Walking in the Spirit

This week I’ve been praying for all the believers at Grace Community Church.

I’ve been praying that each one would be using their spiritual gift to build up the church.

I’ve led plenty of discussions about spiritual gifts over the years and I know that many people struggle to identify how God is gifting them. You are not alone.

In the weeks to come, through the preaching of God’s word, I believe we will all have more understanding of the variety of gifts. I’m praying that God would reveal to each and every one of us how He is manifesting Himself through us for building up the Church.

I think one of the reasons some of us aren’t experiencing manifestations of God’s Spirit through us is that we first need to allow the Spirit’s work in our own lives.

If we are grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) can we really expect manifestations of the Holy Spirit through us?

Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us (John 16:8) and lead us to repentance?

Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18)?

Are we being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)?

Are we walking in the Spirit as Paul describes in Galatians 5:16-26 or are we walking in the flesh?

We must live in the power of the Holy Spirit and respond to His nudging in our hearts. If the Spirit isn’t free to work in our own hearts, I don’t think we can expect Him to work through us to build up the church around us.

Maybe before we pursue understanding our giftedness and serving supernaturally in the Spirit’s power, we need to step back and ask if we have grieved the Holy Spirit, if we are allowing the Spirit’s work in our own hearts, and if we are walking in the Spirit.

 

To help supplement your study of the Spiritual gifts I offer up this, my RightNow Media pick of the month!

 
 

Looking forward to Sunday!

- Pastor Kyle

Pursuing Peace

What has God been laying on your heart?

Lately, as I've spent time with the Lord, I've felt him encouraging me to be a peacemaker.

I was struck several times over the course of last week that the enemy has been busy causing strife in relationships all around me - strife in marriages, families, friendships, ministry teams, and church relationships.

People who love and care about each other are struggling to be at peace with each other. This strife is disrupting the good work God wants to do in and through these marriages, families, friendships and our church.

The more I looked the more I saw this to be true.

And what is to be my part in it? God showed me that I needed to be a messenger of peace - to pray for peace and to seek ways to gently and kindly speak truth, directing others toward peace so that the Gospel of Peace won't be tarnished, distorted, or silenced.

Do you want to take a wild guess at what I've struggled the most with personally and spiritually this week?

You guessed it . . . peace.

I have been tested greatly, and failed often, with peace in my body and spirit, in my home, at work, and really everywhere else. Ugh!

I want to be frustrated by my own failings in this area, but I must confess them and then choose to let the struggle confirm that peacemaking for the sake of God's kingdom is such important work. I must let the struggle spur me on to keep trying.

Romans 14:19 says, "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another."

Ephesians 4:3-6 says, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."

So, I'm praying for God's strength to continue my efforts to lead with a peaceful, kind attitude at home, to encourage others to extend grace and understanding to those they are frustrated with or hurt by, and to point myself and others towards our common goal of sharing the Gospel by our words and the way we treat each other.

Where do you see the enemy working to create strife in the relationships around you? What can you do to pursue peace in your sphere of influence?


Join us this Sunday as we turn our attention in this Frequently Asked Questions series to 1 Corinthians 12–14 and a discussion of the Spirit and spiritual gifts!

Juli Dirks
Executive Director of Ministries

Life in the Woods

I was on vacation last month in low humidity and high altitude Colorado, savoring the pristine beauty of the Sangre de Christos south of Westcliffe!

Trees around me, towering mountain peaks in front of me, soft earth, flowers and lichen-covered rocks at my feet, I was sitting quietly in the woods for a couple of hours on a deep blue sky day. Wow! It felt good not just to get away, but to get into God’s creation and let it channel my Savior’s glory and peace deep into my heart!

As I rested there, juggling binoculars, Bible and journal, I thanked God for the gift of seeing and hearing, and I began noticing sounds and sights around me in a way that I don’t usually appreciate them.

I savored the whistle of the wind in the tree tops, the distant ripple of the Colony Creeks, and the chirping, chattering and calling of Stellar Jays, Clark’s Nutcrackers, and Mountain Chickadees. All of this graced by the curious and incessant buzzing of flies and bees around me.

The realization hit me that I wasn’t hearing any human sounds except for the occasional dull drone of a transcontinental jet leaving its vapor trail high above me. I noticed that long after the plane was gone, the white trail morphed into a long cloud that slowly slid over a faint crescent moon, still visible in the morning sky. I smiled.

I looked around and studied the trees whose scent I love—ponderosa pines, blue spruces and firs—and I noticed the hub and refuge they create for things that fly and even for a nearby squirrel that spent five minutes “yelling” at me from his perch.

I saw trees in all stages of life, some just “newborns” a couple of feet tall, others in their growth spurt, pushing ten and twenty—and many in their maturity—thirty, even forty feet tall. Some were beautifully formed with all their branches and needles in order and loaded with pine cones. They were obviously brimming with life.

As I continued to ponder, I spotted others—“senior citizens” of the forest—trees which had seen a few storms and taken some hits. One conifer nearby was missing the top third of its trunk and half of its branches were dead. Hmmm! At this stage of my life, I’m identifying more with these weathered warriors of the woods. But as I pondered what I was seeing and feeling, I sensed a beauty in those older trees which exhibit signs of wear and tear. Yes, they have dead branches galore, but they also have plenty of living ones and they’re still producing cones and seeds!

‘That’s the way I want to be,’ I tell Jesus! And I thanked Him for his faithfulness to me over these almost 69 years of my “life in the woods” and for this very special day of vacation.

