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Coming Home

Dear Church Family,

It’s Wednesday evening as I write this email. Amanda and I are in the NICU at Nemours Children’s Hospital, which is where we’ll be through tomorrow afternoon. Hannah and Noah are progressing so well that medical team feels they’re ready for discharge. However, prior to discharge, Amanda and I first need to be with the babies for 24 hours straight to make sure we can properly care for them. Hopefully by the time you open this email on Friday, the babies will be home with us. Praise God!

By the way, we can’t wait to bring Hannah and Noah to a worship service at Community of Faith, but that likely won’t happen for at least another six weeks. Their immune systems need adequate time to develop, and the extra time at home will serve to strengthen their bodies. Right now our plan is to introduce Hannah and Noah to the congregation during COF’s 20th Anniversary celebration on April 15, which is also when we’ll baptize them. We’ll keep you posted about that plan as the weeks unfold.

Even in the midst of celebration, there’s sadness. Tenille Weber, who was a dear part of our church family, passed away on January 28. Tenille served COF faithfully as a custodian for 5 years and was active in other areas of the church’s life. On behalf of the Weber family, I’d like to invite you to attend a Celebration of Life service for Tenille on March 5. We’ll gather at 1:00 p.m. in the sanctuary to honor Tenille’s legacy and celebrate her eternal life with Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll make plans to join us.

Finally, I want to end this email by saying that, for a while, I feel God has been placing on my heart the need for our church to provide some sort of venue where we can have heartfelt and robust conversations about the issues that divide our nation. It seems that our country is more divided now than ever before. Therefore, we need an atmosphere where we can come together to discuss controversial subjects in a healthy way. I’m not sure what the end result is going to be, but I’ll keep you posted as I converse with our leadership team to figure something out. If you have any thoughts on this topic, I invite you to email them to me (cjones@communityoffaith.org).

There’s always lots to do at COF, so I invite you to read the rest of this email to find out how you can get more involved and connected.

Take care, and have a great weekend!

Blessings,
Chris



Faith-filled Prayer Compels us to Action

Dear Church Family,

On Wednesday many of us were celebrating Valentine’s Day and observing Ash Wednesday when we got the news of yet another mass shooting-the 18th time a gun has discharged at a school since the start of 2018. I wish I had something profound and meaningful to say right now, but I don’t. My heart breaks and my stomach feels sick. As a new parent, I grieve for the families of these 17 victims. (There may be more, but that’s the current count at the time of this writing.) I find comfort in the truth that God has overcome sin and death in Jesus and that he promises to be with us when tragedy strikes. I also believe in the power of prayer and that we should offer our prayers to those impacted by this senseless act of horror. However, faith-filled prayer is not meant to be a passive act. As James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us, it’s designed to compel us to action (James 2:14-17). My hope is that our prayers offered in faith will lead us to take necessary action to prevent these sorts of tragedies from occurring again in the future. Regardless of our politics, we can all agree enough is enough.

Amanda and I continue to appreciate the prayers you’ve been offering for Noah and Hannah. They’re still in the NICU at Nemours Children’s Hospital at this time. We’re not sure how much longer they’ll be there, but we celebrate the fact that they now weigh over 5 pounds each and that they’re making tremendous progress when it comes to nursing and bottle-feeding. Once they’re able to completely nurse and bottle-feed, they’ll likely come home. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more information from the medical team.

This weekend, we wrap up the message series that we started at the beginning of 2018 called “Actually the Bible Doesn’t Say That.” We’ll look at what is probably the most popular faith cliché of our time – love the sinner, hate the sin. This statement might sound good and virtuous, but it actually has several significant problems. We’ll talk about those problems and why we should scrap this cliché from our faith vocabulary all together. So make plans to attend!

Enjoy your weekend, and I hope to see you either Saturday night or Sunday morning for worship.

Blessings,
Chris



Ash Wednesday is February 14

Dear COF Family,

I write this email to the sound of crying babies, which I’m sure will be a normal sound for Amanda and me during the coming weeks and months. It’s been almost 3 weeks since Hannah and Noah were admitted to the NICU at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, and each day they’re making progress. Indeed, they’re no longer incubated and they’re beginning to gain weight. We’re still not sure how much longer they’ll be here, but we praise God for the outstanding medical care they’re receiving.

Earlier this week, I saw a news segment where a prominent faith leader publicly spoke out against getting flu vaccinations. She explained that, instead of receiving vaccinations, Christians should seek to inoculate themselves from the flu “with the word of God.” I was horrified when I saw this. Medical care shouldn’t be viewed with suspicion, but should be recognized as a gift. Heck, even Luke, whom we believe authored the third Gospel and the book of Acts, was a first-century medical doctor. I think he’d be among the first to point out that God uses all kinds of channels to heal us, including those in line with medicine.

