Sundays are the best!

Sundays are the best! I love singing God’s praises with the Church!

As you might imagine, worship through song is a huge part of my relationship with Jesus, but not just corporately. My worship is both corporate and private. My private worship through song looks a little different than a Sunday morning. For one thing, there are songs that I absolutely love for my time of private worship, but they are not part of our Sunday morning repertoire. For this staff journal I want to share with you some songs that I’ve been using a lot in my private worship.

There’s a couple of Shane and Shane songs that I keep listening to that are basically Psalms put to modern music:

Psalm 46

Psalm 23

There are also several songs by Citizens and Saints I’ve listening to:

How Majestic – this is a call for all people, whether healthy or sick, young or old, hurting or rejoicing, doubting or assured, to come to Jesus and receive his mercy, to know you are loved and rejoice in his majestic name!

Relent - this is a beautiful song of repentance about letting go of chasing after the things of this world, surrendering to God, and finding peace and belonging at the feet of Jesus.

His Mercy Is More – this is a modern hymn about God’s mercy. Though our sins are many, His mercy is greater than all of our failings. Our response to His mercy is praise! 

And just this week I found a new song that CityAlight released:

I hope that many of you use the songs we sing on Sunday mornings in your private worship, but here are some other songs to consider as part of your time with Jesus! They have been greatly encouraging to me.

The more we worship privately, the sweeter our corporate worship will be!

On Sunday we will be talking about Thanksgiving, and the kid’s worship team will be sharing a special song with us!

Looking forward to Sunday,

Pastor Kyle


My RightNow Media pick of the month is a short series from Francis Chan:

 
 

Mexico on my heart

Mexico has been on my heart lately.

Most of us are probably aware that our neighbor to the south has been coping with a caravan of people from Central America who, apparently hoping for a better life, have been slowly making their way toward our southern border. Whether we feel compassion toward the needs of these people who seem vulnerable and oppressed, or we’re skeptical about the true nature this mass migration, the larger picture that comes to my mind is that of our common human search for freedom and blessing.

I believe that we’re all looking for some form of a “promised land,” ultimately not found in a country but in a relationship with God. I’m praying that the Lord will overrule the “designs of men” and use this experience to lead many of those seeking a “better life” to the true source of it—Jesus Christ!

Another reason Mexico has been on my mind is that Bobbie’s (my wife) sister, Beth Sandoval, who went to be with Jesus a little over a month ago in Puebla, Mexico, was part of God’s witness to our true hope in Jesus for over 40 years. 

Before she passed away at the age of 67 on October 3rd two days after contracting pneumonia, Beth, along with her husband Chalo, left a legacy of the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus in Mexico. Through the more than half a dozen churches they planted in the Puebla area over the past four decades and the handful of nurses who came to know Jesus through Beth’s frequent hospitalizations with leukemia, God showed his power to transform the lives of those hungry for meaning and purpose.

Though losing a sibling has not been easy, I am so thankful for the love and prayers that Bobbie and I have received from you all over these past four weeks.

The final reason Mexico has been in the forefront of my mind is that a couple of weeks ago, we had to cancel our Amigo 21 Mexico Family Missions Trip to Children’s Haven International’s children’s home in Reynosa. Having taken a team down for the last twenty consecutive years, it was hard telling CHI Director Betsy Chacon that we wouldn’t be bringing a team down in March of 2019 (due to our not having a “quorum” of those who were able to go).

Thinking of those kids at the home that we won’t be able to see and share with this coming year makes me sad. Still, I’m super grateful for the many years we’ve been able to serve there, and, since I believe that God sees what I can’t see, I’m trusting him to work out this out for a higher good.

Would you pray with me that the Lord would meet the needs of Children’s Haven’s team of house parents at the home and those children they serve in Jesus’ name? And that he would continue to raise up a generation of young people who know, love, and serve Jesus?

Please also be praying for Pastor Jack and Courtney this weekend, as they have left to be with Courtney’s family in Mississippi due to the sudden passing of her dad, Ricky Ferguson, on Tuesday. I’m grateful that Dave Reimer will be stepping in to preach this Sunday. I will be pinch hitting in the pulpit at Whitewater Community Church. 

Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Introducing Route 56

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love and in purity." I Timothy 4:12

We're putting feet to this verse in GraceKids this year with the introduction of a new ministry called Route 56.

Perhaps you've noticed some fresh, young faces greeting you at the main doors, handing you programs when you enter the Worship Center, helping you get coffee or cappuccino at the Coffee Corner, and leading in song & tech for Kids Worship during Sunday school. If you haven't noticed, look for their easy-to-spot orange ringer shirts!

These great kids are part of a group of sixteen 5th and 6th grade leaders-in-training. They meet monthly for specific training in leadership and study of their correlating theme verse. Serving weekly all school year, they'll be exploring how God has gifted them and how they can use those gifts to serve him and the church.  

