Parenting is hard!

Parenting is hard!

I’ve been pondering these questions lately: How can I inspire my children? How can I give them a hunger for God’s word? How do I combat the selfishness and entitlement that our culture propagates? How do I change my kid’s hearts?  

The answer is simple. I can’t. 

I’m in desperate need of God’s help to shepherd my kids! He is the one that changes hearts! Parenting has a way of reminding me of my weaknesses, my failures, my inconsistencies, and my desperate need for God’s work in my own heart!

The most effective thing I can do for my children is pray! I pray for wisdom and strength for myself. I pray for my children, that God would draw them to Himself. I pray that they would see their need for Jesus and trust Him as Savior. I pray that their love for God and for others would grow.

The next most important thing I can do for my children is to saturate our home with the Scriptures! Deuteronomy 6:4-9 reminds us of the need to teach our children the Scriptures and talk about them as often as possible. Verse 7 says “You shall teach them [God’s words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  

Much of the artwork in our home has Scripture on it. We talk about the Scriptures a lot, and even do quite a bit of memorizing. AWANA has been a great supplement for getting the Scriptures into our home. We frequently have worship music playing in our home, which is full of God’s truth, and every once in a while we will sing those songs together!  

Just plain reading to my kids out of the Bible can be a struggle, especially for the younger ones (although the picture book Bibles work pretty well). We’ve found that Phil Vischer’s Bible studies on RightNow Media are very well done and engage our 11, 8 and 5 year old really well! If you haven’t gone through those, I highly recommend them for any home with children up to the age of 13 (I love these video studies, and would find an excuse to go through them even if I didn’t have children at home). If you do them, start with 1st John, and then do Ephesians, and then 1st Peter.

Parenting is hard! For those of you that feel like you are struggling, I’m there with you! Let’s pray earnestly to God for our children, and do everything we can to saturate our homes with His word!

My RightNow Media pick of the month is the newest family Bible Study from Phil Vischer on 1st Peter.

 
 

This Sunday is Compassion Sunday! We’ll worship through song, explore God’s word together, and you’ll have an opportunity to sponsor a child from our Bolivia church plant for $38 a month, providing that child with regular Christian training, food, education opportunities, health care, hygiene supplies, and more! You’ll be able to write letters back and forth with this child and will pray for him/her regularly as if he/she were your own child! Our children know that we pray for Peria and Abigail several times a week. Now we will be praying for Anyelo from Bolivia as well!

Looking forward to Sunday!
-Pastor Kyle

Sitting Calmly in the Back of the Boat

Sometimes just breathing can be hard work. Do you ever feel that way?

I'd describe life for me lately as "rainy season". Worries and struggles have been raining down and flash flooding has snuck up on me. The enemy has been busy pelting me with his lies. Honestly, his efforts to distract, discourage and derail have been pretty effective. I've found myself just that - distracted, discouraged and derailed. Sometimes just breathing can be hard work . . . but it's not because God isn't here with me. He hasn't lost control of me or my life. He's waiting for me to trust him so he can show me more about who he is. 

I've been teaching a series of lessons to my 2nd grade class in Newton Weekday Bible School on the miracles of Jesus - how God showed us his power and glory through Jesus. Last week I demonstrated to the class, rather animatedly, how the disciples panicked when a raging storm hit their boat as they crossed the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4). Thunder boomed loudly, huge waves crashed over them, the boat rocked wildly and began to take on water. While the disciples despaired for their lives, Jesus slept calmly in the back of the boat. They must have thought he was crazy! Didn't he care that they were going to drown?! But then, he stood and with only his voice commanded the storm to be quiet, and it obeyed. 

My class sat in awe of my dramatic demonstration (ha!), but I was struck with the realization that I've been reacting much like the disciples. I've been feeling frenzied and frightened, grasping at ineffectual means and methods to help me control my boat in a sea of crazy. But God hasn't been worrying. He knew the storm was coming. He's been waiting for me to trust him. He has power, even just in the sound of his voice, to calm this crazy. Instead of panicking or despairing, I want to make my way to the back of the boat, sit down next to Jesus and let his nearness calm me until he decides to calm the storm. The storm will surely obey him! 

