Lord, what do You want to do through us?
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18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Pray at 6:18 am and/or pm each day
Why This Devotional?
Have you ever had Christmas in July? We sometimes celebrate a holiday at an unusual time during the year for fun or to give it new attention.
In our church life, we are familiar with devotionals for the seasons of Advent or Lent. So some of us may be wondering, “Why a daily devotional and prayer campaign in July?”
As the pastor, my reasoning is quite simple: We need it now!
We are at a crossroads for our church. After a successful capital campaign last fall and the new building project kicking into high gear, this is a perfect time to reflect on what God is calling us to do and to be as a congregation. What activities and ministries are essential for the future of our church? What new things might God be opening up for us? Where do our gifts and the needs of the community intersect? To find out, we need to listen to the Holy Spirit through prayer and reflection.
Thus we invited our staff and a variety of members of the church to reflect on “Lord, What do YOU want to do through US?” This is a variation of our prayer during the “Help Plant the Future” campaign last fall. Through this month of reflection, we invite you to ask: What is God’s vision and what are God’s priorities for our church over the next few years?
Join this adventure with us! Read through one of these devotionals each day during July. Take the time to pray with us each day at 6:18 a.m. and/or 6:18 p.m. with our common prayer (prayer cards are available at the church office so you can have the prayer available wherever you are). What insights and breakthroughs might God provide in the coming days?
How exciting to listen and pray together as we move forward into a new season of living Christ’s presence through love and service!
Special thanks to Lindy Arnett and Penny Rosenow for their labor of love in coordinating this project by doing final recruitment of writers, formatting all the pages, overseeing the assembly of the booklets, and scheduling of daily emails!
Praying with you and for you,
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)
In times of transition we sometimes let our fears get the best of us. We worry and wonder about having enough. We get caught up in a scarcity mindset, or worse, a zero-sum viewpoint that makes everything a competition — your gain is my loss, my gain is your loss.
The Good News for you and me is that we live in God’s economy where abundance reigns! When the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, God provided manna to feed them. When the 5,000 listened to Jesus teach and his disciples wondered where the food to feed this multitude would come from, Jesus took the few loaves and fish and fed everyone to overflowing, with seven baskets left over.
Instead of worrying, Jesus instructs us to “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
I believe we miss out on God’s provision because we don’t really take the time to ask for it and our imaginations and desires are too limited. C.S. Lewis put it this way:
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” The Weight of Glory
As First UMC of DeKalb, it’s time to ask for and celebrate God’s abundance in our midst! God has and will provide all we need to accomplish God’s purposes and mission! God will give us the resources to build a new facility and will raise up people to lead our necessary ministries! God will do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!
Thanks be to God!
Lord, forgive us for our worries and fears. We are frail creatures who too easily forget how you have walked with us throughout our days and weeks and years. Teach us once again to truly trust you for all that is needed and necessary to do your work. Fill us to overflowing with your love and grace so that we too might inspire and provide for our neighbors. We pray this in the name of Jehovah Jireh, God the Provider! Amen.
–Pastor Jonathan Crail
Are we asking for too little from God?
God’s imagination and provision are infinite!
Monday, July 2
People were bringing children to Jesus so that He would bless them. But, the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, He grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” Then He hugged the children and blessed them.
We see this story often in Sunday school, we see it a lot on posters, and it is referred to frequently when people are talking about children and church. When we read this short passage, however, we rarely look at it from the disciples’ point of view. The disciples felt they were doing their job; they were protecting Jesus from matters that weren’t important. Jesus was there to teach and heal – not have to deal with ornery little ones sitting on his lap. But, once again, Jesus the rebel rouser flips what has been traditionally done into something unheard of – He welcomes those (children) who typically aren’t highly regarded. Jesus shows the disciples and the crowd that ALL are important and have value in His eyes.
As we, the church, move forward in making decisions about building a new facility, I urge us all to be like the disciples and work hard at our respective “jobs”, BUT learn from this lesson that all people, areas, and decisions are of equal importance. Don’t shoo ideas and people away just because it’s not your thought or not what you perceive as important; welcome all input with an open mind. Remember, we are all God’s children and we all have value in His eyes.
Heavenly Father, please help us all to have open hearts and open minds as we move along this process of building and creating a new space for the congregation. Guide each of us in our jobs and in our decisions throughout this journey of growing your kingdom. In Your Son’s name, Amen.
— Nancy Melms
Today, make a conscience effort to welcome all the ideas from all of God’s children.
Tuesday, July 3
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
One day, while away on a three-week business trip, I received a text message from my daughter who was away at college. She wanted to talk. I knew that she was trying to cope with another season-ending injury that required surgery and physical therapy, maintain her Dean’s list status, work, and co-exist with a roommate. One minute into the telephone conversation that evening and it was very clear that she was overwhelmed.
She could not rationalize having the same injury, two years in a row on different knees, and the impact that the surgery and therapy was having on her routine. She needed answers to the question, “why this is happening,” after working extremely hard to come back from her last knee injury. She was struggling to complete homework assignments to her satisfaction in spite of the time constraints posed by physical therapy and lack of mobility.