Though we're just in the beginning stages with this ministry - and naturally have some bugs to work out in the system - it's been exciting to see how enthusiastic and willing these kids are to serve. We're grateful for adult volunteers who have welcomed them warmly in their stations and are helping to mentor them. Recent research reveals that kids who become involved in serving in church early and see themselves as an important part of the church today will be more likely to stay in church (and serve) as they get older.

There are so many other great benefits to this kind of program - inter-generational serving & relationship building, creating a joyful environment that welcomes kids everywhere (not just in designated “kid” areas), and leading the next generation to name a few. This is one great way we can be intentional with Grace's vision to "lead others to do the same"!

GraceKids is blessed with creative, hard-working volunteers who recognize opportunities like these and are willing to innovate, create, and try new things like Route 56! Saying yes to new opportunities often means other things have to take the back burner.

This year, as we're turning our attention and resources toward Route 56 and some other changes, we'll be pressing the pause button on some other things - namely Trunk-or-Treat and the kids Christmas program. This doesn't necessarily mean those good things won't ever happen again; it just means we're redirecting our resources in the direction of something else we feel is important and meaningful. 

I want to invite you to celebrate this new opportunity with us! Keep your eyes peeled for our Route 56 team. Don't overlook them! Instead, give them a big smile, engage them and encourage them as they explore what it means to lead by serving. Pray for God's blessing on them as they grow and serve. Pray also that this ministry will bless our church now and in the years to come.

Blessings to you!
Juli Dirks

“The wettest, coldest, most cancel-worthy trip...ever!”

I signed up to be a parent chaperone for my son’s field trip. And let me tell you, it was some trip!

I actually began the day thinking they would cancel it. The plan was to explore a pumpkin patch with 1st and 2nd graders. But it was cold and rainy, and it had rained all week.

“They’ll send me a text or email if they cancel, right?” I mumbled to Courtney. But the cancellation never came. 

After driving to the school, we gathered together in the gym as the parents and little ones got ready to embark on the muddiest field trip you’ve ever imagined. Just before we got on the bus, a teacher who laughed at us and seemed anxious, gave us an eclectic group of umbrellas.

It looked like a pile of sticks taken from a dozen different trees, none the same size or design.

But the kids were happy. All of them. Each one full of energy and smiling as they awaited their “big field trip,” some going on their very first.

I prayed for the rain to stop as I sat in the back with my group of boys, showing them a map of the patch. They excitedly debated which ride or attraction we were going to hit up first.

But I knew something they didn’t.

There will be NO human gerbil wheel or bouncy pad if the rain continued... and the view outside gave no hope for that. It was grey, rainy, and COLD.

Our first exhibit was under a covered patio-like area with picnic tables. We heard a story of a square pumpkin that saved all the round pumpkins because he couldn’t be pushed around by the wind.

The kids enjoyed it. I was freezing, lol.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good story. But as soon as she said “he was the only square pumpkin,” I knew where it was headed. And it wasn’t toward a nice fire with hot chocolate!

Then we took a hayride tour around the grounds. It was still raining. My group of boys got the wagon without the nice side covering, so we got to enjoy the moist atmosphere even more so than the other half of our class.

But the kids were happy.

The teachers then decided to cut the trip short. “Let’s eat lunch, then head back.” That was a 3-hour departure ahead of time. No parent complained or objected.

My group never got to experience the human gerbil wheel, even though we did catch a glimpse of it off in the distance on our “waterpark ride.” We were wet from head to toe. NOTHING went as planned. 

But we had fun. Real fun.

On the ride back to school we played “sticks” and rock-paper-scissors. We laughed and got to enjoy new friendships with one another.

It was the wettest, coldest, most cancel-worthy field trip I’ve ever experienced, and I loved it. I got to meet some of Samuel’s classmates, teachers, and friends. I learned how to play “sticks” for the first time. I even held the champion title for 10 miles until a 2nd grader ruined my streak. But this story’s not about him.

And I got to sit on the back of the bus with my firstborn son. He even asked to sit with me... tear.

I rode back to Newton with another dad. We talked about life and he really encouraged me about an issue I didn’t have figured out. That in itself was an answer to prayer.

When I got home, Courtney asked how it went. She was undoubtedly expecting frustration and regret in my response. But I really had a great time.

I realized that when I think of experiences, I mostly think of relationship now. And my wet, muddy, cold day was full of new and encouraging relationships. And that made it great.

May God bless you with new relationships and times of fun with those you love.

I’ll see y’all on Sunday as we continue our study through Genesis. You’re not going to believe what Abraham does... again. But boy am I glad that God knows what to do with us when we don’t know what to do with ourselves!

Galatians 6:9-10,
Pastor Jack

Creators in His image

Addie and I really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the parenting conference here at Grace last weekend. (There is still time for you to join us for the last session this Sunday morning!)

One of my big takeaways from the sessions is that it is weird to not talk about God with your kids all the time because He is everywhere - reflected in everything - as the Creator of all.