If you're distracted, discouraged, derailed or despairing will you join me there in the back of the boat? Let's stick close to the One whose power and love are unmatched. Our hope in him can hold us steady until he calms the storm. Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you."

On a lighter note, I want to express gratitude to the Lord for drawing kids to himself! We can't celebrate enough that we've had at least eight GCC children (that we know of) come to accept Christ as their Savior in the last 4 months. We're blessed to see him at work in and through our families and ministries for kids! We want to be more intentional about celebrating these decisions, so please be sure to share with me or one of the pastors if you or your child makes a first time decision for Christ or a recommitment. Be praying that God will do this changing work in the hearts of kids through Neighborhood Summer Quest, coming June 4-7. Be watching for ways to be involved in the coming weeks!

In HIS power,

Juli Dirks
Children’s Ministry Director

Cozy Conversations

The season leading up to Easter and the day itself is always a bright spot and this year was no exception. There are so many reasons why Easter is the highlight it is, but this year I’m thankful for the conversations it stirred up in my kids.

Our normal routine after each Sunday morning is to ask our kiddos what they learned during Sunday school and we do our best to dig in a little deeper than their first responses. But on Palm Sunday our son Max launched into a full-on retelling of the story about Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey and the crowd shouting “hosanna!” It was impressive what details he was remembering and the excitement he had in sharing.

Later that day the kiddos went to go see Cozy the Lamb. They went with their mom while I stayed home with our youngest but when they got back they were pumped. I asked them a few questions and with incredible joy they each shared about what they saw. Max was enthusiastic about the shepherd, the dog and the wolf and Lizzy shared about all the dancers as she herself danced around the dining table.

I asked them if they knew that Jesus told a story like Cozy’s story and they said they knew that already.

Of course they did, what was I thinking.

I asked them if the shepherd who helped Cozy reminded them of Jesus at all and they each said yes. In the days to follow “Cozy conversations” kept happening.

Easter was such a blessing. To sing about our risen Lord, to remember and read the story, and to be reminded that we shouldn’t be fooled about Jesus was tremendous.

He is who he said he is.

I’m still marveling.

After the services and lunch our little family had an egg hunt. I hid the eggs outside for the kids to find, in the cold and drizzle, because an indoor egg hunt wouldn’t be “official.” Needless to say, it went quick.

Then we gathered around the table and the kids opened up eggs and snacked on jelly beans as we read the Easter story once again from John 20. What was fun to see was the parts of the story where the kids jumped into tell and share their thoughts.

And just yesterday as we were driving around town Max asked Lizzy if she loved Jesus. Lizzy said, “Yes, Max. I love Jesus. Do you love Jesus?” Max replied, “I love Jesus, Lizzy.” Anne and I smiled at each other.

I asked Max why he loved Jesus and he said, “Because he died on the cross for my sins.” Then Lizzy chimed in, “And he isn’t in the tomb and he is coming again and we are going to get new bodies…”

If you ever ask Lizzy, she is really excited about the new bodies we get when Jesus returns.

It’s such a joy to see the seeds of the Word and faith grow in your children. I’m profoundly grateful for these moments and opportunities to talk with my children about Jesus. I’m thankful to the whole crew who put on Cozy the Lamb, I’m thankful for the children’s ministry and specifically my kid’s teachers and leaders, and I’m thankful for a church that celebrates Easter well.

Grace and peace,
Loren

Holy Week Word Play

One of the cheapest forms of entertainment for me happens to be something the pleasure of which I inherited from my dad. I like to play with words!

Honestly, I’m not a huge word nerd, but what I do enjoy is tweaking combinations of expressions and thoughts, or mixing similar sounding words that end up bringing a smile to my face and groans (of joy) to others. I like to juxtapose things that others might not think of.

OK, I admit, I had to look up the spelling and meaning of “juxtapose” juxta minute ago! You’re getting the picture… I hope! “Juxta” is Latin for “beside,” and so “juxtapose” means “to place alongside of for the purpose of comparison or contrast.”

Thinking about this upcoming Holy Week weekend, I can’t help but shake my head at the crazy juxtaposition of events that are flowing together to vie for our focus. We’ve got the profound mixed with the profane (Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day), and the climactic events of our faith intertwined with college basketball’s biggest weekend! We’ve got the Final Countdown in Jerusalem and the Final Four in San Antonio calling for our attention!