There’s nothing like getting away for a body, soul, and perspective refresher!

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” (Is 46:3-4)

I love knowing, loving, and serving this God with all of you!

See you Sunday!

Pastor Steve

Change is Hard; God Will Never Change

We recently moved our second oldest daughter, Hannah, to college. I managed to hold it together until the moment that my husband and I began to pray over her. 

Change is hard even if you are expecting it. 

She is only 35 minutes from us but the hardest part is knowing that life as we know it will never be the same again. They grow up in the blink of an eye and then they are off to bigger adventures.  

Our family dynamic has changed over the past few years as we have gone from a close, young family to one where we are all going different directions and are rarely all in one place at the same time. In order to preserve our precious family time, we have had to change how we spend time together. Daily family meals have been replaced with a treasured, weekly family meal. Although I am thankful for the time we get, I struggle with the changes.

It is comforting to know that when life is uncertain, God will never change. 

Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We can depend on Him regardless of what happens in life. He knows what the future looks like. 

Often I reminisce about when my children were smaller and how I wish that I could go back, but then I realize that the best part is yet to come. I look forward to seeing how each of my children uses the gifts that God has given them as they move into the next chapter of their stories.  

Lately I have had the lyrics running through my mind from the song “God of All My Days” by Casting Crowns: 

Each step I take
You make a way
And I will give You all my praise
My seasons change, You stay the same 
You’re the God of all my days 

I will rest in God’s constant presence and trust the journeys that lie ahead.    


See you Sunday as we start the FAQ sermon series. I am looking forward to hearing what the Bible says about women in the church.

-Casey Teater
Children’s Ministry Director

You can't "one another" unless you get together

One of my personal goals is to strengthen how we build relationships in our church. How can we be more thoughtful and helpful to the people in our community who need Christian brothers and sisters?

Jesus left us three sources of help when He established the church: the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and one another. These are our comfort, power, guidance, instructions, and support for the Christian life. We need all three in every season of life.

Last year I suggested the book Sticky Church to one of the members of the Community Life Group Council, and our staff has read part of the book together, reflecting on one chapter a week. It opened my eyes to how important close Christian friends and “small groups” are in a church.

Think about all the “one another” passages in the Bible (there are between 46-55, depending on how you count them). In John 13:34-35 it says:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

We just memorized these two verses this summer!

So let me ask you, can we accomplish that on a Sunday morning within a one-hour service?

Paul told us to be devoted to one another, and honor one another (Romans 12:10). Can you do that without knowing each other?

Peter says to live in harmony with one another (1 Peter 3:8) and to offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9). This means pursuing peace, hosting, and serving one another. 

In Romans 14 and 15, Paul tells us to welcome and accept one another, yet still instruct one another. To the Corinthians, he encouraged them to wait for one another before they eat (1 Corinthians 11:33). To the Galatians, he urged them to serve one another (Gal. 5:13) and carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). In 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5, Paul inspires them to encourage one another. All throughout the New Testament we are commanded to forgive one another.

We just finished our James series; didn’t he prompt us to confess our sins with one another and then pray for one another? How can we do that with strangers? Don’t we have to become close enough to understand and love one another, including our faults?

The point is, you can’t “one another” unless you get together in smaller, more relational groups or settings. Community Life Groups are not the ONLY way to do that, but they are Grace’s standard method of helping those within our church body connect with other believers in a closer way.

[Editor’s note: If you are interested in joining a Community Life Group, come to Grouplink this Sunday at noon in the Fireside Room!]

We can’t be the church God designed us to be without real community. I encourage you to develop more intimate relationships with other believers in the church. Ask God to help you identify and maintain godly friendships. How can you be a good friend to others?

This Sunday Pastor Dave will be preaching on 2 Timothy 3. He, Jeff Reimer, and Ricki Greer are gearing up to teach an apologetics class at Grace on Sunday mornings this fall (I wish I could attend also!). 

I am praying for you, dear church. I’m glad to be brothers and sisters in Christ, uniting together for the same purpose: to love God, love people, and lead others to do the same.

Lovingly,
Pastor Jack

Schedule Your Margin

Fall is exciting.

And yes, I get excited about fall partly because I enjoy football and flannel shirts and cool weather (but I’ll pass on the pumpkin spice-flavored everything).

Fall is also exciting because it is a new season - and I’m not just talking the position of the earth relative to the sun. Fall is exciting because there is so much momentum that comes with a new year of school, a new season of activities, a new time of ministry.

There is a lot of excitement here in the halls of the Grace Community Church facility with ministries ramping up after the slower summer season (check out the Upcoming Events page to sign up for things like Awana, Grouplink, and women’s Bible studies).

After taking the summer off from my seminary studies, my next class starts on Monday and I’m so excited that I have already started working on my first assignment. (Yes, I’m that student…)

I have already felt, however, how fast all of that excitement can translate into busyness overload.

There are so many things to be excited about and that means so many things to say ‘yes’ to and that means so much to fill the schedule.

But, if we’re not careful, all that busyness can get in the way of responding to God’s leading.

If every night of the week is accounted for, will you be able to take the time when your neighbor obviously needs a compassionate listening ear? If you are so busy that the minute you slow down you fall asleep, will you be able to muster the energy to get alone with God?

That’s a good thing about margin: it’s there for when something unexpected happens. Which is good, because God operates on his own schedule.

So how can we counteract the busyness of a new season and create margin?

