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Feeding Four Corners Advent Project

Dear Church Family,

Even as our building remains closed, we are just as busy as ever this Advent season. Let me fill you in on just a few things that are happening.

First, we are in the midst of an Advent message series right now titled “The Characters of Christmas.” In these messages, we’re examining some of the various characters of the Christmas story. Our hope is that by looking at these characters we’ll come to better understand the Christmas story in a deeper and more profound way. Additionally, we’ll discover spiritual truths/insights that we can apply to our own lives today. The characters we’ve looked at so far include Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary; their stories are found in the Gospel of Luke. This weekend we turn our attention to Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, whose story is found in the Gospel of Matthew. Be sure to join us for online worship (either on our website or on Facebook) as we learn about Joseph, a remarkable man who tends to be an overlooked character of the Christmas story.

Second, as of last week, we have raised a grand total of $1,440 for our Advent Project called Feeding Four Corners in which we are addressing food insecurity in the Four Corners area. I’ll be sure to give another update about the money we’ve collected in worship this weekend. In addition to giving monetarily to this cause, we encourage you to bring non-expired canned goods to the building either tomorrow (Saturday, December 12) or next Saturday (December 19) from 10-11:30AM. Be sure to wear a mask as someone will be there to receive them. These canned goods will go to help feed hungry people in our surrounding area.

Third, I announced last weekend that we raised $2,895 to purchase Walmart gift cards for kids at the Migrant Center. These gift cards will go to purchase Christmas presents for about 100 kids. This amount of money is pretty amazing when we consider that our goal was $1,500, and we haven’t stopped collecting! If you’d still like to make a donation to this cause, you can do so online (www.communityoffaith.org/giving) or by mail (9120 Teacher Lane Davenport, FL 33897) through Wednesday, December 16. Additionally, I’m proud of the fact that our church is helping other families in our community with Christmas gifts. To date, we’ve helped 33 kids (in addition to the 100 kids at the Migrant Center!).

Fourth, Christmas Eve services are happening on December 24! We will have the same service times that we do every year: 6PM (family service led by Kathy Beuttenmuller) and 8:15PM and 11PM (candlelight services led by Julia Nicholas and me). Make sure to mark your calendar, and if for whatever reason you miss the services that night, no worries – you can watch an archive of them later (www.facebook.com/cofumc/videos).

Have a great Friday, and I look forward to having you join us soon for online worship this weekend!

Blessings,

Chris



Moms are pretty sharp and quick on their feet

Dear Church Family,

I remember one year, when I was about five or six years old, excitedly unwrapping Christmas presents from Santa Claus when I suddenly came across one that had a price tag from Target on it. Confused, I asked my mom why the present had a Target tag since Santa’s elves supposedly made the gifts at the North Pole. My mom (who obviously forgot to rip the tag off!) quickly responded, “Sometimes the North Pole gets flooded with so many requests that the elves don’t have time to make all the gifts. Therefore, Santa has to do some shopping at Target.” It seemed like a reasonable response, so I believed her.

Moms are pretty sharp and quick on their feet, aren’t they? They’re some of the most special people God has given us. And this weekend, as we continue our Advent preaching series on the characters of Christmas, we’re going to be looking at one of the most special moms who ever lived: Mary, the mother of Jesus. We’re going to use Mary’s story as a window for understanding God and the kind of people God is calling us to be. If you’d like to get a jump start on the message, I’d encourage you to read Luke 1:26-38. This passage (often called the Annunciation) is the text from which I’ll preach.

This past weekend we announced our 2020 Advent Project called “Feeding Four Corners.” Through this project, our congregation is seeking to address food insecurity in the Four Corners area, which has only gotten worse due to the economic effects of the pandemic. We encourage you to give monetarily to this cause through December 24 (Christmas Eve). You can give online (www.communityoffaith.org/giving) or by mail (9120 Teacher Lane Davenport, FL 33897). Additionally, as you’ll hear about in the announcements this weekend, you’ll have a chance to drop off canned goods for this cause outside the building on Saturday, December 12 or Saturday, December 19 from 10-11:30AM. Thank you for your heartfelt giving during this season!