A lot is at stake in each of the arenas of faith and sports.

Could it be, I wonder, that there’s more similarity to be found here than at first glance? Words like “sacrifice” and “unselfishness” are being bantered around in both worlds, and nobody makes it to the Final Four weekend without hard work and painful effort.

My goal in the next several days is not only to enjoy the games, but even more, to savor the sacrifice of Jesus my Savior and to open my heart and respond appropriately to the outpouring of his love.

I recently read of the brave and heroic French policeman who died while attempting to trade places with a woman hostage when a terrorist attacked a supermarket in Trebes last week. Referring to officer Arnaud Beltrame’s courageous act, France’s Minister of the Interior said, “France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice.” Beltrame is being honored because he gave his life for the freedom of the hostages.

Perhaps you, too, would step forward to help someone you love.

Bobbie and I have been recently burdened with the news of her sister, Beth’s, recurring leukemia, for which the only solution now is evidently getting a bone marrow transplant. The other day, without hesitation, Bobbie sent in the test kit and ended up being a perfect match! That means that we’re trying to figure out how to squeeze in a week and a half trip to Puebla, Mexico (where Beth and Chalo live and serve as missionaries) in the next month so Bobbie can make this life-saving donation! I am so proud of her courage and willingness to do something sacrificial.

This all reminds me of Jesus who, with a heart full of love, willingly bled and died to save not just his friends, but his enemies!

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

I was helpless and weak, an enemy of God, and Jesus showed God’s incredible love by laying his life down to pay for my sins so that I could be reconciled to God and live with him as his beloved child forever!

For that sacrifice and for that incredible victory of death three days later, I am completely indebted to my Savior and King.

I’m so grateful to belong to his family now and look forward to celebrating with him for eternity.  In the meantime, I’ll raise my hands and offer my heart to the true hero of the ages until I see him face to face, lifting the ultimate trophy of final redemption! 

See you Easter Sunday!
Pastor Steve

Pastor Jack's "not-so-quiet" time with God

Here is an inside look at my "not-so-quiet" time with God, which includes talking, tears, laughter, and a lot of confession. It begins with what is most important to me…

The highest priority in my life is to love God (Matthew 22:34-40; 1 John 4:19; 1 Peter 1:8). As a way to stay accountable to Him (there are other ways), I repeat these 7 statements of truth and commitment nearly every day. I only repeat the first two sentences: a biblical truth plus bolded commitment.

If I feel conviction from the bolded sentence, I read the rest of the paragraph and even look up the Scripture passage. I always ask God to search my heart.

And He does.

Every time.

Most mornings I shed tears of humility and thankfulness for His unending love in spite of my weaknesses and failures.

1. "God loved me first while I was at my worst, and He will always love me. Therefore, I believe God loves me and remember His love and forgiveness through the gospel of Jesus Christ."  (John 3:16; 14:6; 1 Jn. 4:19; Galatians, Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-7). I can only love God as much as I am loved by Him. I need the truth of the Gospel every day. It is the fuel for my relationship with Him and foundation of the Christian life.

2. "I want and need to hear from God, my Father. Therefore, I read Scripture daily." (John 8:31, 15:7-11; Acts 18:24; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 3:16) I care about what God says. I want to hear from Him. I need His direction in my life. 

3. "God is my Father who wants to hear from me and respond to me. Therefore, I pray with a poured-out heart." (John 15:7-11; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-13; Mark 11:22-24; Acts 4:31; 1 Peter 4:7; Psalm 80:18; Romans 5:3-5) I will talk with Him always. I will cast my cares on Him. I will share each moment and thought and concern with Him. I will voice what is in my heart. I will be open and honest about the hard stuff too.

4. "God never lies or tempts me. Therefore, I trust God completely."  (John 14:1-11; 15:3-8) There isn't anything He wants that I don’t believe is best. He alone knows what is best. In Jesus there is no darkness. My circumstances will not deter me from trusting Him. I will not focus on "the waves" (Peter's experience with walking on water). I will focus on Jesus. Trusting Him is not always easy. 