This weekend, I’m back in pulpit, which is where I’ll be preaching the fourth installment of our message series called “Actually the Bible Doesn’t Say That.” The message this weekend is going to debunk a common cliché of faith, namely, God said it. I believe it. That settles it. If you want to know why this cliché misses God’s truth in huge and important ways, then you’ll want to come to COF worship on Saturday or Sunday to find out! By the way, during our Saturday night service, we’re going to be welcoming 2 new members into our Motley Crew. And, during our 8:30 a.m. service on Sunday, we’re going to be assisted by our Boy Scouts. It’s going to be a great weekend all around!


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taking good care

Dear COF Family,

As I write this email, I’m sitting in the family lounge of the NICU at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando. Hannah and Noah came 4-5 weeks earlier than we were expecting, so they’re in the NICU until they get bigger and stronger. I’ve learned that life in the NICU is more of a marathon than a sprint. Basically, in order for Hannah and Noah to be discharged, there are several things they need to do without the help of machines. These include things like regulating their body temperature, gaining consistent weight, and being able to nurse or bottle-feed. The good thing is, they’re making progress each day. We’ll have a better understanding of when they might come home sometime next week.

I want to thank you for giving me space to be with my family. A few weeks ago, I shared in a sermon that when my mom got sick two and a half years ago, I felt guilty about taking time off from COF, especially since I was so new at the time. As I look back, I now see how misplaced those feelings were. COF is a church that prioritizes family, which means it’s expected of me to be with Amanda, Hannah and Noah at this time. You’ll likely see me again in worship not this weekend, but next weekend, which is also when we’ll pick back up on our sermon series called “Actually the Bible Doesn’t Say That.”

Speaking of worship, you don’t want to miss this weekend. My friend, Pastor Mary Downey, will be delivering the message. Mary used to attend COF with her family years back and continues to maintain a close relationship with us. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Community Hope Center in Kissimmee, which aims to help individuals and families living in poverty get back on their feet. Mary is a gifted preacher and communicator, so you’re definitely going to enjoy her message.

I plan to give you another update about Noah and Hannah next week. In the meantime, please continue to offer your prayers that they will get big and strong. That way mom and dad can bring them home and their COF family can soon meet them.

Blessings,
Chris



Welcome Hannah & Noah!

Dear Church Family,

Pastor Chris said it best this week, “What to expect when you’re expecting? You should expect the unexpected…”

In case you haven’t heard the news yet – that was the opening line to his Facebook post announcing the arrival of both Hannah and Noah late Monday night! So the babies are HERE! What a blessing! They did come early, but from what Chris has shared to date everyone is doing well. Because the babies came earlier than expected, they will need to spend some time in the NICU to get a little bigger. Of course that means things are even more hectic for Pastor Chris and Amanda than they thought it would be!

We have had so many people reaching out to find out how they can help, and if there are details, etc. and what a blessing that is! Please know that we have shared with Pastor Chris and Amanda that there is an army of people at the ready to help who love them – they need to just say the word! But until they do, for now we are giving them the space and time to regroup and breathe and figure out exactly what that looks like. If we put ourselves in their shoes for a minute, we might be able to start to imagine what a task that might be!

This weekend, we have Rev. Aaron Rousseau delivering the message for Pastor Chris, and we are so happy to have him here. The Staff has been working hard to make sure all is looked after, and supporting Pastor Chris so that he doesn’t have to worry about COF, and can focus on what matters most! We thank you for your help with that too!

So, we will see you this weekend… you don’t want to miss it! We have so much to celebrate together! If you’d like to bring a card for the family, we will have a basket for you to drop them off. We will ensure they get them as soon as we can! By then we may have some ideas of how to help. We will also continue to share what we can, as we can, but letting the proud Daddy be the one to do as time allows.

We thank God for all of these blessings, and for giving us the chance to celebrate them together as a community…

Love and Blessings…

Diana
Diana Petras
Facilities Manager



New Year New Members

Dear Church Family,

While there are many ways to measure a church’s vitality and strength, numbers can often be reliable indicators. That said, I am excited that while we’re only 3 weeks into the New Year, we already have 7 people who have expressed a desire to join our church. Therefore, we will be receiving these 7 people as new members this weekend. In addition, we have 99 people signed up so far for our winter classes, many of which are set to begin next week. If you’re still interested in joining a class, you can do so by going to the sign-up table in our lobby or emailing Justin Moore (jmoore@communityoffaith.org).

Earlier this week, I was following up with a new attendee to our church. As we were talking over the phone, she said to me, “We can really sense the Holy Spirit’s power and presence at this church.” It’s amazing what happens when we step out of the way and allow the Holy Spirit to move.

