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Stick Out

Dear Church Family,

I’m writing this email from the Life Enrichment Center (LEC) in Fruitland Park. As many of you know, the LEC is one of our United Methodist camps in the Florida Annual Conference. I’ve been at the LEC since Monday afternoon with the 50 or so other members of the Florida Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. The Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM for short) is a group of pastors and lay people charged with the task of interviewing and examining candidates for pastoral ministry. It’s been a busy and full week. But at the same time, it’s been encouraging to visit with so many gifted leaders. 

I can’t wait to be in worship with you this weekend. We are going to take a one-week break from our new series, Elephants in the Room, to hear a message from the book of Daniel. The name of the message will be “Stick Out.” The message will focus on the Old Testament character of Daniel, who came from a royal family and whose parents instilled in him a rich and abiding faith in God, a faith that helped Daniel “stick out.” In a similar sense, you and I are called to develop a faith that sticks out in each other. I can’t wait for you to hear the message, which will be delivered by my good friend, Pastor Erwin Lopez, who serves at the UCF Wesley Foundation.

During our weekend services, we’re also going to hear a brief word from Steve Huffman, our Administrative Council Chairperson. Steve will share with us an update about Community of Faith’s finances, and what we were able to accomplish as a church last year because of your sacrificial generosity.

All in all, it’s going to be a really great weekend. See you soon! 

Blessings,

Chris


Elephants

Dear Church Family,

If you missed the news last week, our church collected a grand total of $17,258.48 for our Advent project, Faith, Love, and Hope in Action, where we were seeking to raise money for victims of both the California wildfires and Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle. Our goal was to collect at least $10,000, which means we exceed our goal by more than 72%! To my knowledge, that’s the most money we’ve ever collected for a cause outside of our church. So, praise God! God is truly using our church to make a difference in the world.

 

I’m thankful for the time I had to rest after the Christmas holiday and for the great guest preachers we had. However, I still missed preaching. That said, I’m excited to be back in the pulpit this weekend where I’ll be kicking off a brand-new series of messages called “Elephants in the Room.” As you know, the phrase “elephant in the room” refers to a topic that no one wants to address even though everyone’s thinking about it. In this series, we’re going to look at 5 different topics that we in the church could do a better job of discussing. The topics will be as follows:

 

January 12/13 – The Difficulty of Forgiveness
January 26/27 – Mental Health
February 2/3 – Suicide
February 9/10 – Domestic Violence
February 16/17 – Sexploitation
I hope you’ll bring a friend and join us for what is sure to be an intriguing series. I’m certainly learning a great deal as I put together the messages.

 

By the way, I want you to know we’re in the process right now of resurrecting our livestreaming option. Some of you might remember that we used to livestream our worship services years and years ago, but over time, we stopped. Well, thanks to the hard work of Diana Petras, Justin Moore, Scott Hill, and the entire tech team and focus groups, our livestreaming option is back. We are planning a “soft launch” by next weekend and you will be able to view our services initially via Facebook. Once the “official” launch is ready for our website, we will be sure to let you know so that we can celebrate.  We’ll be sure to keep you posted as we make progress toward our “official” launch in the next few weeks. This way, if you’re ever out of town, you’ll still be able to worship with us virtually.  

 

I think that’s all I have to share on my end. Check out the rest of this email if you want to know what else is happening in the life of Community of Faith. Hope to see you this weekend.

Blessings,

Chris



Every tmie I think of you, I give thanks to the Lord

Dear Church Family,
“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (Philippians 1:3).
The apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Philippi, but they certainly express my own feelings about Community of Faith. Indeed, when I think about the wonderful kingdom work our church has done over the last year, I can’t help but be proud and give God thanks.
One thing to highlight – for which I’m incredibly grateful – is the amount of money we raised for our 2018 Advent project, “Faith, Love, and Hope in Action.” As you remember, our goal was to collect at least $10,000 through the end of Advent, and then donate that money to the victims of both the wildfires in California and Hurricane Michael up in the Panhandle. However, even before our first Christmas Eve service, we had already collected almost $16,500! Now that our Christmas Eve offerings have been counted, I’m able to share the final figure with you, which is what I plan to do in worship this weekend. I can’t wait!
Thank you again for your sacrificial generosity and willingness to give. By the grace of God, Community of Faith is indeed a congregation that is truly making a difference in the world.
I’m excited for worship this weekend because my friend, Pastor Mike Zdorow, is going to be delivering the message. Some of you might remember Mike as the minister who officiated at my wedding with Amanda. For the last several years, Mike has been serving as a missionary and local church pastor in Russia. Mike plans to share with us about God’s movement in Russia and the work the Methodist church has been doing over there. I look forward to it!
Happy New Year and see you soon!
Blessings,
Chris


