Preparing for Easter

Ever have the holidays or a special occasion sneak up on you?

I have.

This usually puts me into a last minute scramble of trying to find a present, or write a note, or make appropriate plans. It’s stressful to say the least, and after the event passes I’m always left wondering why I can’t seem to remember that I want to remember these important moments or I’ll have a sense of shame for missing out on the significance of celebrating something or someone in the way it or they should be celebrated.

I share that because this is something I’m working on.

We are headed towards Easter. Can you believe it?

Remembering and celebrating Easter is one of those significant occasions that can sneak up us.

Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 15, says, “and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins… if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Needless to say, the resurrection is a big deal.

I want to walk into church on Easter Sunday having already prepared to deeply appreciate and celebrate Jesus as the risen Savior and Lord that he is.

One way many have found helpful in preparing to draw one’s attention to the significance of Easter is to walk through the season of lent prior to Easter. If you look it up on Wikipedia you’ll see that lent is for the believer to prepare “through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.” Many traditions will do a fast of some sort to create space for prayer.

In my experience, lent has proven to be an extended time of digging into my profound need for Jesus. It has been an opportunity to practice and invite God to do what the Psalmist says in Psalm 139:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!”

Every year, I gain a greater appreciation for Jesus as he continues to do his good work in my life. Often he has tenderly dealt with my weaknesses, addressed pride, and my tendency toward wandering.

Then when Easter comes my soul swells with gladness. 

Jesus being raised from the dead confirms he is who he said he is and his offer of forgiveness and new life can be trusted.

Easter is coming. I'm praying it won't sneak up on us but that we can meaningfully rejoice and in our risen Savior and Lord.

I look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday as we continue in our Real Faith series, exploring “An Obedient Faith” from James 1:22-27!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren

Praying During Our Services

So there I am on Sunday morning, gathered with a couple dear brothers in Christ praying for God to move in our church in mighty ways:

  • We’re reading and praying through scripture, calling on God’s promises and faithfulness that His word will accomplish His work (Isaiah 55:10-11)

  • We’re praying for our hearts to be like good soil, to receive God’s truth (Matthew 13:23)

  • We’re praying for the living and active word of God to expose our hearts (Hebrews 4:12)

  • We’re praying for the Holy Spirit to move among us, to convict us, to empower us (John 16:8; Acts 1:8)

It shouldn’t surprise me that the very first time we have a dedicated group of people praying during the service that a projector crashes on us. Thankfully we have 2 projectors!

We know God wants us to get teams of people praying for the services, and we know that Satan doesn’t want that. I’ve been expecting attacks from Satan and I expect that we’ll have more challenges as we continue to get prayer warriors together to pray during the services.

If you are interested in being on a once-a-month rotation to pray during the 9am or 10:30am service, please let me know!

For some of us, praying for an extended time is easy, for some it may be a challenge. Some of us prefer praying silently, while others prefer praying out loud. Some of us pray while kneeling, some of us pray while pacing back and forth in a room. Some of us like it really quiet, for others we like to have worship music playing while we pray. 

It really doesn’t matter how experienced you are, how comfortable you are, or how you prefer to pray, if God is stirring in your heart to do this, contact me! [Editor’s note: you can send Kyle an email at]

If you’re not sure how to pray during the services, I’ll be working with Debby Graber to have some material to help guide us in our prayers, and we’re working on a space in the church facility to provide a secluded prayerful atmosphere for our teams to gather. We also know that many of you may want to walk around the church facility while you pray and that of course is encouraged as well.

2019 has started out with a great emphasis on prayer, and we are committed to growing the ministry of prayer at GCC. We are dependent upon God, and we want to see him work in mighty ways!

Also, you may not know that every Thursday at 3pm in the Worship center a group of people gathers to pray! If you can be a part of that, we’d love for you to join us! And even though it’s really early, you can come pray with me in the worship center on Sunday mornings at 6am! I have to warn you though, I like to play worship music fairly loud while I walk through the chairs praying for people as they come to mind and praying for the service.

I’m looking forward to singing praises together on Sunday morning, and continuing in the book of James! This has been such a great challenging series so far! Hope to see you then!

For His Glory,
Pastor Kyle


I went to a chiropractor for the first time. I woke up with a neck that decided it wasn't going to turn anymore. And when I tried to fight against its will, I lost. 

I don’t want to complain or whine... most of my friends have been through this and worse. But it's my first time. And you know how the "first time" can seem intense.

Throughout the day I could barely look down or turn my head to the right. Depending on how I moved my arms, I got a shooting pain that stopped me in my tracks. The doc said it should get better; to call if it’s worse; and I met with him again two days later.