While unrelated to her injury, she was also frustrated that her roommate was now very different from the person she had met the previous summer, as the roommate would not communicate with her on any level. I did not have an answer or solution to her questions or concerns.
However, I did have examples of life experiences where today’s Bible verse focuses: Jeremiah 29:11, gave me reassurances that God has our backs during random incidents and chaos as he did in the Book of Jeremiah. My similar knee surgery and physical therapy sidelined me for more than a year from sports, and it was during that “down-time” when I met and dated the man that eventually became my husband and her dad.
Before that, I had felt devastated when my father died in his sleep when he was 52 years old. Eighteen months after his passing, God guided my mother (her grandma) to my step-dad (her grandpa), and they will be celebrating 30 years of marriage in September.
While she is still recovering, my daughter also has found some peace as some of her friends adjusted their schedules to help her while she lacked mobility, and through those encounters, she now has three new roommates for the next school year. In other words, her chaotic moment is somehow in God’s plans, and she should rest assured that He is guiding her through this and other life-storms for her well-being.
Lord, let us trust Your way, and give us the peace and vision to see You.
Wednesday, July 4
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
We’ve prayed for healing in body, mind and soul. We’ve asked doctors to heal our ills, family and friends to ease our worries. We’ve heard and read words which have helped to heal our souls. We’ve prayed not just for ourselves but for people and lands, near and far, that what is broken may be repaired, that all may be healed.
God asks us to pray, to seek him out, admit our errors and ask for forgiveness and the healing of our land. Billy Graham once remarked that to get our nation on its feet, we needed to get on our knees. And so we pray because we know that our prayers for healing will be heard and that healing will take place. Our brokenness of body, mind and soul and of our land will be repaired. There will be healing. We can, together, intentionally pray for the healing of our land knowing God will hear. We might echo the words of the song – Father, heal our land…hear our cry and turn our nation back to you.
Prayer: Father, heal us and heal our land.
— Pam Stubinger
Together, in prayer, ask God to heal us and our nation.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
This Psalmist has a routine. Every morning, he prays to God, and for the rest of the day, he waits for God to do what He wants. This routine may be like our own. While this routine surely brings the Psalmist closer to God, God doesn’t give us everything we ask for. If He did, many of us would have had ponies growing up. Instead, God gives us what we need in the moment. He hears our voices, complaints, and petitions, and then He gives us exactly what we need to become closer to Him. Even though we don’t get everything we want, it is more comforting to know that the Creator of the universe listens to us, loves us, and has a perfect plan for us.
Dear God, thank you for hearing me when I pray. You know what I want before I do and You know what I need better than I do. Please grant me the courage and the wisdom to follow Your plan. Amen.
— Gabrielle Melms
God knows your needs, and our church’s, better than you do.
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4: 8-9
Today is our granddaughter’s 18th birthday. She was our first grandchild and the details of the day she was born are indelibly etched in our minds. Mostly we remember a feeling of great joy. Joy not just that she had arrived sound and healthy, but also exuberance and optimism for her future.
Now she is legally an adult, and we are left a bit bewildered by where all those years have gone – and how swiftly they have passed. Of course we recall important milestones along the way – her baptism, her confirmation, certain birthdays and other significant achievements and events through the years. But the majority of those days have passed without leaving any specific memories at all.
That’s the way it is with life. We get up in the morning with a job to go to, or a list of things we want to do. We hope to remain healthy and safe, and we strive to accomplish our plans. In other words we start our days thinking more about what we will do than what be will be. Perhaps if we focused more on the latter, our days would be more memorable – and filled with a far greater sense of accomplishment.
Lord, open my eyes and ears to all that is going on around me this day. Open my mind to understand what you would have me do to make a difference. Open my heart to accept the challenge.
— Brad and Linda Pietens
MAKING EACH DAY COUNT
But God has blessed you, because your eyes can see and your ears can hear! (CEV)
One winter morning, my brother-in-law and sister in-law, Ted and Rhona, were walking out of a grocery store when they noticed a group of men, women, and children huddled around a pay phone. They all looked cold and worried. Ted and Rhona approached them, and offered their assistance. After several minutes of broken English and Spanish, and sign language conversation, it was apparent that the group’s vehicle broke down and they needed alternative transportation home to Indiana. Immediately, both Ted and Rhona knew that they needed to be God’s hands and feet. They called several churches to borrow a vehicle. Only one church, a United Methodist Church in Highland, IL, willingly shared in this compassionate act. They drove the group across the state line and brought them safely to their destination. They opened their eyes to the needs of others and without hesitation expressed love even on a very cold winter day. The church fulfilled its Holy calling, set apart to be like Jesus, even if it defied the rules.
My sister and brother-in-law, Kirk and Lilian, celebrated their anniversary in a local Red Lobster Restaurant. Their dinner date was filled with great laughter, tears of joy, and loving conversations of family and ministry. When it was time to pay for the bill, the waitress informed them that their meal plus the tip were paid for by the couple seated next to them. These strangers heard the celebration of marriage that overcame challenges and were touched and inspired by that testimony of resilience. They expressed appreciation and love and joined in the celebration of love. Kirk and Lilian ended their date amazed and overwhelmed with God’s love. They decided to pay that love forward and paid another couple’s meal that night.