I also want to let you know that this coming Sunday (December 6) is the last session of Meet Me in the Lobby (MML) for the time being. MML – which happens in between Sunday services at 9:30AM (EST) – is an online Zoom call where we connect with each other as if we were in the lobby of our building. We may continue MML in the New Year or we may find other creative ways to connect with each other during the pandemic. Regardless, I hope you will join us for this last session.

There’s always more to share about what’s happening in the life of Community of Faith. However, rather than tell you, I invite you to check out the rest of this email.

Have a great day. And I hope to “see” you at some point this weekend for online worship (and for MML on Sunday)!

Blessings,

Chris



The Characters of Christmas

Dear Church Family,

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 9:1 (NIV)

I hope each of you had a joyous Thanksgiving holiday yesterday. Even while dealing with our current challenges, we can still give thanks to God for all our wonderful blessings.

It’s hard to believe that 2020 is almost over. Indeed, this weekend marks the start of Advent, the season that begins four weekends before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve night. During Advent, we prepare for and anticipate Jesus’ first coming at Christmas and look ahead to his second coming in the future. Advent involves waiting – we wait on God to act and to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, which is to save us in Jesus.

I’ve always appreciated what Dietrich Bonhoeffer (twentieth century German theologian) wrote about Advent. While waiting in a Nazi prison cell in 1943 a few weeks before the Advent season, Bonhoeffer wrote a friend, “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

Bonhoeffer was right: the door of freedom must always be opened from the outside, and God opens that door for us through the coming, and second coming, of Jesus.

This weekend, we’re launching into a new preaching series for Advent that we’re calling “The Characters of Christmas.” In this series, we’re going to look more intently at the various characters of the Christmas story:

  1. Zechariah & Elizabeth (November 28/29)
  2. Mary (December 5/6)
  3. Joseph (December 12/13)
  4. The Shepherds and the Angels (December 19/20)
  5. Jesus (December 24)

I hope you will join us for online worship this weekend (6:30PM EST on Saturday or 8:30AM or 10:30AM EST on Sunday) as we turn our attention to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story. We’ll discover how their story illumines the story of Jesus whose birth changed the world!

By the way, we’re also going to be announcing our 2020 Advent Project this weekend. Every year, as we head into Christmas, our congregation raises money for a cause outside of our church. This year’s cause is incredibly worthwhile, and you’ll learn about it toward the beginning of service.

I want to share one more thing before I close out this email. Two weeks ago, you heard that my family and I were being reappointed to another church. Last weekend you heard me share the name of this church: Asbury United Methodist Church in Maitland, FL (about 45 minutes or so east of here). This weekend, you’ll hear the final piece regarding this transition: who is going to be succeeding me at Community of Faith. Ami Sinibaldi (Staff Parish Relations Committee chairperson) will share the name and some info about this person toward the end of service this weekend. I would encourage you to be please be in prayer for the new pastor and the new pastor’s family in the coming weeks.

Have a great weekend, and I look forward to connecting with you online for worship!

Blessings,

Chris



Here is our King

Dear Church Family,

I want to thank all of you who have been praying for our church the last few days. In worship last weekend, we heard the announcement that my family and I will be leaving Community of Faith at the end of this year. I realize this news likely came as a surprise. To be honest, it came as a surprise to us too when we initially heard it. Nonetheless, Amanda and I sensed the leading of the Spirit, which ultimately led us to say yes to this appointment, even while knowing how hard it would be to leave a congregation we’ve grown to love over the past 5 and a half years. 

Toward the end of my weekend message, I plan to share more about the church to which I am being appointed. You’ll also hear more about who’s following me at Community of Faith as soon as that information is available.