A number of times I have heard the advice to “schedule your margin.”

I have to admit that, at first, I thought it sounded ridiculous. How can it be down time if you scheduled it?! But I have learned (the hard way) how good and necessary that advice is.

“Free time” doesn’t seem to stay free for long. It’s as if all the things vying for my time look at that unclaimed block of time and say ‘Oh, he’s not doing anything… Dibs! I get to fill that time!’

It takes intention to claim that open slot in the schedule for margin.

Maybe this looks like getting up a little extra early to start your day with Bible reading and prayer because you know the day will be too busy to fit it in later (pro tip: put your alarm clock across the room so you can’t turn it off and fall back to sleep). Maybe this looks like protecting your lunch break to be time to get outside and talk to God. Maybe this looks like limiting activities to only a couple nights a week so you can be free for spontaneous family and friend time.

Whatever it looks like for you, I want to challenge you to make scheduling margin a priority as you set your routine for this new season.

Be still. Savor the calm. And keep your eyes open for how God might drop into your lap opportunities to love the people around you.

I love you, Church!
Nathan Ehresman

Summer Reflections & Fall Excitment

How has your summer been? Are you ready for fall?

In answering those questions I would say, “Summer has been good, but busy. And fall is coming, ready or not!” 

If you bear with me, I’d like to share a couple of summer highlights and something I’m looking forward to as fall approaches.


The first is about our Igniter trips, one to LifeChange Camp with our middle school students and the other a mission trip to Children’s Haven International with our high school students. 

The lingering reflection I have from middle school camp is a statement our speaker Daniel Yoder said in one of his messages about being “Set Free,” which was our theme for the week. He said, “Don't tell your problems to God, but tell your problems about our God.”

In the context of the talk he wasn’t saying we shouldn’t pray and present our petitions to God, but he was encouraging us to take the next step of knowing who God is and why knowing him can change our perspective on the problems we face, freeing us to face challenges with hope and trust in God. This was especially impactful as Daniel and his family have been in the middle of a family crisis for almost a year.

Daniel’s son, who was at camp as a camper, has been diagnosed with an inoperable and incurable brain tumor. As he shared the story it was evident that Daniel and his family had been living what he was teaching us.

This has been a summer practice for me, personally. As I encounter a challenge or problem, not only do I speak to God about what is happening, but I also have changed how I reengage the problem by asking God to show me how he sees my challenges. It is amazing how seemingly big challenges shrink when engaging a most holy, powerful, and loving God. 


The second summer highlight was our Reynosa Trip with the high school students. As a team of 28 we went to bless our friends at Children’s Haven through our presence and service.

It was an amazing trip to be a part of. The students worked so hard on different service projects we were given to do, and they served with gladness and joy. And then every afternoon, even when they were tired, they would play in the pool with the children.

The thing I’m still wrestling with and praying about is something Betsy Chacon said to our group as she was giving us a tour of the facility. She was talking about how the support base for Children’s Haven is aging and many have already gone to be with Jesus, and she challenged our group by saying, “They were known as the greatest generation because of their sacrifices and generosity, what kind of generation will you be?”

That has stuck with me because she was articulating a need and challenging our students to consider what they will be known for.

Since our trip I’ve been praying the next generation, and our students specifically, might desire to join God, not only in what He is doing in their own lives, but how they might come alongside the ministry of Children’s Haven in support of what God is doing there. 


For the fall, I’m looking forward to launching back into a new semester and season of Igniter this coming Sunday!

As I think and plan ahead for this next season I’m reminded once again how important Jesus is. I’m excited to see how God will continue to point people to him so they might receive and believe in his name and be given eternal life. I’m grateful I get to join God in doing that. 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren

Represent

A couple weeks ago I shared some original songs at our night of “Stories and Songs”. For this Staff Journal I wanted to share about one of those songs.

Represent” is a song about our need to be witnesses. It’s a reminder that as Christians we wear the name of Christ wherever we go. In the past, when Mary or I have had jobs within the secular workforce, we would tell each other to “represent” before leaving for work. It was a reminder of the powerful witness we have not just through our words but also through our actions.

The idea for this song was inspired by several scripture passages. Here are some of them:

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

“To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Hebrews 6:6)

Here are the my lyrics to the song “Represent”:

He chose to wear Your name, but unaware of the implications
Cause everywhere he turns, there’s a watchful eye from the unbelievers
Does he realized every move he makes is analyzed and they’re just waiting for him to fall
In this moment if they see a fake it may destroy their chances of redemption

So we need to represent. We need to live such good lives
So that the effort spent, will help the others glorify Your name

A believer all his life, but finding out it’s not cool
To wear the name of Christ, and try to fit in at school
Do we realize we’ve been called to be light in this world showing them the way
And if we are ashamed of him he will ashamed of us on judgment day 

So we need to represent. We need to live such good lives
So that the effort spent, will help the others glorify Your name

You wear the name, but you put it to shame
It’s recrucifixion and you’re stuck with the blame
Freedom you claim, but sin you can’t tame
Don’t mock his mercy, cause life ain’t a game

The idea of this song is similar to our “sending” that we use most Sundays. God is sending us out in the world to represent Him as witnesses.

As many of you head to your jobs this week, I pray that God would empower you to represent Him in your actions and your love for the people around you. May we be boldly unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ as we represent Him in our schools, jobs, and neighborhoods!


My RightNow Media pick of the month is Marriage Night 2019. This is a great one to watch with your spouse and strengthen your marriage!

