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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



New Advent Sermon Series – Christmas at the Movies: Take 2

Dear Church Family,

Last week was a transitional week from Celebration Sunday (when we capped off our stewardship series and celebrated the ministry of our church) to Advent (the season that takes us into Christmastime). Justin Moore, our worship leader and discipleship director, preached a great message about obedience to God and submission to his plan. In case you missed it, you can find it here:

https://vimeo.com/244671256

. We’re thankful for the way God is using Justin’s gifts to strengthen our ministry here.

The start of Advent means the start of a new sermon series. You might remember our series from last year titled “Christmas at the Movies” where we explored the message of Christmas through the lens of different Christmas movies. The series was so well received that I decided to bring it back for a second time. That said, the name of the series, which starts this weekend, is called “Christmas at the Movies, Take 2.” We’ll watch the promises of Christmas come to life through some of our favorite movies. The movies we’ll be looking at are as follows:

1. The Santa Clause

2. A Christmas Story

3. It’s A Wonderful Life

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

5. A Christmas Carol

If you’re looking for some homework over the next few weeks, watch these Christmas movies and be prepared to see them in a whole new way, starting with The Santa Clause this weekend!

We’re also going to be announcing our Advent project this weekend. Every year, we at Community of Faith rally together to raise money for a cause outside of our church. Last year we raised money for World Bicycle Relief, an organization that helps young women in developing countries get bicycles. The year before we raised money for Imagine No Malaria. This year’s cause is extremely important, so please come ready to hear about it. I’ll say a few words about this cause at the beginning of services.

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Shout With Joy to the LORD

Dear Church Family,

I hope you enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving with your friends and family. Many of us gathered at tables of abundance as we celebrated God’s rich blessings. I know Amanda and I feel especially grateful when we think about the expansion of our family in just a few months! God is, indeed, good!

Last year, as a newly married couple, Amanda and I instituted a Thanksgiving tradition for our family, which we continued yesterday. Prior to our meal, we read from Psalm 100 and meditated on what the Psalmist has to say about giving thanks. I offer this passage in hopes that it will encourage us to embody a similar spirit of gratitude when it comes to God’s blessings.

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 deeply enjoyed our combined service last weekend, our worship services will go back to their normal 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 new members who will join us at the 8:30 and 10:30 services, as well as 3 baptisms at the 10:30 service. As always, it’s going to be a great weekend!



WARNING!

Dear Church Family,

I love rollercoasters. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed the thrill of being strapped into a cart and then holding on to dear life as the ride moves at a fast space through all the twists and turns and ups and downs. Even now, I count rollercoasters among my favorite rides at theme parks. There is something about being on a rollercoaster that excites me.

But not everyone enjoys rollercoasters (my wife among them), nor can everyone ride them. That’s why the end of of every rollercoaster line has a warning sign that lists all the various reasons you might not want to get on the ride.
 

I’ve often wondered if every local church (including Community of Faith) needs a sign like that.

Here’s what I mean.

American culture has conditioned us to approach faith with an attitude of consumerism. We go to church primarily because it makes us feel good. The music moves us, the sermon inspires us, and the coffee and snacks fill us and satisfy our taste buds. But the moment the church begins to challenge our lifestyle, worldview, politics, or opinions, we get uncomfortable and raise our hands protest.

Why is the pastor talking about this? I’m going to skip services until this topic is over!

Why did they pick that song? Sure, it goes with the message, but I haven’t heard it before and I don’t feel like learning a new song!

Why do they keep asking for volunteers? Don’t they know I’ve got other things to do?!

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Veterans, Animals, and Enough

Last week we kicked off a brand-new message series called “Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity.” The series is inspired by a book of the same name by Adam Hamilton, who pastors Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. If you weren’t in worship, you can catch the message here: https://vimeo.com/241602346.

As I was reviewing the video myself, I noticed I got so excited during certain parts of the message that I accidentally moved out of frame. I apologize for that mistake. I also apologize that the audio cuts out in some places for the video. Hopefully you can still enjoy the message even with those 2 distractions!

If you didn’t receive a stewardship envelope last weekend, make sure to grab one this weekend. Our own Administrative Council Chairperson, Steve Huffman, is also going to say a few words about stewardship during our services. Steve always has a lot of wisdom to share, so I know you will benefit from his message.

Remember…we are celebrating Veteran’s Day this week, and we will take some time this weekend to honor our Veterans and their families at our services as well.

Don’t forget about our Blessing of the Animals service this Sunday at Northeast Regional Park (50901 Hwy 27, Davenport). We will gather at 4:00 p.m. (rain or shine!) and give a special blessing to our animal friends.