This truth was encouraging and inspiring as I think about raising Caleb to have an innate God-consciousness from his earliest days. But it also got me thinking about what it means for me that we are created by God.

We are unique among all created things because only human beings are created in the image of God, the Creator.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. -Genesis 1:27

Being created in the image - or likeness - of God does not mean that I can accurately picture God looking like what wise old grandpa looks like; being created in the likeness of God means that we bear a resemblance to his attributes.

We have the capacity to love because God is Love. We desire justice because God is Just. We are able to exercise creativity because God is Creator.

So, maybe you don’t design or paint or write calligraphy or build or sew or play music… but you are creating somehow. Maybe you are a creative problem solver. Or maybe you are creating an open and loving atmosphere in your home. Or maybe you are creating memories by going on adventures big or small with your family. Because you are created in the image of the Creator, you are creating somehow.

As a creator by trade, it can be hard for me to release a creation of mine out into the world. It feels like I leave a part of myself in everything I create. And because everything I create has a part of me in it, it can be hard to receive feedback on my creation without taking it personally.

I believe both of those impulses - to create things that reflect me and my nature, and to hold my creations personally dear - are direct results of being created in the likeness of our Creator. God created us in His image, which means there is a piece of Him in us; and because God created us in His image, He loves us dearly and takes the way we treat each other - His creations - personally. 

The Creator of all things created us to be creators like Him.

The cool thing about this is that every time you create, you are acting in response to who God is. Every time you create, you are engaging in an act of worship. By living out the imago dei - the image of God in you - you are pointing those around you back to their Creator.

So, how are you flexing your creative capacity as a way to reflect the personality of your Creator?


I hope you will join us for our services on Sunday morning! Pastor Mike Barter from our church plant in Hillsboro - Grace Community Fellowship - will be preaching here, while Pastor Jack preaches there. We will also get the special opportunity to hear from a missionary couple we support and, as always, we will pray together, sing together, and study the Bible together.

See you Sunday!
Nathan Ehresman

Football cards and spiritual blessings

I was picking up my son Max from the bus stop earlier this week and noticed he was walking and talking with a new friend. After he got in the truck I asked him about who he was talking to and what they were talking about.

He said, “That’s Garrett’s older brother.”

I said, “Oh, what’s his name?”

He replied, “Umm, I don’t remember right now.”

I told him, “That’s ok, what where you talking about?”

Max said, “I gave him some of my football cards for free and we were just talking.”

I was amazed.

You have to understand the value of football cards in a young boy’s life, and for Max and his buddies they trade cards; giving away cards doesn’t really happen. They are always trying to work a deal. The name of the game is to get more cards or better cards.

I curiously said, “Really!?! Why did you do that?” And his reply was simple but profound to me, “Dad, I have so many football cards… I didn’t need those.”

God used that interaction as a spiritual moment to think about blessing.

Max would never say it this way at this point in his life, but he was living from a sense of being blessed, which opened him up to live generously, not in greed or entitlement.

What kind of response do I have to blessing?

I’ve been pondering this question since Sunday, but especially since my little talk with Max. Do I even think I’m blessed?

A wonderful part of Ephesians 1:3 has come to mind over and over as I have reflected on those questions and my life. The text says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…”

Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing.

Now that is truly amazing.

In Christ I’m not lacking anything. I am blessed in every way. This good news has an “opening up” result as I believe it and receive it. Generosity is a characteristic of someone who isn’t thinking they need more or are wanting better.

It is easy to get locked into cycles of greed and entitlement, but I’m praising God for every spiritual blessing in Christ. May this be the grace that God uses to cultivate a joy of generosity in my life and the lives of others.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren

Kitchen cabinets and clean hearts

Doug and I are finishing up a project we started in April of 2017: redoing the whole main floor of our home! We have learned a LOT about God, ourselves, and each other, as well as how to do DIY projects! We have accomplished things that I never thought we would ever do.

The last room we are redoing is the kitchen. 

My biggest part of the kitchen remodel was painting the kitchen cabinets. As I was removing the items from the cabinets I was amazed at how dirty and scuffed up the cabinets were. After putting on a new coat of paint they hardly looked the same. Then we added new hardware and they looked like brand new cabinets. As nice as the cabinets look now, I know that they will get dirty and scuffed up again and need washing and touch up paint.

It makes me think of my own life and how I want to be clean and fresh on both the inside and out. I want everything to look and be perfect. Over the past few weeks there have been a couple of quotes that Jack has said that have really stood out to me.

First, "we will be broken people until we see Jesus".

I think I literally sighed out loud when he said that. I don't want to be broken, it is hard being broken and harder to admit my brokenness. But just like the cabinets before I started on them, I thought they looked pretty good until I took a deeper look.

Am I willing to be broken and allow the Lord to meet me in my brokenness? Am I willing to be honest with myself and with the Lord about how broken I am?

Second, "reconciliation isn't perfection".

As a perfectionist I want everything to be perfect after the reconciliation. But again, like the cabinets, they will need to be cleaned and touched up again and again.

