Joyful Conference-Wide Worship Held
What a joy it is to be in the house of the Lord to hear the Word and sing songs of praise to God. For the second year, the NIC Discipleship Task Force held a Fall conference-wide worship ser…
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.
Contact the Discipleship Task Force at DiscipleshipTF@umcnic.org for a more detailed prayer agenda or to request the Zoom link to join the NIC Prayer Team that meets monthly. Copy these prayer requests and add them to your prayer list and share with your local prayer group.
Ephesians 3:20-21 CEB 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
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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.
Prayer: 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
Prayer: 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.
Prayer: 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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