Earlier this week, somebody asked me why we’re holding this service. After all, he thought, the Bible doesn’t say much when it comes to animals. As I explained, however, the Bible says more than we realize.


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Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity

Dear Church Family,

There’s so many great things happening in the life of our church that I’m not sure where to start!

I guess I’ll begin by pointing out the success of Trunk or Treat. We literally had hundreds, if not well over a thousand, kids on our property. It’s hard to estimate how many were actually in attendance, because not everyone went through the registration line. Even so, the important thing is they were here! Through your efforts, these kids received candy and a warm welcome from our church, as well as winter coats and information about our ministry here. A big “thank you” goes out to Kathy Beuttenmuller and her team of volunteers who spearheaded the organizational side of Trunk or Treat. Jesus told us that when we welcome children in his name we truly welcome him (Mark 9:37). Folks, that’s exactly what we did on Tuesday night-we welcomed the risen Jesus into our midst. Well done!

This weekend, I kick off a new series of messages called “Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity.” The series is part of our church-wide emphasis on stewardship, the idea that everything we have doesn’t belong to us, but rather, to God. Moreover, God calls us to take what we have and use these things for his Kingdom. You’ll receive a packet of information that ties in with the series when you come to worship this weekend. One thing you’ll receive is a letter from me that highlights our ministry over the past year. A few weeks ago, I asked some folks on our leadership team to read the letter and offer me feedback. One person mentioned that the letter gave her tears because it reminded her how God is using this church to change people’s lives. I’m not sure if you’ll cry or not when you read the letter. At the very least, however, I hope you’ll be inspired by what God is doing here.


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. . . and other goodies

Dear Church Family,

I hope you’re enjoying this fall weather. After a summer like the one we’ve had, it’s much deserved, isn’t it?

Friday’s my Sabbath (day of rest) and Amanda took the day off from work today. So, we’re on our way to St. Augustine right now where we plan to spend the rest of the day and tomorrow morning. We look forward to this time together, but we’re also excited to return just in time for weekend worship.

Speaking of worship, you don’t want to miss what we have going on this weekend.

To start, my friend and seminary classmate, Erwin Lopez, will be bringing the message. Erwin – who’s preached here several times in the past – currently serves as the Director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Central Florida. He’ll share how our church can best support that life-changing ministry into the future. In addition, Erwin will close out our series, “You Keep Using that Bible Verse. I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means.” The message will center on Matthew 18:20 where Jesus says, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (NLT). Erwin’s a gifted preacher and communicator, so I know you’ll get a great deal out of his message. And, as always, the music will be inspiring and the coffee will be warm!

I am also excited that we have a baptism and new members joining at the 10:30 service. The little girl I’ll be baptizing is Harley Crew. Harley’s parents (Tony and Ashley) began attending Community of Faith several months back. They’ve been so impressed by our church that they want to join as official members. We’ll welcome Tony and Ashley into our “Motley Crew” right after Harley’s baptism. The baptism will also give me some good practice when it comes to holding babies, which I will be doing much of very soon!

By the way, if you haven’t already heard, Amanda and I found out from the doctor last week that we’re expecting a girl and a boy. We can’t wait to welcome these children into the world and (like Ashley and Tony want to do with Harley) raise them up at this church!

Don’t forget that Trunk or Treat is just around the corner. Sign-ups are still going on, and we still need lots and lots of candy donations.

That’s all for now. See you this weekend!

Blessings,
Chris



You Keep Using that Bible Verse. I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means

Dear Church Family,

This weekend will include the 3rd installment of our current series, “You Keep Using that Bible Verse. I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means.” We’ve had a lot of fun, in these messages, exploring how we, as Christians, have misread and misapplied some of the Bible’s most popular verses.

The verse we’re talking we’ll be talking about this weekend is one that, I’m sure, most of us are familiar with-Matthew 7:1, where Jesus says, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged” (NLT). What is Jesus getting at here? Is all judgement bad? Can judgement ever be necessary and appropriate? Join us for worship on Saturday or Sunday as we explore the bigger picture behind this famous verse.

I want to thank everyone who came out to the church-wide picnic last Sunday afternoon. I trust you had a great time enjoying food and hanging out with your church family. I also want to thank Gillian Wolfe for all her hard work in organizing the event.


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Picnic this weekend!

Dear Church Family,

I hope you’ve had a great week, and that you’re excited about worship this weekend.

We’re continuing in our new series, “You Keep Using that Bible Verse. I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means.” In this series, we’re examining some of Scripture’s most well-known and familiar verses. We’re seeing how oftentimes we rip these from their proper context and misapply them to our lives. If you missed the inaugural message to the series, you can find it here: https://vimeo.com/ 237470703.

