Church hosts ESL classes for students in South Korea
Students in South Korea partnered with members of St. Andrews in Carol Stream to attend an English as a Second Language class via Zoom. The class was held once a week to im…
The NIC Prayer Network is an entryway for joining in common prayer for the ministries of the Northern Illinois Conference. As we draw near to God, we can listen and ask for direction and inspiration.
NIC Prayer Network team meets every month on the 2nd Friday at 10:00 AM to pray for the churches, pastors and ministries of Northern Illinois. You are invited to join us. No preparation is necessary, just log in. To join the meeting click here for the Zoom link. Meeting ID: 897 7835 0821 Passcode: 152529 For questions or more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copy these prayer requests and add them to your prayer list and share with your local prayer group.
Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21 CEB
A big thank you to joyfulnoisletter.com for giving us permission to use their material. You may visit the site and also sign up for a subscription.
Lynne Heacock, Certified Lay Servant, First UMC of Dixon
OUR NEED FOR JESUS
I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
It had been a difficult time. She had gone from being loved, living a life of much happiness… to a life of devastation and brokenness. When her husband, Rex, was diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s her world began to crumble. Rex, was a man of great integrity and high moral standards. She was a better woman for having been his wife. Rex and Lynne shared a deep love and a strong bond.
Once an active, vibrant man, Rex became just a shell of himself. And then he died…. he was gone and her heart was broken. Now, the funeral was over, the family had gone home, and Lynne was alone. The depth of her pain was unbearable. Lynne knew God was with her, but for some reason, she just couldn’t seem to find Him. She cried out to the Lord again and again. She laid on the floor and waited and cried... then a sense of a calm began filling her soul. She sensed the presence of Jesus. She could almost feel His arms around her, holding her tightly and she knew that she was not alone; that Jesus would to take care of her. And God has given her a purpose... to share her faith in Jesus Christ with as many people as she can. In serving her Creator, she has been blessed with peace, strength, and hope.
The next time your world goes from calm to upside down, know that Jesus is waiting to help you. He knows how you feel. He knows all your struggles. He felt every hurt, every ache. He experienced it all! Go to the One who knows how you feel!
Dear Lord, may we look up to heaven and feel the presence of our Savior. Amen.
Rev. Caleb Hong, Pastor at Rockford: Christ UMC, and Discipleship Task Force Chair
"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body."
- 1 Corinthians 12:12
Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle? You may have also heard it as the 80/20 Rule. This is the rule that (for many outcomes) 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes. 80% of sales comes from 20% of customers. 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. 80% of the clothes we wear is only 20% of the clothes in our closet.
Like most organizations, churches fall into the Pareto Principle with 80% of the work done by 20% of the members. Friends, this is NOT how God designed the Church to function.
The apostle Paul compares the Church to a human body. In a human body, if only 20% of our organs were functioning properly, we'd be in big trouble. Likewise, in a football team, if only 20% of the players were functioning fully, the team would be in big trouble. In a human body or sports team, we need 100% participation by 100% of the parts. Every part is important. Every part plays a specific function. The eyes allow us to see. The ears allow us to hear. The nose allows us to smell. The ears allow us to hear. The eyebrow allows us to... not look like the Mona Lisa.
Put another way, where would the body be if the fingers felt unappreciated and didn’t cooperate with the rest of the body? How would we type emails, eat meals, drive cars, or pick our nose? Where would the body be if the heart and lungs decided they didn't want to work anymore with the liver and kidneys? Bottom line - we would all suffer. We would all be the lesser.
God created us to be members of the Church – to be in community – to love one another. Every person is valuable. Every person is gifted. Every person has a specific function only s/he can fulfill. For every person who is excluded - for every person who is unappreciated - for every person who is overlooked - the Church is lesser. The Church functions at our best when every member is active - publicly and privately - in the foreground and in the background. Christ’s Church is at our best when every person embraces the ministry God gifted him/her to do.
Gracious God, thank You for the gift of the Church. Forgive us for the ways we bicker and neglect Your command to love one another. Help us to embrace Your call to ministry with the sisters and brothers You bring into our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Rev. Bill Lenters, Chaplain, Rosecrance, Health Network - Lakeview facility, Chicago
COMIC STRIP THEOLOGY
“My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” - Luke 15: 31,32
Theologians have nothing on the Gospel wisdom lurking in the comic strips.
