Pastor's blog

Periodically Pastor Jason and Pastor Brandon will post here their thoughts/rants/grumblings as they pertain to life, faith, ministry, leadership, or whatever else is going on in their messed up minds that week.  If you would like to post as a guest blogger, email your post to gracecrossing.tv@gmail.com. 

  • Romans 12 response

    I work at a job that I love, with a boss who is hard to like.  I stood toe to toe with the devil in him on Monday, I wouldn’t say I won, but he didn’t fire me, so my job is not done.  My goal of course is not to get fired, but God has me in a position to witness, love, and respect to a business man who is a bully.  A man who feels is okay to demean and humiliate people in front of co workers and friends.. A man who has a quick fiery tongue but whom also has a hart that is broken and scared if one can get close enough or stay employed long enough to find it.

    I was married to a man just like this, but was weak then. If he said jump, I asked how high. I allowed his words and fiery barks to destroy my self-esteem until I was nothing more than a shell of a person.

    Through my divorce I learned that kind of submission is not what God desires for us, however that experience gives me the stamina to face the battles I face now. The stamina to weather the storm, walk on water, and reach an unlovable burnt crusty marshmallow…the best part is I am not married to him! This time my financial security does not rest on him (although he likes to think it does).

    What I do-God’s talents and gifts to me, for this time in my life I use them to reach his kids that don’t often act like his kids, I get to provide a safe caring, non judgmental, non sarcastic, loving environment for his younger kids, and a sounding board for his older kids if and when needed.

    I get to be a companion and friend to his wife, as well as damage control within our business to confront clients and business partners with God’s guidance and love before they experience the tongue of the boss.  There are also other opportunities within my responsibilities at work to create a godly environment and be good stewards of our resources. 

    Through my divorce I felt like I was walking backward but in a forward direction gathering the pieces of my life in my apron as I went.  Now I am walking forward helping others to keep the beautiful fringe and ties of this apron attached and stitched solidly in place, while also helping them trip the unneeded strings that cause them to trip and lose sight of God’s goal for our lives.


    Anonymous Gracer

  • KEEP IT UP

    Romans 12:11 "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.


    Of all of the motivations and attitudes Paul writes in Romans 12, I often find this one the most difficult, and I think many of us would be in the same boat.  

    I think we understand that we should be excited and motivated to do God's work. I think we understand there is a responsibility to respond to His grace in our lives by continuing to serve Him and point people to Him, I don't think any of us would argue with that.  Many of us even understand to the point of stepping out and serving in ways that would be "outside our norm."  And if we are serving, then we should be good, right?  What more do we have to do?  

    See, this is where our human nature and comprehension leads us down a path opposite of what Paul (and God) are calling us to be.  Our rational human mind says "If I am serving, I am good.  People can see me, I am giving my time, putting my hours and sacrifice in."  But Paul is saying it's more than just doing, it's also the attitude with which we do it.  Never lack in zeal, but keep spiritual fervor.  How many of us can honestly say that as we serve, we always do it with complete fervor and zeal?  Hopefully some of us can, but I am not one of those people.  There are times when serving becomes a chore for me.  I love what I do, I love serving God by working with His people, but sometimes I just don't want to do it.  Sometimes I show up to church to teach Club 56 because I have to, and its my responsibility.  I love teaching that class, but sometimes I don't.  But you know what?  I would be terribly saddened if that was taken away from me.  

    We have all heard, and more likely lived through, the phrase "you don't know (or appreciate) what you have until it's gone."  Maybe we've experienced this with the loss of a loved one, or a financial situation, or a job, or whatever else it may be, but what if this was our opportunity to serve God?  If you could not attend church, if you could not talk about Jesus, if you could not serve people, if you could not ...fill in the blank... what kind of life would that be?  Knowing the truth, knowing what God has done for us, and called us to, but not being able to do anything about it/in response to it?

    You know, there are places in this world where this is a reality.  Countries where people face persecution and even prosecution for serving God (in whatever capacity).  And you know what we see in those countries?  Rapid growth.  The more His people are told no, the more zeal and fervor they have to share the message.

    We don't necessarily face that kind of opposition, so instead we create our own: I am too tired; I have too many other things on my place; I am uncomfortable; I am not skilled; I just don't want to.  And we let these made up excuses destroy our zeal and fervor, but what if we didn't even have the opportunity or allowance to do so?  We live in a land of the free where we can share and serve and worship how we please...what excuse do we have to lack zeal and spiritual fervor?  None.  My goal, at least for myself, is to recognize that I get to serve God, and that, while I have other things going on in my life, that putting His focus first and being excited/motivated/eager/passionate about the opportunity to serve God will permeate into every area of my life and give me a purpose greater than anything I could manifest on my own.

  • Voices

    Last Sunday, Jason spoke on the voices that we hear and the voices that we choose to listen to.  While I was paying attention to Jason's message, in the back of my head kept running WWE Superstar Randy Orton's theme music, "I hear voices."  For those of you who don't know, I am a WWE fan, you can judge me if you want, but it is something I share with some of my closest friends and has kept us close over the years since college; as well has having been a great way to connect to a certain demographic of students.  

    Anyway, Randy Orton is consistently one of my favorite WWE entertainers, as his trademark finishing move, the RKO is one of the most electrifying moves in sports entertainment.  Outside of a finishing move, one of the most exciting elements of a WWE superstar is their theme music.  When the crowd is wondering what superstar will come out next for a match, or when a conflict is arising in the ring and the music hits to announce a new cog in the story line, it is the music that gets the crowd fired up (or cues them to start booing, if it is a heel).  Of all sports moments I have experienced, the roar of the crowd when Stone Cold's music announced surprise appearance at Wrestlemania 32 in Dallas, or the collective goosebumps of the whole Sprint Center when the infamous gong of the Undertaker hit at RAW in Kansas City, are very close to the top of my list of crowd moments.  

