Thursday, December 3, 2015

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21).
We’re in the thick of the Christmas shopping season. This timeless quote from Jesus is particularly appropriate.
For the Jewish audience hearing this 2,000 years ago they knew the ‘heart’ as the seat of thought and intention and decision. This understanding is reflected in The Message Bible’s interpretation of this phrase: “It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”
While lots of us like to feel that it’s God’s Spirit that guides our hearts, if we’re being totally candid, more often than not this also includes the question lurking somewhere in the shadows of our souls: are able to fully trust in God’s Spirit?
For me to have this kind of full trust? When I really think about it, this kind of trust comes only after I know what I’m exchanging in order to get what? The habits born from our life experiences lead us to look at this as: “what’s in it for me?”
We come by this honestly – it’s in the big and small moments of life. Every day we come face to face with decisions that have us working out the angles and taking as much as we can into account before coming to a conclusion.
My wife and I bought a house, and while there was this “God moment” that led us to this particular house – we also considered the down payment and mortgage, in exchange for trusting that the neighborhood and the property values were solid.
We also find these decisions in the common place things; while standing at the fast food lunch counter – is the meal deal really is the better deal?
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, what do you suppose Christmas might do for you if you were to consider the quote from Jesus alongside this quote: “A man with money is no match against a man on a mission.” That’s from Doyle Brunson, a world championship poker player.
In weaving together thoughts from our High Priest Jesus and poker player Brunson, what life-giving understandings might the Christmas season hold for us if we dedicate ourselves to a heart-filled mission? A mission driven by thought and intention and decision as we follow Jesus who insists that God’s Kingdom - not the quest for stuff - is to shape the world.
What if we realized that Jesus gives us permission to not have to worry about buying gifts just to keep up with up with everybody else? I suspect that you would find great freedom from all of the anxieties that come with trying to keep up.
And beyond this; what if we were we set aside the question “what’s in it for me?” and instead replace that by sincerely asking “What’s in it for them?”
Perhaps this means re-directing some of your Christmas spending to homeless shelters, food pantries, veterans groups, or a church (our church is one of these) that works with the least, the last and the lost. 
How about as we shift our focus to "what's in it for them?" we think about the person receiving our aid…to imagine what life is like when it’s filled with tumult and always scrambling from hour to hour and day to day?
As our thoughts ripple outwards, we need to realize that this does have the power to get others to look at our actions, and it can cause them ponder: if this is not about themselves – then what and or who is it about?
And to realize that maybe this is what they ought to try to keep up with.

Together We Serve,
Pastor Mike

P.S. At a recent Presbytery meeting I got to talk about what excites us about our future . Check it our here:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Imagine my delight, I’ve been asked to share with representatives from nearly a hundred churches why I’m excited about Prineville Presbyterian. For openers we have 3 session members who will be at the meeting. This is a first!
New people are joining us for Sunday worship, and they’re getting plugged into other areas of our church life too. Over the past several months different people have separately offered conversations about beginning a 'new building' fund.
We have core group of youth forming through our 2nd Sunday Youth Event Series. Some of these youth will be part of our 2nd Sunday Advent worship service next month.
Our recent Autumn Fest raised over $2600 - the most ever! This comes after our earlier Spring Indoor Plant and Yard Sale, where - again for the first time ever - that sale alone generated enough for us to completely meet our mission budget.
Last year at this time my Pastor’s Corner ended with this:

“I’m excited more than ever for our future; I hope you are too. In our excitement we need to remember that we are servants, directed by God to come alongside all who feel hopeless – and this hopelessness shows up in new ways. We have to be ready to see something new, and always be willing to respond with God’s goodness.”
Looking back over the year we have been faithful to God’s goodness. Among other things: our monthly canned food collection helps St. Vincent DePaul feed the hungry; our Community Garden helped 8 Redemption House homeless shelter clients earn safe food handler cards as they seek employment; our very strong presence with Crook County Connect and Beyond provided lots of services to the poor; we offer real hope as well as cash aid to families struggling to pay power bills or rent; PPC is helping Young Life in their quest to get teenagers to know Jesus Christ.