 
 

 See you Sunday!
-Pastor Kyle

Surrendered is a Good Place to Be

Surrendered is a good place to be…

That's what I'm re-re-learning these days.

As we've walked through the book of James on Sunday mornings over the last few weeks, I've been challenged to be intentional about surrender - to have a present faith.

I'm a planner… I know, big surprise! (wink, wink)

Having a mind for details and planning for the future is a great gift to have. Planning ahead is a really good thing in a lot of ways. Admittedly, one of the pitfalls (at least for me) is the tendency and temptation to try to control outcomes.

I was convicted, as we looked at James chapter 4, that my attempts to control show a lack of faith and surrender to God's sovereign plans. Though often unintentionally, I am in my own way "boasting" about my plans for the future and operating foolishly in my own strength. I've seen this play out a lot lately as I'm in a season of big changes - new office staff, new job, new home…

The more things change, the more I feel out of control. The more I feel out of control, the more I try to control. Ug!

I love having the "What's Real?" and "What's Next?" questions at the bottom of the notes section in the church programs each week. They challenge me to think more personally about the sermons, be truthful with myself, and put action to my faith.

Recently one of the application questions on the program (7/14) was: "What habits help you humbly plan for your future while relying on God?"

Regular and intentional surrender to God's will is what I landed on.

When I'm out of the habit of daily (sometimes hourly) saying to the Lord, "Here's what I'm planning; here's what I have before me - but your will, not mine," I am less likely to grasp for control. But with this daily little practice in place, I can keep my heart centered on- and surrendered to the immortal, invisible, almighty God who has plans far greater and more glorious than I can imagine. This helps me bring prudent planning and reliant faith into alignment. I'll be working at reestablishing this habit now.

Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

What habits help you humbly plan for your future while relying on God?


Join us this Sunday as we worship through song together and one of our elders, David Landis, leads us in exploring Matthew 8:5-13!

Juli Dirks
Executive Director of Ministries

Elder Connection: A Letter From Our Elders (July 2019)

[Editor’s Note: This is a special-edition Staff Journal written by David Hall, one of our Governing Elders. This letter from David is the second in a series of quarterly updates from the elders as a way to create an open line of communication from the hearts and minds of the elders to you, the church.]

Hello Grace Community Church!

The Elders have been working on many things over the past quarter. A sub-group of Elders has been working on syncing our current leadership practices with our Church By-Laws. Over a period of many years, we have grown and changed, and our By-Laws have just not been updated to match these changes.

The first item that needed attention was the role of Staff Pastors as Elders. It has been decided the best way to match our current model of leadership would be to have two groups: Pastoral Elders and Governing Elders. The Governing Elders would be the elected Elders and the Lead Pastor. The Pastoral Elders would be the Staff Pastors at the discretion of the Governing Elders. This documentation change makes it much clearer as to what the different pastors’ roles are within our Elder meeting, plus matches what we are already doing in practice. 

The Elders have received and reviewed the surveys that were completed earlier in the year regarding all of our children’s ministries up through the high school level. Currently, we are creating action steps where needed. We really appreciate all the feedback!

The Stewardship Council recently gave a report on Capital Projects. You may have already noticed some of the items they have been working on, such as brighter lighting, a new ice machine, parking lot improvements, and new video equipment in the sanctuary. Praise the Lord for what He provides! Some of the things under way for future projects, or consideration for future projects, are landscaping improvements, refresh of the foyer/main entrance area and Fireside Room upgrades. Thank you to these men and women for their wisdom and hard work!

Oh, by the way, welcome to Grace’s newest team member, Casey Teater. She will be working as the Children’s Ministry Director.  Please pray for her as she looks to fill many spots and roles for the upcoming Sunday School year and Awana. Please prayerfully consider if you could help in one of these roles when asked. Better yet, give Casey a call at the office and ask her where she could plug you in.

Praise the Lord for the many children and families that were reached with the Gospel via Summer Quest! Thank you to all that helped pull off this massive endeavor. 

Juli Dirks is hard at work on many things, not the least of which is putting together the Council for “Extend.” This group has lots of important work to do with the missionaries that we support. Juli is also very busy working with upcoming “All–In” events such as the baptism celebration at the Newton city pool and a First Responders Appreciation event. All of you cookie bakers should be getting ready!

Loren Kurtz just finished planning and leading the Igniter group to and from Children’s Haven in Reynosa, Mexico. If you see Loren, don’t forget to thank him for his work! And, thank you to all of you who rented a student to help towards their expenses for this trip.

David Hall

God is with us in the "wreck"

We were driving east on I-94 in Indiana, less than a mile away from the Michigan state line. The traffic was stop and go, and one of the lanes was blocked off. So it was a little congested. 

All of a sudden, the car in front of us slammed on their brakes. It’s a good thing that I'm a cautious driver. I had just enough room to stop in time. There was a moment of silence and of joy. “God, thank you that we did not hit the car in front of us.” As that prayer was rising up to heaven, a loud crashing noise and sudden jolt filled the van. At first, I was stunned. I realized that we had been hit, but all I could do was look behind me at the five children still safely and quietly sitting in their car seats. Ten eyes wide opened stared back at me with a look of confusion and fear. But they were fine.

I got out of my car and saw the damage. It looked like the Incredible Hulk punched the back of our van. If you’ve ever stomped on a can, you’ve seen the wrinkled look of metal. It’s not what I was anticipating for family vacation. Yet, this was my favorite vacation we’ve ever had. 

