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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



After the Storm has Passed

Dear Church Family,

Now that the dust has settled (or, in this case, the storm has passed), I want to offer a few post-Hurricane Irma reflections.

It always seems that when natural disasters strike, there are people out there who like to attribute these sorts of events to God’s handiwork. I read a social media post a few days ago from a popular Christian speaker. In the post, he called hurricanes “manifestations of your [God’s] great might.” I got curious, so I went to read the comment section of the post. One of the commentators wrote this:

“God alone is the maker of all storms in life. He created us to think about what we have done and where we are going. Earthquakes shall come. Famines shall arrive. Floods will enter our homes. God did it all….He is trying to tell us something.”

I want to encourage us to push back at these comments. Granted, there are a few instances in Scripture where God manipulates the forces of nature to accomplish his purposes (e.g., the flood of Noah in Genesis 6-9; the earthquake that freed Paul and Silas from prison in Acts 16:26). But these instances are the exception rather than the norm. Furthermore, the scriptural witness makes clear that when God wanted to send a definitive message to humanity about his thoughts, feelings, and attitude toward us, he didn’t send a hurricane, earthquake, or flood. Instead, he took on real flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul writes that “in him [Jesus] the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19 NRSV). If we want to hear a message from God, we don’t need to look at a hurricane. We need to look at Jesus, who reveals a God of infinite love and compassion, a God who redeems suffering rather than a God who causes suffering.


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Weekend Services Cancelled – Friday Night Special Service

Dear Church Family,

Along with you, I’ve been watching with a great deal of anticipation each of the news updates about the projected path of Hurricane Irma. Already Irma has caused a great deal of damage and heartache for the people of the Caribbean Islands where (as of the time of this writing) at least 9 precious children of God have lost their lives. As a lifelong Floridian, I’m well aware that hurricanes are as dangerous as they are unpredictable, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

That said, we have decided to cancel our regular weekend services for Saturday and Sunday and instead have 1 joint service on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. The service (in true Community of Faith fashion) will be a bit different but still include elements of prayer, music, preaching, and Communion. We hope that if you’re in town, you’ll pass around the word (on social media and in person) and join us.

Last night at our Refuel service we talked about the mystery behind evil and suffering. We also discussed how God’s provision for human beings, in the face of tragedies like Hurricane Irma, is to send others to provide care. Please know that, when all is said and done, Community of Faith will stand ready to offer assistance and do all we can. The gospel of Jesus demands no less.


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New Days, New Lives, New Chances

September 1, 2017

Dear Church Family,

Wow! Where to start?

As I announced in worship last weekend, Amanda and I are going to become parents in March 2018. We prayed that God would bless us with a child, and God – as He so often does – has exceeded our expectations by blessing us with twins! Earlier this week, we were at the doctor’s office where we got to see each baby actively moving on the sonogram screen. As I watched those images, I couldn’t help but think of John the Baptist leaping for joy while in his mother Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:41)!

I want to thank you not just for your congratulatory words, but for sharing in our excitement. Amanda and I began our lives together as husband and wife at Community of Faith, and we consider it special that this congregation is also going to see us become parents for the first time. We wouldn’t have it any other way!

I couldn’t be more excited about this weekend because of Justin Moore’s arrival. Justin, as you know, is our new Director of Worship Arts and Discipleship, and he’s going to be leading the music at our contemporary services. (Justin will also attend the traditional service, but he won’t direct choir for a few more weeks.) Make sure to welcome Justin and his wife Ashley to our church family. They hope to be with us for a long time!


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Move on to Perfection

Dear Church Family,

I love being a pastor. Sure, there are days that are challenging; days when I feel lost; days when I wonder what I have gotten myself into! But when it comes down to it, I can’t envision myself doing anything else with my life, because I believe in the ministry of the local church. More to the point, I believe God uses the ministry of local churches, like Community of Faith, to redeem the world and change human lives.

I want to share with you a slightly adapted version of an email I received this week from a couple whose lives have been positively impacted through the ministry of our church. (They gave me permission!) Be encouraged, and know that when you step off the sidelines and support Community of Faith — through your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness — you are playing a role in what you read below.

Hi Pastor Chris,

We wanted to make sure that I let you know how much this church has helped us throughout the past (almost) 2 years. Prior to leaving for Florida we had a falling out with our daughter. We had not seen her, our son-in-law or our 4 grandchildren for over a year. Although we felt we were in the right, we did try to make amends a few times after our move here. We would get angry all over again after our attempts were met with accusations and we could never reconcile. We finally gave up even trying. It ended up being almost 3 years where we did not see or speak with any of them.

I had been so upset and sad over all of this for so long. I prayed and prayed. I felt it was a lost cause. I decided to fill the void by helping others. I donated my time at the horse shelter and we started helping out at the church. This past Christmas I was feeling particularly sad. I filled out a prayer card prior to the sermon. I wrote on it “Please pray that we can reconcile and have resolution with our daughter”.


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