    So a wrestler's theme music is extremely important in the WWE, and as I said, I could not get Randy Orton's theme out of my head on Sunday.  These are the words that kick his music off:

    "I hear voices in my head, the council me, they understand, they talk to me."  

    This is very much what Jason was talking about on Sunday.  What voice is in our head that understands what we are going through, that councils us, and that will dialogue with us to create the culture in our mind that leads us where we need to go?

    I know a lot of people who question prayer, and question talking to God because "God doesn't talk back."  I don't want to discount someone else's experience, but even though I don't necessarily hear an audible "voice of God" I absolutely feel that there are voices in my head that are beyond me, giving me advice, council, and understanding.  As I try to explain it, it sounds ridiculous, but in the times when my faith has been strongest, I have felt a constant internal dialogue between God and myself.  

    Those times when I fill my mind, ears, eyes, hands with other things, basically choosing to listen to something else with any of my different senses, it seems to systematically block out that voice that guides me and councils me.  So for those questioning if there really is a voice that speaks to you, I can absolutely say I have experienced this.

    The next line of Randy's theme says this "You've got rules and your religion, all designed to keep you safe.  But when rules start getting broken, you start questioning your faith."  

    Now, disclaimer, as you get further into this theme song, I will tell you it gets further away from what we would call a spiritually healthy message, but I do think these first two stanzas can teach us a lot about ourselves and how we view faith.

    First off, what voices are we listening to?  (As Jason mentioned Sunday)

    Second, what "rules" are you living by that are designed to keep you safe?

    This second point, if not treated carefully, can get into the realm of "start questioning your faith."  

    We start creating our own rules to keep us safe. Rules like, "If God is good then there would be no pain in this world." and "If God is loving then how could He let his creating go to Hell?" and "Why aren't Christians better?"  We try to play God.  We often believe we could do God's job better.  So we start creating these rules, and wondering "how hasn't God thought of this before...He must not be real."  

    But the "rules" that were "designed to keep us safe" preceded any human element of doubt and deterrence we could possibly come up with.  

    Rules like the rules of life and death.  That death holds authority over all men.  Except for the exception to that rule.  The guy who conquered death.  And his story that made it out of the first couple centuries (where his followers spread the word at a higher clip than any time since then...even in the midst of extreme persecution). In a time when the scriptures were not available to 99% of the population, the voices of His people told and told and told the eye witness account of His son.  

    Rules that guy said like "you are my disciples if you do what I command."  Rules like love your neighbor as yourself.  Rules like if someone slaps you on the cheek, turn and give them your other cheek.  

    The difference about these rules is that they are not designed by man to keep us safe here on earth, but they were designed, and executed, by the God whose depth is greater than we can ever fathom (Romans 11:33).  He has no counselor, no one he answers to.  His is the voice I want to listen to, and the recognition that we sometimes fail to reach His standard, it does not shake my faith because these "rules are being broken" but it strengthens my faith knowing that the absolutes that are God's diving rule and power will never be broken, and will continue to provide the voice I need for the rest of my life.

  • FREEDOM

    This week, people throughout our country celebrate the freedom we have as Americans. But, the concept of freedom didn’t originate with the founding of the United States. It’s found throughout the pages of the Bible, culminating with the person and work of Christ.

    Jesus said, “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).  

    As believers, we enjoy numerous freedoms because of what Jesus has done for those who have placed their trust in Him alone. I thought it might be cool to list JUST SOME of the freedoms we have as followers of Jesus. 

    Because of Jesus and His death and resurrection on our behalf, we have:

    Freedom from guilt. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

    Freedom from shame. “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Rom. 10:11).

    Freedom from God’s wrath “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).

    Freedom from fear of death. “But has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

    Freedom from bondage to sin. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).

    Freedom from the curse of the law. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).

    Freedom from legalism. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).

    Freedom from Satan’s dominion. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13).

    Freedom to approach God. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19).

    Freedom to relate to God as His child and His heir.“Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7).

    Freedom to partake and enjoy every spiritual blessing. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

    Freedom to bring our concerns and requests to God. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

    Freedom to walk with God throughout life. “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ’I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people’” (2 Cor. 6:15–17).

    Freedom to authentically love others. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

    Freedom to live out God’s purposes in your life. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

    Freedom to enter the gates of heaven. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2–3).

    Now...while you live in this freedom, celebrate this freedom...you should always be aware of people in your life who need this kind of freedom in their life. God may have placed you in their life to lead them to this freedom.

     

    Happy 4th week everyone. Enjoy your cookouts, your fireworks, your gatherings...but remember there is a much larger freedom to be aware of. 

     

    JR

  • Influence

    Writing is normally easy for me. I write for blogs, a few articles here & there, I write for messages & consulting. The process isn't difficult for me. The content typically isn't difficult for me. However, this time was different for some reason. 

     

    A while back Brandon asked the staff to contribute to the blog responding to the influence series. This SHOULD have been an easy task for me. I mean, I wrote three messages in the series, surely a blog would be a snap. I thought about the topic, I went back & listened to the messages as a learner (not a teacher)...and it was a rather humbling experience to be honest. 

     

    One of my biggest influencers in life is John Maxwell. He's considered one of the greatest leaders on the planet. Countless books, seminars, you name it-he's done it. But he started out as a pastor of a small church in Indiana. As he grew older and began writing on leadership he realized that his audience was largely made up of non-christian people. It forced him to rethink God's calling on his life. He decided to step away from full time ministry to focus on equipping leaders across the globe. Though he still teaches at Gateway Church in Florida, he mainly works with business leaders and corporations. To hear him speak of the opportunities he has had to share his faith challenges and convicts me every time I hear him. 