A recent panel in the comic strip Frazz was a riff on the story of the Prodigal Son. Frazz, a school janitor, is listening to a precocious student’s take on the Prodigal Son. The youngster sides with the sibling who stepped up and did the work. I get that. The poor schmuck didn’t get enough credit for keeping his hand on the plow.
My favorite strip is Blondie. She is married to a fellow who specializes in napping even while he is on the job. In one strip, her husband, Dagwood, is hanging around the water fountain with his fellow slackers. They are looking out the window at a road work crew taking a break. Dagwood observes, “Whatever happened to the work ethic?” Dagwood reports to Blondie that his work mates had a rousing discussion about it. She intuitively responds, “Hanging around the watercooler again, dear?”
Frazz’s friend is wise beyond her years. She discerned that the parable of the prodigal son is two-edged. Jesus commends the father for being gracious to his lost son. No strings attached. Didn’t matter the boy had questionable motives for returning – hungry and broke after days of cruising and carousing. That’s GRACE for you. A freebie. We all get a mulligan from God – more than one.
The other son rarely gets credit for stepping up and doing the work. He complained his younger brother was an elitist and didn’t deserve a “get out of jail card.”. The father agreed but rejoiced that his lost son was home. The punchline makes the story praiseworthy. The father says to his faithful son whose life was a testimony to a well-deserved place at the feast. “Son, you are always with me. I will always love you – but we celebrate today because your brother is my son too. God has a place for schleps whose easy come easy go lifestyle is reprehensible. He has always had a special place for his faithful hard-working children too. Enjoy, the table set for you and the undeserving ones too. Grace is to all of us.
God grant us the wisdom to know God accepts as we are and makes us better than we were.
July 2023 Devotion
Lynne Howe, Laity, Lena United Methodist Church, Prairie North District
The Lord God shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and evenforevermore. - Psalm 121:8 KJV
It might seem odd to pull forth this scripture verse, but as a first-time delegate to our church’s annual district conference, it was the one I clung to for the week prior to, and the three days of, the conference. There were so many issues presented for consideration and voting, and I wanted to understand them all, but the issues and process got confusing at times. It was a blessing to be there with my minister who was diligent and patient with her explanations of what was happening. It was another blessing to know that God was with us, and the other 800 delegates, preserving our going out and coming in, so we could carry out some of His work. Yes, it was confusing at times, but it was also exciting and challenging, and yes, I would go again. Because I know that God will protect my going out and coming in!
A Collect for Guidance:
O heavenly Father, in whom we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray thee so to guide and govern us by thy Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget thee, but may remember that we are ever walking in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- from the Book of Common Prayer
June 2023 Devotion
Lois Nemeth, NIC Lay Leader, Olympia Fields United Methodist Church
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16 (NKJV)
I find that the New King James Version of the Bible, The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide, Billy Graham’s “Scripture Treasures” (Thomas Nelson, 1982), and uplifting readings bring hope and unconditional love. We are God’s children, and He prepares us to endure tough times. Our Daily Bread and The Upper Room also provide Bible verses, devotions, a thought for the day, and a prayer focus, which help center us when times become difficult.
“Even when my life does not go as I had hoped, God’s promises remain true” is the thought for the day from Audrey Tafadzwa Chidavaenzi (Midlands, Zimbabwe) in the Feb. 13, 2023, issue of The Upper Room Daily Devotional. Her reflections remind me of God’s promises. That entry’s thought for the day, the scripture passages from Hosea 6:1-3 and Isiah 41:10, and the prayer focus is for recent graduates. I find hope in all the angels in our lives like Audrey: searching for answers within scripture and peace with God.
I also commend “Scripture Treasures,” offered through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It includes scripture quotations taken from the New King James Version of the Bible and 2 x 3.5-inch cards (that address 30 different subjects), references, review instructions, and four “steps to peace with God.”
During our current times we seek answers to the struggles we face. Regardless of family health issues, financial woes, and community struggles, we read small seeds of God’s promises every day. Sometimes we miss them, but God’s love never fails, and the seeds hope, peace, and love remain available.
Each day, when we read the scriptures, small reminders and quotations help us review and find understanding in what God has in store for us.