Am I willing to forgive over and over? Seven times seventy? Am I willing to forgive Doug again today for the same thing he did yesterday? Am I willing to forgive myself when I've done the same thing today that I did yesterday?

I'm looking forward to being back in Genesis this coming Sunday. Jack will be preaching out of chapter 14. May we all have open hearts to hear what God is speaking to us in our brokenness.

Ministering together,
Janelle

Monk Mondays

“Help me, God, I don’t want to do anything today.”

I’ve noticed a new behavior in my life. Now that I’ve been preaching most Sundays, I find that Monday is not my “favorite day” of the week. And by not my favorite, I think “loathe” is a good word for how I feel about Mondays when I first wake up. 

I wake up slower on Monday. I move slower on Monday. I just want to get alone on Mondays and spend most of my time in solitude and silence like the monks used to do. 

Do you have a “Monk Monday” in your schedule? The tough day of the week or month?

Of course, I keep going. I drive the boys to the bus stop, and I’m at work in my office by 7:40am. I have the opportunity to join God’s Kingdom work, so I don’t really want to quit. But Monday’s start out rough.

God has recently shown me so much patience and kindness in my limitations. It’s like He wants me to feel tired on Monday so that I seek rest and renewal in Him. My temptations are to turn to food and entertainment for life and fulfillment (also known as “idolatry” in the Bible). 

Do you know the part of Jesus’ prayer, “and lead us away from temptation?” I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently. God wants me to ask Him on a regular basis to “lead me away from temptation.”  

Somehow, He has used “Monk Mondays” as a tool to show me how to turn to Him, and not ice cream or movies or whatever else is promising relief. 

On my weakest day, my hardest day of the week, He is creating something new in my life. When I don’t want to do anything, He is doing His sanctifying work in my life.

It’s actually Monday morning as I am writing this, so I feel especially grateful for His ministry in my life. My prayer for you is that you will sense His presence and joy today.

He loves you so much. He understands your limitations so well. May He lead you away from temptation, and toward His loving arms.

2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (ESV): But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Galatians 6:9-10,
Pastor Jack

People over preference

People over preference… those words have been coming to mind frequently this week!

When there is conflict in our lives that doesn’t involve sin, the best thing to remember is to value people over preferences. Pastor Jack shared some very valuable words with us this past Sunday to help us avoid conflict over things like how to fold towels or, on a more serious note, what songs we should sing in our worship services.

Can I just take a moment to say thank you, Grace Community Church, for allowing us to lead in worship through song without making a huge deal about preferences! I receive way more encouragement than complaints or suggestions to play certain songs.

We are leading the church in a way that was decided upon by the Elders many years before I arrived. Our official style is blended, leaning towards contemporary. You can even read the document the Elders wrote addressing this here.

When I choose songs for Sunday, I’m not thinking about the number of contemporary songs compared to the number of old hymns. I’m trying to reinforce the main points of the sermon to increase retention and application of God’s truth throughout the week.

I simply choose songs from our repertoire, which has a blend of hymns and contemporary songs. The worship council critiques the songs we add to our repertoire and I’m confident that the newer songs we’ve added are most often just as rich as the old hymns. In fact, many of the new songs we sing have a “hymn” feel to them and could be described as modern hymns.

Because I choose songs based on key words or themes and not how old or new they are, I was curious to see what songs we’ve sang the most since I arrived here a little over 4 years ago. There are 22 songs that we’ve sung 15 or more times since I’ve been here. Eight of those songs are old hymns and a few more are contemporary hymns like “In Christ Alone” or “How Deep the Father’s Love”.

Any guesses on the song we’ve sung the most in the past 4 years?

“Only King Forever” is the winner!

Part of my philosophy of worship through song is to use the talents within the local church as opposed to trying to imitate the songs on the radio. This means that we use our talented woodwind-, brass-, string players, and vocalists that sing harmonies. We sing some songs that you hear on the radio, but we don’t play them the same way because we don’t have the same instruments and we love vocal harmonies! Thus, we have our own unique flavor that reflects how God has gifted our congregation!

Our style of worship through song has been key in valuing people over preferences! I’m thankful for so many young families that call Grace home and for an older generation that is willing to learn new songs! It’s such a joy seeing so many of you eagerly engage in worship through song week after week!

My RightNow Media pick of the month is a short series on Apologetics helping us to see the rationality of believing in God.

 
 

This Sunday we’ll continue with the theme of conflict, only this time we’ll look at conflict caused by sin.

I’m looking forward to Sunday!

Pastor Kyle

Makeshift Hiking Poles and Relational Vistas

Do you have a favorite month? September is at the top of my list for several reasons. For starters, I really like fall, with its accompanying cooler temperatures and enhanced color templates. On the personal side, I took my first breaths in September and made my wedding vows in September—would you believe on the same day?! Actually, I wasn’t a baby groom, but I did get married on my birthday, twenty-six years later.  

