Mission Devotional - November 1, 2015

Opening Prayer: Father and God, you know the work, the worry, and the weariness which day by day, even week after week, weigh so heavily upon my life. So often I grow faint and fearful, disturbed and doubtful. I long for rest and peace and full assurance of faith. May I so wait upon you in daily prayer and be renewed with spiritual might that I shall fight the good fight and keep the faith. For Jesus' sake I pray. Amen. (Daily Prayer Companion by Orien W. Fifer)

Scripture: John 20:24-29

Journal: What does the image of the Lord as your shepherd do within you? How does it comfort you? How does it help you with feelings of doubt, fear, or anxiety? Will you rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd today?

Reflection: Okay, I have to admit it, I tend to give Thomas a bit of a hard time. Every time I read this story I'm like, "Come on man!" Thinking that maybe somehow I would not have had the same reaction. Who am I kidding? Maybe I have a hard time relating because my particular set of doubts don't look exactly like his. Which can lead me to believe (wrongly, I might add) that I don't struggle with doubt. Which is a complete joke. Of course I do! In fact, when I take any time at all to venture into this fragile heart of mine I quickly realize that I am filled with doubt. My doubt, however, does not often tend to be the kind that makes me wonder if there is a God, or if he is really there. My doubt has more to do with really believing that God loves me and that I am of immense value to him. It seems that no matter how hard I try to convince myself, I just can't become fully persuaded that it's true. It's the old "it's not you, it's me" line. My doubt seems to have more to do with how I feel about myself than how I feel about my God. A wise saint once said that the most important thing you believe about God is what you think God believes about you. That's where the major breakdown is for me. And that sort of doubt has a significant impact on how I live my life.

Since I am filled with doubt about myself and my value it can make me pretty needy inside; constantly in search of affirmation, constantly in pursuit of achievement, constantly in need of acceptance, constantly seeking significance - all in order to somehow prove to myself and to my world that I am worth loving. Thus, I am often filled with insecurity and anxiety, especially when things are not going according to plan. That makes me frustrated, critical, and defensive; often somehow making me see people as threats and competitors rather than as human beings deserving my love and compassion.

And though I might not feel like my doubt is the same as that of Thomas, the words Jesus speaks to Thomas speak directly to me as well. Jim, put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. This is how much I love you. Enough to allow all of this to be done to me. How can you possibly question my love? How can you possibly question your value? Stop doubting and believe!

Which brings up the same reply (as that of Thomas) from deep within me: "My Lord, and my God!" I believe. And for a while all is well in my heart and life once again. That is, until I begin to forget. That's why I have been trying to relive this encounter several times each day - whenever doubt or fear or insecurity or anxiety or frustration begin to rear their ugly head. And when I do, I hear my Beloved Jesus once again telling me to put your finger here, see my hands, and touch my side. And once again his truth has set me free. Thanks be to God for his unfailing love and his relentless pursuit.

Hymn for the Day

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Pete and Ruth Mitchell are church planters in Marseille under the auspices of Mission to the World (MTW) and in collaboration with the Eglise Réformée Evangélique de France (French Reformed Evangelical Church). Pete's role is that of team leader. The Mitchells have recently moved to Toulouse to plant a new church. Pete recently presented plans for the church plant in West Toulouse to the National Evangelism Committee of the French denomination UNEPREF. Pray for ministry plans that include a new English program, "Speak Up," and several evangelistic seminars in West Toulouse.

Core Leadership is a ministry of spiritual formation and leadership development. Its mission is to help strengthen and encourage the life of leaders, in the Knoxville area and beyond, by the means of spiritual nurture and leadership development. Jim Branch is the director of Core Leadership and is actively involved in the lives of people all over the city of Knoxville and beyond, as well as being active in the Powell community, where he lives. Pray for Jim today and all of those that he will connect to with this ministry this month.

Closing Prayer: My Lord and my God. Help me to believe in you, even when everything within me is filled with fear and questions and doubt. Come through my locked doors and show yourself to me in a way that drives out everything but belief and love. Amen.