     

    And that's where I've been stuck this past couple weeks deciding what to write. Maxwell says "leadership is influence, no more-no less." If this is true, how have I been leading? Where have I been leading? Who have I been leading? Ultimately who am I influencing? 

     

    Many of you aren't aware of this, but in January, I made a personal goal to help 150 people take steps forward in faith this year. I've got a ways to go, but it's been an amazing 5 months of trying. This goal has focused the way I work, speak, think, connect, engage, what I say yes to & what I say no to. I have made it a point to spend at least 3 days outside the walls of the church WITH people. I'm studying In places people gather. I'm counseling in places surrounded by people. If it were up to me, I'd stay in my office alone & be perfectly content. But God placed this idea of reaching 150 people in my heart & it wasn't going to happen sitting in my office. 

     

    It's funny isn't it? I'm a pastor. I teach every Sunday to a couple hundred people & hundreds more watch online each week. But I needed to intentionally place myself in an environment where I could be around people in order to reach them. I needed to engage people in order to influence them. 

     

    For FAR too long, my influence in many ways has been limited to teaching on Sunday. And while this is definitely my sweet spot, I feel that God has been shifting my sweet spot to what I do Tuesday-Saturday out with people. It's the stuff no one sees. The stuff no one hears about. The stuff that isn't always under the lights of a stage or amplified through a sound system. It's the conversations trying to bring hope to hurting people. Conversations trying to lead people who are lost & drifting. Coaching people who want to create some systematic habits to live by. It's in the hospital rooms, the coffee shops, the restaurants, in the stands watching our kids play baseball or in hotel lobbies. 

     

    It is ALL an opportunity to influence. An opportunity to be salt & be light. An opportunity to make the world better & brighter for others. 

     

    I'm ashamed to tell you that I've been in full time ministry for 15 years & in just figuring this out. That I'm less concerned about 'office hours' than 'people hours'. The amount of people I'm currently working with is absurd & I should be exhausted, but I'm not. I'm focused & energized that God has given me the opportunity to add value to them. 

     

    Maybe this ministry thing is MUCH more simple than we make it out to be. Just add value to people. For some of us, it was we teach, we sing, we greet, we pray, we bake stuff, we smile, we talk...so much ministry happens all around us & it is ALL influence. 

     

    I'm not near my goal of 150 people yet. But the people God has sent my way have given me a renewed passion for influencing others. I guess you could say that they have influenced me to be a better influencer. 

     

    May we all find ways to influence. Make someone's world better. Make someone's world brighter. One decision that can literally change someone's life. You saying yes to being an influencer. 

     

    Leadership is influence. Lead well my friends. 



  • influencers: grace kids

    I feel so lucky to have had people pour into my life over the years . While thinking about writing this blog post, it was a tough decision about who to choose.  Should it be my parents, teachers, friends, mentors, or bosses?  Then when I heard Pastor Brandon’s message on Sunday, May 21, it hit me! 

     

    I hope you caught that message.  Brandon cooked bacon and eggs on the stage and challenged us to be a fully committed Christian instead of just being involved in Christianity.  He challenged us to be “PIG” – Present, Intentional, Gracious.

     

    When I heard these words, our GraceKids immediately came to mind.  It hit me that one of the biggest influences on my life today is the kids that come to our church.  These kids are “PIG” and are an inspiration for me to do the same.

     

    Present – This is such an important trait and is one that I hear talked about in so many ways.  Experts tell us we will be happier and healthier if we live “in the moment” or cultivate mindfulness. Kids are naturally great at this.  When we are teaching GraceKids lessons or completing activities, they aren’t worried about what comes next.  They are fully present in the moment, having a great time.  They play together, listen to each other, and pray for each other.  

     

    Intentional – Being intentional about building relationships was a focus of Pastor Brandon’s message.  Again, our GraceKids are amazing at this.  All the time we see them welcome new kids and include them in their games and activities.  They don’t worry about their differences, they find what they have in common and build from there. 

     

    Gracious – There are so many ways to consider this trait, but being in ministry my mind always goes back to God’s Grace.  This is a kind of forgiveness that children exhibit so well.  They don’t hold grudges.  When there is a scuffle or an accident, kids are often back to playing together before the tears have even fully dried. 

     

    As I consider all of these traits, they seem the most strong and pure in the youngest kids we teach.  As children grow older, they often start to struggle with them more and more.  Until we have grown all the way into adults and these traits become so difficult that we need messages to remind us of the importance!  I have a feeling this is one of the things Jesus was talking about in Matthew 18:3, “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

     

    All this time you thought I was the one back there teaching the kids.  But, in truth, they are teaching me!   

  • Influencers: grandpa milo

    (Chris Huxman is the team lead on our Grace Cares Ministry, and has served in the past on the Lead Team)


    I have had many influencers, both good and not so good, in my life.  But I think one of the people who influenced me the most was my Grandpa Milo.  I miss him so much since he passed away several years ago.  Grandpa taught me many things.  Perhaps one of the things I have not learned as well as I wish I had is how to balance the values of hard work and family.  It is a constant struggle for me to shut down work mode and just say, "Yeah let's go out and play baseball, or jump on the trampoline, or play XBOX, or go to a movie."  But I'm working on it.

    Maybe the biggest way he did influence me is the gift of connecting with others.  Like my grandpa, believe it or not, I  not a very extroverted person.  Yeah, you get into a conversation with me and you might regret it because it might be hard to get me to shut up, but in reality, while I love people and love caring for people, I am perfectly happy out on my tractor or in my truck on my own for hours on end.

    Grandpa was that way to an extent.  He was an old school, peace-loving Mennonite who always went to church and served the church and his denomination in many ways for many years.  But this quiet, good ole Mennonite boy had a gift.  He could connect with anyone.  And I am so thankful that rubbed off on me.  He taught me that all it takes to connect with someone is any common ground.  It might be your faith, or politics, or sports, or farming, or kids.  Or it might be something you disagree on but love to debate.  But everyone has value.  