5. "God’s direction is always best for me. Therefore, I obey God immediately."  (John 14:15-24; 1 Peter 1:22-23) He has complete ownership of my life. My mind and thoughts belong to Him. I will fight for a pure mind. My actions and efforts belong to Him. I will do what He wants immediately. Delayed obedience is disobedience. When I am not obeying, it’s because I don’t believe His direction is coming from a heart of love.

6. "God deserves my worship and expression of love. Therefore, I worship God intimately."  (John 4:23-24; Colossians 3:15-17; Psalm 100:1-2) God is Holy, Holy, Holy; and worthy to be praised! I am a living sacrifice. I bow down to Him out of love. I will sing to Him because I love Him. I love to bless His name.

7. "God is the ultimate and everlasting source of joy. Therefore, I pursue my ultimate joy in God." (Jeremiah 2:9-13; Psalm 16:11; Matthew 13:44-46; Luke 14:26-33) "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." He will be my ultimate source of Joy. I will seek no satisfaction before Him, and I will find no pleasure above Him.

These are not the only truths in Scripture about loving God. You would have to copy and paste all of Scripture to include everything.

Still, these biblical pillars have kept the fear of the Lord in my heart and mind countless times.

Galatians 6:9-10,
Pastor Jack

Executive Pastor and Bolivia Updates

Welcome to my first edition of writing for This Week at Grace. We have developed a Directional Team consisting of Jack, Steve, Kyle, Loren, Juli, Nathan and myself. The purpose of the Staff Journal is that we take turns to give you a glimpse into our hearts. So I would like to share with you 2 things that are on my heart.

Executive Pastor

The first is filling the position of Executive Pastor (XP).

Today is the last day that we are receiving resumes; we have received 16. The Directional Team and Elder representative Audrun Siebert will meet on March 19 and narrow the resumes down to three candidates, then we will begin contacting them for more information. In reality, whoever we choose probably won't start before June 1.

Please pray for us as we make this important decision.

I'm excited to have the XP come on staff to help with policies and procedures, as well as other things. We have a great team working here in the office, so I'm eager to see how the XP will fit in. He will be part of the Directional Team; in fact, he will probably lead it!!

Bolivia

Bolivia is the second thing that is on my heart.

The trip I was able to take with the team down to Bolivia was amazing!!!

I learned so much about Compassion International, how they not only have child sponsorships but also a child survival program for pregnant moms and children up to 1 year old. They also have a GAP program for students after high school.

Compassion’s model for church planting is very unique and incredible.

Then vs Now.jpg

A highlight of the trip was being able to see our church plant, which was awesome. They have purchased the land (thank you to all who bought a duplo(s) and contributed to the church plant) and have started construction. They already have about 200 children attending on Sunday mornings!

But the moment I will never forget is seeing an elderly lady singing and praising God. Below is a picture I took with her.

 
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Please be praying for the Bolivia church plant and be praying and asking God if He is wanting you to sponsor a child from the plant. April 22 is our Compassion Sunday, when you will have the opportunity to choose a child to sponsor. GCC's goal is to sponsor 100 children.

Feel free to ask if you have any questions about the XP or Bolivia. They are both pretty big things that will be happening in 2018!!

Ministering Together,

Janelle Paden
Office Manager

Nathan's 2018 Word of the Year

Every day I wear basically the same thing (jeans and a blue gingham shirt). Every day I park in the same spot (the second to the right of the light pole). Every day I eat the basically the same lunch (ham & cheese sandwich, fruit, animal crackers, and something sweet).

Change is hard for me.

That is why it was a challenge for me when our well-thought-out plans for last Sunday changed when both Pastor Jack and Pastor Kyle got sick on Saturday afternoon.

I had two major takeaways from that morning: 1) I am so thankful for the awesome worship, tech, hospitality, and Sunday school teams we have who serve with excellence no matter the circumstances; 2) I am so thankful for our big God who never changes, even when our plans do.

Change has been even bigger for me lately than just a last-minute worship service audible.

As 2018 approached quickly, Addie and I already knew this was going to be year of change for us. On January 1 I started my new job here at Grace. We are expecting our son to arrive any time in the next few weeks. And with a year starting like that, we are mentally preparing ourselves for whatever additional changes God throws our way.

