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Once for All Time
Once a year, the ancient Hebrew high priests went to a special part of the Tabernacle called “the most Holy place.” On this Day of Atonement, they offered sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people. Year after year, they did this same thing.

Today, there is no need to make such repeated sacrificial offerings. Jesus, who is our most supreme High Priest, had a one-and-for-all earthly ministry. His sacrifice on the cross never needs to be repeated. It is final! Jesus’ one perfect sacrifice of Himself took care of all our sins forever.

Hebrews 9:24-27 proclaims “Christ didn’t enter the holy place (which is a copy of the true holy place) made by human hands, but into heaven itself, so that he now appears in God’s presence for us. He didn’t enter to offer himself over and over again, like the high priest enters the earthly holy place every year with blood that isn’t his. If that were so, then Jesus would have to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. Instead, he has now appeared once at the end of the ages to get rid of sin by sacrificing himself. People are destined to die once and then face judgment.” (CEB)

The wrath of God’s judgement was fully and completely satisfied by the sacrificial blood of God’s unique Son. Never again will He ever have to face that cruel cross for us. The atonement He made on our behalf was made once and for all time. When Jesus bowed His head and cried out “It is finished!” (John 19:30), our sin debt was marked “paid in full.” As we approach the Lenten season, we all need to remember Jesus’ sacrifice. Lent is a time for self-examination, repentance, prayer and fasting.

What did Christ’s death mean for Him?  Many Christians think of the death of Christ only in terms of what it means for us, and not what it means for Him. When we ask a typical believer why Christ died, they might say “to pay the debt for the sins of the world.”

While this is very true, it is not the only reason why Christ died. He died not only to keep us from going to hell, but he also died to cleanse us and to make us His own special people. Christ is still looking for followers who are totally committed to doing what is right. As Paul wrote the Corinthians: “He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.”(2 Corinthians 5:15, CEB)

Pastor Louis Telcy

Report on Special General Conference 
from Bishop Carter

Dear Florida Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Some are grateful for the results of the Special Session. And others sought a different outcome. All of this will take some time to process. Human sexuality is a topic on which our people have differing views. As evidenced by the vote of the special session, we are a global church with very different contexts. We were not able to achieve contextual differentiation as envisioned by the Commission on a Way Forward. By a majority vote, we passed the Traditional Plan, with some parts ruled unconstitutional. It now goes to the Judicial Council for review at their next meeting, but our existing Discipline language is maintained.

We are a global church. This is a great gift in that God blesses us with diversity and the gospel is lived and shared across cultures. This is a great challenge in that we have different understandings of the LGBTQ community and, indeed, the LGBTQ persons in our own churches.

By a majority, the U.S. church seems to favor the One Church Plan that would have more openly welcomed pastors from the LGBTQ community and allowed for same-sex marriage. And, an overwhelming majority of the Council of Bishops endorsed the One Church Plan.

I am a person of evangelical and orthodox faith and respect those who see this primarily as a matter of scriptural interpretation. I will continue to live my promises of consecration as a bishop by abiding by the Book of Discipline as a resource for oversight and supervision in support of the church’s mission (BOD, Paragraph 403).

Some believe the arc of history is moving towards more acceptance of LGBTQ people, not less. Pew Research teaches us that younger generations in the U.S., especially under 45 and more so under 30, will not participate in a church that rejects the LGBTQ community. A letter from United Methodists under the age of 35 was shared at the Special Session, with over 15,500 signatories. A greater number of LGBTQ voices were heard on the floor of the Special Session than ever before. Many of these were younger voices.

I offer the following words to the LGBTQ community:  Please know that you are of sacred worth. You are not the problem. You are not "out there." You are present in our churches. You bless us with your faith and your gifts strengthen the church. And my calling, for you and all people, is to remove the obstacles to your experience of the grace of God, and especially in the life of The United Methodist Church.

I also offer these words to the evangelical community: Please know that your faith is a great gift to God and to your local churches. Too often, your stances have been misunderstood as driven by hatred, as opposed to being of deeply held faith. Your lives have been changed by the good news of Jesus, and you have a deep desire that others know this grace. Our denomination is blessed by you and needs your gifts in our calling to share God’s love across the world. Our conference includes at every level of leadership evangelicals who are of the utmost integrity.

We remain a denomination that is open to people of all nations, ethnic groups, ages, and sexual orientations. We hope to find better ways to embrace our diversity and be on mission together. Our POV process continues to be a resource available to you. Despite our differences, we will continue to work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and to share God’s love with all people.

The peace of the Lord,
Ken Carter, Bishop, Florida Conference
Three Things I Will Not 
Give Up for LENT 2019
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten Season. The 40-day Lenten journey can include fasting, prayer, repentance, reflection and remembering that God created us from dust. I’ve spent some time this week thinking about the traditional things I can give up for Lent like “sweets” “coffee”, “wine” and “chocolate”--all things I should consume in moderation on any given day.

This year I’m choosing to focus on three things I am not giving up for LENT. The text from Hebrews 10:35-39 reminds us not to give up or throw away our confidence, perseverance or our faith. 

 Confidence in this text refers to our willingness and ability to speak and share with boldness our love for God and God’s love for this world. Throughout Lent let’s pay attention to the moments we can confidently share a smile, a kind word, a prayer with someone in need. Let’s not give up our Confidence throughout Lent. 

 Secondly, let’s not give up our perseverance.  Perseverance is needed throughout our personal tests and trials and is needed to guide us through tumultuous times in our denomination. We need leaders to persevere as a non-anxious presence within ourselves and with others who may be experiencing fear and anxiety, disappointment, hurt and pain coming out of our recent called General Conference. Perseverance is not passive but actively participating with God and God’s people in God’s plan and redemption story for our lives, our church and our world. Let’s not give up our Perseverance this Lent.

Lastly, we will not give up our Faith. This text reminds us “the just shall live by Faith”. Our Faith in God enables us to believe and trust that God is with us. Faith in God assures us God’s wisdom will be revealed to us as we walk through all of life’s circumstances. Our Faith in God reminds us a future eternity awaits enabling us to receive peace from God to navigate today.

I am choosing to focus on remaining confident, patiently persevering and being faithful throughout this Lenten Season. I would love to hear what you’re not going to give up this Lenten season. Please email me at ds-gc@flumc.org.

On Mission Together,
Rev. Dr. Candace M. Lewis
Gulf Central District Superintendent