BEACON Christmas Nameplate
December 2020 * Volume 21, Issue 10

President’s Message by Albert Weal, Jr.

Troubling Times

AlbertWeal
Good Morning,

One of the strangest lawsuits in US court history was filed on September 14, 2007. Nebraska Senator Ernie Chambers—one of the first African-American senators in Nebraska history—was seeking to stop evil and injustice in the world, and he actually filed a lawsuit against God. The lawsuit sought a permanent injunction against God's interference in this world.
Senator Chambers said of God, "[He] has allowed certain harmful activities to exist that [have] caused grave harm to innumerable people in the world." The lawsuit charged God with causing fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, tornadoes, plagues, famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects, and the like. Chambers continued in the lawsuit, saying that God has allowed "calamitous catastrophes resulting in the wide-spread death, destruction, and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants including innocent babies, infants, children, the aged, and infirm, without mercy or distinction."

Eventually the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice. The Nebraska court ruled they could not properly notify God because they did not have his address. Senator Chambers disagreed with the ruling, claiming that because God is omniscient and knows everything, he should have known he was being sued and appeared in court to defend himself.

While we may ridicule Senator Chambers for his ill-reasoned accusations, we can admire his honesty. The world is in trouble. Chambers is not alone in seeking to put God on trial; for centuries, people have put God on trial. Whenever humanity is faced with the incongruities of life—that bad things happen to good people, or worse, that good things happen to bad people—God goes on trial. Some of you have put God on trial, too.

What's wrong with the world? That's a question that many people are asking, and there's no shortage of answers being given: the economic system, the education system, government, welfare, corporate privilege, declining morality, fundamentalist religion, and on and on. Every group has their idea of what's wrong with the world.
But think about those answers for a bit. It's not hard to see that they're not as comprehensive as they pretend to be. So, let's really ask the question, "What's wrong with the world?" Not just America, but the whole world, from America to Algeria, from Ecuador to Eritrea, from Macau to Micronesia, every tribe, tongue, and nation. From the troubled suburban teens, to the aborigines of the outback, from the high-powered executive, to the witch doctors of the jungle, from the patient dying in the cancer ward, to the child being born, what's wrong with the world?

Don't even limit yourself to the past year of 2020. Can you ask this question in a way that includes all of human history, from the beginning of time to the end of human history as we know it? When you ask "What's wrong with the world?" make sure you don't leave out the person you're most prone to leave out—yourself.

We at St. Paul’s UMC in Chesapeake VA are currently studying Romans, and I thought of how it may apply to this message.

Romans
The gospel exposes our desperate need before God. We see the trouble beginning in Romans 1:18. The fundamental problem that all humankind faces is the wrath of God against the sinful. All our sin, from the greatest to the smallest, is in direct opposition to the holiness and righteousness of God. His righteous response to our sin is a holy wrath. This isn't a passive, impersonal, mechanical response. No, this is the active, righteous, personal fury of a holy God against sin. This is the wrath that the unbelieving world is under.

Right away, we see the difference in the way Christianity and this world talk about evil. People have no problems recognizing the evil of crime, greed, or abuse. It's easy to see the way that those evils hurt and offend people. But that's not the ultimate problem. According to Romans, the ultimate problem of the world is not the way our sin hurts people, but it's the way our sin offends God. Why is this world in trouble? Why is God's wrath being revealed?

The gospel begins by exposing our desperate need before God. If you don't begin here, you don't have the gospel. All of humanity, Jew and Gentile, moral and immoral, religious or irreligious, stands utterly condemned before God because of our sin. Every human division, race, culture, language, wealth, education, class is destroyed by this one massive commonality: we are sinners, all of us, and we need to be saved by God. A suit filed against God will not save us.

The gospel is for sinners. Therefore, the church is for sinners. What we have in the church is not a gathering of those who have their lives together. What we have is the one place on earth specifically designed for sinners of every kind, of every background, of every record. This is the one place where sinners can be brutally honest about their sinfulness and be safe because that's whom the gospel is for.

Senator Chamber filed his suit against the wrong parties. He wanted to stop God’s interference in the world to stop evil and injustice in the world –– even though evil and injustice are natural to us as stated in Romans 1:18 – 2:32.