This is the weekend before Thanksgiving. Ordinally, this time of the year, we’d be observing Celebration Sunday. For those of you not familiar, Celebration Sunday is when we intentionally celebrate all that God has done in our church family over the last year (new members that we’ve brought in, folks that we’ve baptized, ministry that’s been carried out, etc.), and we turn in our commitment/stewardship cards for the next year. While we will not be observing Celebration Sunday in the traditional sense this weekend, we are still thankful for God’s blessings. What’s more, we’re mindful of God’s movement among us, even during a year marked by so many challenges. Indeed, 2020 has been hard; nonetheless, the work of God has gone forth. For this reason, we celebrate. 

My plan is to actually center my message around a liturgical festival called Christ the King Sunday (CKS). CKS – which has been around in western churches for the past 95 years – always takes place the weekend before Advent (Advent is the start of a new church year). It’s like the Superbowl of Sundays. CKS is when we celebrate the Kingship of Jesus over all Creation. I sense that’s the message we need to hear during this season of transition – that Jesus Christ is still King!

Let me close this email by lifting up two more things (which you’ll also hear about during the weekend announcements).

First, we are taking up Christmas donations for the Migrant Center. However, because of COVID, we’re doing things a bit differently. Instead of buying and wrapping presents and then bringing them to the Migrant Center, we are donating Walmart gift cards, which will give families an opportunity to pick out gifts for the children in a safe way. We’ve gone ahead and purchased 100 fifteen-dollar gift cards, trusting that monetary donations will come in toward this cause. If you’d like to give to the Migrant Center Christmas fund, you can do so online at www.communityoffaith.org/giving (there’s a special giving tab set up for the Migrant Center) or by mail (make your check payable to Community of Faith and then put “Migrant Center” in the memo line). Thank, as always, for your heartfelt generosity.

Second, I’ll be leading a brief online Bible study during the season of Advent called “The Names of Jesus.” In this study, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the different names/titles for Jesus in Scripture (Immanuel, Lamb of God, Son of Man, etc.) I’ll lead the study December 3 and 10 at 6:30PM (EST) live from our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cofumc/live). If you’ve attended any of my studies from 2020, there’s no need to sign up since I already have you on my list for the handout. However, if you haven’t been a part of past studies and would like to attend this one, please let me know by dropping me an email (cjones@communityoffaith.org). 

This email was longer than I intended, so I appreciate that you stuck with me until the end! Have a great weekend, and I hope to “see” you for online worship.

Blessings,

Chris



Cross the Reef

Dear Church Family,
 
Happy Friday! Just 2 quick things I want to share in this email.
 
First, I’m excited that my friend and colleague Erwin Lopez will be preaching this weekend. Pastor Erwin currently serves as the Director of the UCF Wesley Foundation where he ministers to college students, and he’s no stranger to Community of Faith. Indeed, he’s preached here a number of times in the past and always has a hope-filled and inspiring word to share with us. Pastor Erwin’s message is called “Cross the Reef.” He’ll be preaching from Joshua 3:15-17. I invite you to check out the passage in preparation for the weekend.
 
As I mentioned in the announcements last week, our congregation is taking up a love offering to support the life-changing ministry of UCF Wesley. To give to this offering, you can do so by mail (make your check payable to Community of Faith and indicate in the memo line that it’s for UCF Wesley) or online at www.communityoffaith.org/giving (make sure to select the “UCF Wesley Ministry” giving tab).  
 
Second, I want to let you know about an online Bible study I plan to lead in a few weeks. The study, which will take place December 3 and 10 at 6:30PM (EST) on our Facebook page, is entitled “The Names of Jesus.” In this 2-week study, we’ll focus on some of the different names for Jesus in Scripture (Lamb of God, Son of Man, Savior, etc.). If you’ve been a part of any of the studies that I’ve led for 2020, there’s no need to sign up (since you’re already on my list). However, if you haven’t been a part of past studies and would like to attend this one, make sure to send me an email (cjones@communityoffaith.org).
 
That’s it. Those are the 2 things I wanted to share.
 
Have a great weekend, and I look forward to “being” with you on Saturday night (6:30PM EST) or Sunday morning (8:30AM, 10:30AM EST) for online worship.
 