Having just celebrated these two life-changing events this past week, I’m in a reflective mood. I am so grateful for the Lord’s love and mercy to me over these sixty-eight years of life and his faithfulness to both of us in the forty-two years that Bobbie and I have been married. She’s an incredibly gracious companion on this journey we’ve been on, and I owe so much of my growth to her persistence and courage in clinging to Jesus and dealing with relational and soul issues that we, like all married couples, face (yes, that’s present tense!).

Last month Bobbie and I had the chance to get away to Westcliffe, Colorado for a week and a half, and one of our vacation highlights was renting an ATV, riding up to Music Pass Trail Head, and then hiking the mile and a quarter to the majestic views from the actual pass, located at 11,380 feet above sea level!

Being the senior citizens that we are becoming, we had wondered how our tired and achy knees would fare on the hike. Our concern was amplified by my forgetting our hiking poles in the van as we left the rental shop on the four-wheeler!

I did remember them eventually, but it was too late to turn back, so we breathed a prayer to Jesus to help us find substitutes at the trail head! God is so amazing! Upon arriving, he answered our prayers and we both found suitable sturdy branches.  Walking up the Music Pass trail, we took it slow and steady, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other as we wound up the path. We made plenty of rest stops, plopping down on fallen logs and large rocks. An hour or so later, we were rewarded with the best of views from the top of the pass!

Thinking back on that day, it occurs to me that hiking up a mountain trail is kind of like the marriage adventure. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth the view from the top. In spite of sore knees and makeshift hiking poles, Bobbie and I enjoyed the camaraderie of doing something beautiful and difficult together, taking time to quiet our pounding hearts and pace ourselves for the long climb.

I’m grateful to Jesus for his work in our lives and for the way in which in the last years He’s given us the capacity to go to hard places that I would have never been willing to go in our early years of marriage.

A lot of the capacity for this tough climbing has come through the Restarting Class that I’ve had the privilege of leading and learning through multiple times now (we’re offering it again beginning next Tuesday, September 18).

Restarting has given me a template for learning how to build enough relational joy so that we have the strength to look at distressing and broken places in our stories and in our marriage. It’s helped me learn to identify powerful negative emotions (anger, fear, shame, sadness, disgust, and hopeless despair) that I’m experiencing and has taught me how to invite Jesus into places that those emotions have tended to rule my life (shame and fear have been my big ones!). That in turn has helped me develop the capacity to be able to take tough “relational hikes” with Bobbie, given us a sense of when to rest, and resulted in beautiful relational vistas and hope!

I am so thankful for the tenderness with which the Lord deals with us and the grace He so freely offers us.

“The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:14-16)

I would love to have you join me in Restarting this fall (Sep 18 thru Dec 4 on Tuesday nights at 7 pm…check out the class on our website or at the Signup Station on Sunday). And, I hope to see you this Sunday when Pastor Jack preaches on the topic of relational distress with a sermon called “Conflict Revolution.”

Pastor Steve

Out of excuses

Do I have a lifestyle of loving people who don't love God? Can I even say I follow Jesus if I don't? When was the last time I had a meal in my home with someone who doesn't dress like me, look like me, act like me, vote like me? 

I don't know about you, but the sermon this past Sunday was very convicting for me! I was challenged in so many ways to take a look at my heart in the area of leading non-believers.

It's not enough to say that I've been nice to the lady behind me in the check-out line or showed patience and kindness in traffic. I can't use the excuses that I'm an introvert or I'm too busy or I'm trying to keep life simple or I don't have the gift of evangelism or I'm not a good cook or it's scary and uncomfortable or . . .

If God has called me to develop relationships with non-believers that can lead to spiritual impact, then I'm out of excuses. Period.

Did this leave you squirming a bit too?

If so, good!

May that squirm compel us all to be willing to intentionally labor for the kingdom by making space in our lives for non-believers, people who are different than us, people who don't know and love God.

Will you join me in praying for God to reveal who in our lives he wants us to make space for?

I pray God will create in me a heart of compassion and mercy for others that leads me to reach out, build relationships, and to live and speak truth with courage so that hearts will be won for Him. Lord, use me in spite of me!


On a different note, I'm so grateful for so many kids joining us on the first night of Awana and Refuel on Wednesday, and for all the volunteers the Lord provided for the evening! I'm praying for the Spirit to work through these two ministries to help kids love God, love people and lead others to do the same.  

Join us Sunday as we return to our walk through the book of Genesis, looking at chapter 13.

In His power,
Juli Dirks
GraceKids Director
julidirksgcc@gmail.com

Countless, nameless Christians

Growing up, I loved reading historical fiction books because of the way they grabbed my imagination and transported me back in time. In fact, one of my favorites was about a boy who was literally transported back in time through a baseball card to experience the remarkable life of Jackie Robinson.

