Year-End Giving Appeal - Part 2

Beloved in Christ,

Grace and peace to you in Jesus Christ this Advent Season, as we joyfully anticipate the coming of Emanuel.

As we progress through this season of expectant waiting in anticipation of the coming of Emanuel, we’re exploring this season through the four lenses of Peace, Hope, Joy and Love. The first week of Advent we talked about Peace. Peace that has come between God and man by the saving work of Christ, and because of that, the peace that is permeating creation because we can now have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We talked about the effect this makes in our lives, how we can be at peace with others, and even the world because Jesus’ redemption is for all. This past week we discussed the Hope of Advent. How we are people of hope not because of a blind optimism, and certainly not because of worldly evidence that it all will be fine, but because of the character of God. His love for us, his generosity toward us is so great that we can be hopeful because we know He is in charge and is bringing about his grand plan for our good and the good of all creation. In the next two weeks we’ll talk about Joy and Love, so stay tuned for that!

As part of being people of hope, we know God has good things in store for us when we remain yoked to Him and are co-laboring with him as the Body of Christ. As I appealed to you two weeks ago regarding year end giving and Phase 2 of our Destined For Joy campaign, I encourage you to prayerfully consider your year-end giving, and over the next two years supporting the long range work of Church of the Apostles and Apostles Campus Church by financially supporting the completion and launch of our worship and ministry outreach center at 11717 Lee Hwy in Fairfax. We have furnishing to buy, a kitchen to complete, and we want to have a quality sound and audio system in our sanctuary to praise God in Spirit, Truth, and Beauty without distractions.  We are counting on God’s faithfulness and your generosity to work toward these ends. As of this writing, you’ve already contributed $7,360 toward Phase 2 of our Destined For JoyCampaign, plus we’ve raised an additional $1,830 through our craft sale just for the kitchen!  We are off to a great start as we end 2018. As I stated in my letter to you two weeks ago, we are hoping to raise about $600,000. during this Phase 2 period of Destined For Joyover the next two years, and we can use the typical boost we get at year’s end to help jump start this effort, so I hope you will prayerfully consider being generous to this cause.

Most importantly, please join the Vestry, Staff and Beth and me in continuing to pray. While our financial need is real; it will continue to take the Hand of God to propel us forward.  I know, as Paul tells us: “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” - (1 Thes. 5:24)

Let us take joy in knowing we serve our Lord who is faithful in all things. Let us remain rooted in Him, connected to Jesus as the branches of His vine, empowered forward by his Holy Spirit. As we look ahead, prayerfully awaiting the coming of Emanuel, I pray that “the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, that your whole spirit and soul and body will be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – (1 Thes. 5:23) And that you would take joy in knowing our heavenly Father finds you blameless by what our Savior Jesus has done for us. May all we do give him honor and glory, and be a blessing to the people he loves. 

Let me hear from you if you have any questions; God be with you.

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Acanfora

Year-End Giving Appeal - Part 1

Beloved in Christ,

Apostles is an amazing congregation! I have sensed the strength of God upon us for the past six years I’ve been here. It has been beyond any expectation. Even during this time of transition, as we pray for the Lord to bring us home, as we re-plant ourselves in this new community, I sense His presence and guiding light propelling us forward.

We have so much to be thankful for. This especially comes to mind at this time of year. I am so thankful to God for all of you. You are more than just my “church family,” you are my extended family whom I love deeply, and have come to appreciate for your personal commitment to Christ and to one another as His body, the Church. Your example of perseverance, forbearance and faith fortifies me daily. Your compassion for one another and the wider community inspires me and gives me so much hope. I am deeply grateful for you, and sense the gratitude you have for one another.

I know the past year has not been easy as we continue at Willow Springs School on Sundays with the set-up and tear-down each week. Yet, it’s been a time of deeper engagement with the school and surrounding community as we are growing in opportunities to serve and growing in relationship. I believe we are exactly where God would have us. In addition, I’m encouraged to see the property on Lee Highway being developed and the walls rising on our new building.

I hope you, like me, are blessed each Sunday as we come together as the Body of Christ to praise God, hear His Holy Word, and be nurtured in His blessed sacrament. We are experiencing true Three Streams, One River worship of God in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit!

And yet, the challenges continue. 

We are on track to meet our operational expenses for the year with your continued faithful giving.  I thank the Lord our God and you for your faithful generosity. Additionally, our Destined For Joy campaign brought in over 100% of what was pledged for the three-year giving period. We are so blessed. While that will provide enough to finish phase one of the building project, I know expectations for the completed project are higher than what we can presently fund. According to our latest calculations, we will need an additional $600,000 in Destined For Joy funds over the next two years. As 2018 comes to a close, and you contemplate all the ways our Lord has blessed you, I am asking you to prayerfully consider continuing to give to Destined For Joy over the next two years in addition to your regular tithing. And, if you are among the folks who have joined our fellowship of faith since the original campaign began and haven’t had the opportunity to contribute to it directly, prayerfully consider joining in by giving to this cause over the next two years, beginning right now. I’m aware there’s a third group of folks, the ones who’ve been with us all along, but for a variety of reasons have not given significantly or at all to Destined For Joy. I pray you too will spend time with the Lord and seek His will for you on this. I can assure you that you will be blessed by doing so. For a scriptural basis for all of this, I invite you to engage with our Nehemiah: Foundations of Faith daily devotional series on our blog.  I am trusting it all to the Lord, knowing how He moves His people to supply the needs of His Church to spread His Good News. 

