Illinois Enters Phase 5
What a year this has been. With God’s grace, we have found our way through the maze of a global pandemic, not a journey any of us claim lightly. This Friday, Illinois arrives at Phase 5. What a day of r…
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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*Beginning February 2021, the prayer network switched to a monthly devotion with a weekly prayer focus calendar.
By Irma Clark, member of Hartzell United Methodist Church in Chicago, Director Lay Servant Ministries, Chicago Southern District, Certified Lay Servant and Certified Lay Minister
II Corinthians 8:7-9
7 Be the best in this work of grace in the same way that you are the best in everything, such as faith, speech, knowledge, total commitment, and the love we inspired in you. 8 I’m not giving an order, but by mentioning the commitment of others, I’m trying to prove the authenticity of your love also. 9 You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty.
Paul points out in our scripture that The Corinthian believers excelled in everything --they had faith, good preaching, much knowledge, much earnestness, much love. Paul wanted them to also be leaders in giving. Giving is a natural response of love. Paul did not order the Corinthians to give, but he encouraged them to prove their love was sincere. When you love someone, you want to give him or her your time and attention and to provide for his or her needs. If you refuse to help, your love is not genuine.
Interruptions can interfere with the best intentions of communities and churches. And those who would manipulate God for their own purpose or franchise God's blessings through corporate channels can disrupt benevolence efforts for the needy. Corinth was a center for extremism in almost every human appetite: commerce, luxury, sexual liberties and abuse. Corinth was also a city at the crossroad of almost every kind of trade. It was a city where you could buy anything and almost anybody. It was a city of great diversity. Romans, Greeks, Jews, slaves and liberated ones, men, women, and children.
There were the worship centers for a host of deities, including a temple for Aphrodite which provided slave- prostitutes in a cult of what today would be considered unrivaled sexual abuse and human trafficking. It was difficult enough for Paul to proclaim the gospel and to plant churches in this diverse culture. He and the Corinthians Christians also faced interruptions. These opponents of Paul challenged his leadership as the servant of Christ and his integrity as one who shared in the suffering of Christ. The disruption was severe. Reconciliation between Paul and his friends was delayed for nearly a year. Here Paul found people who were eager to hear the word of liberation in Jesus.
Finally, when peace had been restored, Paul encouraged his friends to finish what they had started, to feed the hungry and care for the homeless. Their love in Christ, he said, should become tangible care for those in need. Love calls us back to our original mission: God's Blessings, to love, to feed, to shelter, to heal and to comfort, and God to follow Christ – whose richness in the form of God was interrupted and depleted for our sake.
Loving God, help us to be reconciled not only to you but also to one another, both near and far. Help us to know that both Spirit-filling is in your design for all your children, help us like Jesus, to embrace poverty and sacrifice that all of your earth may be rich together in your love and our care in your precious name we pray. Amen
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By Karen Bonnell, Laity, Steward UMC, DeKalb District
When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. Acts 2:1-4
Dios te ama! Աստված սիրում է քեզ! Бог те обича! 上帝愛你！Mahal ka ng iyos! Dieu t'aime! Gott liebt dich! אלוהים אוהב אותך! Dio ti ama! 神は貴方を愛しています！ भगवान तुम्हे प्यार करते है! 하나님은 당신을 사랑하십니다! Gud elsker deg! Bóg cię kocha! Mungu anakupenda! Бог любит тебя! พระเจ้ารักคุณ! Unkulunkulu uyakuthanda! God loves you! الله يحبك!¡
What an outpouring of the Holy Spirit! What an amazing message went out to all in Jerusalem that day! Peter boldly spoke that God in the form of the Son personally came down from heaven, lived among them with signs and wonders, was crucified, buried, and was resurrected. Jesus is alive! All of this was for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable communion with God.
The Holy Spirit is active today, not limited to doing what Google Translate does for us. God is God and there is no limit to how God chooses to work among us.
Who will join in watching and waiting, anticipating the Holy Spirit?
Holy Spirit, we joyfully anticipate Your movement among us as You worked in Jesus’ disciples and humans throughout history. Fill us. Empower us. We offer ourselves to You. May your work be done through us. Amen
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By Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Assistant to the Bishop/Director of Connectional Ministries
Scripture: Psalm 98:4-6
Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!
Rejoice out loud!
Sing your praises!
Sing your praises to the Lord with the lyre—
with the lyre and the sound of music.
With trumpets and a horn blast,
shout triumphantly before the Lord, the king!