This weekend, we’ll continue in our preaching series, “Actually the Bible Doesn’t Say That.” The series is on popular phrases that people often assume are in the Bible even though they’re not in there. If you missed the last two messages, you can find them on our Vimeo page by following this link: https://vimeo.com/album/4936717.

The phrase we’ll be debunking this weekend is one we’ve all heard before. We might even have quoted this phrase to somebody who was suffering-God won’t give you more than you can handle. However, as we’re going to discover through the message, this phrase has some serious theological problems. I hope you’ll join us for worship this weekend to learn more.

If you’d like to see what else is happening in the life of our church, I’d encourage you to read the rest of the email below.

That’s all for now. Have a joy-filled weekend, and I hope to see you tomorrow or Sunday!

Blessings,
Chris



Actually, there’s more

Dear Church Family,

I want to start by thanking everyone who attended our baby shower on Sunday afternoon. (Truthfully, the baby shower was for Amanda, but I was also invited!) Amanda and I were so overwhelmed by the outpour of love and support shown by our church family. A special thanks goes to our United Methodist Women who worked hard to put the event together. You truly are remarkable!

As you know, last week, we started a brand-new message series titled “Actually the Bible Doesn’t Say That.” Our hope in this series is to examine the truthfulness behind some familiar clichés that people often assume are in the Bible even though they’re not in there. Last week we looked at the famous saying “Everything happens for a reason.” This week, we turn our attention to what’s been called the most-quoted Bible verse that’s not in the Bible-God helps those who help themselves. A recent survey of the Barna Group, a Christian polling firm, found that over 80% of Americans believe this phrase is in the Bible. What’s more, almost half of the respondents were strongly convinced this is one of the major messages of Scripture!

For the record, the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible. Not only that, this phrase contradicts the teachings of Scripture in at least 2 ways. Join us for worship this weekend to find out more!

I also want to invite you to attend Coffee with the Pastor every Thursday evening from 5:00-6:15 p.m. at the Starbucks on Cagan View Road in Clermont. If you have a question about a message or just want to connect with me outside of church, I’d love for you to join me for coffee. Faith is a journey, and we’re called to come alongside each other on this journey!

By the way, in case you weren’t in worship, I announced last weekend that the grand total for our Advent project, People Serving People, was $16,861.99! I am excited by the fact that this money is going to make a difference for the people in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria!

As I said last week, 2018 is going to be a great year, and that’s already proving true. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you in worship.
Blessings,
Chris



Actually, Happy New Year!

Dear Church Family,

Happy New Year! I can’t wait to see what God is going to do among our Motley Crew in 2018.

This weekend, I’m kicking off a new message series that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. The series is on phrases that we assume are the Bible-we quote them as if they’re in the Bible-but they’re actually not in there. More importantly, these phrases miss the truth of the Christian faith in huge and important ways.

The first phrase we’ll be debunking is the ever-popular saying “Everything happens for a reason.” Here are 4 other popular phrases we’ll be looking at in the coming weeks:

· God helps those who help themselves. (January 13/14)

· God won’t give you more than you can handle. (January 20/21)

· God said it. I believe it. That settles it. (January 27/28)

· Love the sinner, hate the sin. (February 2/3)

I think this series will make all of us (me included) think twice before uttering one of these phrases again.

By the way, I hope you saw the list of 7 classes we’re offering in mid-January. The topics of the classes run the gamut, covering everything from marriage and parenting to financial peace to introducing people to basic Christian beliefs. The classes start January 21 and sign-ups are in the lobby area. Email Justin Moore if you have any questions (jmoore@communityoffaith.org).

Finally, this weekend, I’m going to share with you how much money we raised for our Advent project, “People Serving People.” As you know, our goal was to raise $10,000 through the end of Christmas Eve. However, before our first Christmas Eve service, we had already collected $13,300! Now that all our Christmas Eve monies have been counted, I can share with you how much money we raised in total. I’m so proud of the kingdom work God accomplished through us. I know you will be, too!

Have a peaceful weekend, and I look forward to seeing you in one of our worship services!

Blessings,
Chris



In God’s Abundance We Trust

Dear Church Family,

Which economy do you operate from? An economy of scarcity or an economy of abundance?

Two days before Thanksgiving, our Administrative Council got together to discuss our Advent project. As we do every year, we wanted to raise money for a worthwhile cause. This year, we decided to raise money for a local congregation in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria. However, we weren’t sure of the amount to raise. That’s when somebody spoke up and said, “Ten thousand dollars!”

To be honest, I thought the amount was too high. Don’t get me wrong. I definitely wanted us to raise the money, but I feared we’d be disappointed if the goal wasn’t met. (It was higher than any goal we had ever set.) I also was afraid that tithes and offerings would be negatively impacted and we would have trouble meeting our operational costs at the church. At the time I told myself I was being conservative. Now that I’ve had more time to reflect on the situation, I think what was really happening is I was operating from an economy of scarcity instead of an economy of abundance.