So yes, once again at the close of the year, I need your help to keep this church moving from strength to strength.

So first, will you pray? Seriously! Let’s start there, with prayer. The financial need is great; it will take a spiritual move of God to touch people’s hearts. The world is cynical about many things. The culture is confused about many things. But I am praying that the Lord will strengthen this church to be a clear light and strong beacon for the days ahead.

Second, will you join with other leaders in our church and take this on personally? Beth and I will look at our giving over the entire year and we will give more this month as we meet this need together. Will you join us? I do not mind asking you to give generously. I never have. I have always seen God pour out blessings as people give. Some of you receiving this letter have moved on, are out of the area, or worshipping elsewhere. I ask you as well to prayerfully consider being part of what God is doing by contributing to our year-end needs.

Finally, I have deep and sincere thanks to you for your commitment and loyalty to your parish church. I echo the words of Paul to the Philippians: I thank God in all my remembrance of you. (Phil 1:3)

Let me hear from you if you have any questions, but I do hope you will respond to this important appeal.

With love in Christ,

Joseph Acanfora

Nehemiah: Foundations of Faith Devotionals - Week Five

Week Five: Being Faithful to Finish

As Nehemiah watched the wall rise in stature, we too are watching this building rise before our very eyes. Will we remain committed to seeing it through that God may be glorified and people will come to Him? How does all this tie in with faithfully living into our Baptismal Vows?  

Nehemiah 12:27-31a, 43-46
Ezekiel 36:22-28
Psalm 51:10-12
Mark 12:28-34

Day 1

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 11

Now that God’s people have heard his word afresh and been called into covenant in their own generation, they are also called to fully populate Jerusalem. This stems from their being called into God’s Holy Land to dwell with Him. The leaders of the people were already there in Jerusalem, and now the general population would be represented there as well. They were also now in close enough proximity to support the Temple with their tithes and offerings of their time, talent, and treasure. We see Jerusalem being revived as a city, not by way of the wall, but by way of the people living within its walls. The people are called to live as God’s Holy people. Prayerfully consider God’s call upon your life in all its facets. How do you live into Romans 12:1: ”So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” as a form of living into God’s call upon you? Close with prayer in Psalm 48.

Day 2

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 12

Nehemiah calls the priests and Levites to lead the worshipping community of Jerusalem in dedicating the reconstructed wall. He also sets up a means by which the Temple, worship leaders, and needs of the inhabitants will be met by initiating standards of giving for the community, setting up a system of interdependence. There is jubilation and praise rising from the city as worship is becoming a regular part of their lives. New norms are setting upon the people, the best of which is that they dwell safely under God’s blessings as they keep the covenant he has provided. What does interdependence mean to you? How do you see it as an instrument of God’s provision? What are the ways you are living into it? In what ways can your life, and the lives of those around you be enhanced by living interdependently with others, under the sovereignty of God? Prayerfully close with Psalm 97.

Day 3

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 13

Things threaten to fall apart as God’s people fail to live into His covenant. The people are disobedient and allow themselves to be corrupted. Their faith deteriorates as a result, and they fall into habitual idolatry. This effects both the citizens and those serving in the Temple as they allow Tobiah into the Temple and suffer his plundering and desecration of God’s provision which came by way of His people. They also disregard the Sabbath as a Holy day unto the Lord. In short, Jerusalem is going the way of the sinful surrounding culture, and in so doing, going to hell. Needless to say, Nehemiah returns to find all this going on and strives to turn the people back to God and to faithfulness to His covenant. We don’t know the outcome in this story, but we know from history it doesn’t work out for the Jewish people as they are conquered and reconquered. How can we be fortified to remain faithful to God? How does the Holy Spirit empower us to live into our baptismal vows and thereby remain faithful disciples of Jesus? Pray for God’s fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit to be upon you and this church. Close with Psalm 27.

Day 4

Scripture Reading: Mark 12:28-34

“The greatest of these is love” – the Bible brings all the law into focus through the lens of love. Jesus exemplified this, and Nehemiah knew that the covenant promises of the people must be lived into in order for them to enjoy the loving gifts God so desired to lavish upon them. God’s covenant was rooted in love and his people showed them how much they loved him by keeping their part of the covenant. The Temple in the midst of Jerusalem made possible the communication of God’s loving purposes to his people. Today, we are the Temple of God. The place where he dwells is in His Church. Not the buildings or even the institution, but the Body of Christ, His people who know and love Jesus as their savior and lord and love other people. And yet, the Church gives us a framework for living as the Body of Christ, and its buildings, our building, help give us an identity in this community from which we can be the Body of Christ to one another, and those who do not know Jesus. How do you think having a building will change how we are the Body of Christ? How can we use it to empower the ministries God has called us to serve into? How can we best open it up to welcome those who do not know Jesus? Close by praying 1 Corinthians 12:25-13:13.