Can you feel it? It’s in the freshness of the air as we first step outside in the early morning. It’s in the shifting angle of the sun. It’s in the little surprises of color as crocuses peek out of the cold soil. Eastertide in our Christian calendar coincides with spring in the western hemisphere and spring is here.
As we bask in the glow of Christ’s resurrection, God’s boundless love for God’s people, the miracle of our salvation, we see signs of new life all around us. One of my favorite Easter refrains is from “Was It a Morning Like This”.
Did the grass sing?
Did the earth rejoice to feel you again?
Over and over like a trumpet underground
Did the earth seem to pound, “He is risen!”
Over and over in a never-ending round
“He is risen, hallelujah, hallelujah!
The trumpets sound, the pounding earth all call us to witness to the love of God that transcends our darkness.
There are challenges on the horizon. We are bombarded by the evils and injustices that surround us. We cannot become blind to all that we are called to witness, the places our earth is groaning but God also calls us to proclaim places where we see hope!
Where are you seeing signs of new life in this Eastertide?
God of creation, new every morning is your love for us. In thanksgiving, we celebrate your sacrifice which becomes our blessing. May we see the risen Christ in the dawning of every day. Amen.
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By Karen Bonnell, laity from Steward UMC in DeKalb District
"And [Jesus] said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” ~Luke 12:15
It all started with pancakes. On Zoom, our church was discussing them concerning a Mardi Gras evening meal. I didn’t understand the big deal. Hardly a worthy splurge meal, because pancakes are, in my experience, what we serve for supper when the food budget needs to be stretched. Besides, what vegetable do you put with them?
My pastor, Rev Megan Thompson, explained the reason many people eat pancakes on Mardi Gras was because early church customs included using up the eggs prior to the time of Lenten fasting (and they must not have heard of spinach quiche 😉). During Lent, chickens were allowed to stop producing eggs so they could brood their eggs, renewing the flock.
The word Sabbath came to mind, and God’s tenderness to allow for a time of rest and renewal. Thus, my Lenten quest of brooding over eggs began. I gave them up, so I would note more carefully what things contain eggs. *True*, eggs are easier to give up than chocolate. But when I think of eggs, I also consider my consumerism. I look for ministries showing tenderness and donate money to them. I also consider my apparent inability to rest on the Sabbath. I have already written out checks for good causes, but, I’ll have to let you know later how the Sabbath rest is coming!
Jesus, remind me that life does not consist of constant production and striving for things this world has to offer. You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. You have destined us for adoption into God’s family. What more could we want? All praise be yours. Amen
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by Pastor Seamus Enright, Ashton: Reynolds UMC
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “it’s always darkest just before the dawn”. As the liturgical calendar changed to a new year, the days were still getting shorter, at least as far as daylight was concerned. Now that the everyday calendar has turned, that trend has reversed, but there are still several more weeks where night-time will exceed daytime to endure.
Many years ago, I regularly worked an overnight shift, loading and unloading trucks. One set of dock doors faced east, and I recall the simple joy of noticing, as trucks came and went, the way that the horizon would become visible long before the sun actually came up, the anticipation, and the inexpressible beauty of the sky, illuminated and radiant already, before dawn had actually broken.
Through Isaiah, God offers an epiphany – a revelation, an insight – of the manifestation of the Divine. The prophet can already see the horizon of salvation. The language moves from the “right now” to the “coming soon”, but the action begins in this very moment. In the midst of seasons of struggle and trial we’re invited into awareness of the Divine radiance that is already with us. Before the “dawn” comes, we still rise and reflect the Son, living into the promise of hope, peace, joy, and the supreme love that is born in us, and among us, every day. Lift up your eyes, and see; arise, and shine as God gives the glory.
Prayer: Glorious God, give us ears to hear your message of hope, eyes to see the beauty around us, and voices to share the story of your goodness. Strengthen us for the work of these days, that through our faithfulness others might come to know your love. Amen.
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New Year Devotional 2021 for Discipleship Task Force – Prayer Network
Bishop John L. Hopkins, Northern Illinois Conference
This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33
I enjoy listening to stories of faith. When one of my church members told me a stewardship sermon changed her life, I must have looked surprised. She went on to tell me the sermon was about more than money. It was about what was important in her life. Her pastor said, “Do not give one dollar to this church until you have given your life to Jesus Christ!”
