The Grace Church blog is an ongoing collection of thoughts and stories from the church's leadership and ministry teams. The aim is to inspire, equip and encourage for everyday life.
by Todd Hostetler
Does Jesus love the Grinch?
I’m banking on it…
I have a confession to make. One of my favorite Christmas movies is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” You know, the one where Anthony Hopkins is narrating and Jim Carrey plays “the Grinch”. Why? Because there are days that I feel like the Grinch. Aren’t there days in the Christmas season that you do too? The shopping, time with family and friends, extra baking, Christmas parties…all great stuff, but sometimes… In the opening sequence, Hopkins’ says, “But I think that the most likely reason [that the Grinch hated Christmas] of all, was because his heart was two sizes too small.”
Wow. Did you hear that? His heart. Too small. Yeah, I can relate to that.
Over the last few weeks, God has been revealing to me some pretty convicting things about the condition of my heart as we approach this Christmas/Advent season.
Specifically, I’m concerned about my lack of availability to Him in this season: my desire to focus more on my self and less on His greatness. I want to make sure that I see the significance that came with His entry into this world. In Luke 2:1-7, we see that Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus in the manger, because there was “no room” for them in the inn. In a different story that we are all familiar with because of it’s focus on the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:31-32 caution us about the men who “pass by on the other side” instead of stopping to take notice and to help the man who has been robbed…. Guilty.
Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. When Jesus encounters the woman at the well, he is completely aware of who she is and what she has done. Yet, he offers her Himself. He is the Living Water. He is the Prince of Peace. And He is Emmanuel, God with us.
A.W. Tozer writes, “Jesus Christ knows the worst about you…nonetheless, He is the one who loves you most.”
And just like the woman at the well, He offers Himself to you and me. Yes, He knows who we are and He knows what we have done. But as you enter into this season, remember that He loves you, all of you, with all your past, and all your future. He deeply loves you.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Part Three – Learning to Love Like Jesus’s
Courtney’s story continues…
A few months ago, I went to the Love Like Jesus Picnic that Grace put on for the local homeless people, and that is where I heard a whisper. It was a faint one, but it happened.
Karen, who was also serving, walked over to the volunteers and asked us to get to know these folks, make them feel welcomed. I was nervous, really nervous because I’m not well versed in the Bible. However, I knew how to smile and how to make new people feel at ease. So that was exactly what I did, and with God, I would just rely on His words.
I walked across the lawn and heard a dog bark/growl in the distance. I followed that sound to a couple and introduced myself. We began to speaking about their dog, Doc, and their situation, and I thought, “Lord, here is my chance.” I asked them if they were afraid of Doc biting. They said yes, they were concerned as they were new to being homeless (only several days on the street). They informed me that homeless people come up to them all the time to talk or ask to pet the dog. My heart went out for them because like Doc, my dog is fearfully aggressive and has been known to show his pearly whites to strangers that approach him. I asked the couple, Matt and Maryanne, if I could bring them one of our dog’s muzzles so if they had to bring him around a group of people they wouldn’t have to fear him biting and possibly needing to be put down. This may not sound like a lot, but it means the world to people who love their pets. Dogs are family, regardless of whether you’re homeless or not.
They were ecstatic. I was even more ecstatic to have someone to relate too. That night I called them and said I would bring it by that week. They were so happy I called. They gave a shout out to Grace Church and said, “You all made us feel so welcomed, loved, and didn’t make us feel like scum.” My heart cried. Why would they ever think that? In my life God has shown me many examples of how easily it could happen to any of us. They were just one family, but God put me in their shoes that day. Any of us could be on the streets, whether we choose it or not.
I met them that week and we talked for a few hours by the river where they set up camp. They were saving up enough money with her job to move back into a temp house/motel. I brought them a list of contractors in the Reno area so Matt could call on these leads to see if any of them are hiring. He was a carpenter before he got sick. I also encouraged Maryanne to stay positive, that way, management could see how hard she works and give her more hours. As promised, I brought Doc a few muzzles, a new leash and a toy. All in all we sat together brainstorming ideas to help them move forward.