Deep down, I know that I like routine because it makes me feel like I am in control, like I know what to expect. And that is exactly why I believe God keeps bringing change into my life: I need to be constantly reminded that I am not in control. And it is actually way better for everyone that God is in control instead of me.

So this year I decided to lean into it - to lean into what God is working in my life - by being keenly aware of the changes before- and around me.

This year Addie and I decided to choose a word of the year - a word that we can keep at the front of our minds each day as a way to continually frame the way we live. It did not take long before we settled on our 2018 word of the year: immutability.

Immutability is the attribute of God that describes His unchanging nature.

In a season of life when so much is changing both in- and around us, it gives us so much peace and confidence to know that God - the one who is sovereign over everything - does not change.

No matter how much my life may feel like it is overwhelmingly marked by change right now, my word of the year - immutability - reminds me to rest knowing that God is the one thing that will absolutely remain constant.

Our God, whose steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136 - seriously, go read Psalm 136!), is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Amen.

I love you, Church!

-Nathan Ehresman, your friendly neighborhood Creative Arts Director

To be known and still be loved is an incredible thing!

“I know that you can forgive me, but I can’t seem to forgive myself.
The guilt, it holds on, just like an infection, and I need Your peace to cover me”

This is part of a song I wrote in the midst of my shame and addiction to pornography. Living in shame was the worst, especially during the first year or so when I was trying to hide my sin, cover up my tracks, and present a polished “My life is great” appearance to those around me.

I had already trusted Jesus as my Savior years before the addiction started, and I knew that He was faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9). But I was having the hardest time forgiving myself. The guilt and shame were so heavy upon me.  

It’s much easier now for me to look back and see that even though I had confessed my sin to God, I hadn’t confessed my shame of hiding my sin from others.

The turning point in my battle against the addiction was when I confessed to close trusted brothers in Christ. I started to get prayer, accountability, and encouragement from others running the same race! James 5:6 says “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed…”

There is a lie Satan uses that says you will be overburdened with shame if you confess your addictions, your idols, or your sins to others. But most people find just the opposite to be true. I’ve known several brothers that, after confessing their addiction, have felt an incredible release of shame! A burden lifts when a confession is made and someone actually knows that there are others who are struggling, and that there are success stories of God’s grace breaking the bondage of sin and shame!

God’s Word says that the temptations we face are common (1 Corinthians 10:13), but still we choose to believe we are alone and that no one else is giving in to these temptations. Don’t believe that lie! Don’t live in that shame!

Take it to Jesus, and if the shame is still eating at you, perhaps the Holy Spirit is urging you to confess to a brother or sister in Christ. Perhaps the shame still overwhelms you because even though you’ve confessed your sin to God, you are trying desperately to protect your image, to protect your reputation.

What if we were a people that boasted in our weakness, magnifying the cross of Jesus? What if transparency was the norm in our culture, and no sins were hidden?

I believe (and I’ve talked with others that believe it too) that God is shifting the culture of Grace Community Church! Vulnerability and transparency is becoming more common. Confession is being embraced and celebrated!

To be known, sin and all, and to still be loved is an incredible thing!

Who are we being real with and sharing our struggles with? For some it’s in a community life group, for some it’s a men’s accountability group, for some a women’s bible study, for some it’s a ministry team we serve with. If you don’t have it, I encourage you to find it!

This Sunday we’ll continue in Genesis chapter 3, looking at how sin works in our lives, and of course we’ll worship God through song!

My RightNow Media pick of the month is a session from the 2017 RightNow Media conference.  Check it out! 

 
 

For His Glory,
Pastor Kyle

God's Work at Grace

My family has never had this many medical needs. Let me share what happened this week.

My Home

Courtney had surgery on Monday to repair an umbilical hernia and some abdominal muscle issues caused by pregnancy. The surgery lasted about 3.5 hours and we went home that night with two abdominal drainage tubes.

Recovery will last weeks, but we are taking each day as it comes. The first week requires a lot of hands-on help. Her parents drove up (about 9-hour drive) over the weekend and will be here with us for a week. The kids are loving their time with Grammy and Pappy!

I must admit, I'm pretty tired. Since we've moved to Kansas, we have dealt with a broken arm, a need for eyeglasses, an emergency appendectomy, sleep study, tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, multiple dental fillings, twin pregnancy and birth, common sickness, and now this significant surgery. Will it let up?