Let me explain.

An economy of scarcity begins from a place of fear. An economy of scarcity says that, since there’s only so many resources, we should hold onto as much as possible. An economy of abundance, on the other hand, begins from a place of faith, trusting that God can take our finite resources and multiply them over and over.

We see these two kinds of economies at play in the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. This is how John records it:

Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

John 6:5-9 (NLT)

Notice how John says Jesus was “testing Philip.” Jesus already knew he was going to multiply the loaves and fish, but he wanted to see if Philip was coming at this dilemma from a place of fear or faith. I think the answer’s obvious when we look at Philip’s reply. “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” Philip clearly didn’t trust what Jesus was capable of doing.


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Christmas Eve weekend

Dear Church Family,

Well, Christmas Eve has almost arrived. I’m diligently working on my Christmas Eve message, so this note’s going to be briefer than normal. I’m simply going to remind you of our upcoming services this weekend. Christmas Eve is on a Sunday this year, which means things are a little different.

First, we have services Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. (not 8:30 or 10:30; just 10:00). These services are for the fourth weekend of Advent. They are not our Christmas Eve services. So, when you come on Saturday night or Sunday morning, please make sure to come back Sunday night, because the music and message will be different.

Our Sunday night Christmas Eve services will be at 6:00 p.m. (families with young children), 8:15 p.m. (contemporary), and 11:00 p.m. (traditional). My message at the 8:15 and 11:00 services will explore the message of Christmas through the lens of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. We’ll also have Communion at all 3 services.

Remember that Christmas Eve marks the end of Advent, so this will be your last opportunity to give to our Advent project called “People Serving People” where we’re helping victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. I’ll let you know how much money we’ve collected so far at all of our services this weekend.

Make sure not to come to worship alone – bring somebody with you! We’ll have a joyous time as we welcome the Christ Child in our midst.

Blessings,
Chris



A baby changes everything

Dear Church Family,

A baby changes everything.

I’ve come to understand that simple truth in a profound way over the last few months.

Amanda and I have begun the process of reading books and articles on parenting. We’ve purchased new items. We’ve transformed our spare room into a nursery and our home office into a playroom. We’ve traded in Amanda’s two-door car for a more kid-friendly vehicle. We’re planning on baby-proofing the house in the next few weeks. Amanda’s even going to leave her full-time job come January in order to spend more time at home. A baby changes everything. Actually, in our case, babies change everything!

Well, if anyone understood that a baby changes everything, Mary did. After all, the child whom she was carrying wasn’t only going to change her world; he was going to transform the entire world.

Mary obviously had some sense that this child was different when the prophet Simeon spoke these words when Jesus was only forty days old, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:34-35 NLT).

I’ve often wondered if Mary thought back to Simeon’s prophetic words as she stood beneath the cross thirty-three years later and saw her own son executed.

A baby changes everything. But this particular baby had come to change things in a way no child has.

My prayer for us this Advent, as we get closer to the celebration of Christmas and the arrival of the Christ Child, is that we will open ourselves up to his transformative presence. Indeed, he has come as Emmanuel, God-with-us, to change everything for us.

Amen.

Blessings,
Chris



2017 Advent Project: People Serving People

Dear Church Family,

I hope your week’s been going well, and that you are experiencing hope, peace, joy, and love, which are the themes of Advent, the season we’re in right now.

Last week in services we announced our 2017 Advent project, which is to financially assist 2 local churches devastated by the effects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. We’re calling this project “People Serving People” and our goal is to raise $10,000 by Christmas Eve night. I will give you a brief update about how much money we’ve collected so far this Saturday and Sunday. I hope you (and, if applicable, your spouse and/or family) have begun to prayerfully consider how you’re going to support this great cause. If you’re not able to give in services, you can donate online by clicking the following link, http://www.communityoffaith.org/giving, and selecting the giving tab “People Serving People.”

This weekend we’re continuing our series on Christmas movies. The series was so well received last year that we decided to bring it back for a sequel. Last week we saw how the movie The Santa Clause gives us a window in the transformative power of Christmas and the true meaning of faith. If you missed the message, you can catch it here: https://vimeo.com/245734754. I hope you’re beginning to see that these movies aren’t just movies. They’re stories that draw us in and give us an angle into understanding our faith and the message we proclaim.

The movie we’re looking at this weekend is the 1983 film A Christmas Story. Come to worship in order to find out what kind of spiritual lessons we can glean from this movie.

If you’re interested in becoming more active in our church, read the rest of this email and contact the necessary people involved. There are always ways to connect to what God is doing here.

Blessings,
Chris