What I want all of us to take away from this text is not a to-do list or an action plan. At least not yet. What we need to take away from this, perhaps for the first time, is the awful realization that we belong to a world that has horribly gone wrong, that has defiantly turned its back on the Creator in all manner of evil, and is now under the just and righteous condemnation of God. The world is in serious trouble. But that's not all. So are we.

We are in trouble because our outward religion is not enough. One of the easiest, and deadliest, substitutes for true obedience to God's law is an outward conformity to a religious standard. It's easy because it doesn't require us to deal with our sin. If all I have to do to be saved is to get circumcised, say a prayer, walk down an aisle, or join a church, no problem. Sign me up. Then let me go on my merry way and live however I want. It's deadly because outward religion cannot make us right with God. God will not judge us according to any outward conformity or physical act, but he will judge us according to our obedience to his Word. I wonder what outward religious acts we are depending on?

If you somehow felt the first chapter of Romans did not apply to you, what you need to realize is that all the condemnation that you would gladly heap on the world out there, every bit of it applies to you also for your sins. Your imaginary favor before God will not save you. Your knowing about God's Word will not save you. Your outward religion will not save you. No, all those props have been knocked out from under your feet, and you are left on the same ground as the rest of humanity. The whole world is under the wrath of God. And so are we.

This is where the gospel begins by exposing our desperate need before God. If you don't begin here, you don't have the gospel. All of humanity, Jew and Gentile, moral and immoral, religious or irreligious, stands utterly condemned before God because of our sin. Every human division, race, culture, language, wealth, education, and class is destroyed by this one massive commonality: we are sinners, all of us, and we need to be saved by God.

Two thousand years ago, God sent his Son into this condemned world to give us hope, even today.

Let’s pray. “Heavenly Father, I pray that the church would become a place where sinners come, and as they hear testimonies, as they hear conversations, as they see pastors and members humbly confessing their weaknesses, and messy people owning their failures, that sinners come in and ask, "People can do that? We can confess that here?" They would find out that it really is okay, that such openness and honesty about our brokenness is really allowed because we have the gospel. I pray that there would be a culture of grace where sinners would confess their sin, talk about their sin, and repent into the safety of the gospel. Amen.”

I pray you and your loved ones stay safe and have a blessed Christmas,

Albert Weal, Jr., President
757-677-6096
mastercook3@cox.net

Christmas Fundraiser

All God's Children Camp

AGCLogo2019_500px
All God's Children Camp is hosting a fundraiser on Facebook. We have a goal of $5,000, which would send 12 kids to camp. Please help us meet our goal by donating any amount you can! Camp was canceled in 2020, and we are looking forward to being back with our special young friends in 2021!

If you would like to donate on Facebook, go to the link below. If you do not have a Facebook account and would like to donate, you can send a check to All God's Children Camp, Attn: Becky Tate, P.O. Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23060.

If you have any questions please email Lori Smith at lttlelori@gmail.com

Facebook link to donate: https://www.facebook.com/allgodschildrencamp

Lori Smith
Director, All God's Children Camp
The Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23058
(571) 245-9591
Micah 6:8

Watch Night 2021

You Are Invited | December 31, 2020 at 10:30 PM EST

WatchNightDann
The General Commission of the United Methodist Men and the Virginia Conference UMM Cabinet invite you to join with men (and women) from around the world as we present a LIVE Watch Night on New Year’s Eve.

Our goal is for a live Zoom feed from 10:30 PM EST until midnight in Alaska and Hawaii.

Come and join us in prayer, song, devotion and hope for the New Year and 2021.

Connection details for the Zoom feed will be announced in an email notification and posted on the vaumc.org/UMM website, LaityNet, and ClergyNet.

Please email any questions to Dann Ladd, Vice President, Membership & Development, at ladddann@gmail.com.

December Reflections

General Commission on United Methodist Men

Reflections
Note to Readers: Click on names below to view full articles.

A Post-Thanksgiving Pivot
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president of the General Commission on UM Men, says, “If you had a difficult time giving thanks at Thanksgiving . . . It’s not too late for you to embrace the fact that God’s love always has the final word.

Thankful to be Thankful--Certain to Celebrate
Gil Hanke, top staff executive of the General Commission on UM Men, urges you to take several steps for self-care during these uncertain times.