I realized throughout the day that it was a trial meant to humble me. God and I both knew I had ignored His "quiet voice" the previous day, I just wasn't bringing it up in prayer.

Do you ever have those moments where you try to pretend that everything is fine because you're not committing major sins? 


Here's how it started: The morning before, I felt the urge to fast and pray. It was a normal Tuesday, but I really needed to seek God's face about some things. But instead, I ended up renting a movie to watch after the kids went to bed. To make it worse, I stayed up even later than that watching comedy (clean) and political videos online. What a waste of time! These are not bad activities within themselves... but I knew Jesus was asking me to fast and pray, and I decided to ignore the prompting. I was what the Bible refers to as, "stiff-necked" - pun intended. 

So I prayed in pain, realizing that I had some fessing up to do. I gave into the entertainment and food idols I’ve been flirting with since I was a kid. I don’t know why I constantly find myself going back to those empty buckets with holes at the bottom… I already know better. 

I know the difference between right and wrong, most of the time. But certain moments/days/seasons I feel extra tempted. Extra tired. Extra selfish. I've learned from older saints that I shouldn't waste time focusing on the temptations themselves, but ask God, "What is the root of this? Where am I not trusting you? Why am I not going to You instead?"

I'm glad He doesn't give up on me. I tell Him: "I'm really young in that area... always feeling like an infant. Would you fill me with Your Spirit, and transform my heart? I am a child. I am helpless. Would you help me? I know You're better than anything the world has to offer. Help me be honest... I can't do it without You." 

Amazingly, He wants to answer those questions WITH me. Even though I don't always know what to ask for, I am always grateful that He meets me in those moments, desiring to "process" my pain and addictions with me. He does not shame me or guilt me. He ministers to a contrite heart. He never turns away the repentant sinner.

My interactions with Him reminds me, “If He couldn't work with a sinner or saint needing grace, He wouldn't have anybody to work with.” That's not an excuse, just the truth.

It took a sore neck and chiropractic appointment to open my eyes. But I’m glad He gave it to me. I know it’s because He loves me.

I look forward to this Sunday. [Nathan’s note: Don’t forget to set your clocks forward an hour on Saturday night! Or, you know, count on your phone to do it for you.] We’ll be talking about temptations and the power of pleasure.

I’ll see you there,
Jack Napier

5 Things We Want You To Know about Juli as XDM

We are thankful to announce that our very own Juli Dirks has accepted the new role of Executive Director of Ministries! In the wake of this news, here are 5 things we want you to know about Juli taking this new role:

  1. Juli’s title will be Executive Director of Ministries

    As the Executive Director of Ministries (XDM), Juli will help to communicate, mobilize, and implement the vision for our church as given by the Elders at Grace. Hers will be a vital role in bringing unity to the many ministries happening under the Grace Community Church umbrella. For more details on her specific job description, check out this page.

  2. This has been a long, thorough process

    Our elder board has been talking for years about an executive pastor, but the search began in earnest during fall 2017. Over the course of numerous months, the search team received many resumes and interviewed a number of candidates, but none of them felt like the right fit for one reason or another. Then, in fall 2018, the search team and the elders reevaluated our needs and felt God leading us to consider the possibility of an executive director. Once we expanded the search to include executive director candidates, we received 12 applications. From those 12, we identified and interviewed our top 3. From those, Juli clearly rose to the top. The search team then recommended Juli to the Elders, who had their own interview with her.

  3. The Elders are unanimous in their support of this decision

    After interviewing Juli, the Elders reached the joyful and unified conclusion to offer Juli the position of Executive Director of Ministries (which we are so thankful she accepted!). Through interviewing Juli, it became obvious to the Elders that she is gifted with organizational skills and that she has a humble servant’s heart. Hiring Juli for this position is the culmination of many hours of prayer and discussion, earnestly seeking God’s will for our church.

  4. We believe God has called Juli to this position at this time in the life of our church

    At the same time God was taking our church on a journey to be ready to receive Juli in this role, He was taking Juli on a journey to prepare her to take this role. Over the last 18 months, God has been revealing to Juli that He wants her to move from being a “manager of doers” to a “leader of leaders.” It wasn’t until one search team meeting when the question was raised, “Is there someone already in our church who God has gifted to fill this role?” that Juli began to wonder if this was the new role that God had been preparing her for. And, as it turns out, we believe it is! We are so thankful for the way God has provided for our needs, and that He did it from within our own church family.

  5. GraceKids is in good hands

    Juli’s first day as XDM is tomorrow, March 1st. That leaves us temporarily without a GraceKids Director, but we are confident that because God moved Juli into a new role He will also bring in someone who will take GraceKids to the next level. In the meantime, Juli’s team of leaders will take up some extra responsibility and the awesome team of volunteers will remain in their roles. Meanwhile, Juli and her search team will be accepting resumes, interviewing candidates, and praying that God brings the right person to be the next GraceKids director in His good timing.