    The ability to connect has helped me in the workplace, in the lives of my children, and at Grace Crossing as well.  Really in every aspect of my life!  Thank you grandpa for influencing me with the gift of connecting with others.

  • INFLUENCErS: mr boden

    If you have missed our May sermon series, we are looking at what it means to be influencers.  To be salt and light and dot connectors in our world.  Over the next couple weeks, as a staff, we will be writing blog posts about people who have influenced us and have lived out the characteristics of Jesus that we are discussing in our sermon series.  Today, I write about someone who added value to me (Jason spoke about how Jesus added value to people in his message on Mother's Day, if you want to go back and check that out).  This person was my high school Chemistry/Physics/Earth & Space Science teacher, who also was my Scholars Bowl coach (of which I was a two year captain, and four year varsity regional roster member, no big deal), Mr. Scott Boden.  Mr. Boden (I like to call him Scott now) is currently the Goessel High School and Middle School Principle.  

    There were so many ways that Boden influenced me, from how he taught to the way he acted around his wife and kids, but what stuck with me the most is the way he invested in his students (especially myself and a couple of my friends).  

    I do not want to toot my own horn, but there was a time when I was a very intelligent young man.  School came easy, and when I wanted to, I could get by without really trying.  Normally this would be of positive note to say about someone, but it became a danger for me.  There was a time during my sophomore year that I came to the realization that I didn't really have to try to be quasi-successful in school.  While some of my teachers did not notice this trend, others did, but their response was to harp on me and tell me I was wasting potential (which was the truth, but was not communicated in a way that lead me to make a change).  Mr. Boden noticed this trend quickly, and took an approach of making me feel as if he and I were equals.  Now, it wasn't exactly "equals" as he still threatened to suspend me from Scholars Bowl if I didn't quit stealing things from rival schools, and still gave me detention for lighting unnecessary fires in class, but he treated me as if I was a real person, who understood real consequences, and could be trusted with real information.  While I had experienced some amazing teachers, nobody to that point had treated me with the respect and candor that Mr. Boden did.  

    Upon developing this relationship, two things happened.  First, I wanted to make sure that I did not let Mr. Boden down.  Whether it was in areas of intelligence, creativity, or effort, I wanted him to know I was taking his investment in me seriously.  The second, was that I knew I had an advocate, who would fight for me when I needed it, and offer advice when I needed it (of which I continue to use him in these capacities).  Having an adult in my life, in the setting of school that so easily bored me, added value to me in a place where I can stopped caring about having value in.

    On Sunday, Jason mentioned four questions that people ask before they allow someone to influence them.  Those questions were, Do You Care? Can You Help? Can I Trust You? Why?  I want to share a short story (among the thousands of Boden stories I have) on each one of those questions, to show how he influenced me.

    Do You Care? The foundational memory I have of when I realized Boden cared about me was after the State Science Assessment during my sophomore year. During this time I was in Boden's Chemistry AND Physics classes (I still am bitter at Hesston HS for letting me take those simultaneously as a sophomore).  Historically I had been a great test taker, but this particular test was not in line with historical data, and after the results came back, he brought me into his office, and was more blunt and honest than a teacher probably should be, but that blunt honesty showed me that he cared more about me than he did whatever that standard protocol was for dealing with a student.  I won't get into the details of what he told me, but he realized how I would be motivated and created a game plan that would snap me back to my potential.  He showed me that day he cared enough to push limits to get the point across to me.

    Can You Help? One of the smartest people I know, and more importantly to me, one of the smartest people I know in the areas I actually care about, Boden's knowledge and experience with how he dealt with me and other students showed that he in fact could handle mentoring the ridiculousness that we all know is me.

    Can I Trust You? This specific story is another one of those grey areas Boden toed the line on to add value to me, and our relationship.  A situation had come up at school that I was involved in, though not necessarily the prime culprit.  Mr. Boden had heard word of the situation, and approached me to prepare me for what was ahead.  While that does not seem to be a big deal on the surface, it was more that I could tell even then that he was going to the point that would not betray his colleagues, but that would also prepare me for what was ahead.  It was the perfect balance of the two, and showed me where honesty (thought not necessarily unnecessary transparency) establishes real, beneficial, communication.


    I had many amazing adults in my life who added value in those four areas Jason mentioned on Sunday (Do You Care? Can You Help? Can I Trust You? Why?) but throughout my four years at Hesston High School, no teacher continuously exceeded the normal call of duty on each of those four questions more than Mr. Boden.  He played a large role in the way I saw myself, and the value I saw added to myself, as a high schooler, and continues to play a huge role in the way I interact and build relationships with students today.  

    Thanks for being an influencer to me, Mr. Boden, and I hope I have done well as the self-appointed co-godfather to your son.

  • when we view success in terms of immediate results

    March 31

    We have had a pretty crazy first couple months of 2017, roller coaster with its ups and downs, and have missed out on blogging for a little bit.  I am excited to get back into it here as we are post spring break, and post winter, and finally hitting some spring weather (both in temperature and wetness this week...surely April rain means in May we should have some pretty vegetation, there should be a saying about that).  

    With spring weather comes spring sports, and for me that has meant Moundridge Softball.  I have had the great opportunity to team with head coach Aaron Annis in coaching the girls softball team here in Moundridge.

    This new endeavor brought with it new challenges that I am continuing to have the opportunity to react to on a daily basis.  The biggest challenge so far has been transition from baseball to softball (differing rules/skills/expectations/protocol/etc).  I have spent the majority of my life playing and learning everything I can about baseball, and now am throw underhanded into a sport that is very similar and also completely different.  It also is frustrating that the thing I was best at (pitching/holding runners) translates almost zero onto the softball field, but for the most part I feel I have adjusted well!

