Easter Eve Gathering

What do you do the night before Easter?

This Saturday, we’ll hold our April worship gathering on Easter Eve.  I’m pretty excited to report that we’ll be gathering at Nicholl’s barn (3455 SR13, 32259).  Simply put, it’s a special place for our church.  Our service starts at 6:30pm.  (No dinner this time.  Eat before you arrive.)  For those who can stick around afterward, we’re making plans to watch the Passion of the Christ.

On Friday this week, we’ll also be gathering at the beach before sunrise for our Good Friday tradition.  Being together with good friends, watching the night turn to day, celebrating the grace and love of Jesus poured out for us on that day – well, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  If you’d like to join us, I recommend showing up at least a half-hour before sunrise.  If you can, bring a breakfast and enough to share.

If you are reading this know that you will be welcome and you are invited to be with us! But more importantly, I pray that this week you are reminded of the grace and love of God for you!  May the Lord speak to your heart and remind you that you are loved and precious in his sight.

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LoveFirst Coast Gatherings

Remember Jesus!
First, something we are not doing: No worship gathering on April 8.  Too much going on.
Monday, April 10 – The Revells are hosting a Passover Seder (dinner) that evening.  You’ll need to RSVP.  (Email me at pastorjessealexander@gmail.com).
Good Friday, April 14 – gathering for sunrise at Mickler’s Landing.  Sunrise is at 7:00am.  Bring breakfast stuff to share.
Easter Eve, April 15 – worship gathering at 6:30pm at Nicholl’s Barn.
Easter Sunday!  Choose a church.  Choose a friend.  Make a plan.  Go to worship together.
Because the Lord is risen!
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Our Story So Far

The Story of LoveFirst Coast/First Coast Missional Communities (so far) – March 2017 version

In the Spring of 2013, God pulled together about twenty people from five different churches.  We had several things in common.  Many of us had been inspired by followers of Jesus we’d met on mission trips.  We earnestly desired to see Christ change lives and renew our city.  We had heard that God was doing that in other places through groups called missional communities.  And we were willing to try. We agreed to meet for a season and we organized our life around worship, prayer, fellowship, and mission.  This temporary micro-church was a “trial missional community”.  We learned a lot about ourselves, our neighbors, and how to (and how not to) be a missional community.  We also discovered strength in community, how to be more natural and more public with our faith, more courageous in prayer, more adventurous in service, and how good God is.  

After our season together, about half who’d been with us returned to participation in their home churches.  But the experience had a deep impact: we still valued our connections to traditional local churches but we could not return to church as usual.  We committed to journeying together, devoted simply to blessing our neighbors and serving in our city.  As our ministry became established, the administrative load became lighter, and the leadership for the ministry was shared.  Eventually, our pastor was able to become “bi-vocational”, working a day job while continuing to lead our church.

We began developing rhythms of doing life together around fellowship and worship, discipleship and mission.  Sundays, many of us engaged in local congregations, intent on being a blessing.  (A number of us have painful church experiences in our background – but we have chosen to be a blessing to other churches).  During the week, we served.  Some of us served together.  Midweek, we gathered in “huddles” to learn tools and skills for discipleship, to encourage one another, to pray, and to “spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Heb 10:25).  One Saturday a month, we gathered for worship.

We have begun developing traditions, too:  retreats, prayer services, home gatherings, and a Good Friday sunrise worship gathering.  And then there are the “organic activities”: neighborhood parties, game nights, prayer walks, going to movies, and sports events.  At most gatherings, there is good food, good coffee, and celebration of being together.  In short, it is a lot like following Jesus with an extended family that is supportive and intentional.  And we enjoy being a family that welcomes new family members.

This lifestyle is enabling us to become more natural as followers of Jesus.  We are learning to be disciples of Jesus who make disciples.  Even better, we are growing to appreciate in a fresh way God’s greatness and love.  We are learning, with thanksgiving, that apart from God, we can do nothing.

We are a small group.   We are keenly aware of that we are being redeemed, forgiven, blessed, and healed through the love, grace and mercy of God!  And with joy we can continue to report that what God has been doing for us we are seeing God do through us.

LoveFirst Coast 2017

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God Working in Little Things

Tonight, I was at training for Young Lives Childcare workers.  (Yes, I am a Young Lives child care worker.  Supporting Young Lives is one of our missions, one of our organized “Outs”.  Basically, we serve by taking care of babies while the teen moms enjoy a Young Life Young Lives Club.)  At training tonight, the Young Lives Area Director, Rose Shabaya, emphasized how important child care is.  She shared stories that helped us remember  that we are part of a much bigger activity.

We were reminded that God is at work through Young Lives changing moms, babies, families, and communities.  Our job is to provide a safe, loving atmosphere for little kids by holding babies and playing with toddlers for about an hour each week.  That’s our part, but we are a part of something bigger – an international, life-changing ministry that operates in many countries called Young Life.   We do a little, but God works through people all around the world doing far more.

Life transformation isn’t immediate.  It takes time.  And God is patient.  And God is good.  He allows us (sometimes) to see it.

I’ll share briefly the story of a little girl I’ll call “Talitha.”  (Not her real name.)  When I met her, Talitha would cry non-stop when her mom would drop her off at childcare.  Those of us in child care would play the game, “Who can help Talitha settle down tonight?”  I was pretty good with her.  Bri, one of our teen volunteers was, too.  Most nights, we’d work together to find some way to help her quiet down.  Some nights were better than others.  As I recall, she was especially fond of large bouncy balls.  Big bouncy balls captured her attention.  We’d bounce and role the balls.  Eventually, she’d be content to sit in my lap and watch or get down and chase the ball.