If you missed last Sunday’s service - or simply want a refresher - you can watch the video below to hear more details about the process, the job, and how God has been at work throughout from several of our elders and Juli herself:

Finally, we want to thank you, church, for praying through this process over the last 18 months. Although the journey to get to this point was unexpectedly long, we can clearly see how God was at work preparing both Juli and us as a church for this next season of ministry. We are grateful to our good and loving Father for His wise provision!

Ultimately, it is our prayer that God’s kingdom would grow as a result of Juli’s ministry as our Executive Director of Ministries. Would you join us in that prayer?

Lost and Formed

I’ve worn my stocking cap a lot these days, largely because I’ve believed something which is evidently not accurate!

I read recently that the oft-repeated claim from well-meaning folks (myself included) that in frigid weather we lose eighty percent of our body heat through our heads, is not exactly true! When it’s chilly we lose body heat from any exposed part of us, say those who care about accurate perceptions of life and health.

Still, with these cold and snowy days we’ve had this past week, imagine my disappointment last Monday when I realized that I had lost my favorite wool stocking cap! Regardless of the eighty percent heat loss myth, the fact that something important to me was missing was not a pleasant feeling!

I retraced my steps from the morning and called around to the places I’d been. No hat anywhere!

Over lunch with Bobbie, I glanced out of our living room window and commented off-handedly about a squashed plastic bottle lying on our driveway. It’s too bad I didn’t follow my good impulse to throw it in the trash.

Imagine my relief when later in the afternoon, Bobbie texted me that the “squashed bottle” in the driveway was actually my stocking cap, which had evidently fallen from my coat pocket when I checked the mailbox at noon.

Pondering this little “lost and found” vignette, I got to thinking that the “Something’s missing in my life” feeling is more common to us than we probably care to admit, especially when it comes to our Christian lives.

I resonate with how David Takle, author of the “Forming—Change by Grace” course that we are offering starting next month, puts it: “Most of us have experienced the heavy weight of knowing all the things we should be doing and all the things we should not be doing, and the exhaustion of being forever behind where we think we ought to be by now. Giving more and trying harder seem to be the only alternatives we know.  Many of us have virtually given up hope of becoming more of what God wants us to be, because we have no idea how to add any more to what we are already doing.”

What’s missing?

What God really wants to do in us, Takle says, is to change us from the inside out.  Instead of us trying hard to do the right things and hoping our inner being will somehow catch up, God wants to first grow and change our heart so we are naturally inclined to live better. This is what is called “being formed into the image of Christ.” (Galatians 4:19).

I would really love to have you join me this spring in our 12 week Tuesday night “Forming” class (March 12 through June 4) as we explore how to “sail” under the direction and power of God’s Spirit, instead of just asking for strength to “row harder!”

In “Forming” we’ll learn how to develop a genuine relationship with God and to engage him for the transformation we long for.

If you sense that’s what’s missing in your life, let’s dig into real growth and restoration together!

Detailed information is available here or at the Sign Up Station in the foyer on March 3.

See you Sunday when Pastor Jack continues his new sermon series on “Real Faith” from James.

Pastor Steve

Jesus > Kit-Kats

Valentine’s Day was pretty fun growing up. It usually started out with some kind of cherry-flavored baked good for breakfast, then it was out the door with my home-decorated shoebox-turned-mailbox, ready to collect a pile of cartoon-themed valentine cards. Or, more importantly, to collect the pieces of candy taped to the pile of cartoon-themed valentine cards.

The day always started out well enough, but then my sin-nature inevitably reared its ugly head.

After all the valentines were passed out we would dump them out on our desks and sort through them all to assess the haul. No matter how many valentines and pieces of candy I received from my classmates, I wasn’t happy if I got the one with Raphael instead of the one with Leonardo (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not the Renaissance artists; my friends weren’t that sophisticated). I wasn’t happy if I got the one with the Butterfinger instead of the Kit-Kat.

I have this bad tendency of comparing myself - or what I have - to other people and what they have. I am happy with who I am or what I have until I see someone who is more or has more.

No matter where my eyes fall, temptation lies in waiting.

It’s kind of like how I set our 10-month-old son Caleb down in the middle of the room and the first thing he wants to crawl for is the electrical cords. So I turn him away from the cords and he crawls over to the stairs. So I turn him away from the stairs and he crawls into the bathroom and tries to pull up on the toilet.

