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Mission Devotional - October 31, 2016

Opening Prayer: Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live

in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in
by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest
wells. And the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.

(The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions ed. by Arthur Bennett)

Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16

Journal: How does the parable for today disturb or disrupt you? How does it offer you hope? Who can you relate to most in the story? Why? How are you like the ones who grumbled against the landowner? How does this story speak to that?

Reflection: Not only is comparison the thief of joy, but it is also the destroyer of gratitude. Just look at the laborers in the parable who were picked first, for example. They were fine with everything until the pay was handed out and they compared what they received to what the ones who were picked last received. Then everything went south. Why is that?

They were probably pleased with themselves when they were chosen first by the landowner to go out and work in his vineyard. Everyone likes to be chosen first, right? At that point the comparison was favorable. But when the ones chosen last got the same pay as the ones chosen first, even though they got the wage that was agreed upon, then there was a problem. Then they were no longer first, they were just one of the crowd. And one of the crowd who actually had to work more hours than anyone else at that. All of the sudden it didn't feel so good any more.

Why couldn't they just celebrate the good fortune of their fellow workers? Because it wasn't about the vineyard, or the master, or the work anymore, it was all about them. When our vision shrinks down to the smallest possible view everything gets distorted. It's almost like Jesus is saying, "When you're trying to be first, in whatever arena it may be - be it a job, or a game, or a line, or even driving in traffic - you will always become the worst version of yourself. But when you seek to become last, or least, then you are able to love. Which is what this life is all about.

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

John and Kathy Lesondak are church planters who work across denominational lines in Slovakia to encourage and enable pastors in their work. The Lesondaks utilize various opportunities to engage with local residents, including the "Mami Klub" (Mommy Club) for young mothers and a men's Bible Study for both seekers and believers. Pray today for a Slovak couple from London that is considering joining this mission.

The Hope Center was established in 1996 to address the unmet needs of patients infected with HIV in Knox and the surrounding 20 counties. Pray today for these patients and their families.

Closing Prayer: O God, help me avoid pandering to accolades and applause, and willingly disappear into you instead. (A Heart Exposed by Steven James)