Mission Devotional - December 31, 2016

Opening Prayer: O God, as we look back on another year gone by (whether difficult or relatively easy), we do so with deep sense of gratitude for how you have cared for us, for the things you have done for us, for the ways you have led and guided us, and for the way you have provided for us. And we are filled with joy. Not necessarily joy in our circumstances, but joy in your presence, your love, and your redemption. And as we look to the year ahead, Father, help us to look at it as another opportunity to love and trust you. May our lives, in the coming year, be more about your Kingdom and less about our own. Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 126:1-6

Journal: How has God filled your mouth with laughter and your heart with songs of joy in the last year? What are you grateful for? What have you been challenged by? How has that effected your present level of joy? What do you dream that the coming year will be like? What do you long for it to be marked by? How will you move in that direction?

Reflection: Psalm 126 does not give us this joy as a package or a formula, but there are some things it does do. It shows up the tininess of the world's joy and affirms the solidity of God's joy. It reminds us of the accelerating costs and diminishing returns of those who pursue pleasure as a path toward joy. It introduces us to the way of discipleship which has consequences in joy. It encourages us in the way of faith to both experience and share joy. It tells the story of God's acts which put laughter into people's mouths and shouts on their tongues. It repeats the promises of a God who accompanies his wandering, weeping children until they arrive home, exuberant, "bringing in the sheaves." It announces the existence of a people who assemble to worship God and disperse to live to God's glory, whose lives are bordered on one side by a memory of God's acts and the other by hope in God's promises, and who along with whatever else is happening are able to say, at the center, "We are glad." (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson)

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

Vitaly and Oksana Voinov live in Moscow, Russia. Vitaly is working with the Institute for Bible Translation (IBT) in Russia/CIS as IBT's director. IBT has been serving the non-Slavic peoples of the former Soviet Union for four decades by translating the Holy Scriptures - Bibles, New Testaments, individual Bible books, and illustrated Children's Bibles. Pray today for Vitaly and his family.

The CSPC Adoption Ministry is a group of individuals and families who have a heart for adoption and foster care and for providing support for other individuals and families starting or going through the adoption/foster care process. Pray today for couples who need the support of other adoptive parents to be reached by this ministry.

Closing Prayer: It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when God returned Zion's exiles. We laughed, we sang, we couldn't believe our good fortune. We were the talk of the nations - "God was wonderful to them!" God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people.

And now, God, do it again - bring rains to our drought-stricken lives so those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, so those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing. (The Message)