The sin inside of me is always pulling my heart toward the things - whether it is a new gadget, an additional skill, or the ability to dunk a basketball - that I don’t have.

While none of these things are inherently bad, the longing for what I don’t have distracts me from thanking God for what He has already given me.

Recently, God was stirring in my heart an awareness of this propensity to sin, and then He brought Philippians 3:7-11 to my attention:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

… the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

I am constantly getting lost in longing for what I don’t have. What I so easily forget is that what I do have is everything.

Because I am in Christ and he is in me, what I do have is of surpassing worth beyond anything else that I could ever long for.

What a humbling truth.

But, at the same time, what an encouraging truth!

My heart is stirred to praise when I consider the grace of God to offer me resurrection from the dead by no means of my own, but by the loving gift of Christ’s righteousness.

I hope you will join us for worship on Sunday! I’m excited because Pastor Kyle (and a worship choir!) will be introducing a new song to our repertoire and Pastor Jack will be kicking off a new sermon series on the book of James, during which we will be challenged to consider the question Is what’s true in the Bible real in my life?

I love you, Church!
-Nathan Ehresman

Pouring out your heart before God

I appreciated our focus on prayer through the month of January. The dynamic of prayer that really stood out to me was how prayer should be like a relationship between a good father and his children. In prayer we pour out our hearts to God in praise, petition, confession of sin, and thanksgiving.

We should do what Psalm 62:8 leads us towards, which is to “trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

Even so, the “what should be” of our prayer life can be a struggle and perhaps, if we are honest, non-existent. We need the reminding of who God is, and the encouragement of what it’s like to engage him as Father. For this I’m grateful.

The A Praying Life seminar helped to bring some revitalization to my “asking” God for what is on my heart. I’ve also decided to “track” my prayers more closely this year. And I’d like to share a couple of highlights that have already happened.

On a personal note, we have and will continue to pray that our kiddos will come to know the love of God that is found in trusting Jesus. Anne and I are grateful for a church who focuses on this, an extended family that demonstrates this, and a social environment that is shaped by this. Our kiddos are saturated in God’s love. Yet we still know they have to come to an understanding of their need for this love for themselves and for them to make a personal decision.

Well, God has begun to answer this prayer as our oldest son, Maxwell, made a decision to trust Jesus!

Next, I’m excited to see how God is stirring in our young adult crowd as there is a group forming! We have been praying as a church for several months that God would bring together the right group and leaders to get something started. Praise the Lord as they are planning on kicking off this coming Sunday night! Please continue to pray for this group as they get started and move forward.

I’d like to end by sharing something I’m praying about and looking forward to.

On the high school side of Igniter we are going to do a six week series called “Girl Talks and Guy Talks” where will separate the girls and guys in order to focus on key subjects unique to each gender. We have been praying and planning for several months for this. Please join me in praying for our students to be encouraged and challenged in their walk with Jesus and for our speakers to have freedom and joy as they share from God word and their lives.  

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren

Practicing the Presence of God

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

You've probably heard that phrase before. But I'm seeing it in a little different light this week as I've been pondering my prayer life during our emphasis on prayer this month. It brought to mind another phrase that I feel God has been leading me in lately - "practicing the presence of God."  

'“Practicing the presence of God' means not only staying aware of Jesus throughout the day . . . [but also] living every activity of the day with Jesus, by his side, sharing every experience with him." -Fr. John Bartunek 

I have been working towards increasingly inviting Christ into all the moments of my day.

He's already there, of course, but the busyness of the day takes my focus away from the One who goes before me, walks beside me and hems me in behind. 

I've found that picturing Jesus physically in the room with me has allowed me to create room in my mind and heart for being with him and sharing my life with him more fully.

Sometimes I picture him riding in the front seat with me as I drive to work; his hand on my shoulder and a loving smile on his face. Sometimes I picture him sitting with me in our front room early in the morning as I drink tea and quiet myself for Bible reading, or holding his hand as I take a walk in the sunshine. Sometimes his arm is around me expressing understanding for frustration I'm feeling or he's embracing me in a big bear hug and just letting me cry. No need for words between us. Just me with him and him with me. 

It's here that "a picture is worth a thousand words" for me. Here I can most easily find my true identity and stability in him.

Sometimes words aren't enough to express what's really in my heart and my words get in the way of Jesus sharing what's on his heart. The picture of him with me and the quiet connection between us is worth a thousand words.

Psalm 16:11 says,

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Though I will continue to pray boldly, humbly, specifically and with scripture (as we’ve learned so much about this month), I also want to prioritize making space in my day and my heart for his presence, where my heart and his heart can align.

Will you make space for Jesus this week?