Thanks be to God.
Father, we, children of God, continue to pray even during tough times. We pray for your angels to come and guide us in the path of your unconditional love. Life giving waters that spring forth quenching our thirst for understanding. Keep us focused on you, O God. Help us to see your promises and live in love as you live in us. Keep safe our graduates, and all students of life, and uplift those seeking your reminders that all are your precious children. Lord, help us be reminded that God is love and anyone who lives in love, lives in God, and God lives in him. Amen.
May 2023 Devotion
Karen Bonnell, laity, Steward United Methodist Church, Prairie South District
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings. - Ephesians 2:6-7
Jesus responded, “My teaching isn’t mine but comes from the one who sent me." - John 7:16
"Then you will know that I do nothing on my own, but I say just what the Father has taught me." - John 8:28b
“Humility is a person’s simple consent to let God be everything—a surrender to his purposes.” Until reading an excerpt from Andrew Murray’s Humility the short book from which I took the previous quote, I hadn’t realized how often Jesus spoke of consulting with the Father. Yes, I knew he arose early to pray (so he didn’t just give God his wishlist?), and I knew Jesus is the 2nd person of the Trinity, but several verses in John’s gospel indicate Jesus was doing what his Father had taught him. Jesus submitted to God.
It’s easy to get busy doing good things for God. At least it is for me. Some of us become so busy that there isn’t room for anything else. Jesus made sure there was room to consult with God. A practice that I have *sometimes* remembered to do is to ask God at the beginning of the day what He has for me to do.
Andrew Murray had a great illustration concerning water always finding the lowest spot. People who run heavy equipment moving dirt in construction sites become good at eying the lay of the land. They want to make sure water has a low point to run off to. God looks for the low spots, too, according to Murray, because the low spots have enough room to receive the water. Murray said, “Just as water always runs to the lowest place, so the moment God finds people humble and empty, his glory and power will flow into them and lift them up and bless them.” If we are humble and empty, God’s power can flow into us to do God’s work. If our cups are full of ourselves, there isn’t room for God’s power.
Oh, God, help us to be like Jesus, emptying ourselves and consulting you. In us, you are at work and can accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine. For your glory we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen
PS Our NIC Book Club selection Praying with Giants by Gary Neal Hansen contained a chapter about Andrew Murray. Some of Murray’s material is free online.
April 2023 Devotion
Rev. Alka Lyall, Clergy, Chicago: Broadway UMC
“After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.” - Luke 24:30-31
Many years ago in India, I noticed my mother-in-law had invited a woman into our house to use the restroom. “The woman had entered the school campus,” my mother in law explained, “and seemed to be wandering uncomfortably. When I asked her she said she needed to use the restroom, so I invited her in.” On her way out, the woman paused and asked, “Are you Christian?” “Yes,” my mother-in-law replied, “but why do you ask?” “Because you let me in to your house to use the restroom. You don’t even know me!”
The disciples had been with Jesus throughout his ministry. Jesus had talked to them about his death and resurrection, and yet they were unable to believe what they saw, or understand what Jesus said during the walk, until Jesus took bread, thanked God, broke bread and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened. They recalled the last supper with Jesus in the upper room. They remembered the hospitality of Jesus.
Beloveds, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the world may not understand, or believe a word we say about Jesus or our faith, but our hospitality can convince them of who we are and whose we are. Our hospitality extends the welcome of Jesus to every human being before any words could. God calls us to welcome all people, share with them the bread that nourishes physical hunger first, and then introduce them to the everlasting bread that God offers in Jesus.
Dear God, help us to remain open to the needs that are around us all the time. Enable us to respond to people in a way that extends your welcome to them. May they experience your love through our actions. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
March 2023 Devotion
Ellen Feliciano, Laity, Lake North District, Urban Village Church - Edgewater
”Moses answered, ‘What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, “The LORD did not appear to you”?’ Then the LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’” – Exodus 4:1-2
Earlier this year I came across a devotion where the author reflected on how often he underappreciated or even rejected the things God had given him. I realized that this has too often been true for me.