    For me what I have noticed most recently though, is an attitude that has come to the surface for many of the girls.  This is an attitude that is not isolated in Moundridge High School girls softball players, but also my boys at Chapman, as well as the years I spent playing and coaching at Manhattan Christian College.  That attitude, or maybe more appropriately represented by the word, mentality, is that immediate results determine success.  

    When coaching hitting, it is easy for a girl to see that the ball went really high and far and think that's her success, when really, I just got dang good at finding her bat when throwing soft toss.  

    Or, probably a better example, when working with a developing hitter, and trying to make a small adjustment, let's say in not dropping her back shoulder as she is swinging.  The next swing she takes she throws her hands at the ball and doesn't drop her back shoulder and I tell her "great job."  However, if she still missed the ball, sometimes it is difficult to feel like a "good job" was done.  As coaches we get looks because, while we were focussed on a small aspect of hitting or throwing or fielding that we were attempting to change and progress has been made, they might only see that they still didn't hit the ball, or still didn't stop the ball cleanly on a dig at first base.  

    What I wish I could convey more than anything (and this is much easier as a coach viewing from the sideline) is that what we are working on is just a piece in a much bigger puzzle, and that immediate results are not always going to be true indicators of long term success.  

    In my faith life, I also find myself transfixed on immediate results (both good and bad) and think that those are complete indicators of success.  Sometimes, it's just part of the journey, it's just a piece of the puzzle and there is something much bigger going on.  

    I have to think that while Noah was sitting there on his giant boat waiting for water he had never seen before and not getting any he had to think, "Maybe I did it wrong."

    I know Joseph was a very faithful man, but I wonder if he ever sat in jail thinking, "I've done everything right, and this is where it lands me.  Doesn't feel like my faith and actions have proven 'successful' so far."

    As I said, it is much easier to see from the sideline why keeping a pitcher in while they are struggling can lead to a fighters mentality when the games REALLY matter (or recognizing who won't have a fighters mentality when the games REALLY matter). In our lives, we sometimes see our immediate results and wonder, "why is this happening to me?" without being able to see what it will do for us in a later situation.

    Life is going to beat us up, life will also give us reasons to be lifted up.  Just like in softball, I hope I can take the immediate results with a grain of salt, whether good or bad, and build on them to create bigger victories in the future, rather than hang my head on an immediate setback, or settle for the small win in front of me, that doesn't necessarily mean future success in the same area.

  • Jesus is my vanilla wafer

    jANUARY 14, 2017

    GUEST BLOGGER!! Maegen Stucky is our guest blogger this week.  She and her husband Luke are regulars at Grace Crossing and have two awesome boys, Crosby and Gracen. She has taught in Club 56 over the last year plus, and Luke volunteers in Grace Kids.  You can check out her blog at mommamegsblog.wordpress.com


    Last Thursday, Luke and I made a mad dash to Dillons before picking our boys up from daycare. “MayDay! MayDay! Theres an ice storm coming! An Ice storm coming!” This must have been on everyone’s mind in McPherson Kansas because we all were headed to Dillons at the same time- Thursday January 12th, 2017 at approximately 4pm.

    First sign of mass preparation of a storm to come- Dillons parking lot packed! We have to park in the VERY back row.

    Second sign of mass preparing for storm- NO CARTS available when walking through the front doors of said grocery store. I. Mean. NONE!

    Third sign (not something I would have predicted either)- NO POTATOES or BANANAS!!!!! Things I would have predicted to be gone with a massive ice storm heading our way- Milk, Water, Bread, Eggs (Maybe). NOT potatoes! Not bananas!

    Fourth and final sign of people getting “necessities” for winter craziness- PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!!! Carts colliding! Lines of waiting! Shelves in a disarray!

    Luke and I were in shock!

    So while standing between the  apples and empty potatoes bins, we decided on a plan of attack! A plan on how to conquer Dillons and make it out “alive”!

    We would separate.

    Yes, Risky!

    Many outcomes of this decision cross your mind:

    First-One could make it out alive while the other is left behind to fend for themselves.

    Second-Could leave empty-handed because the chaos was just too much too bare.

    Third- we could make it out alive AND with our milk, bread, and vanilla wafers. (Winter must haves)

    The risk would be worth it we thought. Divide and conquer.

    “Luke, you get the milk! I will get the bread and cookies! Meet me at the front counters in 5!…..I love you!”

    ok, to save you from anymore dramatics, we made it out alive (uh, duh!) AND with our winter must haves. It was crazy though and quite the experience.

    So, as I sit here on the Saturday Eve of the “Ice Storm”, there is no ice yet-even though they say “we are in the beginning stages folks”. I do have faith in our meteorologist and that the storm is still coming our way.

    Here I am comfy cozy in my cuddle duds! Boys are playing…nicely I might add unless I just jinxed myself then in that case- this blog post might end quicker than planned and KSU basketball is about to start- so the hubby is happy about that!

    I chuckle a little to myself about how we act when it is predicted of something like a winter storm is coming. We kinda get all crazy! We HAVE to go get things like generators, milk, bread, blankets, wood for the fireplace, salt for the sidewalks/driveways. etc. Do not get me wrong- we had to get salt and made sure we had out flashlights and candles…etc. etc. etc. We went crazy too. It’s just funny how that happens.

    It kinda reminds of my faith in Jesus.

    Here I am preparing for something big.

    Yes and Ice storm that will eventually and most likely quickly melt away.

    Now what. We wait. We wait for the storm. Comfy and Cozy.

    I have faith in my house to shelter me. I have faith in the safety materials that will help us still function if the electricity goes out. I have faith.

    Interesting how having faith allows my family and I to wait out the storm.

    Not to worry. What will be, will be.

    hmm… faith.

    Having faith in Jesus, is the same right?

    We wait out the storms of our lives, holding on to our faith in Him.