Learning from the Wise Men
Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministry, says many Christmas sermons focus on the gifts presented by the Wise Men; he suggests we focus on the givers, not the gifts.

Abuse harms the whole person
Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministry, discusses the long-lasting damage of abuse and encourages churches to carefully vet Scout leaders.

Honor a legacy
Steve Nailor, president of the UM Men Foundation, encourages men to honor those who led us on our spiritual pilgrimage with a gift to the foundation.

Forgiveness . . .
Herman Lightsey, president of the National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men, says we need to forgive others, “not because they deserve it, but because God has forgiven us.”

Launch––or Fail to Launch
Mark Lubbock, a Louisiana-based staff member of the commission, urges us to be like Peter. He responded to Jesus by launching his boat after a long disappointing day of fishing.

Click to view entire newsletter on GCUMM’s website.

General Commission on United Methodist Men
1000 17th Avenue S. | Nashville, TN 37212
615-340-7145 | Toll Free: 866-297-4312

Intentional Discipleship

Love, Learn, and Lead Webinar on Tuesday, January 12

LLLWebinar
Please join us on Tuesday evening, January 12, 2021 at 6:30 PM EST for a Love, Learn, and Lead webinar on intentional discipleship.

One of the most important things we can do in the process of “making disciples of Jesus Christ” is to engage men of all ages and backgrounds in ministry. The most effective tools we have available are the men who are currently involved in our various church ministries. How can we more effectively utilize these men to reach younger men?

Please plan to join us to learn about The Wesley Challenge from David Bean, No Man Left Behind from Todd Hoar, and Wesleyan Building Brothers from Johnnie Draughon.

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89824607164

Meeting ID: 898 2460 7164
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Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/komBF24v0

Mark your calendar for our next Love, Learn, and Lead Webinar on Tuesday, February 9 at 6:30 PM EST for a conversation on prayer.

Webinar recordings will be posted on our website https://vaumc.org/UMM.

Scouting Update

Heart of Virginia Council | Boy Scouts of America

ScoutCouncil
Dear Scouting Family,

As the national organization reaches a significant moment in its bankruptcy case, the Heart of Virginia Council wants our Scouting community to know that we share in the Boy Scouts of America’s heartfelt support for victims of past abuse in Scouting.

Tens of thousands of individuals submitted claims in advance of the November 16th deadline set by the court in the national organization’s Chapter 11 case. We are moved by their bravery. Millions of youth across our country have benefited from Scouting for more than 100 years, but the number of individuals who have been affected by past abuse is devastating.

Now that all claims have been filed, the next step will be for third-party advisors to review the claims in order to uphold the integrity of the process, while the national organization works to develop a plan of reorganization to fund the proposed trust.

It is important to note that while any instance of abuse is one too many, the overwhelming majority of abuse claims filed in the national organization’s bankruptcy case relate to allegations of abuse that occurred before our modern youth protection policies were put in place more than three decades ago.

I want to underscore what many of you already know: The safety and protection of the children in our programs is our absolute top priority. The BSA has multi-layered safeguards in place, all of which act as barriers to abuse, and I can assure you that our volunteers and staff members take these measures extremely seriously. I encourage you to review our safety policies and procedures to better understand our commitment to youth safety and ask that you share this information with friends, neighbors, and family members who ask about this topic. Some helpful resources include our Youth Safety Infographic and video.

The Heart of Virginia Council remains committed to delivering Scouting’s unparalleled experiences to young people throughout our communities, and we thank you for your continued support. If you have any other questions about the policies in place to keep kids safe in Scouting today, please feel free to contact us at GeorgeM.McGovern@Scouting.org. If you have questions about the recent news regarding the national organization’s bankruptcy case, please reference this FAQ.

With Kind Regards,
OwensSIg
George M. McGovern
Scout Executive
Heart of Virginia Council

Heart of Virginia Council, BSA | 4015 Fitzhugh Ave, Richmond, VA 23230

Editor’s Note: Please know that other BSA Councils within the Virginia Conference have shared similar sentiments. Please check information from your BSA Council:

Council Websites

Youth Protection Training Second to None

Boy Scouts of America

YouthProtection
Our churches and the Boy Scouts of America require youth protection training that is second to none before anyone is allowed to be a registered leader with scouting. BSA’s Youth Protection Training program has been in effect since the early 1980s, emboldened and enhanced with frequency to protect all in the Boy Scout program, and is required every two years for all volunteers and leaders.