God intervened and gave grace in many steps on the journey.

First, if we had been in Michigan, our insurance would have skyrocketed. Michigan is a “no fault” state, and insurance coverage would have been a nightmare. Since we were in Indiana, the insurance of the person who hit us has taken care of everything. 

Second, even though I had to remove and pack our luggage without opening the back hatch (I have sweated more in the past couple of weeks than in a whole year), we were able to squeeze in the added luggage we brought home.

Third, our kids have been “tested” to trust God in a new way. They saw mom and dad deal with a frightening experience and watch God take care of us. We still made it to the Christian camp on time, and they had a blast.

Our van was drivable. Our kids were fine. The people who hit us had insurance. They admitted fault. Their insurance covered it. And we got to be a good witness to them as well. At one point the couple said, “...You guys are so nice about this.” What a tragedy it would have been if we made a fool of ourselves and our faith.

I’m grateful to God that He goes before us and promises to be with us when we get into a “wreck.” Whether it would have been my fault or not, God doesn’t quit being my Father who cares for me. He provided a wonderful vacation for our family, and I’m glad to be back.

This Sunday we will study James 4:13-17. James has a wise and sobering way of writing about our practical lives. I pray that God speaks to our hearts and matures our minds.

Galatians 6:9-10,
Jack Napier

Getting to know Casey Teater, our new Children's Ministry Director!

We are so excited to be adding our very own Casey Teater to the team as our new Children’s Ministry Director!

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Casey is married to Troy and they have 5 kids (4 girls and 1 boy), ranging in age from 9-20. As a family, they enjoy competitive game nights (anything from trivia to Uno) and relaxing movie nights. Personally, Casey enjoys gardening, reading, and taking crafting classes.

Casey and her family have been regularly attending Grace for more than 10 years now. During that whole time, Casey has been serving in the full scope of the GraceKids ministry - from nursery to Sunday school to Awana - in a variety of roles - from helping with check-in to being a helper and a teacher and a director. There is always a lot to learn when starting a new job, but Casey is coming into this new role with a load of valuable experience and an understanding of how the various branches of GraceKids operate.

Casey’s journey to taking this position was one that required deep trust. For nearly the last year, Casey has felt God telling her that He had something else in store for her. She initially inquired about the office administrator job, but felt God close that door. Then she inquired about the Executive Director of Ministries job, but again felt God close that door.

Yet the feeling was still there - that God had something else in store for her.

Then the Children’s Ministry Director position came open and Casey finally felt confirmation that this was what God had in store. It was a scary step in faith to take this job, but Casey could tell God was telling her to do it. (And we are glad she listened!)

Casey is thankful to be stepping into a thriving GraceKids ministry. She is excited to continue the good work of grounding our kids in God’s love and His truth, while exploring opportunities to take this ministry to the next level. Leading the team of awesome volunteers will be a big part of Casey’s job and she is really looking forward to getting to build relationships with the volunteers who make GraceKids happen.

We are thankful to God for providing for our need of a new Children’s Ministry Director with such a good fit from within our own church family. Please join us in welcoming Casey to the church staff, and please pray for her as she dives headfirst into a busy season of recruiting volunteers and planning for the start of the new year in just a few short weeks.

 

If you are interested in joining Casey’s team and being part of what God is doing through GraceKids by volunteering to serve in nursery, kids Sunday school, or Awana for this coming school year, please let us know through the Connect With Us button.

By serving in one of the available spots, you would be such a big blessing to Casey and to our church as you help lead the younger generations to love God, love people, and lead others to do the same!

Growing Deeper with Jesus

I don’t know if you love or hate hot weather, but I had my eyes opened a couple of days ago to something that’s putting purpose and spice into summer for a lot of people! 

I discovered that since the end of school and the beginning of summer, a number of families in our church have taken on our GraceKids-sponsored “Summer Family Challenge.” They’ve embarked on some wonderful and “funtastic” projects designed to grow family connection, build joy, and help kids go deeper in their relationship with Jesus.

I had heard about the challenge, but honestly I really had no interest in it until this past Monday night.

Monday nights are four-generation family dinner nights at our house. Those around the table include Bobbie’s 92-year-old dad—“Lito”—who, with his walker and dog in tow, makes his way carefully across the street from his driveway to ours. Completing the circle are our son and daughter-in-law, Andy and Julie, who with their three kids usually pile out of their minivan around our six o’clock dinner time. 

This past Monday, however, Julie and kids (Kesler, Audra and Naomi) chose to make the nearly 5 mile trip to dinner at Gramps and Mammaw’s on their bicycles!

The ride was part of a “Summer Family Challenge” activity which rewards 400 miles of walking, running, or biking with a whopping 350 points! Spurring motivation is a grand prize awarded at the end of the summer to the family with the highest number of points (and also to one fortunate and randomly drawn participating family).

Intrigued by my family’s enthusiasm and impressed by my grandkids’ willingness to tackle biking on a hot afternoon, I picked up a “Summer Family Challenge” guide at the Connection Desk to get a better picture of the creative ways families are being encouraged to bond, serve, and grow!

I loved what I discovered.

A family water gun fight is worth 10 points. So is going through one’s closet and giving unused things to charity. There’s another 10 points for calling one’s grandparents and asking them if they have any prayer requests! (I like that one!) Also, lying on a blanket and counting shooting stars adds 10 points to the family total.