    He is our milk, bread, vanilla wafer, and evidently potatoes.

    He is our shelter, generators, and cuddle duds.

    He sees us through storm.

    Let me always rely of this plan of attack when my life gets a little crazy and when the storms of life come my way- Jesus is my rock! He is my everything!

    Worry ends  where faith begins. Not easy to do but true.


  • Word of the year: dad

    As 2017 looks at 2016 and says, "your time is up, my time is now" we all start to think, "what is on the table for me moving forward?" 

    It is funny because really, there is not that much difference between December 10 and January 2.  One is approaching the end of the year, and one is kicking off the new one, but there is not really a difference.  If you are a student or work in academics you are probably enjoying a winter break of sorts, but even then, you head back into the same school year you left off with.  If you work in some other business, you most likely got a few days off over these couple weeks, but the grind kept going for the most part.  There really is not that much difference, except in our perception.  The perception of January 1 is that things start over and we have a renewed outlook on our upcoming time.  While not entirely true, if this is motivating for us then it can be a great way to focus on something ahead or accomplish a goal that has thus far eluded us.  

    The truth is we could start a "resolution" on January 1, or March 8, or October 18, and there would not be much difference (two years in a row I started one the week after Thanksgiving; the first year I went a year without soda, the next a year without chocolate.  Turkey day to turkey day.  Chocolate was harder).

    But the challenge has been placed before us by Pastor Jason to think, instead of a resolution, a word that could define our 2017.  While we have had some awesome submissions, and I am excited to preach about a couple of them, I have been thinking about what mine would be, and the word I keep coming back to is "dad."  It is no longer a secret that Nicole and I are expecting our first child in June (find out gender in January...my guess is girl),  While the most important familial role for most of my life has been uncle, that role has, and will continue to, change in a big way.  

    What is it like to be a dad?  How will my life change?  How will I deal with discipline?  Do I magically know how to unkink a slinky now?  All these questions are a whirlwind in my mind.  Now I am not worried about it, because I have watched some amazing dads raise their kids in the form of my dad, my siblings, friends parents, etc.  and I know I have that proverbial "village" that will never let me fail...but that change and that next stage have got me all sorts of questioning.  

    So I do what I am supposed to do in questioning times like these...I turn to scripture and I see God described as Father and all of the "fatherly" traits he has; creator (already did my part on that one), provider, discipline, comforter, loving, guiding, offerer of wisdom, etc.  When I read these things, I have a twofold response.

              1. It is so amazing that in the most organic relationship, of parent and child, that God has provided us the blueprint for how to be a perfect father.  All I have to do is follow how He has loved us and I will have given my child everything I can.

              2. Uh oh...There is no way I can live up to those standards!  I cannot be the perfect provider or comforter that God is, this kid is doomed!  I am going to mess up more times than Wil. E Coyote trying to catch the roadrunner.  

    And the truth about fatherhood (I think) is that it is both of these things.  My goal is to follow the first one, but the reality is the second one.  I am not going to be a perfect dad, but if I take the examples of my Heavenly Father, my earthly father, and a lot of other great dads I have been around, and sprinkle my own unique personality into it, then that is really the best I can hope to do for my child(ren).  

    I was lucky, I had a great dad whose life portrayed many of the qualities and examples of a godly father.  The reality is not everyone has had that.  I have always been able to connect God the Father as loving, caring, providing, and that label has always made sense.  But in today's world, there are a lot of people who have had fathers who have been: absent, abusive, unsupportive, impersonal, and any number of other shortcomings that when they hear the word "father" their mind goes somewhere opposite where it should and creates a barrier from accepting God as a true father and perfector of all things good for us.  

    So, that all being said, my word for 2017 is dad.  I have six months of the year to continue to prepare for my child to enter the world and then comes the part where my goal as a father is to the best of my abilities, be someone who allows my children to see God as the perfect father because they associate a dad with someone who cares for, supports, looks out for, provides, and loves them, even when I am not perfect. 

    This is what is important to me in 2017, my wife and child, and I look forward to it all (and accept any and all help and advice you all my have to send my way...and thank you for those who already have).

    Here's to 2017! 




  • Christmas reality

    December 20, 2016

    We are in what is called the 'holiday season'. A season of joy. A season of celebration. A season of excitement. But, the reality is that it's also a season of high expectations, sometimes weird family dynamics & people getting sick right & left. A season of intensity & exhaustion; pressure & demands. It's also a season of on genuine loneliness & depression for some. 


    We WANT to make the season perfect, right? But it won't be. No matter how hard we try to orchestrate the whole thing, it won't be perfect. At least not what we perceive as perfect. Such unrealistic expectations are often set so high the only logical end result is disappointment. Our romantic versions of what this season SHOULD be collide with the reality that it often is. 


    Even as I sit at my desk writing this blog, just out of the corner of my eye sits my 'to-do' list for the next 2 weeks. It's long. There isn't enough time to get it all in. I begin to ask how I can meet with everyone & give them enough time to actually add value to them? How can I take adequate time to study, write & plan for 2017? It's overwhelming isn't it?


    As stressful & chaotic as the season is, it is still an amazing time of year. It's a time to ask NOT what we 'wish' for, but what we 'hope' for. It's a time to reflect on what we really value within this season. During Christmas season & the approaching new year we are reminded of a God who came down to be WITH us. A God who said to His people in Isaiah, "I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, & a spirit of praise instead of a spirit of no hope." Beauty instead of ashes? Joy instead of sorry? Praise instead of a spirit of no hope? That sounds like a GREAT holiday season, all because of God WITH us! 


    At Grace Crossing we are called to this mission; to turn ashes into beauty, sorrow into joy, hopelessness into praise. We have always been about giving people hope. May we always be a church where people can find this. Not only in this season, but every day of the year. God is WITH us...NOW, YESTERDAY, & TOMORROW. God is WITH us. 


    So celebrate the season! Enjoy your friends & family. Enjoy the parties, cheesy music, ugly sweaters & weird desserts. But listen to me...don't aim for perfection. God isn't looking for perfection, He is looking for you to be present this holiday season. Invite Him to be a part of & the focus of your holiday season. May we all take some time this season to reflect on the fact that we are not alone. We've never been alone & we never will be. God came down on Christmas morning to be with us. May our love for God, our love for ourselves & others outweigh the pressures & expectations of the season. And with all this said...I wish you all a Merry & Blessed Christmas. 


    Jason




  • tIME IS SOMETHING THAT CANNOT BE BOUGHT


    Time is something that cannot be bought, it cannot be wagered with God, and it is not in endless supply.  Time is simply how you live your life."

     

    Yesterday, NBA reporter Craig Sager died of luekemia.  There were many reasons to love Craig; his professionalism infused with humanity, great interactions with NBA coaches during quarter and halftime breaks (most noteably Greg Popovich of the Spurs) or, my personal favorite and most relatable for me, his universally known colorful attire comprised of custom made, ridiculously designed, pants and jacket combos.  But above all of these things, what I will remember most about Craig Sager is his speech from the 2016 ESPY awards.  Craig was the recipient of the Jimmy V Award for Perserverence, an award which has brought many amazing moments and soundbites over the years.  Craig Sager's speech at the 2016 ceremony was among the best of them.  

    He spoke about a train set that he would watch in the evenings as he walked through the Texas childrens hospital to his hotel.  He described all of the components of the set, and then said that one round of the train would take two minutes and twenty seconds.  It was at this point that his speech really hit me.  

    He started talking about time.  And he said the quote that started this post off.

    "Time is something that cannot be bought, it cannot be wagered with God, and it is not in endless supply.  Time is simply how you live your life."

    Obviously his situation added to what made it so powerful, but the words themselves were so perfect.

    When it comes to the time we have on this earth, we cannot get more, there is a finite limit to the days we get to have.  And when it comes down to it, time only exists here on earth; before God created earth there was no time, God just was.  Once we die, wherever we go, it will be for eternity...without a finish....never ending (a concept that we can never even hope to understand within these minds we have). Time only exists here on earth and so how we live and what we do really is what "time" is to us.  

    This speech reminded me of James 4 "You do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."

    We spend so much time planning for the future, saving for the future, building for our future, aniticipating an upcoming time.  Yet what are we doing in the moment? How are we spending today and this moment?  That is the time we have now, and we will never get it back.  

    Craig Sager finished his speech by saying that without faith and hope we have nothing, and that he will keep living by sucking the marrow out of life, as life sucks the marrow out of him.  

    This word picture is amazing, sucking the marrow out of life.  How many of us can say we actually suck the marrow out of life?  I am sure many of us can say that, while it may not be cancer or leukemia, that life beats them down and sucks marrow (literal or metaphorical) out of our lives.  But can we say we actually live in a way that truly empties the barrel of what life has to offer?  

    As a Christian, I know where I will be once "time" is up, but while I live here on earth, how am I making the most of it?  For myself...my family...my God...and my circle of influence?

    While the adult-child part of me might want to remember Craig Sager for awesome suit jackets, I will always remember his words about time.  It cannot be bought, and it is not in endless supply.  Suck the marrow out of life.  Rest in Peace Craig Sager...you will be missed




  • HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER

    A slight spoiler alert here; as I sat down today to study for my message for the #thankful series (which I will get to bring on November 27) I came across some scripture that I really needed today.  

    This scripture comes from Psalms 118.

    118:1 Let all Israel repeat: His faithful love endures forever."

    118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.

    118:9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

    118:13 My enemies did their best to kill me, but the Lord rescued me.

    118:14 The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory.

    118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

    118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it.


    Today, in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and turmoil among the people, I found it so important to be reminded to take refuge in God rather than put our trust in princes or kings or presidents or senators or friends or even family.  Our true hope and security is found in our creator and the spirit he has empowered us with (See Weekly Devo Nov 1).  

    Verse 22 then hit me hard as I thought about the cornerstone.  Jesus, the rock that was cast way by the people, who was tossed aside, became the cornerstone, where one wall meets the other...where Jew and Gentile come together as Christians...where Republican and Democrat meet in the name of love and mercy and truth.  

    Sometimes our country moves further away from the cornerstone, some times we as individuals walk further away from the cornerstone, but it continues to be there, for it's 2016th year and counting (don't question the numbers, you get where I am going).

    As we enter a potentially very new era in our country, the most important things I can do right now are:

    -Pray for President Trump, Vice President Pence, their cabinet, the legislative system, the judiciary system, and all other leaders as they attempt to lead our country (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

    -Take refuge in the fact that my God is sovereign and powerful beyond any measure I could imagine, and embrace His love, which will rule long after President Trump has come and gone, and long after any other system we as humans attempt to put into place...His love will endure forever.


    I can't be salty when this is the case.  I am still a citizen of a great country, and more importantly am a citizen of an indescribable home with my savior and God.  This is the day that the Lord has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it. 

  • 4 months in...

    November 1, 2016

    So today marks four months that I have been at Grace Crossing full time.  For the first blog post here on our website, and corresponding app, I thought I would share a few of my experiences as a full time staff member at Grace Crossing in Moundridge. 