We look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday! Join us as we hear from Nathan Ehresman, our Creative Arts Director, on sharing the Gospel faithfully wherever the Spirit is leading you.

-Juli Dirks

"He who sings prays twice"

“He who sings prays twice”

This quote is often attributed all the way back to St. Augustine. Although it’s debatable who actually said this originally, it’s been quoted for centuries, and there’s some great truth in it.

Have you noticed that some songs could simply be read as prayers? Have you ever thought of the songs we sing as prayers to God?

So many of the lyrics of the songs we sing are words I would and do find myself praying.

“Lord I need You, oh I need You, ever hour I need You”

“Let Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it, seal if for thy courts above”

“Turn my eyes away from searching for lesser glory, turn my eyes. Teach my heart with all Your wisdom to live for heaven, teach my heart”,

“Build Your Kingdom here, let the darkness fear, show Your mighty hand, heal our streets and land.”

One of my favorite worship bands is “Citizens and Saints”. I use a lot of their music in my private worship. I especially love their “In Part” album.

Last Sunday we shared their song “Father You Are All We Need” which is based on the Lord’s Prayer that Jack has preached on the last 2 weeks. I’m not sure if we’ll actually add the song to our repertoire, but we are going to sing it again this Sunday. The song is worshipful, and prayerful.

This month, my mind has been in awe of our almighty Creator, who invites us to talk to Him and address Him as Father! Wow!

I’ve also been graciously reminded of my helplessness. I need God, I need Him to work in my heart. I need Him to work in my kid’s hearts. I need His strength and wisdom as I walk with brothers in Christ through hard things. I need His grace and forgiveness day after day!

Church, let’s continue to make 2019 a year of prayer.

Would you join me in some specific prayers?

Would you join me in praying for strengthened marriages and restored relationships? Would you join me in praying for increased impact from our Sunday morning services? Would you join me in praying that our love for God would grow, that our love for people would grow, and that we would take every opportunity to lead others to love God and love people?

See you Sunday! 
- Pastor Kyle

"Our Father in heaven..."

Jack 1-17-19.png

Amelia is only 3 years old. However, you wouldn’t know that if you took her shopping with you.

Allow me to elaborate.

Last Saturday I decided to take her with me to a major grocery store in Newton. She wanted to go on a “daddy-daughter date.” So, Courtney dressed her up and got her ready.

She looked beautiful. Her hair was brushed and put up, her outfit was cute, and she kept smiling and saying, “I’m going on a date with daddy!”

On the way there, she requested to peruse the toy section. I obliged, just happy she wanted to be with me.

But would you believe that it took us 25 minutes to even get to the toys! We could not pass a single endcap without her saying, “OHHHH!!! I really wanted to show you this!!!” Or, “AHHH! I always wanted to get this!” 

I listened to her talk (somewhere in the vicinity of 200 wpm) as she walked down every aisle of the shopping store, telling me every thought that entered into her mind.

And I couldn’t have been happier.

A passerby even stopped to tell me, “You are so blessed.” And she was right.

Now remember, this was a normal shopping errand to a simple store, 1 mile away from our house. Not a holiday. Not a birthday. Not a carefully marked date on the calendar. But for us, it was special. Very special.

Why? Because I love being with her. I love it when she talks with me and wants to be with me. I could listen to her share her heart forever.

The time we share is special to me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love her, she is my baby girl. 

And I believe this is similar to how your Heavenly Father feels when you spend time with Him.

He loves you so much. He longs for those “regular, non-holiday, uneventful” times where you talk with Him. When you tell Him about your day and week and heart and thoughts. When you open up to all that is swirling around. 

I’m glad I get to share a little of my life with you in these staff journals. I know you love us and think of us often.

In the words of the Apostle John, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4, ESV)

May you walk with God, knowing that He is your Father in Heaven who knows and cares.

Matthew 6:9,
Pastor Jack

Highway to the Throne Room

Since one of my “hobbies” is creating quizzes, I thought I’d throw out a random question for you. 

Here it is:  “What do Sacramento, Winnipeg, Mexico City, and Washington, DC have in common?”

If you answered, “Cities that God loves,” give yourself a pat on your soul.  Good answer, but it wasn’t the one I was thinking of. 

If you came up with “Cities all connected by highways which intersect in Newton, Kansas,” congratulations! You hit the geographical nail on the head!

I still remember the day when little ole’ quiz-loving, map-junkie me discovered that our humble little community sits at the crossroads of North America!!

That’s right! I haven’t tried this, but I’m told that if one takes Main Street (Highway 81) as far north as possible, one winds up in Winnipeg, Manitoba! Follow Main Street as far south as the road will go, and one will be driving into Mexico City!  