I know I'm whining…I mean venting. But I really do want to open my life up to our church. To you. Have you ever had a tough season? It's okay to admit that it's tough. I would not think twice about hearing you out with no judgment.

And because I'm feeling pretty worn out with medical issues, I have prayed for you a little differently. I know that some of you are going through difficulties that make mine seem easy. My heart goes out to you. May we comfort one another with the same comfort we have received.

Last Elder Meeting

Pastor Kyle started our meeting out with a devotional thought from Acts 6:1-7. Then he encouraged us to pray. It was challenging and compelling.

We're still receiving Executive Pastor resumes until March 15. Keep praying!

David Landis (new elder) has offered some extra time to aid our communication between elders and councils. This will encourage and support our invaluable volunteers.

Lastly, the Staff and I are working on some practical helps to serve our community and fulfill our purpose as a church family. We hope to share these in the fall. They will not be more programs, but they will engage all of our members. I cannot wait to share!

I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we continue to look at the rest of Genesis 3. I love you and pray for you often.

Galatians 6:9-10,
Pastor Jack

God's Work at Grace

God's Work at Grace.jpg

I consider it a privilege to pray for you and the efforts of our church. So, let me share some of the wonderful things God is doing. Think of it as a "State of the Church" address. Here is a summary of our last elder meeting from my point of view:

Staff Changes and Additions

We continue to pray about and work on our Executive Pastor search. One of our elders posted the opportunity online and we have already received multiple résumés. The search and interview team are already looking into the possible candidates. We will keep you posted as we reach new steps in the process, but please continue to pray. God is the One we are relying on to guide us through this process.

Pastor Dave, who will forever be an honored, godly example for me, has officially retired. He still volunteers as much as he is able, and he still preaches at Hillsboro while they search for a pastor. His character and life have been a blessing and challenge. I would not be here, and I would not be as supported here, if not for Dave and the elders. He has set a standard that humbles me often. As I'm sure many of you know, you have had an exceptional pastor for 30 years. I have known many, many pastors in my ministry and seminary experience. Dave Reimer sticks out.

We are sad that Edith Buller-Breer, our office assistant and trusted friend, is finishing her service at Grace. However, we are happy for her and the new season that God is beginning in her life. I can't tell you how many times I have walked out of my office and looked for Edith so I could gain her insight on something. She will be missed.

Juli, our GraceKids Director, has advanced to full-time! She is an incredible leader for GraceKids. God has given her a great work here, and I am glad that she continues to lovingly serve our children's ministry. Loren, our Student Pastor, has been training a volunteer intern, Austin Lakey.

We have added two new members to our team: Nathan Ehresman, our Creative Arts Director, and Kathy Meacham, our temporary Front Desk Receptionist. Nathan loves creatively communicating God's truth and our ministries, and we love him! He's already added so much to our team. Kathy has a warm personality and kind spirit. She is a wonderful addition to the office.

Elder Updates

I am so glad that we are an elder led church. Mark Olsen will serve another year as Chair, Marc Friesen as Vice-Chair, and Mike Barter will serve as Secretary. David Hall and David Landis have just joined our elder team. And Kyle and Loren are officially elders now. Maybe you could do me a favor by calling them, "Elder Kyle" and "Elder Loren" the next time you see them. PLEASE! (lol)

New Ministry Opportunity

One of the elders has requested permission to lead a new ministry at Grace. Its purpose will most likely be to meet the physical needs of our members. We are only in the infant stage, so we are excited to see how this takes shape. But I hope you will be praying for our elders that serve us voluntarily. They work hard to minister to you. I thank God for all of them!

Security and Safety

Another topic of discussion has been security and emergency planning. I recently attended an ALICE training and it was eye-opening. We already have emergency plans for fire and tornado (and they are posted). Recently, we developed a volunteer team to research the best safety plans and options for our building security. Although I have never experienced a sense of fear at Grace, I am glad that we are creating plans and taking appropriate steps. Our people, not just our building, are our priority. May God continue to bless us and protect us as He has!