In Exodus 4, God has called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Moses is very certain that he is not the person for the job. He asks God for a sign that he has the power. God asks Moses, ‘what is that in your hand’. To Moses, it appeared to be an ordinary shepherd’s rod, but to God it was an instrument by which miracles would be performed.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to be a part of leadership in a newly planted church. The pastors who planted the church were evangelists, apostles, prophets. I felt honored to be part of that leadership team. However, I believed that I brought little to the table compared to the amazing gifts of those who had planted this church. Although I had doubts, when I was asked to take on leadership of the finances for this rapidly growing church, I agreed to do it. Initially I was the entire team. I was able to build a team and create processes and procedures. Like Moses, I had to see what was already in my hand. With God’s help, I had what was needed. In Romans 4:20-21 we are reminded that God is able to do what God promises. Like Abraham, we need to trust that God is able to work with what is already in our hands, and that God will be there to guide us on our journey.
The next time we are asked to take on something for which we feel ill-prepared, let’s remember to look at what is in our hand and trust God’s guidance.
Oh God who created us out of dust, be with us, strengthen us and help us to always remember that the gifts you have already given us are sufficient for the work you call us to do. Pour out your Spirit on us and guide us. In your Son’s name we pray, Amen
February 2023 Devotion
Rev Caleb Hong, Clergy, Orland Park: Faith, Aurora District
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
- Galatians 5:22-23
A few days ago, I watched a video about the “Science of Kindness,” and I was struck by their line, “kindness is one of the few things in the world… that doubles… when shared.” This means that if we do just one act of kindness every day, we not only reduce our stress, our anxiety, and our depression, but we do the same for someone else.
When we offer kindness to a sibling/stranger, family member/friend – our bodies are flooded with HORMONES that make us (and the person) calmer, healthier, and happier. These HORMONES include: SERATONIN (heals wounds & helps us relax), ENDORPHINS (blocks pain & relieves stress) and OXYTOCIN (lowers blood pressure & boosts positive feelings).
I also read, in a 2017 article in Psychology Today, that KINDNESS has been proven to be the MOST IMPORTANT PREDICTOR of Satisfaction & Stability in marriage. (I hope every married person reads this last sentence twice.) Social scientists discovered that couples who report the most satisfying & stable marriages offer the most kindness and care to each other. On the other hand, those couples with the least satisfying & stable marriages tend to be callous and cruel to each other.
The lesson: if couples want to have a satisfying & stable marriage, they should be kind (not cruel) to each other. If we want to improve the level of intimacy and quality of marriage, we should be kind (and not callous) towards our partner.
Friends, the most important truths are sometimes the most obvious. They are like open secrets that we just need to recognize. So, for the remainder of this week - let's be intentional about doing one act of kindness each day. Perhaps it's at work. Perhaps it's in the grocery store. Perhaps it's at home - with your family, friends, spouse.
As you offer this gift of kindness (especially in those situations when kindness is NOT how you want to respond,) lift up prayers for God to water these seeds of kindness in our world, in others, in us.
Thank you, Lord, for your life-changing life. Because of your love, we are empowered to love others. Help us to extend kindness to our neighbors. Help us to reflect your love in our lives this day. Amen.
January 2023 Devotion
Karen Bonnell, Laity, Prairie South District, Steward United Methodist Church
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
We humans love “new”! New year, new clothes, new toys, new car, new adventures, new home. And by the way, welcome to our new bishop, Bishop Schwerin!
John Wesley speaks of “new” in some of his sermons. The online tool resourceumc.org talks about the new creation: “Wesley affirmed that God's grace seeks nothing less than a new creation in the likeness of Jesus Christ. Sanctifying grace is God's freely given presence and power to restore the fullness of God's image in which we are created.”
This UMC resource goes on using Wesley’s analogy: “If prevenient grace is the porch of the house of grace and justifying grace is the doorway, sanctifying grace represents the rooms in the expansive dwelling of God's presence with and purposes for humanity.”
Some traditions hold that Jesus learned the carpenter trade from his earthly father. If that’s the case, no doubt Jesus has some remodeling in mind for our lives so we can become more like him. Currently, I am going through the remodeling of my kitchen and bathroom. While exciting, it’s also humbling and painful at times. Currently, my rooms are gutted (read: no insulation there) and old pipes are being removed and new ones put in while they are exposed. Joists are being strengthened and new walls will be put up. It’s my goal that these rooms will be welcoming and more functional. I’ve been thinking of the remodeling Jesus is doing in my heart. It’s humbling and sometimes painful, but hopefully I will be more like Jesus, which is exciting. I’m becoming a new creation.