Not only do times far different than ours rev up the imagination, but looking back on the great figures of history also has a strong power of motivation and encouragement.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to be working on my seminary degree while serving at Grace, and this semester I am studying the History of Christianity. I am only two weeks in, but it has already been a great encouragement to read about the resilience of the Early Church to stand up to persecution and spread the Gospel.

As much as I enjoy having my imagination transported back to a prior era, I can sometimes fall into the trap of distancing myself from the people and events of history, thinking that times are "just so different now" or "what they did would never work these days." Thankfully, as I have read about the Early Church movement in the first- and second centuries, God has brought to mind two major encouragements that have direct parallels in our Christian lives today.

First, stand firm in the face of societal pressure.

The first Christians were persecuted because of their unwillingness to bend to societal pressure and worship the Roman gods. The torture would stop and the government would leave them alone if they would simply bow down to the idols. However, many of these faithful believers - knowing the consequences - boldly stood firm, knowing that Christ's resurrection meant any earthly pain a believer experiences is only temporary.

We may not have anyone asking us to bow down to a physical statue, but we absolutely face societal pressure to bow to idols - money, career, sex, people-pleasing…

May we have the resilience of the early Christians to stand firm under the weight of the cultural pressures we face and say, as the early martyr Polycarp said, "For eighty-six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?"

Second, we all have the influence necessary to spread the Gospel.

When reading the book of Acts it is so easy to marvel at the vast ministries of the apostles and think, 'wow, Paul reached so many people with the Gospel.'

Or, if you are anything like me, it is so easy to look at the famous preachers of today and think, 'man, I'm never going to be able to share Jesus as well as he does.'

The most encouraging thing I have read in my studies so far is that it was not the apostles and the early church fathers who had the greatest influence; it was the "countless, nameless Christians" who were truly responsible for the Gospel spreading throughout the world.

You see, the apostles were limited by their numbers, by only being able to travel so far, and by the available technology for communication. Paul could only be in one place at one time, but a group of ten of Paul's tentmaking buddies could go to ten different towns and each tell ten more people about Jesus while they built their tents.

Gospel ministry is not limited to famous preachers, or even to those paid to minister. Our combined reach and influence is far greater than any one person could have, no matter how funny and engaging his sermons are.

This Sunday, Pastor Jack is going to be preaching Matthew 9 and exploring what it looks like for all of us to lead non-believers to love God and love people. So come ready to be challenged and equipped!

You are the Church. So as you go into your neighborhood, workplace, and school, be the Church.

I love you, Church!
Nathan Ehresman

Prayers for our community

Our kids have officially started school for the first time. What a season! Other than the familiar struggles associated with “starting school,” I have been pleasantly surprised. The boys are doing well, and we know this is the right decision for this school year. 

I’ve also discovered new Christian families in our community. I’ve met so many great people, serving in other churches, all devoted to the truth revealed in God’s Word. Kansas is such a blessed state! This has inspired me to pray for the other churches in our communities with a greater hope and desire for their wellbeing.


In case you haven’t heard, Pastor Dave Reimer is preaching at Grace on Sunday. God has gifted him as a great teacher and writer. What’s most noteworthy, he practices what he preaches. He’s a great example for the What’s True? What’s Real? What’s Next? model of living.

I’ll be visiting Grace Community Fellowship in Hillsboro, one of our church plants. I’m really looking forward to seeing what God is doing in their church family. They have a new building and a new lead pastor. We’ve got to keep praying for them! Our enemy is going to be working more during this season to damage their outreach. May God bless them and keep them.


If you would, please pray for my growth. God is teaching me a lot about resting in Him and silence. I have a personal goal to talk less… lol. Other than exercise, I am working toward hearing God throughout the day in new ways. This journey has so many trails! Just when I think I’ve become acquainted with one “mountain,” I discover a whole new side.

Thank you for your prayers and fellowship in the Gospel. I love you all and pray for you often

Galatians 6:9-10,
Pastor Jack

A prayer for our schools

This week has brought a new season for the Kurtz household. We now have a kindergartner! Yikes. Wow! Whoa. Yipee! Hmm. Maybe you can relate.

If I had to use one word to describe this week it would be unsettled.

We know this won’t always be the case as we make adjustments and learn to roll with the ebbs and flows of a school schedule and a youngster who is trying to attune to a whole new way of going about his week. I’ve been saying to myself over and over, “Not easy, but good.”

This time of year I usually spend a little more time thinking and praying for our schools, the students that fill them, and those who are teaching.

Would you join me?

Often when I’m overwhelmed I don’t always have the words to pray, so I’ve written out a prayer. I’ve utilized a couple of prayer books in forming these words:

Heavenly Father, we ask that you would bless our schools as they begin a new school year. In blessing them, may they be lively centers for sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom. Grant that those who teach and those who learn may find you to be the source of all truth.

We lift up all our students. Be with them as they learn to navigate and grow up in an unsteady and confusing world. We pray you will show them your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing selfish goals. Help them to take failure not as a measure of their worth but as a chance for a new start and humble learning. Give them strength to hold their faith in you and to keep alive their joy in knowing you. In Jesus name. Amen.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren

Random thoughts from Janelle

This week I have lots of random thoughts going through my head and heart!