This coming weekend, we’re going to look at another famous Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, where the apostle Paul declares, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” (NLT). I’ve had a lot of fun working on this message and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with you!

Don’t that forget this Sunday is our church-wide picnic at North East Regional Park (50901 US-27, Davenport, FL 33897). The fun begins at noon and lasts until 3:00 p.m. We’ll have a great time of hanging out, enjoying food, and celebrating our awesome staff at Community of Faith.


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inconceivable

Dear Church Family,

I’m not sure where to start.

Three times over the last ten years we’ve been confronted with the news headline, “Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. History.” In 2007 there was Virginia Tech. In 2016 there was Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. Now there’s Las Vegas. (That’s not even mentioning other horrific shootings like the ones in Aurora, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; or in Charleston, South Carolina.)

Of course, our thoughts and prayers immediately go to the victims’ families. But even as we offer these prayers, we’re reminded of the poignant words of the apostle James:

“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”-but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:14-17 NLT).

In short, faith-filled prayer is designed to lead to concrete action. It’s been inspiring to watch people step up, give blood, and go out of their way to help those impacted by this tragedy. I also hope that we as a nation-republicans, democrats, and everyone in between-can come together and talk about what we can do to prevent this news headline from appearing again.

This weekend, we launch into a brand-new series of messages partly inspired by the movie Princess Bride. In the movie, there’s a character named Vizzini who continually misuses the word “inconceivable.” Finally, another character rightly points out to Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”


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Thanks for another great Be, Go, Do! (and Moore)

Dear Church Family,

I hope you’ve had a great week.

It was hard for me not to be at Be, Go, Do last weekend (I’ll say more about that the end of this email), but I am so proud of the 208 volunteers who showed up to make God’s love real in our community. That number also includes the 21 people who worked extra hard to lead our various teams in service. Of course, lots of different things were done at Be, Go Do, (mulching, paying gratitude to first-responders, helping out at the Community Hope Center and New Beginnings Thrift Store), but one of the many highlights includes the 75 hygiene kits that were assembled for victims of the recent hurricanes. We’ll be sending those hygiene kits, along with 36 more that were assembled before Be, Go, Do (plus 4 flood buckets!), to the Conference office this week. Once again, this church family has embodied servanthood and responded to the biblical call to couple personal faith with concrete action (James 2:14-26).

Like all of you, my heart continues to break for the people of Puerto Rico, where many of our congregants, including those who attend our 12:30 Comunidad de Fé service, have family and friends. There’s no question that the recovery process in Puerto Rico, in the wake of the damage caused by both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, is going to be long-term, and we want to make sure that we’re doing all we can to help. As such, I ask that you give generously to our Voice Hope of Baskets this weekend, because 100% of what you place in those baskets will go to UMCOR, our United Methodist Committee on Relief. You can be confident that UMCOR will use your funds in the best way possible to provide relief where it’s most needed.

I think everyone who’s been in worship the last month or so would agree that our church has been incredibly blessed by the musical talents and gifts of Justin Moore. We’ve only had Justin for a little while, but already he has done a superb job leading the musical side of things at our church. Justin’s wife, Ashley, has also been a blessing, and we hope they’re with us for many years to come.


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Be Go Do 2017

Dear Church Family,

This weekend is Be, Go, Do, which is our yearly opportunity to show the community around us that we’re not some spiritual country club tucked away behind the orange groves; we’re a church family that is committed to serving God’s people in concrete and identifiable ways.

Keep in mind that we will have worship on Saturday night. The service on Saturday will include a different message and music than Sunday morning, so you can come to both services and get a unique experience at each. Then, on Sunday, we’ll gather at 9:00 a.m. for a brief worship service before finally being sent out to serve! As I said last weekend, my dream for Be, Go, Do is to have 100% participation from our congregation, so we hope to see everyone there!

I want to personally thank Annette Reyes-Burnsed, our Voice of Hope banner leader, for all her hard work in getting us organized. Annette, who has a kind heart and generous spirit, does a superb job listening to needs of the community, and then helping us, as a church, address those needs. She embodies what it means to serve like Jesus and our church is stronger for it!

As I close out this note, I also want to encourage us to be in prayer for the people of Puerto Rico and Mexico in the wake of the 2 natural disasters that have affected those places. In the coming weeks, we’ll talk about some ways that we can be of support to them. But for now, please pray that they feel an overwhelming sense of God’s presence and love.

Thank you for the privilege of serving as your pastor. I am excited to serve with you on Sunday!

Blessings,
Chris