As I browsed the brochure I noticed some higher point challenges, worth 25 points apiece and containing some spiritually stretching activities: making a home video based on one of the parables of Jesus, reading through the Gospel of John, or memorizing Psalm 23 together.

“What great ideas for families to have fun while growing their relational and spiritual connections!” I thought to myself. Hats off to challenge provider Deeper KidMin, whose creator is a former children’s pastor who wanted to equip parents and ministry leaders to grow kids deeper in their relationships with Christ through creative, engaging, and affordable online resources!

(If you are interested in joining the Summer Family Challenge, it’s not too late! Pick up a booklet with instructions and the list of challenges at the Connection Desk this Sunday morning.)

“Growing deeper with Jesus” resonates with me as a wonderful summer goal for anyone regardless of whether or not it’s part of the “Summer Family Challenge.”

In my Bible reading the other day I came across a beautiful jewel of a description in Ezekiel 31:7 of a towering and majestic tree whose “roots went down to abundant waters.” Something in that expression called to my heart as I said to the Lord, “That’s what I want my life to look like!”

Down where no one notices, below the ground level of busy schedules and pressure-filled days, I love the thought of drawing my life and vitality from the unfathomable spiritual riches abundantly offered by Jesus to anyone who takes the time to quiet with Him and soak in His Word.

How about joining me in going deeper with Jesus this summer?

And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:18-19, NLT)

Let’s be praying for Pastor Jack and family on vacation, for Casey Teater on her first Sunday as our new Children’s Ministry Director, and for Pastor Kyle who will be leading worship AND preaching!

Warmly in Jesus!
Pastor Steve

Be Careful What You Pray For

We have all heard the phrase “be careful what you wish for!”

I have also heard someone say, “be careful what you pray for!”

And I felt that phrase right in the heart this week. It felt like God was calling us out for talking a big game but not having our hearts in the right place.

Did you really mean that?

You see, Addie and I have prayed for years that we would be able to hold our stuff (our belongings - our actual, physical stuff) with an open hand. That prayer has taken on a new life in recent months as our ever-curious 14-month-old Caleb grows in mobility and dexterity.

I don’t know how many times we have said to each other, “It’s just stuff. Our job is to create a safe place for Caleb to play. If something breaks, oh well. It’s just stuff.”

And so we watch with a smile (on the outside) as he pulls books off the shelves, thumbs through them, then tosses them into a pile, bending pages and covers every which-way.

“It’s just stuff. Our job is to create a safe place for Caleb to play. If something breaks, oh well. It’s just stuff.”

That’s easy enough to say when it’s just some paperback books getting bent out of shape. (And, believe me, I call books ‘friends’, so it’s probably fair to say I have a more emotional attachment to my books than the average person. So it’s not really that easy.)

But then this week turned into put-up-or-shut-up time.

Twice, on back-to-back days, things actually got broken. Like, broken-beyond-repair broken.

“It’s just stuff. Our job is to create a safe place for Caleb to play. If something breaks, oh well. It’s just stuff.”

Or, that’s what we were supposed to say…

But these were two wedding gifts. From two special people.

We were sad. Sad that they got broken. But also sad that we were sad that they got broken.

That sadness made it clear that we were giving lip-service to holding our stuff with an open hand without having our hearts in the right place.

So now we return to that prayer with a new fervor, asking God to transform our hearts to truly see all that we have as a gift from him that we are free to let go of at any time He sees fit.

And there’s a tricky balance there, as there is in so many situations: we don’t want to be reckless with our stuff - we want to steward well what He has given us - but we also want to guard against being so attached to our material possessions that we are sad when they break or are lost.

As Addie and I have been processing through the events of this week, the chorus to one of the songs that we sang during Summer Quest came to mind:

As the world shake shakes
And things break break
You are my rock my everything

The reality of our fallen world is that things do break. Cake stands break. Wooden crosses break. Bodies break. Relationships break.

But the beautiful gospel never breaks: no matter the brokenness around us, God stands strong as our rock, our everything.

I pray that as you find yourself in the midst of brokenness - whether you are sweeping up broken pieces of glass, sweeping up the metaphorical broken pieces of a relationship, or sweeping away tears over the broken body of a loved one - you would find peace and strength in the truth of God’s steadfast faithfulness that endures forever.

I love you, Church!
-Nathan Ehresman

Living Life With God

It’s summer!

So far the word I would use to describe summer is full. Summer is full of trips, camps, and being busy.

I’ve been interested in how our youth spend their summer time and what they enjoy about summer. The common answers this year are sleeping in, watching YouTube, playing video games, participating in various sports, swimming, hanging with friends, and traveling.

As I remember my summers growing up, and even as an adult, I know summer can become so full that we can diminish or disregard a relationship with God.

Our summer focus with the students is to ignite and fuel a love for Jesus that will address and fight the natural diminishing or disregarding that can take place when schedules get full. So much of this comes down to our thought life.

A.W. Tozer said that the thoughts we have about God are the most important thoughts we have. I resonate with that. I believe the apostle Paul knew that when he tells us about the “renewal of our mind.”

Our thoughts of God shape and form our relationship with him. One writer said it this way: "Many people have settled for a darker existence in which they relate to God in a way that leaves them discontent."

Over the summer we are going to address some faulty ways of relating to God that can leave us discontent, apathetic, and stunted. The good news is that Jesus tells us when we come to him in faith we begin to experience a new quality of life. He calls it eternal life. In other terms, it is life with God.