First, this Sunday, 8/12, marks 15 years that I have worked for GCC. I can hardly believe it! A lot has happened in those 15 years; staff has changed, facility has changed, I have changed, but one thing hasn't changed: God. I'm so thankful that in the midst of changes we can trust in the immutability of God.

Second, last week six of the staff (Jack, Steve, Loren, Nathan, Juli, and myself; Kyle had a family commitment) attended the FEC Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was a great week of hearing from pastors within the FEC, meeting others who minister in FEC, and bonding in the van! There were 4 FEC pastors that each spoke on a part of FEC's mission: Establishing Reproducing Churches Worldwide. I think my favorite was Nirup Alphonse (Lead Pastor LifeGate Church, Denver, CO), who spoke on Worldwide. He asked us "Who has eaten at your table that doesn't look like you, vote like you, or think like you?" Ouch, I don't know about you, but that is convicting to me. 

Lastly, we are busy here in the office getting ready for the start of Sunday school and other fall activities. I know that there are other ministries gearing up for the fall as well, such as Weekday Bible School, Norm's, International Students Inc. If you are interested in volunteering in any of these ministries either here at GCC or in the community, reply back to this email. You can find more information here.

Have a great week!

Janelle Paden
Office Manager

Living Hope

As a worship team we always walk through the lyrics of new songs, pondering them, talking about them, and recalling the Scriptures that inspired them.

Our newest song, “Living Hope,” finds its origin in 1 Peter 1:3-5:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  

The first verse of this song reminds us of the truth that our separation from God, because of sin, was nothing that we could fix! The chasm was too great, the mountain too high for us to get to God. Our sin, no matter how small or big in the world’s eyes, caused a separation between our Maker and us. 

“In desperation, I turned to heaven and spoke Your name into the night” - This next line feels like so many of the Psalms where the Psalmist calls on the name of the Lord for salvation, and also reminds me of Acts 2:21 which says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Thank God that he even gave us the ability to call upon him! 

The verse continues describing how the loving kindness of Jesus, shown through the finished work on the cross, tore through the darkness of our souls and saved us!

The second verse reminds us of how unbelievable the good news is! “Who could imagine so great a mercy, what heart could fathom such boundless grace?” Our eternal God left his glorious position in heaven to come down to earth and take our sin upon him! That is ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense to me, but I believe it! Not only did He forgive us through the cross, but also He calls us His own, and nothing can change that forever!

Then the third verse describes Easter morning when Jesus arose and claimed victory over death, proving that he was God and could in fact provide atonement for our sins!

I want to quickly point back to the scripture in 1 Peter chapter 1. Look what Peter writes right after describing this living hope and our glorious inheritance in heaven: “In this you rejoice!”

You see, this living hope we have in Jesus is cause to rejoice! It’s cause to sing “Hallelujah”!

Appropriately, the chorus rings out triumphantly, “Hallelujah, praise the one who set me free! Hallelujah death has lost its grip on me! You have broken every chain! There’s salvation in Your name! Jesus Christ, my living hope!”

I pray that this song will fill the church facility on Sunday mornings as well as our homes throughout the week to remind us of the incredible hope we have in Jesus!

Looking forward to rejoicing with you on Sunday!

Pastor Kyle

PS, My RightNow Media pick of the month is a great study on Judges from JD Greear!

 
 

The Ultimate Cleansing Agent

Clean windows were a big deal in my house growing up… and I’m still feeling the effects! The good news is that I still like windows. The bad news is that I really detest the smell of vinegar! Yes, I had a great childhood, but for some reason, a simple pungent whiff of vinegar still brings back the less-than-pleasant memories of my most dreaded chore—washing windows with a vinegar water solution in a house that had hundreds of small panes! 

I’ve come to realize that “clean” is not a bad thing, even if it means work, and I do occasionally get around to washing the windows of our house—though I use cleansing agents not called vinegar!

Most of us like the feeling of clean, whether it’s clean windows, clean clothes, clean sheets, a clean car, or clean teeth. Showering after a blistering day’s work in the yard or taking a hot bath before bed are on my list of pleasurable activities. 

I think God likes clean, too. Especially when it comes to the heart. Jesus once chided the religiously scrupulous but proud Jewish leaders, “You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!” (Matthew 23:25 NLT)

Wow! Talk about X-ray vision! He sees us to the core and understands where our true issues lie.

When I hear Jesus referring to our sin as an awful internal pollutant, I realize that just “cleaning up my act” or “putting on a good front” doesn’t cut it with God.

Then how does one get a “clean heart”? 

When King David of Israel—who really loved God—fell into the sins of adultery and murder and was exposed by God’s messenger Nathan after covering up and living a lie for an entire year, David realized he needed cleansing big time and so poured out his desperation to God in Psalm 51:2: “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin,” he pleaded.