Communication

We are evaluating our communication at Grace: communication to you and our guests and communication between the elders and the staff or councils. I've heard it said, "the biggest mistake in communication is the assumption that it has taken place." Communicating well cultivates unity and clarity. This will help create disciples and send out our people each week with a clear understanding of what God is doing in and through our church family.

Caring for Inactive Members

We are developing new procedures to oversee inactive members and those who are not attending. Pastor Steve is taking the lead in this initiative, and I appreciate the gentleness and shepherd's heart he gives. 

Bolivia Church Plant

Can you believe we collected almost $24,000 to support a new church plant in Bolivia?! I know that brings joy to our Father's heart. We are not just hoarding the gospel and our resources, we are joyfully giving to God's Kingdom and mission! The team from our church that visited Bolivia had so much to say when they got back, and we will share their highlights with you soon.

Church-Planting Residency

Lastly, we have a new resident church planter, Matt Shepherd. He and his wife, Emily, moved here from California with their three beautiful children. He is not on our payroll in any way, but he does receive help from us indirectly through Synergy Kansas, which was previously established by Grace and our three church plants. I get to meet with him each week until his residency ends in April. God has called him to Kansas to train under former Grace staffer, Jay Nickless, as a church planter. 

Matt is developing a TAP (Target Analysis Process) team, which consists of 8-12 people working together over a period of 12 weeks who help explore potential target communities and help the planter discern where the Holy Spirit is leading them to plant a church. If all goes as planned, he will be planting a church somewhere in Kansas by the end of the year. If God wills it, we and the other Synergy Kansas churches (Grace Community Church - Newton; Grace Community Fellowship - Hillsboro; Grace Crossing - Moundridge; and New Anthem - Park City) will be a part of that Kingdom-building celebration.

Final Thoughts

That wasn't much...lol. Our elders meet every third Thursday of the month and I hope to update you after each meeting. At the end of the day, I always ask God, "Is this what YOU want? Lead us as the Head of your church. Are these the right efforts and priorities?" I am thankful that He generously gives wisdom to those who ask in faith. Would you pray that with me? 

I can't wait to see you Sunday as we continue to look at God's design for marriage. I love you and pray for you often.

 

Galatians 6:9-10,

Pastor Jack

 

"I just wish I could find another Christian to hire!"

"I just wish I could find another Christian to hire!"

In a world where Christians are living out their faith, and in their vocations they are truly working with all their hearts as working for the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23), companies would be hoping and trying to find Christians to work for them!

This past Sunday, Pastor Jack reminded us that our work has a purpose, and a big part of that purpose is to be a witness at work that would point people to God!

Some of you may see your job simply as a paycheck. Some of you may find incredible joy in your job. Others may be frustrated with their current job and trying to find a way out.  While still others may be looking for a job, and are simply hoping for a steady income!

When I graduated from college I wanted to do ministry for a living... but that didn't happen until years later. You see, I wasn't working with all my heart as working for the Lord. I was working at what I thought was a temporary job, waiting for my real work to begin. I was just working for the paycheck.

During this time, God was showing His incredible patience to me and waiting for me to respond to His heart.

His heart was that, while working in that home improvement store, I would serve Him, I would represent Him, and I would work at my job with excellence to bring Him glory! 

It took a while, but over the years God graciously changed my heart and my work at the home improvement store became worship! I committed to excellence, to representing Jesus in everything I did, whether people were watching or not! The owner of the home improvement store began to notice and I started getting more responsibilities, and being made in charge of more people.

God was showing me that ministry isn't a vocation; it's a lifestyle that plays out in whatever job you have!

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Colossians 3:23)

Grace, what if all of us worked at our jobs in this way? What if we strived for excellence in our work in a way that gave us opportunity to explain why we work the way we do?

People notice work ethic, they notice integrity, and they also notice if we only work hard when our boss is watching. If we work in such a way that we are giving our best for God, people will want to hire Christians!

So work with integrity and work with excellence even if the rest of your co-workers aren't! Don't abuse your allotted break time, don't waste time on the internet when you should be working. Make the people around you wonder why you work the way you do, and point them to our almighty Creator who is worthy of our best!

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My RightNow Media pick of the month is "The Gospel at Work," which is also a book that Pastor Jack suggested as a resource for further study from Sunday's sermon. If you're like me, you probably won't take the time to read, but you might click the graphic below and listen to the video!