As she told me this, I could see she was committed to keeping first things first. God’s claim on her life deserved her faithful response. Every time she gave a dollar to the church, she must have asked herself, “Am I still giving my life to Jesus Christ?
In 1755 John Wesley introduced a Covenant Renewal or Watch Night service to help us reaffirm our covenant with God. It is a service to reflect on the past year, make confession, pray, and resolve to live for God. A Watch Night Service takes on special significance in the African American community after many slaves gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve in 1862 to await the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.
As we acknowledge those who came before us in faith, we must be freed from any bondage that would keep us from knowing, loving, and serving God. This is a time to set aside all that divides us from one another and from God. We acknowledge our plans need to change to follow God. If God is with us, we can be with God!
As I begin my service to the Northern Illinois Conference, I look forward to learning about God’s claim on your life. As this New Year begins, I have renewed my covenant with God and given my life to Jesus and His Church. Will you join me?
Prayer: O God, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Prayer Focus for January 11-17, 2021
Grayslake: United Protestant
Lake Bluff: Grace
William L Hall
Rob A Hamilton
Anne Cowick Hampson
Sang Hun Han
Sandra E Harour
NIC District Leaders: Charlotte Musser, Elgin District UMW President
NIC Advance: Center for Changing Lives
December 21- 27, 2020
By Bishop Sally Dyck, Northern Illinois Conference
We long to hear the angels sing: “Be not afraid; for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
Still, our fear with your good news that Christ is born in the world through the presence and actions of people.
Like first responders who risk their lives;
Teachers who care about learning, not just for today’s test but to prepare students for an unknown future.
The angels sang when Jesus was born in a manger instead of a palace.
We long to hear the angels sing in our communities experiencing poverty, disease and racism
Because we bring help and hope through mercy and justice.
The angels sang when Joseph responded to his dreams and chose unexpected routes:
To go to Egypt and later to Nazareth.
Help us to respond to our dreams of a better world.
Help us to strengthen our discipleship through prayer and scripture;
Help us to take the “less traveled” routes that you set out for us—
To seek racial forgiveness and reconciliation, and with those with whom we disagree.
The angels did not sing when Jesus was crucified and laid in a tomb.
There was silence...until while it was yet dark,
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb in faithful service
Only to find her friend was now her risen savior!
So even when it is silent and while it is yet dark,
Let us hear the angels’ song—be not afraid!—
As we go forth to care and serve others!
Let the angels sing!
Red Oak (DeKalb)
Dean L Francis
Sharon Ann Frank
Corydon E. Friedrich
Victor Paul Furnish
Beth L. Galbreath
NIC District Leaders: Yvette Harris-Black
NIC Advance: Bridges Communities, Glen Ellyn
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December 14-20, 2020
By Lynne Heacock, laity, Dixon First UMC
THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS
Have you ever done something nice for someone and your heart felt really good? Have you ever thought back to the time when you helped someone out and you could feel your whole being filled with gladness? To me, that’s what everyday joy feels like. But the blessed Christmas joy we feel comes from Jesus, in fact, it is Jesus. That sacred joy comes from nothing we have done; it all comes from our loving Triune God.
The joy of Christmas was sent to the whole world. Joy came down from heaven that night in Bethlehem. God sent His dearly beloved Son, Jesus, down to earth to save the world. John 3:17…God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. God sent the joy of our Messiah, the anointed one, to all the world. The whole world was covered with holy joy that night a sweet, tiny babe was born in a manger. Reading from Luke 2:8-11…"That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” written by Charles Wesley tells of the angels announcing the birth of our King. Through this blessed child, God and humankind would be reunited and the joy of His birth will cover the earth.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With th’ angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!" Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” Amen.
The joy of Christmas is for you and me. We are invited to receive Christmas joy in our hearts because this Christ child was born to save you and me. He was born to save every man, every woman, and every child. He came to save our souls. He came to save all humankind. Dr. Luke wrote in Luke 19:10…For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. And Paul wrote in Titus 2:11…For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. When you take Jesus into your heart you will receive the greatest joy ever. Keep Him in your heart always and His joy will fill every part of you.
As we anticipate the birth of our Messiah, let us think back to that day long ago when joy can down from heaven as a precious, baby boy. And He was joy…heavenly joy for you and for me. Let us remember Him and what He sacrificed for us.
Dear Abba Father, we thank You for Your precious Son born a sweet, baby boy. We thank You for the joy He brought to the world and to each one of us. Help us to live out the Christmas joy found in Your Son and to share His joy with others. In the power of Jesus’ perfect love we pray. Amen.