David understood what many of us have come to experience—only God can really clean up the mess of our sins.

The best “clean feeling” is when we know that God has forgiven us for all our sins, and we experience his love and grace. He can do that because Jesus died for our sins and paid the price of our offenses, then rose to give us new life, which is something we receive the moment we place our trust in him.

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.” (Colossians 2:13, 14 NLT)

“There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you.” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT) 

I Googled “cleaning products” the other day and read through a whole list of things from Ajax and Brillo Pads to Comet, Febreze, and Sani Flush! But nowhere did I see the ultimate cleansing agent listed—Jesus Christ.

“But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.” (1 John 1:7 NLT)

We get a “bath” when we trust Jesus as our Savior and are considered completely clean before God forever! When we malfunction and sin as God’s children we get a “spot cleansing” whenever we acknowledge our sins to Him.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” (1 John 1:9) 

A clean heart that comes from God is the good news were celebrating this Sunday at our Baptism Celebration at Newton Pool, where at 5:30 pm, twenty-two of our church family are giving testimony of their faith in Christ and identifying publicly with Him. That’s why we’re calling the event “Washed.” 

I hope to see you there.

Bring your family and friends, some food to share, and a chair to sit on, and we’ll celebrate getting “clean” before we enjoy getting wet!

Pastor Steve

Power in the face of opposition

Do you ever find yourself in unfamiliar territory or faced with daunting tasks or situations? Is your desire to continue on with the work God has given you at home, at work or in the church waning in the face of formidable challenge or spiritual opposition? I'd imagine that most of us would answer yes at some point in our lives. It seems God is in the business of stretching and growing our faith often through difficult or impossible circumstances. And our enemy is busy trying to distract, discourage and derail us at every turn.

Two verses have been especially encouraging to me lately when I've doubted my ability to handle where God has put me in this particular place and time to do all these hard things - wife-ing, parenting, leading ministries, combating the enemy, etc. I don't always feel up to the challenge.

Ephesians 6:10 says "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might."

Philippians 2:13 says "For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

The truth about my life is not "I can't" but "God can"! God is the strength in my effort and fight. He is working behind the scenes to help me even want to do the work he's given me, and he is enabling and empowering me to do it. Priscilla Shirer (in her Armor of God Bible study) paints the picture of her growing sons who love to wrestle her, pinning her to the couch and rendering her helpless. She gives up her struggle until their bigger, brawny father steps in the room. He swoops in for the rescue, effortlessly dispersing her captors, and scoops her up into his strong arms granting her victory. She points out through this illustration: "I am not particularly strong, but I'm in relationship with someone who is . . . I'm connected to more spiritual brawn than is coming against me."

Let me encourage you: if you're in relationship with the God of the Universe, then you are connected to "more spiritual brawn" than any challenge or foe you might be facing. Be strong in HIS strength. Arm yourself with HIS power, for he is working to help you want to and do his will.


One looming challenge for the GraceKids leadership team right now is completing our volunteer team for the coming school year. We are actively praying and searching for several volunteers to serve in various nursery, Sunday school and Awana positions. Would you prayerfully consider joining our team as we partner with parents to develop kids who love God, love people and lead others to do the same? We'd love to serve alongside you! We're ready to train, equip, support and encourage our team. Will you join us? If you're willing, please contact me for more information. Pray that God will supply ALL our volunteer needs before we begin Sunday school on August 12 and Awana on September 5th.

In His power,
Juli Dirks
GraceKids Director
julidirksgcc@gmail.com

God's perfect love that casts out fear

Each summer we take a crew of middle school students to LifeChange Camp in Clinton, Missouri. It is always a great time for our students to be refreshed and challenged in their faith. This year I would say they were also profoundly encouraged. Our speaker spent some time sharing how our fears can be significant challenges to our faith, even preventing us from living out our faith in God.

During one of our morning sessions he asked everyone to be honest and write down every fear they have been struggling with recently. I didn’t know how this was going to go. Would the students open up and be vulnerable (a fear for many people)? How would they respond? I was anticipating all kinds of silly answers - which are also legit fears - things like heights, spiders, snakes, etc.

Then that evening our speaker took the whole session and one by one read every fear out loud and asked everyone to stand when he said their fear. The fears he started to read were not silly-answer-fears but fears that can truly overwhelm and cause a person to live according to the fear and not faith. They were also unique to what life is like as a middle school student. Looking back this was a gutsy thing to do and so many of the students were brave enough to stand when their fear was called out.

But he didn’t stop there, because he then used God’s word to speak truth, hope, and love into each fear that was mentioned.

I was once again reminded of how fear plays a big role not only in the lives of students but in everyone’s life. Something I appreciated was seeing how the truth of God’s word can expose the lies associated with each fear. The biggest truth that can begin to expose any fear is the truth of God’s love, his perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18). I pray we may know Him and that we may live by faith in Him because of his great love for us.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren