"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I knew something they didn’t.

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

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

The kids enjoyed it. I was freezing, lol.

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

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

But the kids were happy.

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

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

But we had fun. Real fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 6:9-10,
Pastor Jack

Creators in His image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you Sunday!
Nathan Ehresman

Football cards and spiritual blessings

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

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

I said, “Oh, what’s his name?”

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

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

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

I was amazed.

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

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

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

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

What kind of response do I have to blessing?

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

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

Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing.

Now that is truly amazing.

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

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

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren

Kitchen cabinets and clean hearts

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

The last room we are redoing is the kitchen. 

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

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

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

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

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

Second, "reconciliation isn't perfection".

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

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

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

Ministering together,

Monk Mondays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 6:9-10,
Pastor Jack

People over preference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Only King Forever” is the winner!

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

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

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


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

I’m looking forward to Sunday!

Pastor Kyle

Makeshift Hiking Poles and Relational Vistas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Out of excuses

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

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

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

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

Did this leave you squirming a bit too?

If so, good!

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

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

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

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

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

In His power,
Juli Dirks
GraceKids Director

Countless, nameless Christians

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

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

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

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

First, stand firm in the face of societal pressure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you, Church!
Nathan Ehresman