Our God who makes all things new, create in us clean hearts. Put a new, faithful spirit within us. Restore us. Give us sanctifying grace to make us more like Jesus. In his name, Amen.
December 2022 Devotion
Pastor Marcia Peddicord, Certified Lay Minister and Pastor at Malden UMC
An Advent Devotion
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ - Luke 1: 26-33
A miracle happened when an angel appeared
To a girl, one peaceful Nazareth night.
He awoke her with a comforting voice
And surrounded her with heavenly light.
The angel greeted her and told her not to fear,
A message from God was his goal.
He said that she was one favored by God
Who had picked her for an unprecedented role.
“Mary,” said the angel,” you are the one chosen
Who will bear God’s son to this earth.
His name will be Jesus, Emmanuel, Son of God,
A King at the moment of his birth.”
Mary, a bit shaken, now questioned the angel
As she’d never been with a man.
The angel assured her with God, all things were possible
And Mary agreed to be part of God’s plan.
And it all came to pass, Jesus came to this earth
Walked among us and taught us God’s Way.
His sacrifice for our lives continues to inspire
From back then until even today.
One day he’ll come back and rule over His kingdom
But we don’t know the time nor the day.
We must keep awake; for that moment, prepare
Be faithful, love others and pray.
Most Generous God, maker of all that we have, thank you for sending an angel to a virgin girl and changing her life as well as the lives of all of us forever by sending Your Son, Jesus to this earth. May we ever be mindful of his words and his sacrifice as we follow our own faith journey and wait for the day of his return. In Jesus’ precious name we pray. Amen.
November 2022 Devotion
Rev. Hwa-Young Chong, Annual Conference Shepherding Team Co-Chair, Lead Pastor, Community UMC, Naperville
Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12, NRSV)
The Chinese word ren (仁) is comprised of two characters—one character (人) meaning “humanity,” and the second character (二) meaning “two.” Literally, ren means “two persons being together,” but its spiritual meaning is more complex. It is translated into English as various terms such as benevolence, kindness, kind-heartedness, or humanity. It’s also understood to be humanness, compassion, kindness, and human-heartedness. I believe another way to describe ren in English is “self-in-community.”
Ren embodies an ancient Asian way of understanding what it means to be human: to be in relation with one another in a caring and compassionate spirit. It’s similar to the African concept of ubuntu, which reflects the intricate interdependence of human life. One of the popular descriptions of ubuntu is “I am because we are.” It is a way of saying that individuals do not exist apart from each other. Michael Battle, in his book Ubuntu: I in You and You in Me, articulates further that ubuntu means “the interdependence of persons for the exercise, development, and fulfillment of their potential to be both individuals and community.”
Such a communal understanding of humanity, whether it is expressed as ren or ubuntu, is not new to our Christian communities. The image of “many members in one body” in 1 Corinthians 12 powerfully expresses how we are organically connected to one another in one body of Christ. When one person suffers, it affects the whole community. When all members of the community are well, the body thrives!
The United Methodists are currently going through one of the most challenging times in our communal life. Yet, at the same time, there are many exciting new possibilities. This month, the North Central Jurisdictional Conference will meet and elect new bishops. The postponed General Conference will meet approximately one and a half years from now and, hopefully, it will mark the beginning of a more inclusive United Methodist Church. Many of our churches are emerging from the difficult times of COVID, having learned new ways to relate, communicate, and gather.
I give thanks to God for the communal life I share in the United Methodist Church. I trust that the loving Spirit of God will continue to guide and strengthen us as we practice ren and ubuntu, and grow together in the body of Christ!
Thank you for your guiding us through these challenging times. May your powerful Spirit strengthen and transform us to share your love and compassion today and every day. Amen!