These are examples of everyday people who opened their eyes and ears and responded to the needs of foreigners and celebrated the joy and love of strangers. Both are expressions of genuine love in everyday circumstances. God’s love is not for us to keep as our own. It is a gift to be shared with everyone; i.e. strangers, enemies, sinners, neighbors, friends, family and loved ones. What about you? Have you opened your eyes and ears lately?
God, open my eyes and let me see others around me. Open my ears and let me hear the stories of people I meet. Open my heart, so I can truly be who you want me to be today and all the days of my life. Let me be a partner in building your kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
Are we wide awake to be God’s eyes and ears in this world?
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And I said: ” Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
When I was 6 my parents enrolled me in swim lessons at the larger town near us. It was a large pool and had a playground next to it with a circular slide. I wanted to play on the playground more than learn how to swim. It was a large pool and I was a little scared of the water.
About that time my father did a funeral for a young man whose family were members of our church. He belonged to a motorcycle gang and there were men and women in black leather jackets on what seemed like hundreds of motorcycles. I was fascinated and a little scared.
Guess what I dreamt about –
A gold-plated skeleton wearing a black leather jacket riding a motorcycle chasing me around and through the swimming pool. He even chased me down the circular slide!! I woke up sweating and wondering what to do or think!
I prayed laying in my bed for understanding and help. Did this dream mean that I needed to stay away from pools, slides, or skeletons riding motorcycles!?!? Or was it God’s way of helping me confront my fears, leading me to call on him for help and guidance.
Isaiah was afraid and not confident in his abilities. He felt he was not worthy. But God through the Seraphs gave him the ability and confidence to say “Send me”. God will open us up to do his will and provide the strength to accomplish anything when we open ourselves to listening to him.
By the way, I continued swim lessons and passed. I also happen to own a motorcycle.
God – we pray that we open our hearts and minds to listen to you calling knowing that you will provide the talents and strength when called upon to say “Send me”. Amen
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints.
The church is a body of Believers. How does one come to be a Believer? Some are inculcated with a belief structure from early childhood, learning from family and church. Others form and embrace their belief in God at a later age.
After a period of questioning and doubting, we made an informed and conscious decision that we would be Believers. We prayed that God would guide us and strengthen our faith. He answered that prayer and for many years now we have been a part of that body of Believers that is the church.
Loving Father, we thank you that we can come to you in prayer. Hear our prayers and answer them in the way that best fulfills your purpose for your people here on earth. Amen
— Gary and Anita Wells
BOLD PRAYER HONORS GOD;
GOD HONORS BOLD PRAYER
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Every day this verse unfolds in the life of our church. God has a definite plan for us and he is showing us the way step by step. It was hard to wait for over 10 years for a decision to be made about building or not building, however that is what God planned. He didn’t allow us to move on this project any sooner that He saw fit for us. It is amazing to watch all the different ways that this path has blessed us. We have people connecting in the activities of the church that haven’t before; we have people praying and connecting with God on a different level. We are seeing His plan unfold and we are seeing people giving like never before, not just financially, but of themselves doing what they can to help out. We are seeing His promises of hope and a future in our midst.
As your day unfolds, pray. Pray for our church and for the community we support. Pray that we continue to do His will and not our own. Pray that you can be a blessing to someone today. Pray that we all continue to seek Him and praise Him above everything else.
Lord, What do you want to do through us?
Let’s find out!!!
— Sally Mullis
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Peter, the eager disciple who hopped out of the boat in the midst of the storm yet denied knowing Jesus during his arrest and trial, was becoming the rock upon which Jesus would build his church. As promised, the Holy Spirit came to the disciples at Pentecost and it was Peter who stood up and defended them against the charges of being drunkards. Peter had found his voice. He shared a powerful message through which the people realized what they had done in the crucifixion of Jesus. The scriptures say, “they were cut to the heart” and then asked, “what shall we do?” Peter told them to repent and be baptized.
About twenty years ago while teaching our junior high Sunday School class, an amazing thing happened. The Bible was our curriculum and we were in the midst of a year of study of the New Testament. Our topic was the birth of the church in Acts 2. As I prepared for the lesson, it was as if a bright light was shining out of the pages of scripture and the Spirit was speaking every word. The words of Acts 2:42-46 jumped off the page. This was it in a nutshell–the plan for discipleship following repentance and baptism. The believers were devoted to fellowship through daily study and prayer, meals and sharing, serving and worshipping God. “…and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” That’s it! This is how we transform the world. This is how disciples are made. This is how Christ’s church grows.
Holy God, forgive us for forgetting what you have already taught us. We get so wrapped up in programs and committees that we lose sight of the main thing. Renew our devotion to you and your church. Draw us into relationship with one another through our love for you. Let us follow the believers of that day so long ago and devote ourselves to learning your teachings, to fervent prayer, selfless service and sincere worship. Shine your light for us, Lord. Show us your way as we pray, “Lord, what do you want to do through us?”