Head west on Highway 50, and with enough tanks of gas, you’ll be pulling into Sacramento, California. Take off east on Highway 50, and you’ll find yourself passing right by the White House! 


How does this sound? President Trump lives “just down the road” (a mere 1240 miles) from Newton, KS! 

OK, we’re not exactly neighbors—not even acquaintances—and simply because of our “Newton Connection,” the chances of me getting an audience with him in the Oval Office are slim to none. But somehow the thought that there’s a “direct line” from my town to his house is a sweet thought to me.

Which leads me to ponder in amazement the privileged access those of us who belong to the Lord through faith in Jesus Christ have into the throne room of the universe!

When I open my heart to my Heavenly Father and talk to Him about my desperate need or my deep appreciation, it’s like there’s a direct line into the command center of the King of kings!

I can think of no other relational activity that means more to God or to me than interacting with Him in prayer. And I can think of nothing more powerful to do for or with someone than to bring them before the throne of the true sovereign of the ages, our incredibly gracious God who, at great personal expense and effort, has opened the door for us lost ones to come home and become members of His family forever!

Prayer is our powerful and greatest privilege because God loves us, welcomes us, and has chosen to let us partner with Him in His mission to reveal his beauty and goodness, his wisdom and saving power to our world.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I am so grateful to hear that over 200 people have signed up for A Praying Life seminar coming up next weekend!

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, in response to awakened prayer in our lives, God would do something so wonderful in us, our church family and our community that Sacramento, Winnipeg, Washington DC, and Mexico City would be impacted for the glory of God!

See you this Sunday, as Pastor Jack continues his sermon series on prayer.

Pastor Steve

A Prayer for 2019

How successful are you with New Year resolutions?

Journal daily… drink 3 Nalgenes full of water each day… don’t use the snooze button…

These are all resolutions of mine from years past. I have had varying levels of success, but almost inevitably lose focus and fail to carry the momentum of a New Year resolution through the full 365 days.

A few years ago, Addie introduced me to a new way of doing beginning-of-the-year reorientation: choosing a “word of the year” on which you regularly mediate. It could be anything you want; the idea is to choose something that, by being reminded of this word, will draw you closer to God.

My 2018 word of the year was immutability, which refers to God’s attribute of being absolutely unchanging. This proved to be a perfectly fitting word for what turned out to be my most change-filled year yet (new job, new baby, new house). Because I had chosen immutability as my word of the year, I was constantly reminded that no matter how much things change in my life, God never changes. I found great peace in that.

This word of the year practice has been far more beneficial to me than any set of resolutions ever was, so I plan on continuing it for 2019.

(Can we pause and say, ‘Whoa! It’s 2019?!’)

I have decided to put a twist on it this year, though.

During the month of January, we are focusing on prayer here at Grace:

Drawing on that prayer focus, I have decided to write a short daily prayer based on my 2019 word of the year: value.

Gracious, Almighty Father God,
Thank you for Your steadfast love which endures forever. I pray that You transform my understanding of value this year. Help me to see that my value lies in Your love for me, rather than in anything I do or don’t do. Help me to value each and every person I encounter the way You do; may my interactions with people be filled with a reflection of Your steadfast love. Help me to value each moment - big or small - and how it can be used for Your glory.

It is my prayer that, by reading my attempt at reorienting my focus on finding my value in God and understanding value the way He does, you will be inspired to choose your own word of the year and write your own prayer.

May 2019 be a year in which God draws you near to His heart in new and deep ways!

-Nathan Ehresman

PS, I hope you’ll join us this Sunday as we worship through song together and explore how Jesus prayed in Mark 1:35 and Luke 5:16. We will also be voting to confirm the three elder candidates presented by the current Board of Elders. And, finally, if you want to learn more about Grace, join us for Starting Point immediately following the 10:30 service!

Christmas Killers

What’s killing Christmas for you?

I've been listening and observing a lot lately and I've heard so many people say they're struggling to enjoy what is supposed to be "the best time of the year". They're tangled up in the busyness of the season, the stress of gift-buying and the difficulty of navigating strained family relationships during the holidays. I can completely understand!

I recently listened to a convicting podcast by Pete Scazzero called "The 4 Christmas Killers". Though he was speaking mainly to church leaders, I felt there was great truth to share for anyone. He pointed out that Christmas can be a low point spiritually for many who are working hard to make it a meaningful and fruitful time - that in that process we lose "the wonder and beauty of celebrating God's coming in Jesus of Nazareth."

The four Christmas killers he identified (I'm sure there are others) were:

  • Rushing -  "The pressure of too much to do, in too little time, causes us to push a button into an ‘autopilot’ spirituality. We end up speaking of profound spiritual realities but our hearts slowly shrink."

