Teach Us to Pray (Jonah 3:1-10)

Prayer is always an opportunity to return to God. No matter what we've done, what we're doing, or what is yet to be done; God will always listen to those who call upon him in a moment of turning. Jesus echoes the sentiments of this section of Jonah when he tells us that God listens to the swift prayers of the repentant over the confident prayers of the righteous.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” - Luke 18:9-14

As you pray this week, remember that God always receives those who seek him. When we bring our whole selves to God in an attitude of repentance, he is always ready to receive, restore, revive, and renew us.


About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Sunday Worship (Jonah 3:1-10)

This week we'll be exploring Jonah 3:1-10.  

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Each Sunday you can find the live stream here or watch the archive here

A Light to My Path (Jonah 3:1-10)

This week's text is Jonah 3:1-10:

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Question for Reflection:

This section is full of reconsideration (relenting) - Jonah's, the Ninevites', and God's. With which form of reconsideration do you identify most?

Who Is My Neighbor (East Bay Camp)

When we find out during Sunday morning worship that a neighbor needs help, it’s much easier to pull together a team to immediately respond.  That’s what happened on Sunday, June 18, when one of our members, Doug Fujimoto, who is a staff person at East Bay Camp got word that an early morning storm had caused major damage to the camp which was expecting campers to arrive in just a few short hours.

Doug texted his mom, Leann, who told Randy and I what had happened just prior to the 9:00 worship service.  We were able to ask for help and even go in shifts to the camp, chainsaws and gloves in hand, to help with the cleanup.  Nearly 2 dozen Calvary folks, on this Father’s Day Sunday,  on short notice, joined the East Bay staff, in cleaning massive amounts of branches, limbs, trees, etc., so that the campers could enjoy their week.  In fact, there were enough Calvary folks to help that the camp staff was able to move to their jobs in preparing for the children rather than spending their time with clean up.

Steve and Debby Paullin decided it might be good to take their truck to the camp and she said it was good that they did that:  they hauled away 3 very full loads of branches, etc.

Leann Fujimoto described it well, “The whole experience was neat because we met people from the church that we didn’t know before.   There were also people from several generations there, and that was cool to see everyone working together towards a common goal.  Fathers and sons working together on Father's Day was pretty special.   Fellowship can come in many forms!  For me personally,  I love being part of a church that responds so quickly to people in need- no matter what that need may  be...I have read the red letter version of the Bible many times, and it seems like this is what Jesus teaches us to do:  serving others and meeting their needs.”

East Bay Camp is one of the Illinois Great Rivers’ conference camps located just north of Bloomington/Normal.  Not only does it provide camps for all ages throughout the summer, but many retreats and other events are held throughout the year at the camp.  In fact, the Great Banquet Community, many of whom are Calvary folks, has their weekends at East Bay.

When the people of God can respond to a need in order for others to learn about Jesus, that’s when we get to serve our neighbor in a way that we can see immediate results.  That doesn’t happen often…...we usually plant seeds and often don’t know what they produce.  Occasionally, God allows us to see the fruit of our labors…..that’s always fun!

Well done, good and faithful servants!


About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Love Your Neighbor (Jonah 1:17-2:10)

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On Monday, we prayed the prayer of Jonah from three different perspectives; one of those being the perspective of someone going through trouble. It’s good to remember that our neighbors living around us don’t always wear their trouble on their sleeve. Thoreau was keen when observing “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” (Walden, ch 1). As we pray for those around us today, let’s be mindful that many of their ‘belly of the whale’ moments may be under the surface and more quiet in nature. When we pray prayers like Jonah’s through the eyes of our neighbors, we begin to cultivate a heart of solidarity, empathy, and love for them that reflects the heart of a God who spent “three days and nights in the heart of the earth” and knows our deepest pain.

 

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,

and he answered me.

From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,

and you listened to my cry.

You hurled me into the depths,

into the very heart of the seas,

and the currents swirled about me;

all your waves and breakers

swept over me.

I said, ‘I have been banished

from your sight;

yet I will look again

toward your holy temple.’

The engulfing waters threatened me,

the deep surrounded me;

seaweed was wrapped around my head.

To the roots of the mountains I sank down; “

“the earth beneath barred me in forever.

But you, Lord my God,

brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,

I remembered you, Lord,

and my prayer rose to you,

to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols

turn away from God’s love for them.

But I, with shouts of grateful praise,

will sacrifice to you.

What I have vowed I will make good.