Maple Park: Grace
Diana Mason Facemyer
Richard M. Fassig
Peter R Ferguson
Scott Nelson Field
Carol R. Findon
Glenda S. Fish
Deborah Lee Fisher
NIC Leaders: Dawn Shires, Co-Lay Leader for Chicago Southern
NIC Advance: Wesley Willows Good Samaritan Program
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Devotion for Dec. 7 - 13
By Rev. Caleb Hong, Orland Park: Faith UMC
"Prepare the Way"
"Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him." - Luke 3:4
I spent much of yesterday and early today cleaning house with my family. We took down fall/Thanksgiving decorations. We said "hasta lavista" to all of our usual decor, and we put up Christmas decorations. Pictures, candles, cards, wreaths, lights, tins, books - you name it. If it has a Christmas connection - it's now present in every visible part of the parsonage.
The Church celebrates two major holidays each year. These "holy" days are significant enough that they require periods of preparation. Easter is the celebration of Christ's resurrection, and Christians are invited to prepare during the season of Lent. Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth, and we're invited to prepare during the season of Advent. As we enter into this Advent season, let us prepare our homes (and our hearts) to welcome Christ.
How will you prepare?
PRAY - One of the earliest children's songs I learned was, "Read the Bible, Pray every day." Whenever I need to renew my discipline of daily devotion, I remember the words of this song. God invites us to start (and end) each day centered on God - to have prayer and Scriptures guiding our minds and guarding our thoughts. If you need to (re)start this spiritual discipline, start by setting aside 15 minutes each day for a daily devotion.
WORSHIP - As important as it is to pray/study Scripture on our own, it is just as important to worship God with the Church. Communal worship reminds us that there are two parts of the Great Commandment. Jesus teaches us to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength AND to Love our Neighbor as ourselves. God designed us for community - to need it, to desire it, to find joy in it. So, prioritize weekly worship as an essential part of life.
SERVE - In his parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25,) Jesus says, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me." Whenever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, welcome the stranger - whenever we bless children, orphans, and widows - whenever we offer food/coats/compassion for the hurting - in all of these ways, we welcome Christ.
Another way to put it, Jesus lives among us today. Patiently and persistently, he pursues you and I. The question is not if God will show up this Christmas, but will we? Will we seek - will we search - will we slow down long enough - will we be still long enough - to hear the still small voice of our Lord who coos and cries, blesses and beckons us to worship?
With humble hearts, let's observe a holy Advent.
Cheryl R. Esbrook
Romir Reyes Esguerra
Mary Lou Eubanks
Daniel D. Facemyer
NIC Staff: Jacques Conway, Chicago Southern District DS
NIC Advance: United Methodist Homes and Services
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Devotion for Nov. 30 - Dec. 6
by Pastor Caleb Hong, Orland Park: Faith
"The gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable."
Reading the Bible, especially The Gospel of Luke, is humbling. In the words of the writer, Finley Peter Dunne, who observed that newspapers "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," the same could be said for the gospel. Throughout his teachings, Jesus comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. Moreover, he reminded us all to be humble.
In Luke chapter 18, Jesus tells a parable about two individuals, who went to the Temple and prayed. This was the extent of the similarities. One person (a Pharisee) prayed while boasting and looking down on others.
"God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income." (v11-12)
The other person (a tax collector) prayed with a very different attitude. The tax collector refused to look up to heaven. With a heavy heart, this person prayed, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (v13)
In such clear and simple terms, Jesus teaches us the appropriate attitude for prayer. Jesus reminds us that if we pray with the mindset of the Pharisees, we might as well not even pray. There are no grounds for our boasting. There is no reason for spiritual snobbery..
"for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." (v14)
As we enter this new day, let's cling to the cross. Let's cherish God's love. Let's treasure the gift of each day because it's God's grace (not our goodness) that saves us. It's Christ's love (not our self-righteousness) that leads us in the way of eternal life.
Thanks be to God.
Neal F. Fisher
David K. Fison
Susan Lousie Flinn-Portee
Ralph Jones Sr, UMM President of Chicago Southern District
Wesley Woods Conference Center
Devotion for Oct. 26- Nov. 1
By Karen Bonnell, Steward UMC, DeKalb District
Methodists Sing of a Smiling Jesus
Luke 5:1-11 “…’Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break…Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”
Discipleship is about following Jesus.
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