— Vicki Boone
Thursday, July 12
“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”
I love the Book of James – so many great pieces of common sense wisdom and no-nonsense advice. And these two verses are two of my favorites; they are great reminders of how we are to be towards everyone.
“Quick to listen” tells me that I should be doing this first – listening. Here are a few fun facts about listening (www.creditdonkey.com/listening-statistics.html): people spend 70-80% of their day in some form of communication, and of that 70-80%, 55% of that communication is spent in listening – that’s over half of your time. Most people usually only remember about 17-25% of the things they listen to. I don’t know about you, but one area I am still working on is my listening skills. I am working on hearing what the other person is saying, not getting caught up in my head thinking of something else, thinking of my next question, or thinking of something that relates to what I just heard. All of that “thinking in my head” causes me to actually stop listening, so I miss what the person is really saying to me. Another fun fact about listening is that words only convey about 7% of what a person is trying to say. The other 93% is communicated through facial expressions and the tone of the speaker’s voice. Who knew listening also included our eyes?
“Slow to speak” is a great reminder for me to first make sure what I am hearing is what the other person is really trying to convey, and secondly, don’t have a knee-jerk response to what I just heard – slow down and think first.
“Slow to anger” is another gentle reminder that what I hear, what someone is trying to say to me, may not be what I want to hear or what I agree with, but I cannot react with anger. As the verse continues, anger and God’s righteousness do not go hand in hand. Peace, love and understanding seem to fit better with God’s righteousness.
So, my beloved, where does that leave us when we are praying, “Lord, what do you want to do through us?” We all hear God differently, we all have our own ideas of how the new building should look, and we all have different ideas of what are the top priorities for the new building. But let’s all stop for a moment, take James’ advice and be quick to listen to each other, slow to speak to one another, and by all means slow to anger as we move forward and continue to make decisions for a new building.
Heavenly Father, we know that it is sometimes hard to listen to others; it’s hard to remember that there are many different options, possibilities and opinions out there. Please help us to slow down and listen to each other and then build each other up with our speech. In your Son’s holy name, Amen.
— Nancy Melms
1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Psalm 121 KJV
In troubled times, when one has doubt, anxiety, or fear dominating their thoughts, we often also feel alone and isolated. Inner dialogues suggest that no one understands our problems or cares about our situation. This cycle of thinking can trap us into a pattern that sustains and even feeds the negative situations that we encounter. In such times the words of the Psalmists can be a never-ending spring of hope and solace. Here in Psalm 121 we are reminded to look to the Lord for help and guidance. We are not alone, neither should we fear anything. We need only to “look to the hills” metaphorically speaking (Kind of difficult in Illinois!). Look to the Lord, come to him in prayer. Seek his counsel and trust that he indeed will “preserve your going out and coming in.” Embrace this promise, God sacrificed his only son for your salvation. He did not offer this ultimate sacrifice only to leave you in your time of suffering or despair. What a joyful and empowering thought!
This summer Pastor Jonathan has challenged us to ask the question “Lord, what do you want to do through us?” When listening to God’s reply we may feel more like Moses in Exodus Chapter 3, who replies to God’s summons to go to Egypt by arguing “who am I” that I could do such a powerful thing as to confront the Pharaoh. The answer for Moses, and for you, is that you are God’s chosen. You are called to do his work in this world and he will not abandon you. Rather he will be at your side protecting you, guiding you, “from this time forth, forevermore.”
Dear Lord, help me remember your promise to always be at my side providing support and guidance as I face the challenges of my day and as FUMC comes together to build a new space for future generations. Let my actions reveal your love so that all may come to know your saving grace and peace. Amen.
To hear a beautiful musical setting of Psalm 121 please follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=3zb-BWWGJa0
— Eric Johnson, Director of Music Ministries
1 Happy are those who obey the Lord.
Read Psalm 128: 1-6
There are days when I rise giving a quick thanks to the Lord for a new day. Then I bustle through the day. As the hours click by I suddenly feel almost overwhelmed. Why do I feel so burdened, as though something is missing or already missed? I stop and review my day. Oh my goodness; I have been so caught up in what I want or need to do that have passed by my devotional time, a time I set aside for meditation, for prayers for myself and especially for others. “Forgive me I pray”, as I stop and sit down, pick up my Bible, devotional book, my prayer lists. This is a time to sit and talk with my Lord. When I have spent time in solitude, suddenly my day brightens and my wants and needs do not feel so overwhelming. For indeed, happy are those who obey the Lord, and remembering that God is always walking beside us and guiding us if we allow. For without God to help carry burdens and share our joys we labor in vain. My smile becomes broader, my walk lighter as I relax into God’s everlasting love.
O Lord God, we commend our hours and days to you, asking your forgiveness when we fail to come into your presence, but knowing you are always a breath away and ready to help lighten our load. We give you thanks for all of the rich blessings you have given us. May we be obedient in your ways and know that you are always present with us. Amen
— Barb Grulke
One night, Paul had a vision, and in it the Lord said, “Don’t be afraid to keep on preaching. Don’t stop! I am with you, and you won’t be harmed many people in this city belong to me.”
Acts 18: 9-10
Have you ever said something and then wished you didn’t? I do this a lot! When I am passionate about something, I just blurt out what I am feeling. I guess I need to have a filter for my mouth………Or do I? God tells us to not be afraid, to keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you because I have many people in this city. Well…… now what?
I feel that God is trying to tell us to keep speaking of Him. Keep open and honest conversations about Him and all that He has done for us and this world. I do believe there needs to be a check point for all of us when we speak and we need to recognize that we all have different thoughts about what we should or shouldn’t do. BUT we need to keep speaking, we need to listen to each other. We cannot dismiss anyone’s comments or questions, we need to listen and work together with God at the center of every conversation. As God said, he has many people in this city just as it is in our church. MANY.
There are so many things we can do and ways we can reach our community. First we must work together to build up our church so that we can serve this wonderful community of ours. So let us speak, let us not be afraid, let us not be silent. Let us go out and share God’s love and grace and let it start with us.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
James 1:19 NIV
At a recent book club meeting, the discussion was flowing, and voices were overlapping. One member was very quiet. Another member asked why she was so quiet. Her response was “I know what I think about the novel. I want to hear what others think about it.” This statement made me reflect about our future church. We all need to be the quick listeners of others’ views and ideas.
Heavenly Father, guide us as listeners and learners of your word. Guide us in speaking only after we have listened and digested the words of others sharing their thoughts.
Take time to truly listen to someone today.
Tuesday, July 17
I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering.
What does success mean to you? Does it mean straight A’s, or you have the most Facebook friends? Does it mean you have a lot of money or you have three homes to visit? Does it mean you get amazing evaluations at your work or others appreciate you? Success has many different meanings, as does suffering. Does suffering mean no air conditioning, no work, or illness? In my work helping people with diabetes, people look at the same diagnosis in various ways. Some see it as extreme suffering, some see it as an opportunity to take better care of themselves. I think this verse suggests we look at every situation we encounter with hope and opportunity.
Dear Lord, help us to see the opportunity in every situation. Help us have hope in the future you see for us. In Your name, Amen
What opportunity did God offer me today?
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
Nehemiah was living a comfortable life. As cupbearer to the king of Persia, this Jewish exile served in a position of responsibility, power, and honor. Life was good until he heard some disturbing news. He was talking with some fellow Jews about how things were back in the homeland. Not so good, they informed him. The once proud Jerusalem was now a defenseless city with no walls to protect it, no leader, no identity. Years of occupation by foreign armies had left them adrift. They had forgotten who they were and whose they were.
Nehemiah was crushed by the news. His comfortable world suddenly had been breached by a burden for his people. He wept. He couldn’t just put it aside and continue with life as usual. He had to do something. And he did…he fasted and he prayed for “some” days. We don’t know how long, only that he fasted and prayed until he knew what he was to do. Then and only then did he seek God’s blessing for what he was about to undertake.
Here we are, not unlike Nehemiah. We have found a comfortable life here at First UMC. We love our friends at church. We study and exercise, we worship and feed hungry neighbors. We have found a rhythm to our existence here and it fits a bit like a comfortable old shoe. Yet news has arrived. Our city is in struggle. Things are “not so good”. Many have forgotten, or never knew, whose they are. Our world has been breached. We weep for the children who have never heard that God loves them. We ache for the youth adrift with no faith to anchor them. What are we to do? How will we reach out so that others might know find joy and hope and purpose in Christ?
Holy God, sometimes we are comfortable in the day-to-day rhythms of our lives. It is hard to think of moving to a new area of our city, to a new building. It is harder still to think of moving out of our comfort zones to connect with those brothers and sisters who seem so different from us. Let us not get ahead of ourselves. Let us grieve for those who do not know your love, your grace, your peace. Meet us as we fast and pray, “Lord, what do you want to do through us?” Show us your way.
— Vicki Boone
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22: 37-40
Much of the news today is as divisive as I can ever remember. Regardless of whether it is reported by a liberal or conservative source, it seems the news is full of stories describing efforts to protect our interests, even (or especially) at the expense of others.
In Luke’s depiction of the Greatest Commandment, we are reminded with the Parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbors are not just those that are like us. I believe Jesus considers our neighbors to be those who are similar as well as those who are different. Those who are from the same neighborhoods and cities, as well as those who are from different countries and different continents.
Issues are complex, and solutions are not easy, but it is my hope that we keep the Greatest Commandment in mind as we work together toward loving solutions to the challenges we are faced with in our community, in our nation, and in our world.
Dear Lord, when we are confronted with challenging situations, please help us to be mindful of your Greatest Commandment. Please help us to love our neighbors, and to treat our neighbors in ways that are consistent with your teaching.
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
Joel 2:28 NLT
In the book of Acts, Luke refers to the events of Pentecost, when God sent the Holy Spirit to all assembled, as the fulfillment of this ancient prophecy of Joel. No longer was God’s presence available only to the priests, but the Spirit was for everyone: male, female, servants, masters. We are heirs of this Pentecostal gift.
The guidance, presence, blessings of the Holy Spirit are ours; all we need to do is ask and receive.
At this time of transition in our church as we re-evaluate and renew our vision to do God’s will, we pray to be led by the Spirit. Let us dream, prophesy, and see visions as we work to build our new church building and renew our commitment to be the hands and feet of God in our world, as we endeavor to live Christ’s presence in love and service.
Gracious Lord, we thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and pray that we will listen to your voice as we pray, Lord what do You want to do through us.
— Penny Rosenow
Ask and accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we seek and follow the vision God wills for our church.
4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. 9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
As I write this I am anxiously anticipating the birth of my first grandson. By the time you read this he will have arrived. While I don’t expect God to speak to my grandson as he spoke with Jeremiah, I do believe that God knew my grandson before he was formed in his mother’s womb (Jer. 5). Will my grandson be someone who makes great changes to the world? Will he be a great sports figure? Will he run a business? Will he be an artist? My dreams for my grandson may or may not match up to God’s plan for him, but I hope that he listens for God’s direction in his life.
Heavenly father, help us to listen for Your direction for our lives. Help us to hear Your voice in the quietness of our prayer time. Help us to never forget that Your plans and visions for our lives are never wrong. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Darlene Orth
God has a plan or a vision for each of us. It is up to each of us to discern what that plan or vision is through prayer and being still to listen for
And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
THE RADIO QUIZ
Kindness. I came to fully understand its impact in only a few short minutes while taking one of the most important examinations of my life.
The test was oral. The test giver was a radio announcer. The classroom was my car.
While travelling along in the rain on a Monday morning, a voice coming from the little speaker next to my steering wheel asked, “Can you name the last Nobel Peace Prize winner?” I knew I should remember, but the name escaped me. While I was trying to think, more questions were asked: “Can you name athletes who received gold medals in the last Olympics? Or the last woman crowned Miss America?”
Or…or…or. No…no…no. Music, literature, art, government officials, scientists – I was zero for zero and wondering how many other listeners were answering correctly.
And then it happened. A question was asked that I could answer: “Can you name the last person who told you they loved you?” My heart melted as I remembered, vividly and without hesitation, my children running for the bus that morning, yelling over their shoulders simultaneously, “Love you!”
Another question, and again I had the answer. “Can you name the last person who hugged you?” Certainly. Most definitely.
Still others: “Can you name a person who showed you kindness recently?” Of course. “Can you name a person to whom you showed a kindness recently?” Again, of course. Yes, of course. “Can you name someone whose smile makes a difference in your day? Or a teacher whose dedication made a difference in your life?” Yes, yes, I know. Oh, who to choose? There are so many.
The announcer spoke of the friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers who touch our lives, and I continued to smile. He spoke of helpfulness, of generosity, of thoughtfulness and charity. I felt like laughing out loud. What a way to start one’s day! And on a Monday. In the rain.
Kindness matters. It is longed for and lived for. The mighty accomplishments and praise-worthy achievements of the past may be chiseled in stone, but it is the quiet and lovely acts of kindness that are written in our hearts.
Taken from Highlighted in Yellow by Rose Anderson’s friend, Rochelle Pennington
–Submitted by Rose Anderson
For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another.
I have been a member of First Church as long as I can remember. One of my very first memories is walking into the sanctuary, near Christmas Eve, carrying canned food to place under the Christmas tree. I remember such a feeling of goodness inside of me knowing our gifts were going to nourish the families who would be receiving our gifts. I believe I was around five years old during this particular Christmas season. A seed was planted at that moment and it has continued to grow in many ways during my next seventy years of life.
I have not always seen the gifts that I could give to my church, my eyes seeing only the energy and work of my Christian brothers and sisters. During my journey, I have challenged myself to be in a leadership role, though difficult. I am happiest being one of the many worker bees in life. I was asked by a former pastor to be on our Missions Team around twenty years ago. This was very new to me, and also, it was the beginning of knowing the ways I could make a difference. The members of this team were so accepting of me, and their kindness planted another seed of knowing and growing as a Christian.
Flashback to that five-year old girl who brought canned goods to church on Christmas. The seeds of my faith were planted that Christmas night, seeds that grew and blossomed into what I live today. Now is the time for us to plant seeds that will blossom into Faith for others. Now is the time. As we move forward in our vision of growing as a congregation and building with brick and mortar, I encourage us to be in the moment, continuing to listen to God’s Word, paying attention keeping our eyes and ears open to grow spiritually and to help others. I know that, through Him, we will find our way for His plan for us. Caring for each other in all ways, with God in our hearts, I am so excited to be a part of His work in our church at the age of seventy-four.
With God’s help, I will continue to hear his words and put them into action each and every day.
— Sharon Scott
Tuesday, July 24
One night, Paul had a vision, and in it he Lord said, “don’t be afraid to keep on preaching. Don’t stop! I am with you, and you won’t be harmed. Many people in this city belong to me.”
Do you hear when God speaks to you? More importantly when he does, do you listen? Listening is a skill that takes practice; much like anything you want to master, practice is a requirement for improvement. Whether it be the piano, yoga, free-throw shooting, writing or anything you want to get better at, it takes practice.
I was once asked if I took a listening course in college suggesting the mastery of listening. Would you take a class if it were offered? God speaks to us in many ways. Our first step in sharing His message is listening for His guidance. How did God last speak to you? Was it in a dream like Paul? Was it through people you serve? Was it through His miraculous creation?
Prayer: Dear Lord, please give me the ears to hear your word and listen for your direction. Use me to keep on spreading your Word to everyone’s paths I cross. In Your name, Amen
— Peggy Marchini
What did God say to me today?
1The plans of the mind belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. 2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. 3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
I went to a family funeral a few years ago and met a woman who had known my grandmother who died when I was 6. She told me that she always remembered that when someone started to say something bad about someone grandma would say, “You never know what someone is going through.”
What we are “going through” affects our thoughts and emotions, and although I may think that my “ways are pure,” they are my ways not the Lord’s.
If I would just stop and listen (not my best thing) and commit my work to the Lord, His plans will be established, not mine, however well intentioned.
Heavenly Father, help me to commit my work to You. Help me to stop and listen for your voice.
— Lindy Arnett
Commit to the Lord
I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
One of my favorite Veggie Tales movies is Jonah, a Veggie Tales Movie. I like the story because it teaches compassion and mercy.
In the movie, as two of the main characters are fighting, the Pirates who don’t do anything, overhear the fighting and tell the characters the story of “Jonah and the Whale” and how God showed His compassion and mercy to the people in Nineveh. Even though Jonah didn’t show any compassion or mercy to the people of Nineveh, the main characters learned that they do need to have compassion and mercy with others. As the characters stopped fighting and started helping each other, a famous singer, whose character name is Twippo, comes in and sings a great song called “Jonah Was a Prophet” to them. The lyrics to the chorus are:
Jonah was a prophet
but he really never got it
sad but true!
And if you watch
it you can spot it
he did not get the point!
Compassion and mercy from me
to you and you to me
exactly what God wants to see and yes that is the point!
I like this chorus and song because it teaches compassion and mercy. Even though Jonah didn’t exactly get it, God is still teaching everybody that we all need to learn and use compassion and mercy.
Dear God, help us all to have compassion and mercy to each other, Amen.
— Joshua Melms
It’s important that we all have compassion and mercy as we move forward and build a new church.
2 Help carry one another’s burdens, in this way you will be obeying the Law of Christ. 4 Each should judge his own conduct without comparing it with what someone else has done.
Read Galations 2:2-10
In this day of restlessness and injustice toward people of color, or immigrants from afar, what can we do to support those in such need?
First, we can pray about the situations and ask for guidance that we might make a difference.
We can give physical support with helping prep, prepare and serve meals through SLAM, offering friendship to those in attendance, praying with specific persons willing to take time to pray in the Chapel and helping with the Kids Club.
We can give to UMCOR, especially in times of disasters and wars, and to JFON, offering help with legal advice to immigrants caught up in the tangled web of legalese they cannot understand and offering physical, emotional and spiritual help.
We can support special ministries of the church, going on a work camp to Red Bird, helping build and remodel homes; becoming a volunteer for a mission trip, spending a block of time 2 weeks or more in another country helping to build a church, a school or whatever the need is.
We can support the ministries of UMW, UMM, VBS, our Sunday School. We can call on persons in the nursing homes, hospitals or those shut-in at home, praying with them and for them and listening to their stories.
There is really so much we can do and will never need to say, “I’m bored.” God has work for you to do; look around, giving yourself to God and following his command of loving God, ourselves and others, our neighbors near and far. We will never have time to compare ourselves to others but be proud of what God and we have accomplished, as we say the prayer for Help Plant the Future: Lord, what do You want to do through us?
Prayer: Glorious God, this day you have presented opportunities and challenges for us and we can know what it is we can do with your continual guidance and support in this journey ahead. Amen
CARRY ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS
3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
Psalm 5:3 NIV
The quiet peace of a summer morning is a treasured image in our world. We’re not rushing our children off to school, the pace and demands of work may have slowed, and the sun rises early to invite you into a time of solitude and reflection. In those cherished moments, do you take time to listen, reflect, hear God’s voice?
Far too often we get caught up in the rush of the day, long before “the day” actually begins. The first thing we do is turn on the radio, TV, or social media. These media platforms are just waiting for you to tune in, so they can tell you what is important, what you should buy, wear, or worry about. Before you know it, you’re caught up in a world of consumerism, fear, or divisive politics. And EVERYTHING seems to want your attention NOW, and IMMEDIATELY! The day has barely started and your spirit is filled with concerns of the world that upon closer reflection are simply not important.
In those special morning hours, the voice of the Psalmist shows us a better way to start the day: begin in in conversation with the Lord. Note that it is a 2-way street! “I lay my requests before you.” In prayer I come to God sharing my hopes, fears, and thankful praise for all he has provided. THEN, and here’s the important part I “wait expectantly.” The psalmist reminds us that God does hear us and WILL reply. But we must do our part to listen, be open to hearing God’s voice, be present in the quiet.
As you begin your day today, use this moment to come to the Lord, lay your worries at his feet with the confidence that you know you are heard and loved. But be prepared to hear his voice. Asking “What do you want to do through us?” requires an answer. Take time this morning to hear the Lord’s reply.
Prayer for the Day
Lord, I know you are with me and hear my prayers. Give me the strength and confidence to take time and listen for your answers. Our days can be filled with so much noise, interference, and misdirection. Help me create a sacred space of quiet solitude so that I can hear you and experience your love. I wait expectantly. Amen
Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for He already knew what He was going to do. Philip replied, “More than a year’s salary worth of food won’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.” One of the disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, He distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted.
One time in class we were doing an art project. I was looking for my markers, but I couldn’t find them. I was kind of sad because my mom had bought them for me and they were really good, I didn’t want to lose them. A friend started to help me look, but we still couldn’t find the markers. My friend then shared her markers with me. It was a good act of kindness.
This is like the Bible story about the boy sharing his bread and fish with many people. The boy shared and helped others and had faith that God will use what he gave to help others.
Dear God, help us to be kind and help others. Help us not to be greedy, but have faith in You and do good and treat others as I would want to be treated. Amen
— Lily Coffee
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying. “Now the dwelling of God is with his people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, for the order of things passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Revelation 21:1-6 NIV
For a moment imagine, you are driving home. Your thoughts wander to a game you wanted to see, when suddenly you hear sounds unlike anything you have ever heard, a zillion trumpet and other sounds you cannot describe fill the air. You can’t imagine what is happening. You need to know what they are, so you pull over, get out of your car, and look up. As you do you see you are not the only curious one. Others are pulling over, getting out, and looking up. The roadside has become a parking lot.
Ponder for a few minutes on what your first thoughts might be, if you would be that person. Might you be thinking you will hear, “Job well done good and faithful servant!” Or might you think, I really believe this will never happen, or is it just a nice story? A good friend of mine told me about a friend who challenged him: do you really believe in this Jesus stuff? He said, that he didn’t believe in any of it. My friend replied, “if I am wrong, which I am not, the world will still be a better place to live in with our efforts to love and help one another as Christ asks us to do! If you are wrong, which I know you are, and I am right about, Jesus, where will you be, will it be too late for you?” His friend walked way!
As we travel through our daily routine do your thoughts ever flow to our church about what is going on, what are we doing, where are we going, and how can I be a part of it? We have been asked to spend time each day in prayer, focusing on God’s vision for ourselves and for the church. What are the priorities you see or dream about for our lives and our church? Ask God, “Lord, What do You want to do through us?” Consider writing down your conversation and the direction you hear.
Remember to thank God for all He has given you. He is always with us and will guide us in his ways, if we take time to ask Him. God gave us our church with a job to do. God gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us in doing His work. God continues to give our church new life and direction. We trust Him to answer our prayers, and then guide us in our giving of time, talents, and our energy to serve.
Lord, I am thankful for every gift you give to me. Never let me lose site and my gratitude for all you have given me. Help me to in turn give back to you, as freely and generously as you have given to me. In Jesus Christ name I pray, Amen
— Herb Buhr
Asking God to direct us in following his pathways He has planned for us.
Tuesday, July 31
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” 18 I told them that the hand of my God had been gracious upon me, and also the words that the king had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us start building!” So they committed themselves to the common good. (NRSV)
A broken community. The people live in fear and insecurity. They don’t always know where their daily food will come from. Violence, poverty and suffering are pervasive. This could be many places in the world. This certainly describes Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah. The protective walls have been broken down, key residents carted off into exile, and the remaining population left vulnerable to ruthless neighbors.
Years later Nehemiah gets permission from the King of Persia to return to Judah to rebuild the city walls and begin the restoration of Jerusalem. He does a careful assessment of the weaknesses and the resources available. He rallies the remnant living there to work with him, and in spite of their years of deprivation and depression, they agree, “Let us start building!”
As a leader, Nehemiah knew the only way to accomplish his goal was to bring the people together for a common cause. He succeeded in rebuilding the protective wall despite all the naysayers and enemies actively trying to subvert his work. I believe the key reason lies in the final sentence of our reading: “They committed themselves to the common good.” They learned once again to cooperate, share, and look out for each other.
When we look at our own community, and perhaps especially the Annie Glidden North neighborhood of DeKalb that our church will be relocating to in the next few years, we recognize that some of our neighbors may be feeling like the residents of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day.
Yet what might happen if by the grace of God we can come together as new neighbors and commit ourselves to the common good? How might we cooperate, share and look out for each other? What are the talents, gifts, abilities and resources that we can combine together to build new community and opportunities for each of us?
Let us start building!
Gracious God, you are the God of new beginnings, the God of restoration and reconciliation. As we follow your lead to a new neighborhood, we pray for our neighbors. Open up our hearts to each other and show us what common cause we can develop to bring new life and new love to the City of DeKalb. Show us the gaps to stand in and the resources to rebuild hope and joy! We commit our hands and feet into your service. Amen.
— Pastor Jonathan Crail
When our community is broken in some way,
we are called to stand in the gap
and rebuild it with God’s help.