December 29, 2023
Hello Grace Vineyard and Friends of Grace Vineyard.
Happy New Year!
I hope you have each had a beautiful and Merry Christmas. I know it started it out very beautifully for all of us who came to the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve.
Here’s a photo from the end of the service when we all sang “Silent Night” by candle light. It was so beautiful. (Did you notice I just said “beautiful” 3 times?! That’s a faux pas for writing style, but I can’t think of a better word to describe our time together!) Since the last time I saw you on Christmas Eve I’ve been enjoying a a nice staycation with both our kids home from school, and Kim’s parent’s and brother visiting from Tampa this week. We’ve been blessed with lots of laughter and great food and many hours of family time playing games. And now I’m looking forward to another New Year with all of you.
As I’ve prayed and listened for the Lord’s direction about what we should focus on in the Word for our last Sunday together in 2023, I’ve been drawn back to the theme of love that we talked about last Sunday morning when we focused on the theme of Advent Love. Today as I was getting ready for some study and prayer time I decided it would be nice to build a fire in our backyard fire pit (I love the smell of the wood burning, the crackle of the firewood, and the warmth of the fire). Unfortunately, my pile of pine cones that I usually use to start fires were damp from recent rains. Pine cones usually burn fast and hot and are excellent for getting the logs going, but this time I really had to tend the fire to get it going and keep it going. As I fiddled with keeping the fire burning while I was thinking about how God’s Love, agape love, is the foundation of everything good in the world (as Jesus said, all the law and prophets – the entirety of the Hebrew scriptures – hang on loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves), a metaphor began to develop in my mind. That’s where the title I’ve chosen for this Sunday’s message came from: “Tend the Fire of God’s Love (and every good thing will follow)”. I believe that if we get love right, everything good will follow, and in some ways getting love right is like tending a fire to keep it burning hot and bright. So, please join me this coming Sunday morning, New Year’s Eve, as we consider some principles for tending the fire of God’s love in our lives. Looking forward to our times together in January, I can tell you that our theme for the month will be “Jesus said, ‘Go!'” as we focus on our mandate to participate in God’s Global Mission. Tending the fire of God’s love will be foundational to becoming a people who very naturally participate in God’s mission for His world. Quite possibly the Holy Spirit has a message for us to grab hold of as we launch into a New Year! The message of God’s Love.
A couple other things to note…
Small Groups Relaunch Next Week
Our Small groups have been on break for the Christmas holiday. They will be starting back up the first week in January…with one exception. The Tuesday night Prayer for the City will start up again on the 2nd week on Tuesday, January 9th. Speaking of small groups and prayer groups, I’d love to remind you about our morning zoom prayer meeting. Every Tuesday-Thursday at 7am-8am we have a zoom prayer meeting. We read a chapter of the Bible together, discuss it briefly, and then share prayer needs and pray for them. The hour flies by, and it’s always an encouraging time. As we start a New Year and people set new rhythms in their schedules, this would be a great week for you to join us. Here’s the info you need: Zoom Meeting ID: 812 2225 0027, Password: 006314
One Last Reminder about End of Year Donations
As we enter the last 2 days of 2023 I want to give you one last reminder about end of year donations. Every year generous people give extra end of the year donations to their favorite favorite charities, ministries, and of course their home church. For those of you who want to make sure your donation is tax deductible for the 2023 tax year, just make sure your donation arrives at our offices (either online, or via cash or check) by December 31st. If we receive a donation on January 1st or later, even if it’s a check with a 2023 date, we are required to record it for 2024.
Please consider an extra end of the year gift for our Missions and Benevolence funds. Everyone knows that Missions are very important to us because we talk and pray about international missions every Sunday morning. Newer folks might not realize that we fund our missions work with a “faith pledge” system. Every year in January we invite every member of our congregation to pledge to give a dollar amount every month for the next year. This is a pledge above the tithe (the “tithe” is 10% of our income that we believe Christians are called to give to support the ministry of their local church). We then take those pledges and build the budget for how much we will send to the missionaries we support in the upcoming 12 months. We always keep some money in reserve in case some people aren’t able keep up with their pledge, and at this point in our year that reserve account is getting pretty low. So, whether or not you regularly give to our missions program please prayerfully consider giving an end of the year gift to support our missionaries (for online giving, just put “missions” when it asks you what this gift is for; with checks, write “missions” on the memo line, and with cash, put it in an envelope and write “Missions” on the envelope in the Sunday morning offering). The same goes for our Benevolence fund. A big THANK YOU to all who are being faithful with your tithes and offerings.
I look forward to worshiping with you New Year’s Eve morning at 9:30. If you have to be away for any reason you can still join us online via zoom with this info: Zoom Meeting ID 153 112 432, Passcode 684814. You may also join us on Facebook Live at facebook.com/gracevcf.
And that’s all I have for this last Weekly Update of 2023. May the Lord richly bless you as you finish out 2023 and get ready to start a new year with the Lord.
With love and blessings to each of you,
If you have to be away for any reason you can still join us online via zoom with this info: Zoom Meeting ID 153 112 432, Passcode 684814. You may also join us on Facebook Live at facebook.com/gracevcf.