I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ”

 

— 

About the Author

Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Deeper Dive Podcast (Jonah 1.17-2.10)

This week Debbie, Randy, and Isaac talk about how to receive each other in our moments of brokenness and hardship.

Listen in your device's podcast app – Apple version here and Android version here or use the desktop-only player below. 


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.


About the Authors
Randy and Debbie Reese are Co-Directing Pastors at Calvary UMC
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Teach Us to Pray (Jonah 1:17-2:10)

Since the majority of this week's text is, in itself, a prayer; our opportunity to pray through the text is fairly straight forward. Try praying through this text three times from three different perspectives: First, pray through this text in your circumstances - whether you feel akin to Jonah or not. Second, pray through this text from the perspective of someone you know is in a troubling circumstance. And third, pray through this text from the perspective of Jesus as he begins his journey to the cross.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: 
“In my distress I called to the Lord, 
and he answered me. 
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, 
and you listened to my cry. 
You hurled me into the depths, 
into the very heart of the seas, 
and the currents swirled about me; 
all your waves and breakers
swept over me. 
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight; 
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’ 
The engulfing waters threatened me, 
the deep surrounded me; 
seaweed was wrapped around my head. 
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; "
"the earth beneath barred me in forever. 
But you, Lord my God, 
brought my life up from the pit. 
“When my life was ebbing away, 
I remembered you, Lord, 
and my prayer rose to you, 
to your holy temple. 
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them. 
But I, with shouts of grateful praise, 
will sacrifice to you. 
What I have vowed I will make good. 
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ”


About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Sunday Worship (Jonah 1:17-2:10)

This week we'll be exploring Jonah 1:17-2:10.  

"Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. 
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: 
“In my distress I called to the Lord, 
and he answered me. 
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, 
and you listened to my cry. 
You hurled me into the depths, 
into the very heart of the seas, 
and the currents swirled about me; 
all your waves and breakers
swept over me. 
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight; 
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’ 
The engulfing waters threatened me, 
the deep surrounded me; 
seaweed was wrapped around my head. 
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; "
"the earth beneath barred me in forever. 
But you, Lord my God, 
brought my life up from the pit. 
“When my life was ebbing away, 
I remembered you, Lord, 
and my prayer rose to you, 
to your holy temple. 
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them. 
But I, with shouts of grateful praise, 
will sacrifice to you. 
What I have vowed I will make good. 
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ” 
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. "

Each Sunday you can find the live stream here or watch the archive here.  

A Light to My Path (Jonah 1:17-2:10)

Our text for the coming week is Jonah 1:17-2:10:

"Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. 
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: 
“In my distress I called to the Lord, 
and he answered me. 
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, 
and you listened to my cry. 
You hurled me into the depths, 
into the very heart of the seas, 
and the currents swirled about me; 
all your waves and breakers
swept over me. 
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight; 
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’ 
The engulfing waters threatened me, 
the deep surrounded me; 
seaweed was wrapped around my head. 
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; "
"the earth beneath barred me in forever. 
But you, Lord my God, 
brought my life up from the pit. 
“When my life was ebbing away, 
I remembered you, Lord, 
and my prayer rose to you, 
to your holy temple. 
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them. 
But I, with shouts of grateful praise, 
will sacrifice to you. 
What I have vowed I will make good. 
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ” 
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. "

Questions for Reflection:

While most of us have not been thrown overboard and swallowed by a large fish, we all have had moments of deep trouble. In those moments, what did you do? Did you pray? If so, how? Did the situation turn out how you wanted? How did you change (for good or bad) because of the situation?

Who Is My Neighbor? (Haiti - Part 2)

Calvary recently sent a mission team to Haiti which consisted of 5 Calvary folks, a friend who now lives in Chicago, and our Haitian friend, Junior Cineas who lives in Port Au Prince (the other side of Haiti from where the mission team works).  I asked each of the participants to write a paragraph about how they saw God at work in Haiti.  This is part 2 of these stories.  See last week’s ‘Who Is My Neighbor’ for Part 1.

From Nancy Behrens:

As we are on the plane from Miami to Chicago, we are 6 tired, itchy, blessed, and inspired people. We saw Jesus in so many ways this week, but I will choose one story.  The team had asked Bob Bills to prepare some Bible studies for use with the pastors and friends of the church at Fev and also with the staff of Streethearts, as time and opportunities allowed. As you would expect, Bob prepared thoroughly, even though he wasn't even sure if he would have a chance to share. But he did have some chances. At both Fev and Streethearts the participants were very actively engaged and had a lot of  answers and questions, that reflected varying levels of biblical knowledge, spiritual maturity, and, frankly, interest. But for me, I saw Jesus in the pure joy that came over Bob's face when people were moved by the Holy Spirit and engaged in the study. He would smile radiantly and nod to encourage the participants to dive deeper. He would answer truthfully, including sometimes saying "we don't know the answers" to some questions such as "Who created God?"  I have known Bob for more than 30 years and I have never seen him smile so  broadly. I imagine Jesus smiled something like that whenever anyone actually showed that they caught a glimpse of what He was trying to tell them.