 
 

As always, here in the office, we are looking forward to another Sunday, to gather as God's people, and grow in our love For Him, grow in our love for others, and be quipped to lead others to do the same!  I can hardly wait to hear the church sing the praises of Jesus!

For His Glory,

Pastor Kyle

Opening Myself Up to the One Who Understands Me Best

The other day I had a jolting introduction to the world of age-related ailments and expensive medical solutions! Picking up a prescription for some medication I needed to treat a skin condition on my face shocked me into thinking about my priorities.

I knew ahead of time that this particular 5 oz tube of special facial gel was expensive and not covered by Medicare, and I had almost decided to go a cheaper route. But since the medicine has proved effective in the past and lasted a long time, and since I wasn't sure that a cheaper version would do the trick, I decided to bite the bullet and pick up another identical prescription.

Not only did I bite the bullet... I swallowed it (!)... to the tune of $392.49!

Honestly, I'm not complaining, and, compared to major medical procedures, what I paid for this medication is hardly a drop in the bucket. Still, I'm marveling at how willing I was to put out a relatively large chunk of change to deal with a cosmetic condition! Something that makes the outside of me look and feel better.

The thought then came to me: how much am I willing to invest in my relationship with Jesus in order to upgrade and maintain my soul... the inside of me that desperately needs his healing and restoring work?  

I am so grateful that my heavenly Father has such a good heart, loves me dearly, and wants me to grow into the life he has always wanted me to experience in relationship with Jesus, his Son. 

This year, in a deeper and more passionate way, I'm choosing to open myself up to the One who understands me best, has my best interests at heart, and knows how I fit in his kingdom.

I'm drawing comfort from the verses we've chosen for our Amigo 20 team to memorize as we prepare to serve at Children's Haven International's children's home this March (1-9):

"How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light." (Psalm 36:7-9)

I love how Todd Wagner, founding pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX, expresses God's heart so practically in his book, Come & See"God is not looking to rip you off... He is looking to set you free."

God is so good and unbelievably generous, and I am trusting Him in 2018.  I hope you'll join me in choosing to love God, love people, and lead others to do the same!

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday when we get to gather as the deeply-loved bride of Jesus and hear His heartbeat as we worship in song together, continue in Pastor Jack's sermon series on Genesis, and vote to affirm elders.

Resting in Jesus,

Steve

Overwhelmed by the Kindness of the Lord

This past month Courtney's parents, my dad, and my brother and sister-in-law have all visited my home. We welcomed them in and cared for them. We worked hard and sacrificed some of our own comforts so their stay could be as pleasant as possible. I write this to make a point, and it's not to give Courtney a pat on the back for being such a great hostess. I noticed something with their visits that I had not considered much before. 

We were hospitable and pursued excellence in the care we gave, but we didn't follow any etiquette. There was no special "code" for them to follow or social norms to adhere to. We didn't treat them like customers entering into our store. They didn't sense a "professionalism" in our relationship. They were free to be in their pajamas and leave their hair uncombed while lounging around in our living room. They enjoyed their stay because they felt welcomed.

As I reflect back on my first Christmas Eve at Grace Community Church and the last 7 months here in Kansas, I am overwhelmed by the kindness of the Lord. Courtney, the kids, and I have been abundantly loved and cared for, and I can honestly say that serving as a pastor here has been a great joy and by no means a burden. I often feel inadequate and humbled by the responsibility, but I have never felt unloved. Thank you, Grace Community Church, for your hospitality and encouragement toward me. You are a true blessing and gift to our family.

With this great experience, I wonder if everybody who has encountered Grace feels the same way. Can you say with confidence that every guest and member has had a similar experience? Have they all been treated as wonderfully as I have been? If not, then join me! We have a great goal ahead of us. Let's all be a true blessing and gift to those around us. Let's show this same hospitality to our neighbors and those who step foot in our building.

Hospitality is important to God, and it should always be important to us. God uses it to change people's hearts. Please join me as I commit to sharing what has been shared with me. Our hospitality may be the very thing God uses to welcome a stranger into His family.

Galatians 6:9-10,

Jack Napier

(If you want an overview of Scripture passages on hospitality, please check out this article.)