Blessings,
Chris
 


Our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ

Dear Church Family,

It’s Wednesday afternoon as I write this email. At this point, we’re still not sure who won the 2020 presidential election. That might change by the time you open this email on Friday, though it might not. Regardless, I think we can all agree that this election has revealed the deep divide in America over our politics. We set up camp on the right or the left, and few of us meet in the middle to discuss ideas. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with holding to our convictions, especially if those convictions involve vulnerable populations and people groups. However, it’s disheartening to watch the growing polarization in our culture. Heck, even things like wearing masks and practicing social distancing during a global health pandemic has become political!

As I think about our growing polarization, and how sometimes this polarization affects Christians, I’m reminded of the words of John Wesley (the founder of the Methodist movement) from the preface to his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament:

Would to God that all the party names, and unscriptural phrases and forms, which have divided the Christian world, were forgot; and that we might all agree to sit down together, as humble, loving disciples, at the feet of our common Master, to imbibe his Spirit, and to transcribe his life in our own!

Regardless of our political leanings, we as Christians must remember that our ultimate allegiance isn’t to a President, party, or platform. It isn’t even to America (as much as we treasure and honor our citizenship in this country). Instead, our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  

I hope you will join us for online worship this weekend as we remind ourselves of the above truths and pledge our allegiance to King Jesus. You can worship with us on Saturday night (6:30PM EST) or Sunday morning (8:30AM, 10:30AM EST), and you can do so on our website (www.communityoffaith.org/livestream-services) or on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cofumc/).  

This weekend we’ll close out our series on prayer with a look at the practice of prayer, particularly how this practice influences us in three ways. We’ll also hear from Steve Huffman, our Administrative Council chairperson, who will share a quick update from our church’s leadership team, especially as that update relates to our return to the building in January.

Let me close this email by reminding you today who you are and whose you are. You are a child of God, a person who belongs to the one true King.

Blessings,

Chris



Unanswered Prayer

Dear Church Family,

As I write this email, I am hearing and reading reports of additional layoffs from Disney, which of course affects many in our community, including those in our congregation. Indeed, just in the last few days, I’ve talked to several people who have told me they lost their job. My heart breaks for each and every person who now finds themselves without work and is figuring out what to do next. Please be assured of our love, prayers, and commitment to stand beside you in this difficult journey. I am reminded of the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, “If one part [of the body] suffers, all the parts suffer with it” (v. 26a). Though we may not be in the same position as you, your pain is real to us, and we want you to feel upheld in these difficult days. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if I can personally be in prayer for you (cjones@communityoffaith.org).

This weekend, we continue in our 5-week series on prayer with a look at unanswered prayer – those times when we pray for God to do something (heal a loved one, for example), and we don’t get the response we are seeking. How do we make sense of unanswered prayer in view of our understanding of God as a loving God who wants to fill our lives with good things? Additionally, how do we make sense of unanswered prayer in view of the sweeping promises Jesus made about prayer?

Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt . . . You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for ANYTHING, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”
Matthew 21:21-22 (NLT, emphasis added)

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning ANYTHING you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.
Matthew 18:19 (NLT, emphasis added)

I tell you, you can pray for ANYTHING, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.
Mark 11:24 (NLT, emphasis added)

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for ANYTHING you want, and it will be granted!
John 15:7 (NLT, emphasis added)

Obviously, these promises don’t always materialize for us. So in this weekend’s message, we’ll explore what Jesus likely meant by these statements as well as how we can better understand unanswered prayer. I hope you will join us for online worship either on Saturday night (6:30PM EST) or Sunday morning (8:30AM, 10:30AM EST). By the way, this Sunday is All Saints’ Day, when we celebrate those saints (Christ-followers) who have gone before us in the faith and now rest from their labors with God in heaven. As you’re worshipping from home, you may want to light candles for saints whom you know who have passed away in the last year.  

I want to close this email with a bit of advice as we approach the election this Tuesday (November 3). Actually, this advice doesn’t come from me but from John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. Wesley wrote these words on October 6, 1774 as he advised the early Methodists on voting.