From Al Behrens:

I would refer to our trip to Haiti this year as an ‘enlightenment trip’.  Each of the team members has been on at least one previous Haiti trip, but each trip brings new experiences.  Our team might be considered a little unique to other teams that travel to Haiti, as God has put it on our hearts to focus on building relationships with the Haitian people we come in contact with more than building material things.  In the beginning of Acts 8, we read about “and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions “.  It goes on to say in verse 4 “But all the believers who scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went”.
This relates back to how God works through our team, just made up of common believers, spreading the word of Jesus Christ to the groups we interact with in Haiti.  Every year, I see how God helps deepen the faith of the team through the different experiences we encounter.   The Bible study and discussion times we have with the Haitian groups and individuals provides a time for deepening our understanding of their culture and needs.  Not only the adults, but the teenagers and little children are full of questions and eager to learn. A lot of where I see God working on our trips is through taking the time to share our love with them.
God has also opened doors through the basketball program we have continued to support through the Streethearts organization.  The basketball program provides a means for the staff at Streetheart’s to connect with the boys off the streets of Cap Haitien, and provide a spiritual lead place for the boys to live. 
When we meet someone that God has prepared, and we have the opportunity to lead them to faith or to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, the purpose of the trips to Haiti become much clearer.

From Joe Landon:

I saw God in Fèv when I saw Shu Shu and La La as church leaders this year. They were two of the original girls we evangelized in the very beginning.  I also saw God working when we were evangelizing this year and three people accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts. All three showed up to church on Sunday.
I also saw God at Streethearts.  God allowed me to communicate with several boys by drawing portraits with a crayon. It is amazing how a crayon and God's love breaks down all communication barriers.

Haiti 2017 Photos:

Love Your Neighbor (Jonah 1:4-16)

Link to Jonah 1:4-16

The big picture story in the Book of Jonah is about loving God and loving your neighbor, but that love comes from the unlikeliest of characters. God’s prophet, Jonah, runs away from the call to love his neighbors, the Ninevites, by boarding a ship headed for the edge of the world crewed by sailors who did not share his religious, political, or social ideology. These sailors, even though they share little in common with Jonah, wind up demonstrating how to love your neighbor when they work for Jonah’s rescue and stand in solidarity with Jonah through the storm. Even though Jonah ends up thrown into the sea, the crew’s efforts to save him and their worship of the God of Israel are examples of mercy and love to this runaway prophet. The Bible is full of God using those on the “outside” to demonstrate his purposes to this on the “inside” (think of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan). As you love the neighbors around you this week, be mindful and aware that God may be using them to speak to you instead of the other way around.


About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Deeper Dive Podcast (Jonah 1.4-16)

Randy, Debbie, and Isaac discuss the actions of the crew in Jonah's story, the nature of sin, and the distinctions between accountability and judgment.

Listen in your device's podcast app – Apple version here and Android version here or use the desktop-only player below. 


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.


About the Authors
Randy and Debbie Reese are Co-Directing Pastors at Calvary UMC
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Teach Us to Pray (Jonah 1:4-16)

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Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you. Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
— Jonah 1:13

Each week we include a prayer of confession in our worship together. It’s a safe moment where we all admit that something has not gone right in the world and we are, in some way, responsible for it. It’s not a moment of community shaming, it’s quite the opposite – a moment of connection to each other that fosters compassion and empathy. When Jonah confesses to the crew that he’s to blame for their trouble, they don’t turn on him. The crew first tries their best to row back to land, and when that doesn’t work they reluctantly do what he asks and throws him into the sea. The crew is an unlikely conveyor of mercy in Jonah’s confession. Instead of hypocritically pointing their own judgmental finger, they journey with him through confession and find themselves closer to God in the process – through solidarity with Jonah by rowing more, through struggle with God about their upcoming actions, and through acceptance marked by sacrifice (Jonah 1:16).