October 2022 Devotion
Gene William's, Conference Co-Lay Leader, Laity, Lake South District, Chicago South Shore UMC
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
Indeed, there is a time and a season for everything. Summer and winter and springtime and harvest…. as we enter Autumn, the season of harvest; what better time to consider our bounty and the abundance of His grace and mercy. In this season and in every season, we should endeavor to seek some measure of contentment, wherever we find ourselves. Content with His great faithfulness; content that His grace is sufficient. Content to trust God with all that concerns us. Content to take our burdens to the Lord in prayer. Remember, Jesus is our refuge and our shelter; an ever-present help in our time of need. So be not dismayed or troubled. Our God is a generous God, abounding in love and faithfulness for us. Rest assured that He did not bring us this far to abandon us now. Be thankful that He did not leave us where He first found us. Again, in whatsoever the season that we find ourselves in, we should seek contentment knowing that we serve a mighty God that loves us more than we love ourselves.
Loving God, wherever your children are indeed on this day; pour out Your Heavenly blessings upon them. Be with us, guide us and fill us to overflowing; that in everything we do and say will bring glory to You. We pray this in Christ's name, Amen.
September 2022 Devotion
Karen Bonnell, laity, Steward UMC, Prairie South District
They learned that one way to pray was with The Cloud of Unknowing. “Focus your attention on God. That’s it,” Dr Hansen said. Fortunately, he gave us more to go on. He could probably see the question marks on our faces right through the book. This method was hard for many of us as you don’t “think,” therefore the cloud of “unKNOWing.” For a better understanding, I recommend picking up the book again. In the book Dr. Hansen suggested a word to bring our focus back to God, and that was “love.” We know from I John 4:9 that God is love. But there’s that “know” word again.
After spending 5 minutes focusing on God, you can start thinking again, and meditate on Ephesians 3:17-19 “I And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Perhaps the author of Ephesians was a bit of a mystic.
Hopefully as we pray with the cloud of unknowing, “we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (From II Corinthians 3:17-18). Hopefully we will know how much we are loved.
Hopefully we can sing with We the Kingdom:
I'm gonna climb a mountain
I'm gonna shout about it
I am a child of love
I found a world of freedom
I found a friend in Jesus
I am a child of love
God of love, we pray that you would help us focus on you, so that in beholding you, we would be transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. Amen
*Note the Prayer Network had a pause in August 2022
July 2022 Devotion
Lois Nemeth, laity, Olympia Fields UMC, Lake South District
Oh Mighty God, through your spirit we become whole.
Gleaning the fruits you provide, which nourishes our souls to continue doing the good works, through your Son Jesus Christ.
We come to the table to be filled with your word. Love casting out sin, replenishing us, as we replenish those in need. Help us. Guide us. Bring us into your fold. Becoming one with you, Oh God.
Bring Compassion back to us. Mercy. Goodness. Patience. Integrity. Honesty. Caring for each other and the earth. Sustain us through your never-ending love. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13
Thanks be to God.
June 2022 Devotion
Pat Sovonick, laity, Carol Stream: St Andrew, Prairie Central District
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. And without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. - Hebrews 1:1-3, 6
The dilemma of faith in God was solved for me as an adult when I found this scripture in Hebrews. Recently I had the privilege of discovering Gary Neal Hanson.He states in his book “Kneeling With Giants” that the “whole process is seeing God in all of our lives and seeing all in our lives in the light of God”. In this same book he states “if we only looked, we would see God’s name, wisdom, power, and faithfulness in every blade of grass and every drop of rain”. It keeps my soul in touch with God to know that He is always here and that all will end for His Glory. I have seen Jesus in my heart and He has saved my life a number of times. We do not have to “see” the wind to know it is moving the trees, I do not have to “see” God to know he moves in my life. I know that the world will be a better place for my great-grandsons because of my faith that God’s plan will come to fruition. That is the God which I can see with my heart if not my eyes.
Dear God, have mercy on us whose faith sees you in every aspect of life.