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them

  1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
  2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
  3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

May these words become true in our own lives.

Blessings,

Chris



Sabbath Rest for Pastors & Church Leaders

Dear Church Family,

You’re receiving this email on Friday. However, it’s Saturday (6 days earlier) as I write it. Amanda and I are getting ready to spend some time together over the next week. Her mom is gracious enough to watch the twins (and dogs) for us while we do this.

While I’ll miss “seeing” you in this weekend’s services, you’re in for a real treat because you’re going to be led in worship by various members of the Florida Conference Cabinet. (For those may not be aware, the Cabinet refers to the team of people who work closely with our Bishop, who oversees our Annual Conference.) You may recall that the Cabinet led us in worship a few months back, so we’re grateful to be able to experience the gifts of these folks again. The person who is going to be delivering the message is Pastor June Edwards who mentored me while I was in college. June is a gifted preacher and teacher, and I know you’ll enjoy her message.

Some of you may be wondering about our Ruth series. No worries – we’ll come back to the series next weekend (September 26/27) with a look at Ruth Chapter 3. In the meantime, continue to read Ruth.

Thank you for allowing me this Sabbath rest. As always, I am thankful to be your pastor.

Have a great weekend!

Blessings,

Chris

 



Becoming Agents of a Chess Master God

Dear Church Family,
 
As I begin this email, I first want to acknowledge the somberness of today. It’s hard to believe that 19 years have passed since our nation came under attack on September 11, 2001. Please know I am praying for all of you, but particularly those of you for whom this day is especially difficult. I hope you find inspiration in the words of the apostle Paul, “3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3 NLT). God is, indeed, the source of all comfort. My prayer is that you come to experience the comforting embrace of God today.
 
This weekend we continue our journey through our new preaching series on the Old Testament Book of Ruth. Last week we left Ruth and Naomi in Bethlehem, where they had just come after leaving Moab. Ruth had lost her husband, Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, and neither one of them had any idea what the future held. This week we turn our attention to Ruth chapter 2, where God’s redemptive purposes begin to unfold. The title for the message is “Becoming Agents of a Chess Master God.” If you’re intrigued by the title (and I hope you are!), make sure to join us for one of our online services on Saturday night (6:30PM EST) or Sunday morning (8:30AM, 10:30AM EST). You can watch on our website (www.communityoffaith.org/livestream-services) or through Facebook (www.facebook.com/cofumc/). By the way, if you haven’t already, please read the entire Book of Ruth before the weekend (don’t worry — it’s only 4 chapters long). And make sure to watch last weekend’s message in case you missed it: https://vimeo.com/455586998.
 
A couple of days ago, you received an informational email from our Administrative Council regarding in-person worship and other gatherings at Community of Faith. I hope you’re prayerfully considering the information contained in that email, especially as you prepare to fill out the survey that we’ll be sending to your inbox on Wednesday, September 16. If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
 
I imagine that many of you are probably wondering about Be, Go, Do!, our yearly day of service work, which normally happens at the end of September. For obvious reasons, we will need to postpone Be, Go, Do! until we are back in the building. In the meantime, please consider making a donation to our Voice of Hope Banner (www.communityoffaith.org/giving/). Thank you, in advance, for your thoughtful generosity.
 
Starting this Monday (September 14), Amanda and I plan to take some time off. (Her mom is gracious enough to watch the twins while we do this.) Given that we’ll be away, Morning Prayer will be suspended from September 14-18 and will resume on September 21. In place of Morning Prayer, we will post daily Scripture passages on our church’s Facebook page. Thank you for granting me space to relax, unwind, and be with my wife. I really do appreciate it!
 
Let me end by saying how thankful I am to be your pastor and to be serving the risen Jesus alongside you. I pray you have a great weekend. And I look forward to “seeing” you at one of our services for worship.
 