Merry Christmas – The Miracle Question

Dear Church Family,
Merry Christmas! 
I realize it’s December 28th, not December 25th, but technically we’re still in the season of Christmas. Keep in mind that the Christmas holiday starts on December 25th and ends on January 6th with the celebration of Epiphany. So go ahead-drink eggnog, sing Christmas songs, keep your decorations up, and continue to say, “Merry Christmas.” Enjoy all the festivities that come with the season.
I hope you’ll join us this weekend for one of our last worship services of 2018. Our services will be at their regular times. The message title is “The Miracle Question” and Scripture texts are 1 Peter 4:1-11 and Psalm 39:1-5. If you’re asking yourself what the miracle question is, you’ll have to come to worship to find out!
Check out the rest of this email to see what else is happening in the life of Community of Faith. Have a great day! 
Blessings,
Chris
 


We haven’t missed it!

I am in the process of putting together 2 different sermons, so I’m going to keep this note brief (which is a hard thing for a preacher to do!). 

In addition to our regular services this weekend, I hope to see you at one of our 3 services on Christmas Eve night. 

 
The first Christmas Eve service will be at 6:00 PM. This will be our Family Service. The Family Service is a perfect worship opportunity for parents with small children. The music will be fun and uplifting, and the message will be tailored for young kids. In addition, there will be glow sticks given out (as opposed to candles) to celebrate the light that Jesus’ coming brings us.
 
Then we have our Candlelight Services at 8:15 PM (contemporary) and 11:00 PM (traditional). During these last 2 services, we’ll close out our current series, The Gospel in Scrooge, by looking at the transformation that overtook Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
 
 So to sum up, we have regular services this weekend, and then we have 3 worship opportunities on Monday night (Christmas Eve). 
Hope to see you soon!

Blessings,
Chris



Faith Love Hope in Action – 2018 Advent Project

Dear Church Family,

I’m excited to give you an update this weekend about the amount of money we’ve collected so far for our Advent project. I’m always blown away by your generosity. Even in an expensive season like Christmas, you honor the true spirit of the holiday by sharing your wealth with others.

Speaking of sharing wealth, this weekend – as we continue in our current series, The Gospel in Scrooge – we turn our attention to the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Spirit who reminds Ebenezer Scrooge of all the poor people he’s neglected. As I think about Scrooge’s encounter with the Ghost, I’m reminded of Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Nazareth where he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor” (Luke 4:18). I heard somebody recently say, “If it’s not good news to the poor, then it’s not good news!” Indeed, the gospel of Jesus Christ involves distributing our financial blessings to the most vulnerable among us. This weekend we’ll see how Scrooge’s story reminds us of this truth.

By the way, we’re also going to welcome in our 48th new member this year at our Saturday night service. All in all, it’s going to be a great weekend. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Blessings,
Chris



The Gospel in Scrooge

Dear Church Family,
Bah-Humbug!
Those are the famous 2 words spoken by Ebenezer Scrooge, the main character in Charles Dickens’ classic novella, A Christmas Carol. In the beginning part of Dickens’ story, Scrooge accuses Christmas of being a humbug. What exactly is a humbug? Well, I looked up the definition earlier this week. According to the dictionary, a humbug is basically a hoax or an impostor. In other words, for Scrooge, Christmas is a ridiculous holiday that’s not worth celebrating. Of course, as you’ll recall from your memory of the story, Scrooge undergoes a remarkable transformation that leads him to completely change his mind and embrace the Christmas holiday!
I’ve been spending a great deal of time in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as I’ve been putting together the messages for our upcoming preaching series for Advent. The series is called The Gospel in Scrooge. In the series (which starts this weekend!), we’re going to discover how Charles Dickens’ novella beautifully illustrates the gospel of Jesus to us. Here are the messages you can expect.
 
