February 14 – We are ALL IN!

Read John 6:40, Matthew 7:21 and Luke 19:10

I was welcomed on staff at Grace as the Grace Student’s Administrative Assistant in September of 2018, about a year and a half after I graduated high school. Upon graduating high school, I had no intention of working at the church. Although I identified myself as a Christian, I did not understand the true meaning of denying myself in order to follow Jesus. In the spring of 2018, after several challenging life experiences, I decided in my heart that I wanted to do His will in life. Shortly after this, God gave me the privilege of serving Him in the student ministry at Grace.

Something I’ve learned is that God will open our eyes to amazing things when we humble ourselves, surrender our pride, and become teachable. A lot of people wonder what God’s will is for their life. In John 6:40, Jesus tells the crowds, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jesus also says in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Click here for more about God’s will.)

Choosing to do God’s will has changed my life. It’s why I am so passionate about my area of ministry at Grace. I view the student ministry at Grace as a total privilege to be a part of. It brings me SO much joy to be able to work somewhere where my mission, the mission of the workplace, and the mission of Jesus (Lk. 19:10) are the same! God wants each person He creates to know Him for all He is and make Him known to other people. When I chose to surrender my plans in order to do God’s will, He led me exactly where He wanted me to serve Him at Grace. He has opened so many opportunities for me as a friend, co-worker, and leader to bring Him glory in my job, in the student ministry, and outside the church walls.

If you really want to know who God is and what He calls you to do, deliberately seek Him in your Bible. Evangelist Billy Graham said, “If you are ignorant of God’s Word, you will always be ignorant of God’s will.” I believe God has the most incredible plans for those who are willing to say, “Yes” to doing His will!

Sidney Schar

 

 

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February 13 – We are ALL IN!

Read Colossians 1:28, 29

I am all in!

My name is Steve Kern. I am married to Celeste. We have three adult children, two daughters-in-law, two grandsons, and, contrary to Pastor Nick’s preferences, a cat. Celeste and I served as missionaries in Germany for six years. More recently, I have been part of the Grace Church staff for the last fourteen years.

My “all in” experience with Jesus began more than 40 years ago. Like Peter in today’s reading, I came to Christ through fishing. I did lots of it in my teen years. As I fished in local ponds near our house, I met a neighbor, who also enjoyed fishing. No, the neighbor did not catch my attention and wow me by telling me where to cast my line in order to make a big catch. He did, however, befriend me. He told his story of how he came to faith in Jesus, and he told me of how Christ died for my sin, was buried, and rose again. I was hooked.

For Peter, there was a big catch followed by a big step. The big catch involved fish. The big step had everything to do with Jesus. He stepped out to follow Jesus. For him, it meant leaving the familiar behind…the boats, the nets, and even his father and the family business.

After hearing the essence of the gospel, I gave my life to Christ. I began to follow him and to give priority to fishing for men. I can’t say that I fully understood all of the implications of my initial commitment to follow Him on that day by the side of the pond. Instead, following Jesus has been a series of smaller, “next steps.”

It is no surprise, then, that my current role at Grace Church allows me to give oversight to our “Next Steps Team.” While every member of this team continues to take his/her own personal steps in following Jesus, we have the privilege of helping others to follow Jesus through things like baptism, Bible reading, group involvement, intentional serving, and short-term mission trips. We would love to help you as you seek to follow Christ. Check it out at https://woostergrace.org/next-steps/.

Steve Kern

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February 12 – We are ALL IN!

Read 1 Chronicles 29:17-18

I’m the Creative Arts Pastor at Grace and every week I get to work with our incredible worship staff and volunteers to make sure our 3 worship venues are ready to go. I’m always looking for fresh ways to tell the timeless message of the gospel!

I came to Wooster straight out of Bible college over 10 years ago, and the reason I’ve stuck around is pretty simple: I’m addicted to what God’s doing in this church and community.

Jesus said in John 5:19, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.”

Jesus kept an eye out for what the Father was doing and He joined in. I want to live as Jesus did. When I came to Wooster, I spotted God doing something amazing in this church and wanted to join in. He’s still doing amazing things today!

Recently, I came across 1 Chronicles 29:17 and I believe it has direction for 2019 and where we’re headed with creative arts ministry. It’s a portion of King David’s final public prayer before his people. It’s like a curtain bow at the end of his legacy, but also looks forward to a new day. This is what I want for our church, beginning with me.

