The trip is over and everyone had a great time! We want to thank you for all of your prayers! Here is our final update on what we did Friday as well as a list of prayer requests that you can continue to lift up for the Lamon church. Thanks again!
The church usually gives each team one day out of the week to take it easy, do some planning, and go see Chicago. Since our group is fairly familiar with Chicago, we stayed close to the church and spent some good quality time together.
The trip is here and we're very excited to start serving. Here are some things we did today and how you can be praying for us:
Branches are nothing without the vine. This is painfully obvious when talking about a plant but so easy for us to get wrong in real life. You and I are like branches and Jesus is the vine. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit if it has been disconnected from the vine, we can do nothing good for God's kingdom if we are disconnected from Jesus. Try as we might, if we aren't spending time with Jesus and allowing Him to fill us up, then we won't be able to impact people's lives for God's kingdom. Jesus says that we must abide or remain in Him. Unless we do that, we might as well be a branch all by itself trying to grow fruit by sheer willpower. It doesn't work that way. Pray that our group, myself included, would stay close to Jesus in order to impact the Lamon community.
Abiding is a process of Love and Obedience. The Dude abides. But how? What does it take to abide in Jesus? It's a nice thought, but it is pretty vague. Jesus clarifies by saying that to remain in Him we must love Him and obey Him. What does that look like? Because I love my wife, I make time for her, talk to her, pray with her, pray for her, ask questions to get to know her and what she is thinking, tell her what I love about her, and serve her. It's not so different with Jesus. To love Him, we serve Him and His church, we pray to Him, we read the Bible to learn about Him and what He is thinking, we worship Him. The more we know Him and spend time with Him, the more His love, thoughts, and servanthood will rub off on us. The more we choose to obey Him in all areas, the more we will see Him working through us and producing fruit. Pray that our group will love and obey Jesus ourselves that we might impact others.
The Gardener is here to help. Jesus tells us that God the Father is like a gardener who comes along and prunes the branches that are bearing some fruit so that they would eventually produce more fruit. That's encouraging! God Himself is working on us, cutting the bad habits and sins out of our lives, in order to help us produce better and better fruit. Pruning is a tough process where the plant gets cut. Sometimes it hurts when God prunes us, but He knows what He is doing. Pray that God would keep His promise to prune us and that we would not squirm against His hand but submit to His pruning.
Producing fruit for Jesus leads to Joy for us. Jesus tells us that this whole process of producing fruit for God's glory will cause our joy to be made complete. One thing I love about God is that He only asks us to do things that will lead us to deeper and greater joy. Knowing that we have been used by God to do work for His kingdom that will last for all eternity is an incredibly exciting thought. Pray that God would help us to be filled with joy from Him as we serve in the coming week.
Mark has been happily married for five years, has a year and a half old daughter, and serves as a youth and children pastor in Oak Park.