surrendered disciples of Jesus?   That would be larger than the denomination that ordained me.  How could that happen?  How could I do that?
Pretty clear, though, isn’t it.  Only God could do that!
It’s been seven years.  It’s summer.  It’s a season for reflecting.  If we are on the way to 5,000,000 deeply surrendered disciples, I can’t see it.  But I’m content to be in a movement of discipleship and am learning to trust God for the results.  We can plant, water, and even harvest, but God causes the growth.
That said, we’ve been faithful.  I can count ten folks who are equipped and motivated to make disciples.  But it seems like many of our efforts at discipling others hit road blocks.  Even though we know a little about helping others “learn from Jesus how to live like Jesus,” it is only the Lord can open up those doors.  So borrowing from a pattern I find in scripture, you are invited to join me in humbling ourselves before God to ask to move on the First Coast, to open hearts to being discipled.
Please pray with us.
Lord, we ask that you would move on the First Coast of Florida.  We ask that your Spirit would move, that you would open the hearts of the people you place in our path, and lead us to walk with them such that we all learn from Jesus to live like Jesus.  To your glory!
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Sustaining Joy and Hope

Whenever I start to struggle to sustain hope and joy in this life on mission, I find that reflecting on two questions gives me insight on the source of the problem:
1) Where am I seeking significance?
2) Where am I seeking security?
Of course, the best answer to both questions is God.  By the work of the Spirit, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are adopted into God’s family. We are God’s children!  Nothing offers greater significance than that!   Nothing could be more secure!
But still, many messages about that suggest I need to pursue security and significance elsewhere.  And quite a few of those messages are coming from my own fears and pride.
We’ll be taking a look at the last chapter of Philippians for insight.  I hope you can join us, but regardless, may the Lord lead you to sustained joy and hope!
We’ll meet at the St. Johns Room at Faith Community Church, 3450 CR210, 6:45pm, July 14.  I hope to see you there.
For your calendar:
July 28 – 6:00 – 8:30  Listen Love Pray and Eat.
August 11 – 6:45 – 8:00  Worship Gathering
August 25 – 5:00 -8:30 Neighborhood Ministry Summit Listen Love Pray and Eat
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Demonstrating Hope

Wherever you go, God is sending you!
1) June 2019 is just about to slip into history… I want to offer a brief word of encouragement.  This morning, I was thinking about how tempting it is to use all our energies trying to shape the culture: we can throw ourselves into politics or activism.   We can raise money, support causes, and start an issues related blog.  I’m not opposed to such things.  Followers of Jesus should seek to influence the world and promote justice and social righteousness.  However, our hope needs to rest elsewhere – and we need to use our energies to follow Jesus faithfully in the culture we live in and encourage others to do the same.  No matter how successful we may be in our efforts to change the world, we will have trouble in it.  So, as the author or Hebrews put it, let us encourage one another and stir one another up to love and good deeds – even if our world remains troubling.
And what if the times are not good?  Unsettling times offer great opportunities to bear witness to Christ and share the hope found in the Gospel.  By trusting in the Lord, as we pray for God’s kingdom to come, as we experience Gods love and let it overflow to loving  our neighbors, as serve our city, and as we do the work of being disciples who make disciples, we can demonstrate to the world what hope looks like!   So keep your eyes on Jesus.  Read the word.  Sing hymns and anthems of praise.  Share meals.  Listen for the voice of the Lord.  Respond in faith.  Choose joy.  And if you do, the Lord may just lead some people to ask you to give an reason for the hope you possess.
2) Our next worship gathering is Sunday, July 14 at 6:45pm at Faith Community Church – 3450 CR210, 32259.
3) Put the evening of July 28 on your calendar.   We want to gather to eat, pray, and encourage one another.
4)  We have three huddles meeting – but they’ll be off and on through July.  If you are interested in discipleship, let me know and we’ll get you connected.
Prayer Requests:
For God to open up new discipling relationships for those in our Huddles.
Again…
God is good.
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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!

 

 

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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

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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!
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