  • Living in anxiety - Anxiety keeps us busy, and busyness keeps us anxious. We try hard to do things perfectly. We worry over relationships.

  • Doing too much - Packing our days (and nights) full of events and activities. Pushing past our God-given limits. It makes us so weary.

  • Forgetting our greatest gift is who we are, not what we do - "Our number one work is to remain deeply connected with the Father, with ourselves, and with those closest to us." The craziness of the season can cause us to not be truly present with the Lord and those we love. 

So what can we do about these things that threaten to ruin the season? Slow down! Make time to be alone and pray. Relax! Ask God to help us focus on what's most important and eliminate what isn't. Remember to be present with the Lord and those around us.

I don't know about you, but I needed to hear all of this!

I pray that God will help us to center our hearts on him as Christmas week approaches, and that the wonder of Christ's coming will truly fill us with awe and joy!

Join us this Sunday as we worship Jesus as our Lord and Savior!

Juli Dirks
GraceKids Director

Introducing Julie Marshall as Office Administrator!

We are excited to introduce Julie Marshall as our office administrator! Julie’s first day in the office will be January 2. Since Julie will be the new friendly face of the office, we wanted to give you the chance to get to know her a little bit.


Julie and Brad Marshall have been married for almost 8 years. They have a Brady Bunch-type family with 6 kids: 3 boys and 3 girls, from ages 27-17. They are very much a basketball family - most of their free time is spent watching 3 of their kids play (2 in college, 1 in high school).

Julie has been attending Grace for most of the last 13 years. Together, Julie and Brad serve on the worship team, at the Connection Desk, and at the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner. They are also involved in a Community Life Group and enjoy attending other Grace events like Christmas Caroling (hope to see you there this Sunday!).

Julie is coming to us after 13 years of working as a dental assistant at Tippin Dental Group. She thoroughly enjoyed her time there assisting Dr. Andy Friesen. She felt the Lord telling her it was time for a change, and she is excited to take on this new challenge.

As the office administrator, Julie will be serving as the front door to the church by answering the phone and greeting people as they come to the office, while also supporting the staff and maintaining the functions of the office.

While serving the church in this way, Julie is excited to expand her skill set, to support the staff, and to get to know the Grace community. She invites you to grab coffee and come sit at her desk and chat!

What does Christmas time mean?

Entering December means Christmas is upon us and we start Advent. Several days ago we were driving around and I asked our kiddos, “What does Christmas time mean?”

In unison Max and Lizzy shouted, “Presents!” Followed by Will raising his voice to match his siblings. I looked over at Anne, smiled, and rolled my eyes.

It is true and I’ll confirm it: my children are already Christmas consumers. It’s an easy trap to be lured into. In case you’re wondering, we gladly get and give presents to our youngsters, we are not anti-gift giving. But way more than getting gifts, which provide a morning of smiling and an afternoon of jealous fighting, Anne and I are wanting our kids to connect and pursue the One for whom we celebrate.

A couple of years ago we were given a Christmas game of sorts called Star From Afar. The game involves a nativity set which has a star that each day leading up to Christmas is visibly hidden in the house for the kids to find with the wise men. As a part of the game we read Advent and Christmas related scripture texts and devotionals. It has become something of a tradition for us. We plan on using it for at least these precious early years to engage our kids in the Christmas story.

The symbolism happening in our home is beautiful; we truly enjoy it as parents. The game has given us opportunity after opportunity of telling the story and pointing our children to Jesus and as best we can teach about what is truly significant about Christmas.

If you have kids, you know establishing “God consciousness” with our children takes intentionality.

I’ve found that as I’ve sought to be intentional with my kids this Christmas God is speaking to me as well about the beauty and mystery of Christmas. Playing this game and teaching our kids has encouraged me to see and embrace the same heart motivation of the wise men. The scriptures tell us it is for worship that they sought the coming king (Matthew 2:2).

In this season may we seek to worship him as well.

Pastor Loren

Trusting in Him

"Lord, I want to trust you with all my heart. Show me what I need to do to trust in You."

"Quit your job."



That is how my conversation with God went on October 20, 2018. I was actually on the back of our motorcycle headed to a family reunion so I couldn't even tell Doug about it until much later that day. We talked and prayed and God continued to confirm that I had heard him correctly and it was time.

I am resigning in obedience to God. He has made it clear to me that I need to trust Him and step out in faith. I am NOT leaving in a bad place. It is great working here and I will truly miss it, but God has something new for Doug & me. He hasn't shown us what that is yet, but He will!! 

Now don't get me wrong, leaving here is very sad and hard for me. I am painfully aware of all that I am being asked to give up.