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.”

I want a pure heart. I want to be available and yielded to the Holy Spirit and renounce any instinct or motive that is self-seeking. God, may our creative input be about bringing YOU glory, not us.

“All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent.”

GIVING is the heart of the arts – giving first to God and then to others. I don’t want “making stuff” to be an end in itself. Let our artisans and musicians gift their work in hopes that others are surprised by the joy of Jesus. Let our creations communicate to our church: “Come; Experience what we’ve discovered about Jesus! Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

“And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.”

David had joy when he saw that his contribution had motivated an entire kingdom to respond to God. When we give our best work to our church, it inspires and moves our community to respond to Jesus. Lord, inspire our church to rise up and worship.

I love that I get to serve Jesus and our church family by giving my talents and gifting. What are you giving to the Lord? Is it from a pure heart? Pray David’s words to the Lord today and devote what you have to Him!

Ben Framstad

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February 11 – We are ALL IN!

Read 2 Timothy 2:2

I love our church!  Nothing more expresses who we are than our name – Grace Church.   Our church proclaims the message of Ephesians 2:8 – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Only a few months after Roxanne and I came to town almost 40 years ago, our senior pastor, Ken Ashman, was promoted to the Lord‘s presence after leading this church for over 35 years.  Just a few weeks later, I was asked to become the new senior pastor at 27! That was a big risk for the leaders of our church! Despite my own inadequacies and failures, this group of believers demonstrated God’s grace and warmly embraced us!

Our daughters were born here, loved the ministries for kids, and got married in this church. They were discipled by people who embraced the life-changing power of God‘s grace. Today, both our daughters, their husbands, and our grandchildren are actively involved in their local churches, largely because of the influence of this church.

A few years ago, God directed me to step down as senior pastor and begin the transition to new leadership for our church. For years, Pastor Nick’s ministry with students had been greatly blessed by God where he clearly demonstrated great leadership gifts. Our board warmly embraced the idea of asking him to become the new senior pastor of our church.

After my sabbatical, Pastor Nick asked me to continue on our church staff as Pastor of Development. That was also a risky decision! Similar decisions in other churches have produced dissension. But, by God’s grace, not here.

And I love my new job! My role now involves stewardship and leadership development, pastoral care, and teaching. I get to say thank you to people who have invested in our church over the years so that we can share God’s grace with others!  I still spend time with people who are grieving, hurting or facing a health crisis. Pastor Nick also asked me to develop a series on Israel and prophecy which I’ve taught to several Sunday morning groups, and it’s been well-received!

As I think about all this, these words come to my mind: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). An old song suggests we should be involved in “passing the faith along.” That’s one of the great characteristics of this church through the years. One generation has “passed the faith along“ to the next.

Life-change continues to be the driving mission of our church. It’s the kind of church where I still want to serve!  And I pray that you feel the same way.   It’s a decision that has implications for your family for generations to come.  You won’t regret it!

Bob Fetterhoff

 

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February 10 – We are ALL IN!

Read Galatians 2:20

I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was 19 years old riding in a 15 passenger van in Daytona Beach, Florida when I got a call from one of my favorite people, Ben Framstad. I had recently applied to be a high school intern for the summer. A feeling of eagerness overtook me as a picked up the phone.

With my dad being a pastor, I was able to watch and learn how he did ministry and led a family. Because of him, I wasn’t turned off to ministry; I wanted more of it. I wanted to do what he did, go where he went. I wanted to emulate my hero. From an early age, I had considered it a dream to be a pastor at Grace Church.

For so long, Grace Church has been my family. I grew up through Grace Kids and Grace Students with countless people in our congregation having prayed for my family and I over the years. While I had to eventually place ALL OF ME in the hands of Christ, my heart was always at 4599 Burbank Road. While God has called me to ministry, wherever that may take me, my first choice was always and always will be Grace Church.

As I answered Ben’s call, he proceeded to tell me that they were thrilled to have me as the high school intern. I kid you not; I had tears in my eyes. A dream was coming true right in front of me.

