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Mission Devotional - July 24, 2016

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, continue to capture my heart. Continue to transform my life into the beautiful image you dreamt for me long ago, before the foundations of the world. Take hold of me and give me the courage and the grace to take hold of you and not let go. Continue to make me more and more like you. Amen.

Scripture: Genesis 32:22-32

Journal: What, or who, are you wrestling with these days? How are you wrestling with God? What is he doing in you as a result?

Reflection: I have a suspicion that at least part of what needs to happen within me these days has something to do with God wrestling away the old in me in order to make way for the new. It's almost like I am stuck in a decaying orbit and have no hope of breaking free from the gravitational pull that keeps me bound to it, unless I am liberated by Someone much larger than I. Someone who can set me free from my old ways of being and of seeing, in order that I might live my life more fully the way he intended (and desperately desires) me to live. The problem is that the way to this new life of freedom and wholeness leads through a wrestling that is likely to leave me, as it did Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32), wounded and broken first. Yet that path seems the only way to the new life and the new (true) identity I most desperately long for. The wrestling can't be avoided or bypassed.

Thomas Merton said it so well when he said that: "Only this inner rending, the tearing of the heart, brings this joy. It lets out our sins, and lets in the clean air of God's spring, the sunlight of the days that advance toward Easter. Rending of garments lets in nothing but the cold. The rending of heart is that tearing away from ourselves and our vetustas - the oldness of the old man, wearied with the boredom and drudgery of an indifferent existence, that we may turn to God and taste His mercy, in the liberty of His sons." There is a wounding in this wrestling that is intended to make way for the new to be born. So the wrestling, albeit frightening and uncomfortable, is a glorious necessity in the process of being made whole. I cannot do it on my own (heaven knows I've tried), only God can give me the power to break free from the old and the tired, and step into the new and the fresh.

The tricky part is that we, like Jacob, don't always recognize right off the bat that we're actually wrestling with God. Jacob just thought, at first, he was wrestling with a man. It wasn't until later, new name and all, that he finally realized that it was indeed God he was wrestling with. The same is true for me. At times I think I am wrestling with my anxieties or my insecurity, or that I am wrestling with a person with whom I am in conflict. At times I think I am wrestling with my circumstances or my church or my spouse or my vocation. At times I think I am wrestling with motivation or frustration or discontent. And if I look real closely behind each one of those, I will recognize that the man behind the curtain, the one I'm really wrestling with, is God. And when I realize this, it changes everything. I realize that it is not just about my death, but about my life. I realize that it is not my circumstances or my relationships or the people in my world that need to change, it is me. God is wrestling with me, trying to accomplish something deep in my soul. Something that will change everything about me, the same way it did with Jacob.

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

Bruce and Laura Harris have been running SEND International's camp and conference ministry in the mountains of western Tokyo for many years. Pray today with Bruce and Laura for SEND International Japan as plans proceed toward new church plants in the least-reached areas of Tokyo and its surrounding communities. The Harrises are returning to church planting and ask that you pray for this transition and for their replacements in leading the camps.

Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is committed to the evangelism of boys and girls through Good News Clubs, the Tennessee Valley Fair and any other means to reach the children of the Knoxville community. Good News Club is a ministry in which trained teachers meet with groups of children in schools, homes, community centers, churches, apartment complexes and just about anywhere the children can easily and safely meet with their parent's permission. Pray today for the families of the children that attend the Good News Clubs each week that they may know and understand the love of Jesus.

Closing Prayer: O God, give me eyes to see that it is You. It is You that I'm wrestling with and not the face, or the circumstance, that is before me at the moment. And it is You that is wrestling with me; trying to strip away all of that old man, trying to keep me from living out of those old (false) names and patterns that I tend to live out of. In order that I might receive the beautiful new name that You long for me to know myself by and to live out of. Thanks be to You.