At each opportunity, ensure the families in your churches and the parents of the youth that BSA programs will continue to present the cavalier youth program in America and, at each and every moment, protect the youth under their leadership.

Resources for Youth Protection Training:

https://www.scouting.org/training/youth-protection/
https://www.scouting.org/about/youth-safety/youth-protection-training-modules/
https://www.scouting.org/training/youth-protection/cub-scout/
http://usscouts.org/safety/YP_guidelines.pdf

Serving HIM Through Youth Outreach Ministries,
Bill Chaffin
UMC Virginia Conference - Ministry of Scouting Coordinator

804-356-6075

bcumcbsa@juno.com

New Bible Program to Support military Children

American Bible Society

HeroSquad
American Bible Society's Armed Services Ministry in December announced the launch of a new program, Hero Squad, to show children of the military the support of a grateful nation. Through donor commitments, the program will provide a welcome box as well as four annual gift packages to children with a parent serving in the military. These seasonal, quarterly boxes include an age-appropriate Bible, military-specific devotionals, Bible-based mental health resources, family activities, and more.
"Military families face many unique challenges, including struggling to find community," said Gordon Groseclose, retired Army chaplain and ministry director for Armed Services Ministry. "Hero Squad reminds military children that they aren't alone. It teaches that—no matter how scary or hard it is to be in a new place or separated from a parent—God will be there to help them."

The majority of military families move every two to three years. For children, this could mean moving up to six times by the age of 12. Military children are repeatedly required to change schools, make new friends, and adapt to a new way of life. Additionally, they carry the emotional burden of fearing losing a parent and or being separated from family when their mom, dad, or both parents are deployed. The challenges of this different way of life are often amplified during traditional "family times" like Thanksgiving or Christmas, and COVID-19 has intensified the fears of family separation. Armed Services Ministry says the Bible can help.

"In my time as a chaplain, I have seen time and time again the difference that being grounded in Scripture makes for a military family," continued Groseclose. "That's why I'm excited about Hero Squad. I think it will give military families a foundation to better serve God together, as one unit. We hope the program will make military children more resilient and that it will bring even a small amount of comfort to deployed parents to know that, in their absence, their children are receiving Bible-based instruction for comfort and peace."

American Bible Society has a rich history of serving Armed Service Members, Veterans and their families. Providing America's military with Bibles has been a core pillar of American Bible Society's work since its founding, over 200 years ago. Today, Hero Squad extends this legacy to include the children of our nation's heroes.

The Hero Squad gift boxes are divided into three categories, catered to each age group's distinctive needs: Eagle Squad for kids aged 3–7, Junior Varsity for tweens aged 8–12, and Varsity for teens age 13 and older. Gifts are sent four times a year (every three months) and are free of cost to military families.

“Military families sacrifice so much for our country. That's why our Armed Services Ministry has proudly served the military community for more than two centuries, and why we're honored to continue serving them by treating military children to these Scripture-focused gift boxes," said Robert L. Briggs, President and CEO of American Bible Society. "Our role is to connect a grateful nation with our nation's heroes."

Armed Services Ministry works through a network of more than 2,000 Chaplains across the United States to increase military families' spiritual health. Chaplains can recommend families for Hero Squad and order free, military-specific Scripture resources that bring the Bible to life for military families through Armed Services Ministry's website.

To enroll a military family in Hero Squad or find more information, visit myherosquad.org. Support a military child through Hero Squad at myherosquad.org.

About American Bible Society
Since 1816, American Bible Society has been making the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message. One of the nation's first and most enduring ministries, American Bible Society today advocates for all people to apply the Bible's teachings to their lives in a way that transforms their relationship with God and others. For free Bible resources or to join the Bible cause, visit AmericanBible.org.

VA UMM 2021 Calendar

2021 Dates for Your Calendar

Words to Live By

Nativity
Merry Christmas

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
and a little child shall lead them.”

Isaiah 11:6 (KJV)



“And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.”

Luke 2:10
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