Nehemiah: Foundations of Faith Devotionals - Week Four

Week Four: Spiritual Revival

History and Scripture show us that repentance and obedience lead to revival, and build to a crescendo as God’s people come together. This is true for individuals, communities, nations, and eventually all creation. 

The people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time came to know God’s Word, His commands, and the transformation they bring. This led to repentance and a revival of worship, rejuvenating their lives. When we follow our Lord and move forward out of obedience it will lead to revival in us and the surrounding community. We want to have freedom to bless our community with the Lord's revival!

Nehemiah 8-9
Psalm 29
Mark 10:46-52

Day 1

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 8

The people hear the Law, read by Ezra the scribe and are cut to the heart. It is more than something emotional that happened to them in the moment. We see that they hunger for more, a deeper understanding of God’s will, and a deeper commitment to Him, and to one another. They came together for the Feast of Booths and to take part in a week of scripture study and prayer. They encouraged one another in this, so they would have full participation. The people were encouraged in joy. What have you taken joy in lately? How has the Lord moved your heart and spirit to be joyful in Him? Take time today to thank Him for the joy He brings to you in His word, in life circumstance, in His Holy Spirit moving within you and those you know. Close by praying Psalm 29.

Day 2

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 9

Joy begets repentance. The people respond to their feasting and joy with fasting and repentance. The Law, while a joy to learn, points out to them the ways they have not been following God and their need for repentance. This is not a mournful or sorrowful repentance but one of joy, celebrating God’s call upon their lives and His gracious willingness to forgive. They come to know on a deeper level the essence of His love for them, a love that will forgive again and again. They take heart in this and are strengthened and encouraged! We began three weeks ago in confession and repentance, to have clean hearts before God as we began this adventure together. If you are still in need of knowing God’s forgiveness, confess you sins to him and like the people in Nehemiah’s day, recommit your life to Him. Be open to how and where He leads, and respond in obedience. Remember, He has the best plan for your life. Close by praying Psalm 30 in joy!

Day 3

Scripture Reading: Mark 10:46-52

“[T]hen the eyes of the blind shall be opened” - Isaiah 35:5

This was a prophetic witness to the work of Jesus Christ. We hear it repeatedly in the Book of Isaiah, as well as the other prophetic books of the Old Testament. In Mark’s gospel account, we see tension throughout the narrative of the blind being given sight, (physical sight and spiritual sight into the person of Jesus) and those who should see clearly, (the Pharisees, scribes, Romans and even at times the disciples), being spiritually blind to who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish for us. Blind Bartimaeus comes to Jesus in the right posture saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Interestingly, he is both humble and exuberant at once. He came to Jesus in a posture of repentance, but was excitedly certain of the outcome. Jesus had the power to forgive, set him free of his sin, and heal his blindness, giving him not only physical sight, but the assurance that Jesus was his savior and Lord. Bartimaeus, like Nehemiah saw the goodness of God. How do we see His goodness in our lives today? Close with prayer in Psalm 118.

Day 4

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 10

“[W]e will obey God’s laws and observe all his commandments. We will not allow ourselves or our children to be polluted by the surrounding culture, we will obey Sabbath rest, we will give generously for the service of the house of God” - Nehemiah 10:29-32

The people are sealed in covenant with God. God’s people renewed in revival, now commit to their side of the covenant. They know the blessings in store for them by keeping the covenant, and the consequences for unfaithfulness. They also want to continue to realize the joy they have come to know in walking with the Lord. A central component of all this is their offering of their means. In their time it meant crops, grain, wine, oil, and livestock as well as money. What is our offering to the Lord? How can we best be faithful? Pray for God’s guidance and conviction of what he is calling you to offer. Pray for the obedience to follow where he leads. Close with prayer in Psalm 145.

Day 5

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:11–3:12, 4:1-7

“Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” - Ephesians 4:7

The grace of God was upon the people of Nehemiah’s day. The covenant He offered was once again a covenant of grace; a gift they did not deserve, but one He desired to give them in order to reconnect with His people in His love. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explains with New Testament perspective the gift of grace and how now it is Jesus who is humanity’s covenant keeper. He took the consequences of our unfaithfulness so we could enjoy the grace of God. He calls us to enjoy this together as the Body of Christ on earth, built on Jesus, our one true cornerstone. There is a sense in which Paul is sharing with us that we together as a Body of believers are so much more than a collection of individuals. When we come together in the name of Christ, committed to walk as His Body, there is nothing His Church cannot accomplish through Him. That means leaving behind our individual ambitions, likes, and dislikes, and yielding to Christ speaking to and through His Church, that all may know the hope that comes in Him through His Church. Are we ready to be that Church, one in Christ, interdependent with each other, rather than a collection of independents? Pray for the Lord’s clarity as we continue to move forward. Close by praying Psalm 133.