But while we were doing that, Talitha’s mom would get a break from being mom to go to Club. There, she’d get to be a teenager again.  She’d have fun, learn life-skills, spend time with a mentor and other people who loved her, and hear the gospel.  Afterward, she’d pick up her child who’e been loved and cared for.

Over time Talitha cried less and less.  Eventually, after months, going to Young Lives and child care became a really exciting thing for her.  She’d run to the child care room.  She liked the adults there.  Other kids became her friends.  It was a safe, fun place.

And her mom was changing, too.  More at peace.  More trusting of the people around her. Smiles came easier.  The experience of steady love and grace does that.  And here’s the thing: without childcare it wouldn’t have happened.  Her mom probably wouldn’t have had the freedom to participate, and neither would Talitha.

God works though little, ordinary things done with love – like spending time with a little girl and helping her not to cry.  What a privilege to be a part of something small that is something much bigger.

In Romans, Paul writes, “Don’t think too highly of yourselves.  Think with sober judgment according to the faith that you’ve been given.  Those who belong to Christ form a body with lots of different parts. The parts don’t have the same function.  But we, who are many, become one body in Chirst, and each of us has a gift to use in service there.” (Romans 12:3-6, paraphrased)

What’s your part?  May the love of Christ fill you up and overflow into that which you do!

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Jesus’ Leadership Method

“Perhaps the ultimate test of a leader is not what you are able to do in the here and now – but instead what continues to grow long after you are gone.”  (Strengths Based Leadership, Rath and Conchie, p95.)

I have had conversations recently that have me thinking about leadership.  Those conversations led me to peruse an old leadership book.  Scanning through it, I looked at what I had underlined, and that sentence popped out.

If you let that statement guide you, it is pretty easy to identify the most effective leaders of history – because what they started is continuing today.   Now, of course, I am a follower of Jesus.  He is my Lord – and Jesus is a Lord who leads, and leads well.  What he started still continues.  It impacts billions of lives daily.  The movement he started continues to shape the world and steadily change it in the right direction.

How did he do it?  What was his method?  It’s pretty simple, really.  He reproduced himself in others.  Out of the crowd that followed him, he selected a handful to invest in. He invited them to be his disciples and to walk with him.   He poured himself into them – and as you read one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) you may notice the emergence of four types of disciple making activities.  Type one: Jesus does ministry while his disciples watch (e.g. Matthew 8).  Type two: Jesus begins to include them.  They are given instruction and begin to help him minister.  (e.g. Luke 8:40-56). Type three: Jesus begins giving them jobs to do and he shows up when they get stuck. (e.g. Luke 9:10-17). Type four: Jesus sends them out to do what he’s been doing. (e.g. Luke 10:1-20).

Over time, and with repeated application, Jesus was able to lead the disciples to the point that they could do what he had been doing.  Please don’t think I’m dismissing the power of God or the working of the Holy Spirit to transform the lives of the disciples.  Discipleship included learning to relate to God in a new way.  They learned to call God “Father”, to understand themselves as part of God’s family.  Discipleship also included teaching the disciples about the nature of the Spirit, how to recognize the Spirit’s leading, how to cooperate with the Spirit’s activity, and even the steps they needed to take in order to be filled with the Spirit (which mainly involved an expectant, prayerful waiting.)  Jesus taught them to relate to the Father and the Spirit in the same way he did.

And here’s my point: as a result of the way Jesus led them, the disciples of Jesus were then able to live their lives like Jesus.  They had learned from Jesus how to live like him.   And they taught others the same way.  As a result, what Jesus started continues to impact the world today.

What Jesus did was not complicated.  We use a tool that is built around it called The Discipleship Square.  It’s pretty simple.  See for yourself here.  But most leadership discussions today miss the power of this simple approach to leadership.  It doesn’t draw crowds.  It doesn’t bring in big bucks.  It doesn’t build edifices.  But if a leader learns from Jesus to reproduce herself or himself in another person, the leader’s influence and impact doubles.  And if that leadership included teaching the other person to reproduce herself or himself in the same way, well, then you have something that can change your world.

Imagine how that could impact your neighborhood, your school, your workplace, your church, and your family.  All it takes is a willing leader, a willing follower, and something worth passing on.

Do you have something worth passing on?

May the Lord bless you as you do.

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Love First Coast Upcoming Events

Hi Everyone,
I have a few details for upcoming events and a couple of changes for Easter Week.
1) Our next worship gathering is this Saturday @ 6:30pm in the St. Johns Room at Faith Community Church.
2) Our Annual Meeting will be Saturday, March 25 (2 weeks from this Saturday) at 6:30pm at Norma and Andrew’s house.  We’ll eat together, celebrate what God did among and through us last year, and talk about some of our hopes for the year to come.
3) Cool Special Stuff this year for Holy Week –
First, something we are not doing: No worship gathering on April 8.  Too much going on.
Monday, April 10 – The Revells are hosting a Passover Seder (dinner) that evening.  You’ll need to RSVP.
Good Friday, April 14 – gathering for sunrise at Mickler’s Landing.  Sunrise is at 7:00am.
Easter Eve, April 15 – worship gathering at 6:30pm at Nicholl’s Barn.
Hope you can be with us.
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Listen, Love, Pray and Healing

One of the most effective practices we’ve embraced at Love First Coast is praying for others in a way that brings restoration and healing.  It’s pretty simple, really.  We listen to folks who are hurting.  We love them where they are.  No judgement.  No advice giving (if we can help it).  No pressure.  And when we do, we get the privilege of seeing God at work. We get to see God lift hearts, restore hope, build faith, renew relationships, and yes, restore physical strength.

Here’s a link to the tool.  Read it and give it a try.


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