  1. An Unexpected Visit (December 1/2)
  2. The Ghost of Christmas Past (December 8/9)
  3. The Ghost of Christmas Present (December 15/16)
  4. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (December 22/23)
  5. I Haven’t Missed It! (December 24)
Charles Dickens first published A Christmas Carol 175 years ago this year! (The book was first released on December 19, 1843.) It seems fitting to commemorate the anniversary of the book’s release by exploring the theology within its pages. I hope to see you in worship this weekend as we do just that. Our first message will focus on the character of Ebenezer Scrooge as well as his visit with his old business partner, Jacob Marley. Believe it or not, this portion of the story has a lot to teach us about the gospel of Jesus. And if you want to know why, you’ll have to join us for worship to find out!
By the way, when you come to worship this weekend, I’m also going to announce our Advent project. Every Advent (the season leading into Christmas), our congregation seeks to raise money for a cause beyond our church. Last year we raised money for Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico. Two years ago, we raised money for World Bicycle Relief, an organization that provides young women in developing countries with bicycles. Three years ago, we raised money in the global fight against Malaria. Well, this year’s cause is just as important as these other ones. So, keep your ears peeled for the announcement, which will be at the beginning of service.
The last thing I’ll mention is that if you want to join us at Coalition for the Homeless later on today, make sure to meet us in the Publix parking lot at Berry Town Center at 3:00 PM. We will then carpool over together to participate in the feeding.
I hope you have a great Friday, and I look forward to seeing you in worship this weekend!
Blessings,
Chris

PS.  We received the sad news that a beloved member of Community of Faith, Nathalie Rana, passed away on Thursday, November 29th. Information will be shared in the coming days regarding a Celebration of Life Service as the family makes their plans. Please keep them in your prayers as we mourn the loss of our sister in Christ.


We no return to our regular schedule

Dear Church Family,

I hope you enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Many of us gathered at tables of abundance as we celebrated God’s rich blessings. 

When Amanda and I first got married, we began a Thanksgiving tradition for our family that we continued yesterday. Just before the Thanksgiving meal, we’ll read from Psalm 100 and meditate on what the Psalmist has to say about giving thanks. I share this passage with you in hopes that you’ll inspired to give gratitude to God as the Psalmist does. We truly have much for which to be thankful. 

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
Psalm 100 (NLT)
Blessings,

Chris 

p.s. While we enjoyed our combined service last weekend, our worship services will go back to their regular scheduled times for this weekend. Join us for what’s sure to be an inspiring time of worship! In addition to music and a message, we have 4 new members who will join our Motley Crew at the 8:30 AM service on Sunday (bringing our total number of new members for 2018 to 46). In addition, we’ll baptize 3 little girls at the 10:30 AM on Sunday and say a word of prayer for David Hill, a recent high school graduate who joined the military and leaves for bootcamp next week. As always, it’s going to be a great weekend at Community of Faith! See you soon.


Where are you?

Dear Church Family,

I recently heard somebody say, “For evidence of human sin, look no further than the news.”

 
Now, there a sense in which that statement is definitely true. Every day when we watch the news, we see evidence of human sin all around us-murder, assault, robbery, political corruption, abuse of power, the list goes on. But there’s another sense in which that statement can deceive us. It can make us think that we’re doing OK. After all, the sins you and I commit will likely never make the news. However, that doesn’t mean that we’re not still sinners in need of redemption.
 
Sin is evidenced in the bad stuff that we do, but sin is so much more than the bad stuff that we do. At its core, sin is a relational issue. 
 
That’s why God, shortly after discovering Adam and Eve have eaten of the forbidden fruit, calls out to them in the garden, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) God knew where Adam and Eve were physically (behind some bushes). But God’s question wasn’t a question of location; it was a question of spirituality. “Where are you in relationship to me?”
 
That’s also why David, after he slept with a married woman and then killed her husband, penned these words in Psalm 51: “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned.” (v. 4) Obviously, in committing those heinous acts, David had sinned against other people. But David knew those sins had ultimately torn him from God.
 
Maybe our sins will never make news, but we’re still sinners. We’re still in need of God to heal, mend, and restore us. Thanks be to God for the gift of Jesus whose death and resurrection makes it possible for us to reenter the relationship into which God made us. Indeed, our sin and brokenness will never match the relentless love that God has for us.
 
Rejoice in that love!

Blessings,

Chris

 

p.s., I look forward to seeing you this weekend for Celebration Sunday at 10:00 AM. Make sure to bring your Commitment Card as you will have the chance to drop it off at the altar area during Communion. Also, plan to stick around for the potluck and ministry fair afterwards.