The Psalmist says in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

The phrase “fullness of joy” stands out to me. If we have diminished or disregarded a relationship with God that phrase is hard to believe or know what the Psalmist means. Yet, we can experience this life as we rely on and trust Jesus. By relying on his word we learn to recognize and enjoy God’s presence and we live the way we were made to live.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren

Our Worship Repertoire

In some circles of thinking, the purpose of worship through song (which we will simply call worship in this journal entry) is to prepare people for the preaching of God’s word. In a Sunday morning service, worship is seen as a way to soften hearts and prepare people to receive the truth coming up in the sermon.

While I know that the Spirit works in us as we sing, and our hearts are softened, I would not articulate worship this way. I think it is misleading to say worship is preparation for receiving God’s truth, because our songs are overflowing with Scripture. 

Colossians 3:16 reminds us “Let the word of Christ dwell in you… as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”.

The content of our songs is the word of Christ.

We sing scripture, we sing truth, and I would suggest that the goal of worship is to get God’s truth on the lips and heart of the church. This isn’t necessarily to prepare to listen to the preaching of God’s word, as sometimes we respond in worship, like we did this past Sunday. In worship, we sing to each other reminding each other of truth, singing songs about God. In worship we also pour out our hearts singing directly to God.

With that said, our repertoire of songs is a little different than many other churches. While you could walk into some contemporary churches and know all the songs if you listen to K-LOVE, a little less than half of the songs we sing are on Christian radio.

We are intentional about our repertoire and you’ll find that our songs are rich in God’s truth.

So many of you have expressed appreciation for the songs we sing, and many Sundays I have people asking what the names of certain songs are. Because of this, we’ve created a playlist on YouTube and Spotify with songs from our repertoire.:

If you are interested, I’ve also created a list of songs I’m currently using in private worship that we don’t sing on Sunday mornings:

It’s a beautiful thing when people worship privately and then come together on Sunday morning to worship corporately!

I hope that these playlists will help you learn the songs that aren’t as familiar to you, and I hope it will help put God’s truth on your lips and on your hearts! May the word of Christ dwell in us through our worship!


My Rightnowmedia pick is a series we’ve used for discussion on our worship teams on the Psalms with Pastor John Piper and worship leaders Shane and Shane.

 
 

For His Glory,
Pastor Kyle

Meet God on the Midway

Who am I? 

Who gives me strength? 

How do I do life with Jesus? 

What do I treasure in life? 

These are questions we're going to ask and answer at Summer Quest next week. It's crazy to think that in just four short days we'll have eleven teams in place to meet the children who will be attending Summer Quest! 

Around 150 volunteers from GCC and New Anthem Church have been working creatively to prepare for this major, all-in outreach event. The 300+ children we are anticipating this year will be met by warm, inviting volunteers who will strive to provide a fun, safe experience that will most importantly point kids to the gospel and build relationships with families in our neighborhoods. 

This year our theme is Colossal Carnival: Meet God on the Midway. Here's a taste of what we'll be up to:

Our theme verse is Matthew 6:21, "For where your heart is, there your treasure is also."

On Monday - we'll explore the Hall of Mirrors and learn how we are created in God's image.

On Tuesday - we'll visit the Strong Man to understand that our strength and courage come from God.

On Wenesday - we'll ride the Tilt-a-Whirl to see that in order to navigate the twists and turns in life, we need to walk by faith and trust in Jesus.

On Thursday - we'll stroll the Midway to learn that the eternal life Jesus gives is our ultimate prize.

On Friday - we'll host a fun carnival here at the church, called Summer Fest, for those who have participated in Summer Quest over the week and their families. Along with food, fun and live music, Pastor Jack will share a gospel message and invite them to join us at Grace on Sundays.

Please join us in praying all week for God to be at work through our volunteers and in the hearts of the chlidren who come. We covet your prayers! In fact, we'll have prayer wristbands and cards with specific prayer requests available on tables around the church facility this coming Sunday. Please stop by and pick them up.

We appreciate your support!

Juli Dirks
Executive Director of Ministries

The Meta-Narrative of the Universe

Some of my favorite childhood movies have been remade this year, and I admit that I’m anticipating my own comfy chair in front of the big screen. If I went, I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone. 

This same fanbase occurs with books and novels. Chronicles penned by the human imagination seem to be birthed out of a God-planted desire for storytelling. We don’t just want to hear it or see it; we want to experience it.

Human beings have always been mesmerized by a good story. That’s why movie producers are rich

But what else am I purchasing with a movie ticket? What kind of “tale” are they really telling?

You could say that the Bible is a “story”—the greatest story ever told. It represents the most invigorating drama that ever captured the hearts and minds of its audience. And it’s also the story I live to tell.

The first pages begin with the origin of the universe and the purpose for every living creature. Intense action covers thousands of years, depicting love affairs and wars and angels and demons. Within the storyline we find greed, jealousy, hatred, sex, betrayal, hopelessness, draught, famine, depression, and death. Some stories I cannot even share with my children yet.

Every scenario is portrayed with honest candor, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. The overarching plot pivots upon one character who was murdered by the scheme of lying men. And the climax hangs in our imagination as yet to be seen.

But the reason why the impact of the Bible is inescapable is because it’s true. It presents itself as a non-fiction book inspired by the very breath of God. Couple that reality with the fact that the Bible has endured the greatest scrutiny the secular mind has ever conjured. No attack against the veracity or reliability of the Scriptures has ever punctured a hole in its integrity. 

Only a fool would turn a deaf ear to the testimony of his Creator. 