As you pray this week, make space to both confess and become an empathetic receiver of those confessing around you. A great place to begin is our confession from Sunday based on Psalm 139:

O LORD, all knowing, most wise God!
Our Father,
you have searched me and known me.
You have looked into the deepest desires of my heart.
You know my secret loyalties as well as my hesitations.
You know my doubts and my reservations.
All knowing and still all loving Father,
have mercy on us,
for we have gotten confused.
We love you and we love your ways,
yet we have loved this world, too.
O LORD, our Father,
have mercy on us.
We have been wayward.
We have fled your presence.
We have even made our bed in Hell,
and somehow you discovered us there, too.
All knowing and still all loving Father,
have mercy on us.
O LORD, all knowing, most wise God.
Our Father, have mercy on us!
Grant to us purity of heart.
Focus our erratic desires.
Unite us in Christ.
Grant that in him we may find integrity,
that our hearts may be yours and yours alone.
To Christ, our Savior, then,
be all praise, all honor and glory,
together with you, O Father and the Holy Spirit.
One God, now and evermore. Amen.


About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Sunday Worship (Jonah 1:4-16)

This week we'll be exploring Jonah 1:4-16.  

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Each Sunday you can find the live stream here or watch the archive here

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: 'Teach Us to Pray' through Jonah 1:4-16. 

A Light to My Path (Jonah 1:4-16)

Our text for the week ahead is Jonah 1:4-16):

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Question for Reflection:

Have you ever found yourself on a "rough sea" after running from something? If so, how did you see things at the time? How do you see things now?

Who Is My Neighbor (Haiti Part 1)

Haiti 2.jpg

Calvary recently sent a mission team to Haiti which consisted of 5 Calvary folks, a friend who now lives in Chicago, and our Haitian friend, Junior Cineas who lives in Port Au Prince (the other side of Haiti from where the mission team works).  I asked each of the participants to write a paragraph about how they saw God at work in Haiti.  This is part 1 of these stories.  See next week’s ‘Who Is My Neighbor’ for Part 2.

From Bob Bills:

Of the numerous areas where I the Holy Spirit’s presence, three stand out to me.  The team had the opportunity to conduct a Bible study with the staff at Streethearts (www.streetheartshaiti.org).  While the kids were at school, the staff of 6-8 gathered outside and we began to study John 5.  We read the chapter, dividing the verses into 3 sections, and answered a series of questions after each section.  Their participation was outstanding, and you could see and feel the passion they have for Jesus Christ by their answers.  Each person was eager to dive into God’s word.  Our lesson lasted for more than an hour.
The second area I saw and felt the presence of God at work occurred at our church service in Fev.  Pastor Walnique and Junior provided the message with many hymns being sung.  One of the hymns prompted a little dance.  I noticed an older lady, perhaps in her late 70’s, dancing outside our covered area and, at one point, she held up both arms as high as she could, her head looking up, and it was as if she was touching the fingers of God.  Surely the peace of Christ was with her.  There is no doubt that church every Sunday, worshipping the Lord, was very special to her and all of the others.
The third area I saw God at work was in our Calvary team.  Each team member poured their heart and soul into sharing the love of Jesus Christ wherever we went, and we were able to feel God’s richest blessings.  Humbled to be a part!

From Austin Smith:

This is my 6th short term trip to Haiti, along with living there for 6 months. God has moved and worked in mysterious ways every year. My faith takes steps forward every year. During this time I have gained perspective into the lives and culture of the Haitian people.  One cannot go to Haiti once and gain an understanding of the culture and community of the Haitian people, and this is what has kept me intrigued into learning the language and building relationships.
Just when you think you understand how to operate and navigate reality sets in and puts you right back in your place.  The rugged, rough and ruthless nature of this country is the most beautiful thing about it. I already cannot wait to return and see my family in Haiti next year.

From Junior Cineas:

Based on the question that pastor Debbie asked, "Where do I see God is moving during this trip is in the life of the group?” Comparatively to all the other trips before, I feel more satisfied with everything that the group did this time. I could clearly see that God is working in the life of our team. This time, the team really focus on God.

From Abraham Zuniga Alzamora:

This is my third time going to Haiti and every time I go I am blessed.  I love the children….they are so happy and curious.  They remind me of myself and though I am an adult in size I am still a child at heart.  One doesn't needt o study a career in social work to understand them, because they transmit what they feel and think through their eyes.  It’s all about sitting down on the dirty floor and just loving on these kids.  I tickle and they tickle back.  I say something and they repeat the same thing back to me.  I spend time hugging them and just playing with them and they do the same thing.  My heart resides where there is an innocent little smile.

Questions or discussion? Click here to comment. 