I recently called them to check up on things and they said they’re both employed and doing great! Praise God! They now have shelter with their dog. It’s not the Ritz Carlton, but it keeps them safe and warm. They are very grateful.
All in all my life has drastically changed within the last few months. God continues to place me in paths that He can use for His glory. He is opening my eyes to serve and get involved. He has made me want to know more about Him through the gospel and has encouraged me to share what I’ve learned.
The people I met at the picnic aren’t my charity case. They are my friends, and I love them. They love each other, care for others out on the street, love animals, and have hope in Jesus. They are me and you. They are God’s kids. I gained two friends and a dog family that day. Our common thread was dogs and Jesus. I will be eternally grateful for God’s whisper that day. I am the one changed by God’s love and mercy. I hope I continue to hear those whispers, even if they are small. I hope to always have that fire in me to obey. I pray that I can encourage people to come to Christ, the way others have encouraged me.
Part Two – Finding Community
If you haven’t read the first part of Courtney’s story you can find it here.
Courtney’s story continued…
God introduced us to a couple at Grace who asked me if I knew about small groups (which I had not heard of) and I decided it was time to take steps in that direction. With my husband’s crazy work schedule (he is away for 4 out of 7 days in the week), it left me way too much time alone. I took her up on the offer and started attending. I loved it! In addition to the over pouring of blessings and the grace of God, we moved out of the RV park and into our brand new home that we purchased in May 2013.
At that time, I went to church on a weekly basis, attended small groups, women’s retreats, etc. But I was wanting and missing something more. I knew I needed to share God’s love. I needed to be more proactive and try to love like Jesus. God provided me another awesome opportunity and so I signed up for Here for You through Grace Church and started serving in different ministries. I was hooked and couldn’t go back.
I went to the Neighborhood Sweep event and I met a fine lady named Lori there. While we were cleaning the streets of Reno, we got to chatting. She invited me to her summer small group bible study lead by Paul and Eric. They took me in with open arms. They answered any questions I had and encouraged me to keep asking. During that small group we read the book The Power of Whisper by Bill Hybels. It was an excellent book. God again spoke through Bill to help me get out there and serve, to obey those whispers and move when called. The first few weeks of reading and participating, I thought, Lord why am I not hearing Your whispers? I must not be listening enough or my ears were blocked.
Stay tuned for part three of Courtney’s story, “Learning to Love Like Jesus.”
The first of three blogs sharing Courtney’s journey of finding Grace, finding community and learning to love like Jesus.
Part One – Finding Grace
I moved to Reno three years ago. I was newly engaged and just received a job offer in Truckee, CA. With all these changes, much anxiety ensued. Thankfully, I knew where to fall when my anxiety roared its ugly head, and I knew the Holy Spirit was encouraging me to get back to church. I hadn’t been to church in a year, except for when I would visit my family in San Diego. I had been so focused on my own life that I had forgotten who mattered most. It bothered me to my deepest core. It was time to get real and get back to God.
Not knowing the Reno area too well, my twin sister Krissy and I decided to take a little drive to the local grocery store to get acquainted with our new surroundings, and we “happened” to come across a Grace Church sign. In our car, without saying much to each other (maybe a twin thing), we both knew we would come back and check out Grace to see what it had to offer.
In our terms, we went “church shopping.” We both returned that Sunday, and it was the easiest shopping experience…our experience at Grace struck a nerve in both of us, and left us wanting more of God’s truth. God used the pastors to encourage me and keep me coming back and so I did, even if that meant I went alone. I kept attending Grace, but I wanted more of a God-centered life in my soon to be marriage. I remember looking out into the crowd seeing husbands and wives holding hands worshiping God and I was bound and determined I would have that too. I’ve personally seen how important it is for a marriage, and for myself, to have Jesus as the foundation.
My husband Dave had grown up in the Christian faith but had strayed away from the church. Some of the reasons were personal and some were from external influences. He had made it clear to me after many talks that he wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea of church, but wasn’t completely shut off from the message of Jesus. He was open when I would share what I knew about God’s message and His hope for us. I knew with more prayer God would lead my finance back to Him.
