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Stay Calm, Focus on Jesus, and Be the Church!

Bishop Grave's Word

2020 began with a blitz of media stories about the possible division of the United Methodist Church. Amidst all the articles from various news sources, we might wonder if we missed something over the past month? While we celebrated Christ’s birth on Christmas and prepared to ring in the new decade, did we miss major news while preoccupied with the newborn King through Epiphany? While no one can doubt the abundance of dramatic new stories, let me reassure our congregation that nothing has changed in the Book of Discipline. So, where do the stories come from?

The stories are generated by groups, coalitions, and constituencies that advocate for change and who are preparing proposals for consideration at the General Conference meet this May in Minnesota. These proposals are from Methodists, but they do not speak for the entire denomination. Only the General Conference can make decisions and change the Book of Discipline.

In light of all this speculation, what do we do? First, STAY CALM. Methodist people are very “methodical.” There will be meetings with all those potentially impacted by possible changes. This list includes the local church, district, and the Annual Conference. If local churches are inclined to vote to move another direction in response to any potential divisions, there will be a process and time for this to happen. Any changes from the May Quadrennial General Conference will not take effect until 2021. If you want current news leading up to General Conference, follow the UMC websites www.umc.org  and www.awfumc.org. You can also read the article from Bishop Graves in this Beacon about this subject.

In addition to staying calm, we must FOCUS ON JESUS. We need to take the next step in our discipleship journey and be the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that desperately needs to know him as Lord and Savior. There has never been a more important time to keep our focus on the GOOD NEWS of JESUS! Our church is at its best when we are people of good news! There is so much division, hatred, and ill will in our world. God forbid we think those things are normal for the church! We need to counter with good news! Now is the time to FOCUS ON JESUS, GOOD NEWS, HOPE, and LOVE.

What else can we do? In such a time of higher visibility, we have a tremendous opportunity to BE THE CHURCH! Historically, divisive times have positively impacted the church. Could 2020 be the year that revival sweeps across the Church and the Holy Spirit lead it to greater unity? During these times, let us STAY CALM, FOCUS ON JESUS and BE THE CHURCH.

Shalom,
Philip

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PURSUING GOD for 21 Days

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Are you seeking to make a full commitment to God in 2020? We have an excellent course charted for us at Shalimar United Methodist Church. How exciting it is to begin 2020 at 6:00 am with 21 days of worship, prayer, and fasting!

As we begin the new year, we will draw daily from the Gospel of John for daily inspiration from God’s Word. The Gospel of John has 21 chapters so we will read one each day as a congregation. The Gospel includes one life changing story after another. Some persons are PURSUED by Jesus while others PURSUE Jesus. These persons include Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and many more. In the next few days, I encourage you to pick up a devotional guide (by Rev. Faith Parry) from the Narthex or the back of the FLC so you will be ready to begin. You can also download one from the SUMC website!

Do you have a desire for a fresh start? Do you seek to submit your life, health, relationships, and plans to the Lord? Have you lost control over your weight or finances? Is your life spinning out of control? 21 Days of worship, prayer, and fasting is a way to put new habits in place. These 21 days offer us a chance to encourage one another in our growth as Jesus’ disciples.

As a Church, we will seek the Holy Spirit to revive us, renew us, unify us, and live Ephesians 3:23, “God is able to do immeasurably more than we think or imagine.” We will seek to fully commit our Church Body to the power of the Holy Spirit in 2020! We trust the rest to the Lord.

Happy New Year and blessings on all as we begin 2020! I look forward to making this journey with you in the upcoming 21 days, January 6-26th!

Shalom, 
Philip

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The Wonder of the Manger

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Karen bought me a special early Christmas present this year. It is a small outdoor manger with Joseph and Mary holding Baby Jesus. At night the solar light illuminates the manger’s wooden images of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. They really stand out in the darkness. My favorite part is that the light casts a shadow of the manger on the side of our house. The shadow cast by the light of the Joseph, Mary, and Jesus is much larger than small wooden figures in the yard. Through the light, the image of the manger has an enlarged impression cast on the house. I love to stand and ponder the meaning of the manger as I look at the shadow on the house.
The Gospel of Luke tells us simply about the manger. “While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger; because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:6-7; NIV). As I read this passage, I ponder the wonders of the manger.

 There was no room in the inn. Is there room in my heart for Jesus?
 If God’s Son can be born in such a humble way should I not simply be humble?
 The King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s was born in an unexpected place. Can I look for God in unexpected places and places of wonder around me?
 The manger is enveloped in the dark but the star sheds light on the manger. Can I see the light of Jesus in all the dark places?
 Christ is born in Bethlehem. Can I allow Him to be born in my life?
 Joseph and Mary had to trust God through an unknown and unpredictable season leading to an unlikely place of the manger. Can I trust God with the unpredictable, unknown, and unlikely places in my life?
 Jesus is born through the miracle of the virgin birth. Can I have faith to witness the mighty and even miraculous deeds of God?
 Can I live with the good news in all times, Immanuel “God with us.”

Finally, when I see the manger and remember the birth of Jesus, I ask, “Can this impression of God’s love be enlarged in my heart?” May the manger and presence of the Christ child inspire your hearts this year! Karen and I wish to extend to all members and friends of Shalimar United Methodist Church a Merry Christmas and God’s Blessings into the New Year.

Shalom,
Philip

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