As I read the letters of Paul, I am always encouraged by the way he opens each one by telling those he is writing to that he always gives thanks for them. I have come to understand his feelings a little better as I have worked at sending out these letters each week (almost). God is building that same kind of thanksgiving in my heart for each of you, along with the sincere prayer that he will show you His mercy and give you His peace in each of your situations.
Jeannie and I are still working at recovering from our traveling pains. I guess it just takes a lot longer when we get older. I have been thinking a lot about people who are in constant pain and have been encouraged to pray.
Sunday was the kick off day for the opening of the season of small group meetings. They stop having them in the summer and then start them back up in the fall. The message was directed toward building community and the importance of being part of each other’s lives. Then after the second service there was a really nice lunch served and a presentation promoting small groups and encouraging everyone to sign up for one.
David began his message by saying that small groups is something RVCC is passionate about, because we cannot really become close to one another meeting for an hour in a large group. But small groups of people getting together can get to know each other and care for the needs of each other more genuinely.
David read from John 15:1-4:
I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
Grape vines are kind of amazing. One vine can produce over 80 pounds of fruit in a season. They can do this and remain alive even in drought conditions because they have extremely deep roots, sometimes reaching 150 feet down and out to find the water and nutrients needed to produce the fruit.
In the same way Jesus is the true vine for our spiritual life. If we abide in him we will have life that produces fruit that is beneficial to all. His roots go all the way to the Father of all life. And from the Father he supplies nourishment for our life if we stay connected to him.
David also pointed out the part about pruning. Pruning is often not pleasant but our Father does it anyway just as we disciplined our own children for their good. Probably we didn’t do it always with their best interest in mind but God ALWAYS has our best interest at heart and only prunes or disciplines us so we can be more fruitful.
Branches that are not pruned bear less and less fruit until they bear no fruit at all. Then the branches become weak and eventually die. So it will be with us, and if we can learn to accept the pruning with thanksgiving God will use it to make us more fruitful.
In the hall of the church building are 3 banners that form 1 larger banner. The center banner shows the form of a tree with branches reaching up and out at the top and roots reaching down and out into each of the other 2 banners at the bottom. The banner on the left says “Connect”, reminding us that we must be connected to the root that is Christ. The center banner says “Grow” and the silhouette of the tree reaching up and out signifies our growth in Christ. Then the banner on the right says “Serve” encouraging us to serve Christ by serving one another.
Each of us is pruned of God in some way, that we may bear more fruit. Sometimes it seems there is nothing that I can do, but in my spirit I always hear, “You can pray.” We can each of us in our own place speak to our Father and care for the church and one another in prayer. Please remember the leaders of RVCC as they work to help us grow, and as they work through the transition from Russell to David being the senior minister. I am sure there are other needs that you know of. The greatest need that we each have is to grow closer to Jesus and to our Father in Heaven. I do thank God for each of you as I write these letters and as I address and prepare each one to be sent. Then through the week often God will bring you to mind and I will pray with thanksgiving for each one.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Be Faithful in your place