I am eternally grateful to Ben Framstad, Tim Boucher, Nick Cleveland, Steve Kern, and Randy Moomaw (just to name a few) who have influenced my ministry and life incredibly since being here. I couldn’t be more excited for Kelly and I to continue to grow here as we bring along our son Mattie to become more like Christ.

I now serve on the Next Steps Team under the brilliant mind of Steve Kern with my main job helping to oversee our groups ministry. I LOVE seeing people take their next step and join a group. We have ~70 incredible group leaders who love to see people develop spiritually. It’s my job to make sure they are cared for, encouraged and equipped to be the best leaders they can be!

I am so jazzed about the future of Grace Church. I love that our church has an unrelenting passion to reach the lost. I love that we accept people on our campus who are broken and lost. I love that our emphasis is becoming a new person in Christ (Gal. 2:20). My passion for next steps comes out of this passage…becoming more of a reflection of Christ!

I am all in! I support our church leadership. I’m behind our vision to develop fully devoted followers of Christ. I’m for people taking next steps. I’m for the future of Grace Church.

Will you join me?

Jake Lawson

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February 9 – Hope and purpose

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-58

Be honest.  At times you may agree with the conclusions drawn by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes.  Life does have its mundane, routine dimensions.  In the rat race of life, there seem to be some “chasing the wind” moments of “meaninglessness.”

But life for the believer shouldn’t be a futile existence.  Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15 give you two encouragements not found in Ecclesiastes.  First of all, there is hope beyond this life!  The resurrection of Jesus offers you the expectation of life after this one.  At death, your spirit will depart from your body (Js. 2:26).  If you are a follower of Jesus, you will instantly be with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).  God even values your body enough that He will one day transform and resurrect it (1 Cor. 15:42-44).  His children will be with Him forever (1 Thess. 4:17)!  That brings hope that can place a smile on your face in the midst of the most mundane of days!

Secondly, Paul makes clear that there is purpose in this life!  Not everything you do has to be meaningless.  Paul is specific in saying that you can know that “your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  (1 Cor. 15:58)  Your service for Him has purpose.  It can make an eternal impact in the lives of others, and it can result in eternal rewards for you.  With that realization in mind, you are encouraged to “always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.”  The two adverbs in that phrase are important.  “Always.”  What would need to change in order for you to see yourself as constantly in His service?  Your mindset?  A specific activity?  Similarly, the word “fully” implies that you give yourself completely, without holding back or reservation.  Do you ever find that you are reluctant to give your all to the Lord and for the Lord?  If so, you are likely missing out on the sense of daily purpose that He wants to give you.  Hope and purpose are found in Christ!

Is your future hope secure?  Is your present purpose real?

Steve Kern

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February 8 – Unless…

Read Ecclesiastes 12:9-14

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.”  (Lk. 12:2)  Those words spoken by Jesus provide a sobering reminder.  No secret word, thought, or deed escapes the current scrutiny and future judgment of God, unless…  Well, we’ll come back to the “unless…” part later.

That reality of unavoidable, all-inclusive judgment is part of the final conclusion drawn by Solomon in your reading today.  He points out that there is nothing that will escape judgment.  From this and other passages, we understand that this includes every thought, deed, and action.  It doesn’t matter if anyone knows about it.  It doesn’t matter whether it is good or evil.  It is important, however, to understand other biblical principles that give further definition to this judgment.

  1. The judgment for those without Christ will include eternal torment and separation from God (2 Thess. 1:8, 9).
  2. Those who know Christ will not experience a judgment that determines destination (Heaven or Hell). Christ’s work on the cross has secured their eternal life with God (1 Jn. 5:11-13).
  3. Those who know Christ will, however, be subjected to judgment that takes even those hidden things into account (2 Cor. 5:10).
  4. For believers, good will be rewarded and bad will result in loss of reward (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).

Things like thoughts, motives, conduct, and conversation are not moot points for believers.  If you know Christ, your eternity is securely in His hands, but your rewards will be a reflection of your life.  No wonder Solomon describes your duty as “fearing God and keeping His commandments…” (v. 13).

So what about the “unless”?  Is there a way to remove some of your less than stellar performances from the agenda for conversation at the judgment seat of Christ?  The answer is, “Yes, through confession!”  By admitting to God in repentance your own shortcomings, He removes those shortcomings from issues of judgment.  Are there things that you should clear up with Him now?

Steve Kern

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