Blessings,
Chris


Ruth: A Story of Redemption

Dear Church Family,

During the announcements in online worship last weekend, Joe and Gillian Wolfe, our Live by Faith banner leaders, spoke about the importance of staying spiritually fit. Their words made me think of a section of Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Paul’s first letter to Timothy.

Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. 

1 Timothy 4:7b-9 (MSG)

I hope all of us are taking time to avoid spiritual flabbiness and keep fit, especially as we head out of summer and enter the busyness of the fall season. In addition to weekend worship, there are a number of ways our staff and leadership are helping us to keep fit (even as our building remains closed).

  • Morning Prayer every Monday-Friday at 8:30AM (EST) on our Facebook page (facebook.com/cofumc).
  • Live music with Julia Nicholas every Wednesday from 7-7:30PM on our Facebook page.
  • Devotions (written or video) every Monday-Friday generally around noontime on our Facebook page.
  • Meet Me in the Lobby (Zoom call for prayer and fellowship every Sunday from 9:30-10:25AM).
  • Daily written devotions on our Live by Faith Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/598060850780315).
  • Children and youth opportunities through Zoom and Facebook (contact us for more details).

Another new option that’s coming up is a study based on Pastor Adam Hamilton’s The Walk: Five Essential Practices of the Christian Life. Joe and Gillian spoke about this study in the announcements last weekend. However, since then, we’ve decided to revise (just a bit) how we are approaching it. Gillian will continue to lead a study (via GoToMeeting) on this book on Tuesday mornings. Then, similar to our 2020 studies on Philippians, Revelation, and James, I plan to lead a live study on Hamilton’s text every Thursday at 6:30PM from Facebook (beginning September 24). If you’ve been a part of any of the past studies I just mentioned, there’s no need to sign up for this one (since I already have you on my email list for the handout). However, if you haven’t been and would like to be involved, please drop me a note (cjones@communityoffaith.org). By the way, there’s no need to purchase the book in this new format (though you are certainly welcome to if that’s your preference). And there’s also going to be a chance for us to discuss our learnings on a special Facebook page!  

I hope all the above makes sense. If it doesn’t, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Joe and Gillian (livebyfaith@communityoffaith.org) or me for clarity!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two more things before closing out this note. First, a big THANK YOU to all of you who gave to our love offering for Trace Rudolph. I know these funds will help Trace out tremendously as he begins seminary this fall. Second, we are starting a brand-new series of messages this weekend based on the Old Testament book of Ruth. We’re calling the series “Ruth: A Story of Redemption.” Some variation of the word “redemption” shows up at least 23 times in Ruth. As we’re going to see, this story is all about redemption.

I look forward to “seeing” you online at some point this weekend for worship (and maybe for Meet Me in the Lobby,” too)! Until then, I hope you take care.  

Blessings,
Chris


Confidence & Connection

Dear Church Family,

When I look back on my life so far, I realize that I owe much of who I am today to people who came alongside, encouraged and supported me, and saw gifts in me that quite frankly I didn’t see in myself. This is especially true when it comes to who I am as a pastor. I think about Christ Church United Methodist in Fort Lauderdale, the congregation in which I grew up, where I said “yes” to God’s love, and where I first experienced my call to the ministry. I also fondly recall First United Methodist Church in Lakeland, FL, where I interned in college, and Elevation United Methodist Church in Benson, NC, where I interned in seminary. These congregations patiently sat through first attempts at sermons and Bible studies and still responded as if I were Billy Graham. I am thankful for them!

I am also thankful that Community of Faith has played that same of kind of role for a few of our congregants, including Frank Adams (now serving New Horizon United Methodist Church in Haines City, FL), Mary Downey (now leading the Community Hope Center in Kissimmee, FL), Chris Agoranos (now serving Elizabeth Street United Methodist Church in Durham, NC), and others over the years. Further, we should be proud that we now have two other persons to add to this list! The first is Alejandra Salemi, who on Monday night appeared (via the Internet) before the members of our Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC). During that meeting, Alejandra (who recently began seminary at Harvard Divinity School) received the full support of the SPRC. Her next step is to appear before our Charge Conference in October, which you will you hear more information about soon. The second is Trace Rudolph, who received the support of SPRC and Charge Conference earlier this year and is now beginning seminary at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, GA.