COF – Grounded in Faith

Dear Church Family,

We’re now halfway through our message series called “All of Who We Are.” In this series, we’re looking at what it means to give Jesus not some of who we are, but all of who we are, including our time, treasure, talent and trust.

 
If you haven’t picked up a stewardship packet, make sure you get one when you come to worship this weekend. The packet contains celebratory and relevant information that ties directly with the series. Ultimately, we don’t follow Jesus apart from the community of believers Jesus has put together called the church. Therefore, our commitment to our local church in many ways will reflect the depth of our commitment to Jesus. My prayer is that all of us will commit ourselves to Jesus through Community of Faith so that God can continue to use this church to fulfill his purposes in the world.
 
As I shared in my message last weekend, my position as pastor gives me a front-row seat into how God is using this church to transform people. Indeed, just this last week three different couples came to me to tell me how much Community of Faith has meant to their families. One couple said to me, “I feel like our marriage is getting stronger by the day, and we’re beginning to raise our kids as people grounded in faith.” So, thank you to all of you for your support of Community of Faith. When you entrust the Lord Jesus with all of who you are through this Motley Crew, it truly makes a difference.

I look forward to being in worship with you this weekend as we explore these concepts further. Our focus will be on giving Jesus our talent. 

See you then.

Blessings,
Chris

 

p.s. Please be in prayer for the people of Thousand Oaks, California in the wake of yet another mass shooting. Our hearts break, and we ask God to send his love and grace upon the friends and families of the victims. 



Celebrations of Life, Community, and God’s Light

Dear Church Family,
 
All I can say is “Wow!” after Trunk or Treat on Wednesday night. We had a great time passing out candy and connecting with so many families in our community. I am grateful to Kathy Beuttenmuller and her team of volunteers for putting together such an awesome event. Every year Trunk or Treat gets better and better! We even had a few families who requested information about Community of Faith after seeing how well the people of our church love the community. Thank you again to all of you who donated candy, invited folks, and volunteered your time. You are the hands and feet of Jesus, and we couldn’t have done it without you!
 
In light of all the terrible things that are happening in our world right now, it’s important that we as the church continue to shine God’s light to those around us through tangible acts of love and service. Jesus put it this way:

“You are the light of the world-like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)
 
As Jesus reminds us, people aren’t led to God through gimmicks, slick campaigns, or clever forms of persuasion. Instead, they’re led to God when we allow the light of God to shine through us in such a way that our witness is irresistible. My prayer is that Community of Faith will continue to be a beacon of God’s light, so that others in the Four Corners and the larger world will come to know the great love of our God.
 
Blessings,
Chris
 
p.s., I hope to see you in worship this weekend! We’ll continue in our series called “All of Who We Are” where we are focusing on giving our whole selves over to Jesus.
 
p.s.s., Tomorrow afternoon is our Celebration of Life for Service for Sara Harris. Sara was a longtime member of Community of Faith who passed away last month. During the service, we’ll praise God for Sara’s earthly life as well as the eternal life she now enjoys because of Jesus. The service starts at 2:00 p.m. and there will be a reception afterwards at Vista del Lago Clubhouse. All are welcome to attend the service and reception. 


All of Who We Are

Dear Church Family,

I want to thank you for your generous support of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Central Florida. We collected $875 in our Voice of Hope (VOH) baskets last weekend, which will be used to help fund the ministry led by Pastor Erwin Lopez. I am proud of our congregation’s willingness to give to causes outside of our church. That said, the VOH basket this weekend will go to support UMCOR, our United Methodist Committee on Relief. I invite you to give generously to UMCOR and be confident that every penny of what you give will go to directly to the work of disaster relief. 

I also want to thank those of you who have donated candy for Trunk or Treat and/or signed up to help us with the event. We still need more trunks in order to make Trunk or Treat a success, so please sign up if you haven’t done so already! Halloween is just a few days away, and we need as many people as possible!

This weekend, we start a brand-new message series called “All of Who We Are.” The series will explore our tendency, as Christians, to hold back once we make a commitment to Jesus. However, Jesus doesn’t want us to hold back. Instead, he wants us to give our whole selves over to him, including our time, treasure, talents and trust (what we’re calling “the 4 T’s”). Join us at one of our weekend services as we explore the first of these T’s, which is time! In addition, we’re going to hand out a packet of information that will go directly with the series. Make sure to read this information and prayerfully consider how God might be calling you to give all of who you are to the ministry of Community of Faith over the next year.

See you this weekend! 

Blessings,

Chris