After multiple times of asking him to come to church, he would kindly decline my offers and say, “Maybe next time.” I understood him, I had been there too. But if anyone knows me, they know I can be very persistent. But I had to let God take the course, so instead of using my fine persuasion, I just gave it to God. I surrendered it over to Him.
Then, early one morning in 2011 he was up and ready to go, dressed up in his Sunday’s best. Can you believe it? God did something in his heart to change his mind that day and it was love at first sight again, Jesus and Grace church. He went that day, but that was not it. We kept coming back.
Stay tuned for part two of Courtney’s story, “Finding Community.”
It took months to prepare the land, build forms and pour the concrete for the foundation of the new Worship Center at Grace Church. Not only was it an immense amount of work, but it was paramount. The foundation has to be strong and true in every way.
The same care and effort is necessary for the foundation of Grace Church: strong and true. Grace’s foundation finds its strength from the reality of who God is, our reliance on Him, and the way He moves through His people – all of you who call this place home. Our foundation is true in that we’re built to love God and others in all we do, baptizing and making disciples. To exalt God, move closer and closer to Him, and pursue people inside and outside of this church.
Though we are moving to the new Worship Center to meet the needs of this ministry, Grace Church has the same foundation. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Our church home is still home. The Lord is answering our prayer of over ten years and directing us as we grow into and adapt to the new space.
May we continue to seek first the Kingdom of God and walk in the Spirit throughout this powerful season.
by Karen Durst
Sharon lives across the street from a couple who have gone to Grace for many years. Over the years, this couple loved Sharon and her husband but their relationship went to a different level in February when Sharon’s husband passed away. This couple became family to her and rescued her from a very dark place of grief.
Eventually, Sharon came to Grace and found the reason why this couple loved her so much. She met and accepted Jesus.
This changed her but didn’t make the grief go away…There are still very dark days and Sharon still struggles. One thing that overwhelmed Sharon was the amount of things that needed to be sorted through and given away, sold or disposed of. The couple helped Sharon much with this, but there was still so much to do.
On Saturday a Here for You team of 12 people showed up and cleaned out Sharon’s house for her. Trucks went to donation centers and the dump and Sharon was left with a much lighter load and a clearer house. I helped with that endeavor and Sharon gave me some things, like tables and lamps, to use at Grace.
The very next day, those tables that hadn’t been used in years, and those lamps that hadn’t been lit for years, were used to create an environment where people could contemplate the cross at Communion. During that Communion, I saw Sharon. Her neighbors loved her once again by bringing her to that service. She was overcome with joy and gratitude seeing her things getting a new life that pointed to Jesus in a very special way. Her comment the next day “What a journey I went on last night…My heart is lighter than it has been in quite a while.”
It’s kind of like how God saves us and give us new purpose…Used up and broken things, plugged into His purpose and Kingdom. There will be lots of things like this in the new building. Old things, some even discarded, but repurposed for another use, new life in a place that points to Jesus.
I love how Grace is full of people who are loving like Jesus in their neighborhoods, at work and at home. I love that this couple was there for Sharon, that Here for You was there for Sharon, and that Sharon is here with us. I love how God uses the things we do at Grace weave a beautiful story, that goes on and on and on…
Why is Communion important?
by Pastor Dan Frank
Why is Communion so important to the life of the believer and to the church as well? First, let me start with our walk with God. It is essential in our walk with God to slow down enough to listen to God. Most of us live lives that are maneuvered at warp speed; fully engaging with God in Communion sets up the opportunity for God to actually speak into our lives. Another observation I would make is that we are a forgetful people. Communion causes us to remember what Christ has done, but more importantly, it causes us to focus on what is core to our existence: the reality of who Christ is. Christ is not only our Creator, but He is also our Redeemer.
Secondly, Communion does something very important for the Body of Christ. Because Communion humbles us so much to see the person and work of Christ, it produces a unity among us that is unsurpassed in any other way. It shows us our own sin and therefore gives the power to forgive and love others.