Speaking of Trace, he’s going to be delivering the message this weekend. His message is entitled “Confidence & Connection.” Trace will be preaching from Exodus 3, which contains the story of God’s calling to Moses at the burning bush. Trace will expand on Moses’ calling and how this calling relates to his own. Please don’t miss this important message!

Additionally, as I mentioned last weekend and you’ll hear me say again this weekend, we have an opportunity to support Trace financially through a love offering that we’ll take up. To give to this offering, you can do so online (go to www.communityoffaith.org/giving and then select the “Trace Rudolph donations” tab) or by mailing in your donation (9120 Teacher Lane Davenport, FL 33897). If you mail in your donation, please remember to make your check payable to Community of Faith and then write “Trace Rudolph” in the memo line. Thank you for your generosity toward Trace, which will help him with seminary expenses. We’ll have a similar opportunity to be generous with Alejandra later this year.

There’s no question that God is using our Motley Crew to raise up a new generation of pastoral leaders. The future is bright. Praise be to God!

Blessings,

Chris  

p.s. Please continue to pray for all those in the path of Hurricane Laura. After the storm passes, we’ll talk about how our congregation can be supportive of the folks there.



Every and All

Dear Church Family,
 
You’re receiving this email on Friday. However, it’s about 9AM on Thursday as I am writing it. We just finished Morning Prayer on Facebook Live a few moments ago, and the hymn that we heard this morning is one of my favorites, “Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast.” Penned by Charles Wesley (who along with his older brother John founded the Methodist movement), this hymn captures the truth that, in Jesus Christ, God has indeed come for ALL of us. Absolutely no exclusions. In fact, I want you to notice how many times the word “all” or “every” appear in these lyrics in reference to human beings.
 
 Come, sinners, to the gospel feast;
let EVERY soul be Jesus’ guest.
Ye need not one be left behind,
for God hath bid ALL humankind.
 
Sent by my Lord, on you I call;
the invitation is to ALL.
Come, ALL the world! Come, sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.
 
Come, ALL ye souls by sin oppressed,
ye restless wanderers after rest;
ye poor, and maimed, and halt, and blind,
in Christ a hearty welcome find.
 
My message as from God receive;
ye ALL may come to Christ and live.
O let his love your hearts constrain,
nor suffer him to die in vain.
 
This is the time, no more delay!
This is the Lord’s accepted day.
Come thou, this moment, at his call,
and live for him who died for ALL.
 
(Charles Wesley, “Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast,” 1747, emphasis mine)
 
Charles Wesley wrote these lyrics in large part because of a theology that was prevalent in his period (and is still prevalent in some churches even now today) called Calvinism, which held that God hasn’t come for all but only a select few, a group of people whom Calvinists call “the elect.” (I won’t get into all the differences between Calvinism and Wesleyanism in this email. However, if you’d like to learn more, check out this link: http://www.crivoice.org/tulip.html.) Charles and his older brother didn’t hold back when speaking out against Calvinism. They maintained the Scriptural teaching that God hasn’t come for some or event most. Instead, God has come for ALL. Indeed, God’s heart beats for ALL human beings (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9).
 
So rest assured that no matter who you are or what you’ve done (or haven’t done) in life, God’s heart beats for you. In Jesus Christ, God has come for you. Yes, that includes you. You mean as much to God as the sending of his Son.
 
Blessings,
Chris
 
p.s. Please join us for online worship this weekend as we close out our series called “The Short of It: The Entire Story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation.” We’ll be talking about the return of Jesus and New Creation this weekend, so don’t miss out!
 
p.p.s., Meet Me in the Lobby, our time of virtual gathering in between Sunday services, begins this Sunday (August 16) at 9:30AM. You’ll receive an email later today and again on Sunday with instructions on how to join. Hope to “see” you then.