Love Your Neighbor (Jonah 1:1-3)

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As we talked about in Tuesday's podcast, Nineveh was not just a place that Jonah preferred to avoid simply because "bad company corrupts good character," it had a reputation for violence, war, and general unsafety for non-natives of the city. As we reflect on how to love our neighbor in light of this passage, I want us to stand in the shoes of both sides.

First, are we afraid to reach out to those around us who have a reputation for violence - for those who intentionally create environments of unrest and terror? If so, how can we begin to gain God's perspective for these people who are our brothers and sisters?

Second, have we ourselves become know for a reputation of violence and aggression among our neighbors? Perhaps we're not throwing punches or bombs, but maybe our speech is more caustic than needed toward our neighbors. How can we watch for the Jonahs coming our way and be ready to hear what they have to say? 


About the Author

Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC 

 

God Stories (IGRC Annual Conference)

Every year representatives from each United Methodist Church in downstate Illinois gather for worship, prayer, fellowship, and discernment. Below is a post from Bishop Frank Beard looking forward to sharing stories about God's work in our churches at this year's conference:

5/23/2017
It’s a celebration!
“Celebrate good times, come on!” 
 
The speakers were thumping out Kool and the Gang’s super hit, Celebrate, and I was dancing on my roller skates in perfect rhythm with the music. Yes, I was singing and screaming the lyrics too:
 
“There's a party goin' on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you, celebrate good times, come on!”
 
One of the blessings of this job is getting to travel around the Annual Conference and to be a part of the many services of celebration. Some services are formal with much liturgy and others are relaxed but reverent. I enjoy taking part in each of these services because they act as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Each church has its own unique story of God’s intervention and provision at a crucial point in time.
 
Often folks share a key individual, couple or family that God used to become a major blessing to the growth and development of that congregation. It is amazing to hear stories of how folks sensed the tug of the Holy Spirit upon their hearts and lives. Because of their faithful response and obedience others can now stand on the legacy of faithfulness that they laid.
 
Celebrations and services of remembrance should not be limited to special days alone. Each Sunday should be a time of festivity and thanksgiving as we remember what Jesus Christ has accomplished. Joy and happiness should be evident as we gather for worship. Our enthusiasm should be contagious. The word that comes to my mind is “fire.”
 
Our churches should be on fire for Jesus!  Fire has many characteristics and traits that are applicable to the church. I’ve never seen a fire that failed to attract a crowd. Perhaps the downturn in some of our churches is a result of our not allowing the Holy Spirit to stoke the fire.
 
The IGRC is a great place to serve!  As I travel throughout our episcopal area I am amazed at what God has done and what God is doing in and through our churches and institutions.  I’ve attended anniversary services in churches that regularly worship under thirty and churches that worship over three hundred. Each church has many reasons to celebrate and offer thanksgiving for God’s amazing grace and steadfast love displayed over several years. 
 
Perhaps we should do as the old song advises, “count your blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” As we recount the blessings of God and proclaim the wonderful works of Jesus, a divine spark should kindle a fire within our hearts. As we lift the Lord and exalt his name, I believe, folks will be attracted to the flames.
 
In just a couple of weeks we will gather for our Annual Conference. I encourage you to come prepared to share your church stories with one another. It’s okay to brag on God and to tell others, even those within the family connection, what the Lord is doing in your church and community.  Maybe if we spend more time accentuating the positive, we can stop focusing on the negative.
 
 My heart longs for the fire of revival to be kindled in the IGRC. I have witnessed, first hand, pockets of renewal being fed by celebrations all over our Conference. Instead of returning to “business as usual” the week after the celebration services have concluded perhaps we should find ways to keep the fires burning.
 
My dancing on roller skate days are most likely over, but I can try and inspire others through sharing my personal testimony and experiences. I can still celebrate, offer thanksgiving, and pray for others to have their own hearts to become warmed by the touch of the Lord Jesus Christ. I could provide funds for roller blades for some young kids so that they can have their own experience and gain a story to tell. I can brag on God’s goodness and faithfulness and hopefully create a hunger within others that will cause them to seek a personal encounter with Jesus. As they seek and find the Lord they will have their own reason to join in the celebration.
 
The best days of the IGRC and of your church don’t have to be in the rearview mirror.  God is still able to light fires and kindle sparks of hope. I celebrate because I know that I serve a God that can start fires anywhere, even on wet wood.
 
In my head and my heart, I’m still skating, “Celebrate good times, come on!”
 
God Bless,
Bishop Beard

Bishop Beard's post first appeared at http://www.igrc.org/blogpostsdetail/8309431