Communion is essential to our ability to glorify the God we love! Therefore, it should be set as a high priority! May we do it until we do it with Jesus in the Kingdom to come. Look up and meditate on Luke 22 this weekend as you prepare to join us for communion service.
by Marcie Devine
While handing out tickets for the shoes, a family of 8 came running up to me asking if tickets were still available for shoes, she said that she has 6 children and all of them really needed shoes. I noticed that all her children’s shoes were being held together with black tape, and that she and her husband were wearing flip flops that were in very poor condition. She then said that her and her husband would happily go without the shoes, she just wanted to make sure that her children had shoes. As I handed her the tickets for 6 pairs of shoes for her children, tears filled her eyes and she said how thankful she was knowing that her children would have shoes, I also handed her tickets for her and her husband to receive the shoes as well. Tears burst from her eyes. She said that she would gladly sacrifice the shoes to make sure that her children were taken care of. I told her that no matter what, we would make sure that the entire family had new shoes. She hugged me, thanked me and walked away. The high school student that was standing next to me while giving out these tickets said as she walked away “That is a mom that knows the meaning of sacrifice. That’s what makes this all worth it.” As the day went on, I ran into this family numerous times, each waited with anticipation as they waited for their numbers to be called. When the their numbers were called, they all sat at the same time, had their feet washed and then 3 out of the 8 family members received their shoes on Saturday. Yesterday, while we were bagging the shoes for the people that were still in need, I was BLESSED to be able to fill 3 of the 5 shoe bags for this family. This family will definitely be covered in prayer as the Lord places them on my mind.
by Karen Durst
There were so many things that were deeply touching about Saturday’s Love like Jesus picnic. Like seeing the people who started to line up at 7:00 for lunch and shoes…Meeting them and hearing their stories was surreal. Also, watching God provide just the right number of lunches just in time so that no one left hungry was so cool. The worship music was great…the smoke in the air surprisingly tolerable. The baptisms were so special as we saw so many people whose lives have been changed by the saving Grace of Jesus.
Of course the people who got their feet washed and got brand new shoes were a highlight of the day. Seeing their happiness from their new gift was so fun. But what moved me more, what moved me most, was seeing what happened as the people of Grace Church rolled up their sleeves and loved…really loved, and served like Jesus. I saw real joy in them, different deeper joy than they arrived with that morning. It was a beautiful thing.
Over the next few days, we will share some of their stories on Grace’s Facebook page. If you can, check back each day.
Oh, and if you are looking for joy—go wash feet. That’s what you should do.
by Rachelle Suggs
(She goes to Grace.)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what I think about. It’s been drummed into me since I was a kid that thinking on the things of God is so much better than the fleeting things of this world- but the things of this world seem so enticing sometimes!
Psalm 1:1-3 got me started on this journey most recently. It depicts in Scripture the illustration that Casting Crowns captured in their song “Slow Fade”. I have not given myself over to sin in one fell swoop, but I’ve not rejected the advice of the world which led to standing in the way of sinners (and rationalizing my compromise), and in some cases sitting in the seat of scoffers. But God did not declare that life for me!
He is the one who has freed me and continues to free me when I get myself tangled up in sin. He calls those who reject the ways of the wicked blessed. How do I do that? Its in verse 2: “Their delight is in the law of the Lord; on it they meditate day and night”. Oh how I long for this to be said of me.
When we think on things of God- His ways, His desires (shown to us all throughout Scripture), His heart for His people, His love for you and for me- that is when I find my desire for the fleeting fade away.
It may be a slow fade when I give myself to sin, but it also seems that sin takes time to fade away unless I fully immerse myself in the things of God. Paul reiterates this several times in his letters to the churches.
Take a look at Philippians 4:4-9. This is our encouragement and that of believers everywhere. Paul calls us to a simpler way of life: “In conclusion, brothers, focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy. Keep doing what you have learned and received from me, what you have heard and seen me doing; then God who gives peace will be with you.”
Colossians 3 reiterates this saying twice to seek the things above if you have been raised with Christ. Why is this? Verse 3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
So, to live IS Christ…I want more than just to say those words- I want to live them! This next week my training in Christ is to think on these things.