May 2022 Devotion
Ann Russell, laity from First UMC of Ottawa, Prairie South District
An Intercessory Prayer for Wars Around the World
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he was put to death their hostility. - Ephesians 2: 14-16
Oh God of mercy, You sent the Prince of Peace, Jesus, to die on a cross for your children. As the Romans persecuted first the Jews, and then the early Christians, evil still creates chaos, violence, oppression, destruction, injury, and death in many places of your world today. This is all too evident by the war happening in the Ukraine. Send your Holy Spirit to change the hearts and minds of the political and military leaders to end this violence. Protect the innocent. Assure all those who are afraid, wounded, mourning, or displaced, that while the battle rages on, the war was won at the resurrection of Jesus. Bring an end to this conflict so that tensions do not escalate. Forgive the fighters on both sides, and ease the torment that carrying out the atrocities of war takes on their souls. Rebuild relationships in a way that allows peace to grow and justice to reign once again. We ask these things for every conflict, small or large, found in any corner of the world in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen
April 2022 Devotion
Rev. J. Martin Lee, NIC Director of Congregational Development and Redevelopment
My Lenten Prayer:
God of Grace and God of Love, as we journey through this Lenten season, we remember the cry of David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. (Psalm 51: 10-11).
Allow us, as we renew our spiritual disciplines in this time, to encounter your life-changing Spirit and open us to be moved by it into a new direction in our lives and our ministries.
Clear our hearts and minds so that we can be filled with your will for us and for this broken world. As war is kindled again in Europe, rally your Church to respond with the healing peace of Christ in every way possible.
Work through us, Lord, so that we can be instruments of your Grace and Mercy. In Jesus' name, we pray, Amen.
March 2022 Devotion
Connie Schweitzer, Certified Lay Speaker, Journey of Hope: Elgin, Prairie Central District
The Lion and The Lamb of Whom My Heart Forever Sings!
5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6 Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb … 9 They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; 10 you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.” Revelation 5:5-6a, 9-10 (NRSV)
Each March childhood memories of my fascination and contemplation of clouds returns, and how I loved finding shapes while gazing at the sky. The phrase "If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb" was the introduction to studying a variety of weather topics. Deciding that the weather each day was either like a lion or a lamb always seemed strange to me. Yet among my favorite assignments was a project on clouds and identifying types based on their properties.
Years later I learned from scripture that Jesus is called both a lion and a lamb. Actually, I am sure that I sang about that before having any real reference to what it represented. Being a young adult, I had learned more about animal characteristics, but understanding what this part of scripture meant involved much more study.
Revelation, here, directs our attention back to earlier scripture and establishes his identity firmly in the Old Testament prophecies. ... It confirms that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior foretold in all of scripture.
In verse 5 the reason the Lion of Judah can open the scroll is that he has conquered and in doing so ransomed people for God by his death, and this ransoming was the victory referred to in verse 5. In verse 9 the reason he can open the scroll is because he was willingly slain and by his blood ransomed men for God.
Augustine preached that the lion stands for Christ resurrected, the lamb for Christ's sacrifice; "He endured death as a lamb; he devoured it as a lion."—Augustine, Sermon 375A.
Jesus, as a lion, is majestic and fierce in His love for us. He conquered sin and death by His mighty work and strength so we can live in eternity with him. Jesus, as a lamb, offered himself up as an innocent yet perfect, obedient Lamb for our sacrifice.
God, our royal King came down off his throne in Heaven to be born into humble beginnings as a human man. He took on our sins and became our perfect, innocent, sacrificial lamb. Yet it is not His fierceness or the force of His power that makes Him worthy. The Lion has triumphed because He became a Lamb.
Now, lion-like days remind me of the power of God, our King; the lamb-like one’s remind me of the peaceful and loving gift of our Savior. As we enter the season of Lent and the victory of Easter morning, guided by the Holy Spirit, may our praise show both attributes of Jesus as King of Kings and as our meek and sacrificial lamb.
O merciful, loving, powerful King, we are in awe of who you are! We come to you in obedience ready to be your people, wanting to serve, led by your will. Help us to be strong when we have no power, yet humble when we serve, guide us by your Holy Spirit to see our neighbors and their needs. We pray for our world, our nation, our leaders, our church and all people that they would come to know who you are and live in your will. For, you are worthy of our praise, let our hearts forever sing. May voices ring out so all will see the wonders of your love and majesty! Forever we will sing, How Great is Our God! Hallelujah and Amen.
Karen Yocum, laity of Ashton: Reynolds UMC in Prairie South District
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
I love the Bible. My study Bible has more than 2,400 pages including maps, concordance, and notes to help me better understand. I go to Bible studies to learn more. And I do learn from study and discussion with others and from testimonies of how their lives have been changed by Jesus. Sometimes, I still don’t get it. What am I supposed to take away from this reading, studying, listening? I was wrestling with a particular family problem, so I prayed to God. I said, “Lord, I love you. I want to get this right. Show me the way." And you know how it is with prayer. Sometimes you wait for an answer and sometimes it comes right away.