    1.       Jason is fun to mess with. See I grew up as a little brother, I am the youngest of four and there were times I got picked on…and as the youngest brother, I had little opportunity to do the picking.  Which is one reason why I very much enjoy picking on my superiors, kind of that little brother syndrome coming through.  Our lead pastor, Jason Brains (his name is Jason Rains, but his twitter handle is @jasonbrains…Jason-b-rains, so we call him Jason Brains) is the EASIEST superior to pick on.  See Jason has some issues with noises…specifically eating noises.  He cannot stand the sound of loud chewing, or crunching, like with chips or loud cereals.  Yet one of his favorite places to eat is El Cerito in Hesston…where they give unlimited chips.  As he is talking, I will randomly crunch down hard on multiple chips and it drives him crazy, which makes me happy.  He also has an issue with laughing.  Laughing bothers him, which if you’ve been around Crystal, Erica, Blake, and I, laughing is very common.  The weirder we laugh, the harder he cringes.  Needless to say, we have received many weird looks at the different establishments we meet at.

    2.       Communication is key.  As a team it is important for us to make sure we are communicating what we are doing and what responsibilities need to be covered.  For example, if you are doing an ice cream bar in between services, you want to make sure someone is getting the ice cream.  This is not an example I was going to let our church fall victim to, which is why I took it upon myself to buy the ice cream for the ice cream bar.  The miscommunication piece that came up is where I had not communicated that I was getting the ice cream, and our hospitality team did their job and made sure we had ice cream for the ice cream bar.  For a church of 300-400, 20 gallons of ice cream is not really necessary, but at least we didn’t have none!  And there are worse things to have extra of than ice cream.

    3.       Christian’s comfort is not our number one goal.  As a church we have preached that we do not exist so that Christians can be comfortable in church.  It is not about our comfort, and honestly, if we get comfortable, we are probably doing something wrong.  Which to me is the only reason to explain why there is such a short timer on the motion activated light in the men’s bathroom.  Whoever put it in did not want us getting comfortable.  I sure was not comfortable when the lights went out, and I was the only person in the church and sans cottonelle. 

    4.       GraceKids toys are not meant to withstand the playing force of a 26 year old.  And a sponge ball will in fact go straight through a dollar general plastic bucket like it’s nothing.  I don’t think I need to say anything more, except that this was not me….but I was “in charge.”

    5.       Other staff members will give you a weird looks if you are eating potato soup straight out of the pot with a wooden spoon. 

    6.       Anything can be a playground to high school and middle school students if given the right opportunity….and that you can get from the drinking fountain to garage doors by going past GraceKids and the auditorium in just under 20 seconds on a rolling chair, but you’ve gotta be booking it. 

    7.       And I will end on the biggest spiritual impact I have recognized.  Satan really does not want us to succeed.  And sometimes he will send people under the guise of fellow Christians who just want to hurt you.  Satan is going to do everything he can to stop us when we are gaining momentum.  He knows he cannot possibly slow God down once we have gained that momentum, so he attacks us where we are most vulnerable.  Sometimes that is in our personal lives, sometimes that is through people in our community, church, or even family.  What I have learned (and am sure I will have to continue to relearn as I continue in ministry) is that my job is not to make everyone comfortable; my job is not to please everyone; my job is not to cater to “the way we have always done it” or even political correctness; my job is to show Jesus to everyone I encounter, in any way I can.  Sometimes that is going to look different than the way you do it, and that is ok.  As long as I am promoting my God and His perfection in the face of my imperfection and understanding His grace and mercy is poured out upon me, and available not just to me but everyone, then Satan has no chance against what God can do through me.  And that is an awesome thought.  I just need to get out of God’s way.


  • halloween masks, candy, and a pursuit of Jesus? a THROWBACK POST

    October 31, 2016 (oRIGINALLY POSTED oCTOBER 31, 2015)


    Halloween is always intriguing to me. It's fun. I'm not one of those Christians who is anti-Halloween, in fact I think it's a great way to engage the reality of the culture you live in & be salt, light & connect dots for people between our lives & God. But that's another blog for another time...

    Last night while I was sitting on my front porch passing out candy with my daughter who was dressed up like Cinderella (a gorgeous Cinderella by the way), it just kept thinking...why is this such a big deal? I mean we live in a tiny little Kansas town & easily had over 100 people come by to get candy fully dressed in disguise. Why is it so appealing to us?

    Is their an innate desire within us to be something, or someone that we're not? Is there some level of appeal to wearing a mask so that no one knows the real you? Is there some level of security in disguising who we really are behind the costume? While this question was definitely driven by my Halloween experience, I think the same questions could be asked about our life & our experience pursuiting Jesus.

    We dress up for Halloween with what goal???? To get candy? To get something we want? Or is it something more...we get the opportunity to BE something we want? Last night I saw everything from famous baseball players, to princesses, to zombies, to super heroes, you name it, we saw it. One night that we get to pretend & get what we want at the same time. But what if that's the way we live daily, and we just don't get our costume from the aisle at party city?

    Have you ever gone through seasons in life where you felt like you were just pretending to be something you're not? With what motive? Trying to please someone or gain something you desired? Was it worth it? Sacrificing who God made you specifically to be for something less than? I think many people go through life wearing masks & disguises to cover up who we are & the stories that make up our lives, however God very directly tells us in Jeremiah that He has plans for YOUR life & they are pretty stellar plans. Why hide who you are? Why disguise who God wants you to be? Instead of running away from it, run to it? Being in God's will & becoming to person God has called you to be is sweeter than any piece of candy given away from a front porch with their light on.

    God has specially challenged us, as followers of Jesus, to shine like stars. So stop wearing a mask. Stop putting on a disguise. Stop being a poser. Yes...you have issues, yes...you're a bit crazy. We all are. Rest confidently in knowing that the God who created everything...created you to BE you. So go be you, and be an awesome you. The absolute worst disguise or mask you could wear is pretending to be something you're not. Putting on the mask of a life you aren't living. If you aren't actually following Jesus, don't pretend you are. If you ARE actually following Jesus, don't hide it. There's no need to cover it up because you are exactly who God created you to be.

    Happy Pretend To Be Something You're Not Day. I'm gonna go eat my kids' candy now.

    Love God. Love People. Period.

    J