One day, as I was lamenting to the Lord and telling him all I was giving up, He gently reminded me that there is One who gave up a lot more than me to come down here to earth to save me from my sins.

Have you ever stopped to think about all that Jesus gave up when He came to earth as a baby?

In Philippians 2:7 it says that He emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant - or slave, as it could be translated.

Now just stop and think about that: the Son of God, who is all powerful and has a close position with His Father, chose to give that up for you and me. I don't know about you, but that brings me to my knees.

And if He is able to give that up, can I not give up what He is asking me to give up? 

But there was one thing He did not give up - His close relationship with the Father. We have that same relationship available to us!

In John 17:21 Jesus prays "...that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us...

Jack, in his sermon on 11/18 said, "Jesus only did what His Father told Him, He was led by the Holy Spirit. Everything Jesus did was intentional....He was always 100% dependent upon the Holy Spirit."

I want that. I want that same relationship with my Father so bad.

So this probably raises some questions in your mind. Here are some that I have been asked:

Are you retiring? 

No, I am resigning. I will still need to work.

Are you moving?

As of right now, the Lord has not told us that we are to move. But we are open to what He wants.  

What about your other involvements at Grace?

Doug & I serve as Extend Council co-chairs and we also serve once a month at the Connection Desk. For the time being, we will continue on with those areas of service unless the Lord directs otherwise. We will continue to attend Grace.

How can I be praying for you?

Pray that the last few weeks I have here I would finish well. (My last day is Dec 18 but I will be employed by Grace until Dec 31.) Pray the Lord provides an Office Administrator that will take over part of my responsibilities, as well as an executive pastor (XP) or executive director (XD). Above all, pray that I will trust the Lord even when it is hard. 

What are your next steps?

On December 19 our whole family leaves to go have Christmas with Abigail in Asia. After that, there are a couple of opportunities we are exploring but nothing firm for sure. 

My 15 years working for Grace have been amazing. The pastors, staff, and elders I have worked with have all been wonderful and gracious to me.  I would like to say thank you to all of them. And thank you to each of you I have interacted with in the office. 

And now it is time to say goodbye. 

Trusting in Him,
Janelle Paden
Office Manager

The Gift of Suffering

Courtney’s exact words as we lay in bed Tuesday night were, “I knew this day would come. But I didn’t think it would be today.”

We received the call that evening that her daddy, Ricky Ferguson, had passed away at home on November 6, 2018. It was not expected. It was not easy. It was not welcomed. 

We drove down to Mississippi the next day, and the following 5 days were emotionally exhausting. Our sleeping arrangements did not provide for much sleep, despite the gracious effort from her mom to host us during that difficult time.

I was asked to preach Ricky’s funeral that Sunday, an opportunity that I cherish. It was harder than I thought it would be, but Ricky deserved a funeral where family got to share from their hearts. We were glad to honor him. We will never stop loving “Pappy.”

We left the next morning (Monday) and arrived back to Kansas that evening around 10:30pm. The drive took us about 12 hours. Then it was back to work in the morning.

In the office at Grace, we have a scheduled daily “check-in” each morning at 8:30am. We quickly share our workload for the day, what we are grateful for, and what we are praying for, then we pray. Depending on the day, it takes between 15-30 minutes.  

That Tuesday morning, I could hardly speak without tearing up. I had just returned from a week of grief, tears, and relational expense. When it was my turn to share, I didn’t want to talk. Which, believe it or not, is not really like me (lol).

I was extremely grateful for the people around me... but I couldn’t share what I was truly grateful for that morning without breaking down.

I was grateful for suffering. I realize now as I write this how super spiritual that sounds. But that was the truth. Somehow God turned suffering into a gift right before my eyes. 

How can something that feels so bad be a gift? Well, I think it’s a gift primarily because of how horrible it is.

Let me explain. 

It’s so bad, you can no longer “coast” or pretend to be happy. You can no longer ignore reality. When you are in severe pain (especially emotional) you cannot tolerate polite clichés or “artificial sweeteners.” Superficial remedies are repulsive.  

Suffering drives me to Jesus. It forces me to choose whether or not I will rest in Him, find my strength in Him, and wait upon Him.

Suffering exposes my lack of humility, my weaknesses and temptations, and my dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Oh, how I need His help!!! 

James tells me that suffering produces endurance. And if I let it have its full effect, it will mature me. I will come to know the joy in suffering if I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. 

This Thanksgiving, I hope you experience joy and sweet time with the people you love. I pray that God uses your gratefulness to encourage and inspire them. 

As for me, I will be giving thanks to God for His grace, His strength, the wisdom He generously gives, and His comfort in the midst of pain.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Pastor Jack

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. 

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