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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



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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