The Bible stands in a league of its own. Undeniable, unavoidable, infallible, and unashamed of its content. Its followers champion the call to die to self, and still call it the Good News. In one sense, the last chapter has been written. In another, we don’t know exactly how the last days will unfold. The pages are ancient but alive, challenging us to examine our hearts and lives.

It is the meta-narrative of the universe. And yet, the whole account forces us to answer one ultimate question: “Who do you say Christ is?” It’s a record that draws us to a person—a relationship.

I may go to the movies this summer. I may be entertained. But I won’t be fooled. I know what my heart is hungry for. And there’s only one Author that satisfies my appetite.

-Pastor Jack

“Please come to our wedding!”

“Please come to our wedding!”

Earlier this spring, when Bobbie and I received an invitation to Armando Lucas and Sophi Santee’s wedding in Lawrence this coming August it brought back to me a flood of memories from our Amigo Team mission trips to Mexico.

I first met Armando in 2006 at the Children’s Haven International’s children home in Reynosa, to which we as a Grace Community Church family had been taking annual mission trips since 1999.

Armando arrived at the home that year as a 12-year-old with huge needs. Over the course of multiple Amigo trips, we had the privilege of seeing the incredible work that God did in Armando’s life through the life-giving, Christ-centered family environment of the Children’s Haven home.

As he grew, Armando trusted Christ as his Savior and excelled at school. Following graduation from high school, he attended and finished dental school.

Each time we visited the children’s home, we got to see Armando’s love for Jesus and his heart for service increase. He went on several mission trips with his church in Reynosa and became an older brother in the faith to all the younger kids at the home.

Now, God has led Armando to a godly young woman and he’s ready to launch a new chapter in his life, planning to emigrate to the United States and marry Sophi in Kansas as soon as he receives his dental license from the Mexican government.

Many of you know that after taking 20 Amigo mission trips to Reynosa over the years, we didn’t take a team this past March. It was a weird March for me, not being able to connect with the children at the home.

However, there has been in my heart what I believe is a God-given desire to take one more team of families down to Reynosa next year and lead one final Amigo Trip—“Amigo 21,” we’ll call it. Dates are February 29 (Saturday) through March 7 (Saturday), 2020, and you’ll be hearing more about registration later this summer.

I hope you and your family will pray about joining our twenty-year tradition of more than 230 adults and children from our church who have been the hands and feet of Jesus and shared his love and served his purposes in the lives of children like Armando.

I’m looking forward to this Sunday when we will recognize our graduates and hear a sermon from one of our Igniter alums, Gage Weller!

Pastor Steve

Room for Mystery

I love mystery stories.

I love the sense of awe and wonder when I get to the big reveal and I am totally amazed at how the hero (probably a certain mid-nineteenth century British consulting detective) sifted through the misdirection and minutiae to uncover the truth.

I also love the process of taking in all the information for myself and trying to figure out what is going on before I get to the end. (The more insignificant it seems the more important it really is, right?)

I enjoy this process so much that I like to go back and reread the same mystery story again because I pick up different details/clues/hints along the way. Each new detail that I discover reveals more of the story and the more I am drawn into it.

This is what all the studying for my Theology courses this semester has been like.

Just like going back to the same mystery story mining for more details, the more I study who God is the more details I pick up. And the more details I see the more I am in awe of Him.

That is a beautiful truth about our infinite and perfect God.

Because God is Creator and we are his creatures, we can only know God insomuch as he reveals himself to us. Even then, we are unable to fully grasp who he is because of our fundamental difference in nature: he is infinite and we are finite; he is perfect and we are broken.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a “you’ll never get to the end of the story so don’t bother starting” situation. No, this is a “the story is indescribably beautiful so keep keep drinking in its beauty with each day of your life” situation.

It is a noble task to devote oneself to knowing him more and more each day even though we will not know God fully until the day we stand face-to-face with him. That is why I believe there is also room for mystery in getting to know God.

In my recent reading I came across this prayer from Augustine’s Confessions in which he captures the beautiful mystery of God’s nature:

Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, deeply hidden yet most intimately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old, making everything new and “leading” the proud “to be old without their knowledge” (Job 9: 5, Old Latin version); always active, always in repose, gathering to yourself but not in need, supporting and filling and protecting, creating and nurturing and bringing to maturity, searching even though to you nothing is lacking: you love without burning, you are jealous in a way that is free of anxiety, you “repent” (Gen. 6: 6) without the pain of regret, you are wrathful and remain tranquil. You will a change without any change in your design. You recover what you find, yet have never lost. Never in any need, you rejoice in your gains (Luke 15: 7); you are never avaricious, yet you require interest (Matt. 25: 27). We pay you more than you require so as to make you our debtor, yet who has anything which does not belong to you? (1 Cor. 4: 7). You pay off debts, though owing nothing to anyone; you cancel debts and incur no loss. But in these words what have I said, my God, my life, my holy sweetness? What has anyone achieved in words when he speaks about you? Yet woe to those who are silent about you because, though loquacious with verbosity, they have nothing to say.

What an amazing sense of wonder and mystery at our good and great God who is immutable yet changing all things, who is wrathful yet tranquil, who pays debts despite owing nothing.

So my challenge to you is to embrace the mystery of getting to know God. Continue searching for more and more details that unravel a fuller picture of who God is. But also take time to sit and enjoy the glorious mystery of his incomprehensible nature.

I love you, Church!
Nathan Ehresman