After that prayer the subject of love came up everywhere - in devotions, sermons, conversations, songs, Facebook. Everywhere! While shopping I saw a garden stone with the inscription “JUST LOVE EVERYONE. I’LL SORT THEM OUT LATER. – GOD” I was getting the message. I may not be able to fix everything, but I could be there to encourage and support. And to love.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." 1 John 4:20
Father God, Thank you for your abundant love. Help us recognize your love and draw peace and comfort from it as we live for you today. Help us to share that love with others, especially when they feel unloved.
Carry Christ into the New Year!
Bishop John L. Hopkins, Interim NIC Bishop
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
As the calendar turns to 2022, we look back with grief and gratitude for all that has happened in this past year. We also look to the future with uncertainty and hope. How do you face uncertainty? What gives you peace?
As a young Christian, I became aware that when I remembered what Jesus had done for me, I felt close to him. Of course, when I became busy, it was easy to forget that Jesus was present in my life. When I was afraid or sick, I would turn to God, remember Jesus, and sense the Holy Spirit was with me. With the “Trinity” surrounding me, I may not have been invincible, but I certainly knew I was not alone.
Over the years, people have given me items to carry so I would know the presence of Christ whenever I might be “troubled or afraid.” I have nails from Good Friday services, a “Cross in My Pocket,” a cross from the Holy Land, and a “Palm Cross” to hold on to when facing surgery.
I learned two things from carrying Christ with me. First, when you are mindful of Jesus, you do not have your mind on all that gives you fear. Secondly, when you face uncertainty with gratitude, you find joy in the midst of unexpected change.
As an old Christian, I still get sick and afraid. I grieve and give thanks over events during this past year. I cannot predict the future any better than when I was young. However, I know what to cling to for peace that passes all understanding.
Carry Christ with you into this New Year. When you are facing a relationship problem, take Jesus with you. When you are going through a medical issue, take Jesus with you. When you are heavy with grief or despair, take Jesus with you. When you do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly, take Jesus with you. Cling to something or someone who reminds you of what God has done in your life. Give thanks and find joy day by day in the year to come.
O God, we give you thanks for the peace you have given us in Jesus Christ. Help us to cling to that peace as we love and serve you in this New Year.
Rev. Arlene W. Christopherson, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministries
Scripture: Mark 1:1-3
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, a voice of one calling in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him”.
This fall we finally celebrated my mother’s 90th birthday. My mom had the misfortune of turning 90 the week the world shut down due to the pandemic. We had done a great deal of preparation to celebrate this milestone birthday with family and friends but in the blink of an eye the event was skuttled. The perishables (100 cupcakes) didn’t go to waste, we shared, but all the party favors and paper products were gathered into a box stored in my basement.
Twenty months later when we decided to try again, we started to prepare anew. What we planned in early 2020 didn’t work for late 2021. The box of party supplies were still good, but the way in which we celebrated required adjustments to keep our guests safe in a pandemic time.
Preparations for a big celebration often span multiple months, maybe even years. So too we prepare for the Coming of Christ each year and over multiple years. Our forefathers and foremothers in the faith were wise in designing a Christian calendar that includes four weeks of Advent leading up to our celebration of Christ’s birth. Four weeks to prepare for the big party.
Your box of preparations for Christ birth is already filled with some valuable tools – bible stories, traditions, carols, advent memories and prayers. Even with these historic tools we are still called by John the Baptist to prepare the way, to make straight the paths for our Lord.
Over these four weeks of Advent how will you prepare for Christmas – beyond the decorations and gift giving, how do we prepare? Will our prayer life, meditation, bible study, reflection and actions be framed to build on the past and help us arrive at the celebration of Christ with renewed, fresh and energized hearts?
I invite you to begin your planning, beyond the trapping of the season, deep in your own heart.
Let us pray:
Lord God of Advent hope, you have given us life and called us to reflect your love in our actions. Guide us through this season of preparation as we take steps to more fully love you and follow your way. In Christ, Amen.
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