When working with groups there’s a concept called critical mass. It’s a kind of self-sustaining energy that builds on its own as it brings about widespread action. There's good critical mass developing within the church and it is extending into the community too. I believe this is because:

#1 we're now doing more of the ministry things that people outside the church expect to see churches doing which makes them want to know what might be going on inside the church;
#2: When we weave these ministry actions together with faithfulness to the Word of God, it brings Jesus Christ to life and opens everybody to God’s Holy Spirit at work within them. 

In reflecting upon the past year and in preparing for the year ahead, I’m even more excited for our future. While I hope that you join in this excitement, first and foremost let us always remember that we are servants.
Together We Serve,
Pastor Mike  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Our Community Garden partnership with Redemption House homeless shelter ended for this season with a festive dinner party.
A Korean proverb says: “If you plant a bean then you will harvest only beans, not grapes or strawberries.”
God gives us new life through Jesus Christ by planting seeds of forgiveness and redemption and love in all of us.
As we pray together…
As we share together…
As we celebrate together…
What did we help grow this season?
What will be God’s harvest?
Join us Sundays at 10AM as we pray, share, and celebrate God's goodness in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

So with the end of summer marked by the Labor Day weekend, and a return to the rhythm of the working world, do you ever think about the work place - whether you’re paid or working as a volunteer - as a mission field? reports: “A study including more than 15,000 adults revealed that about two-thirds are willing to receive information about a local church from a family member and over half from a friend or neighbor. The message is clear that the unchurched are open to conversations about church.”

The Bible has a story about one of the first Christian Church builders named Paul as he stands before a crowd eager to listen as he talks about the God they didn’t know (Acts 17:16-25). Paul uses their openness to religion to talk about his faith in the one true God known in Jesus Christ. Important to note is that he’s respectful of their views yet shares the truth as he had come to know it.
Paul’s story is a guide for us today; recognizing that we live in this same kind of a cultural relativism where lots of people are chasing after something to center their lives in and the culture determines what their beliefs are.

What fuels this chase is a spiritual hunger.
We can use this hunger as our invitation to enter the world of those around us and share our Christian life-stories respectfully and effectively and honestly. And that honesty includes our own questions and thin-spots.

Paul didn’t get bogged down in high minded big thinking theological debates, he simply talked about the good news he knew about Jesus Christ.
That Lifeway Research piece wraps up with this:

“Much to the surprise of the ‘Chicken Little' crowd, people are still going to church. And more people would attend if given one simple thing—an invitation.”
God’s invitation to us to be God’s people comes with the expectation that we will extend this invitation. We are God’s walking and talking invitations to a sinful and broken and spiritually hungry world.

We don’t have to have all the answers – we just have to ask the question to the people around us: “what are you doing Sunday?”
So, what are you doing Sunday? I think you’d like our church. We meet at 10AM.

Together We Serve,                                                                                                        
Pastor Mike

Monday, July 6, 2015

Prineville Presbyterian Church's photo.

Celebrating the 4th of July comes with fireworks. Fireworks is also a fitting description for reactions to the Supreme Court ruling expanding the definition of marriage to include same sex marriages.
Many follow-up postings and articles have launched a barrage of fireworks where this single issue has become a test; either you think like ‘this’ - or - you think like ‘that.’

It’s very divisive and whoever is asking the question is using it to determine for themselves whether or not somebody else is Christian.

The signing of the Declaration 239 years came with ‘fireworks.’ It  charged the king of England with “the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
Yet 4 days after the signing, Boston townsmen were told to report for the draft. The wealthy could hire substitutes; but the poor had to serve. This led to more rebellion and shouts that “Tyranny is tyranny, let it come from whom it may.”

History records greater opposition to taking up arms against England than support for it. The beginning of these United States came amidst strongly divided beliefs.

Imagine the ‘fireworks.’

Maybe like the ‘fireworks’ at the birth of the Christian Church?

The first Christians were Jewish converts and for them circumcision was the mark of being a proper Jew. As Acts 15 records it, some insisted that one first had to be circumcised to become a Jew in order to become Christian.
Paul, a leader of the early church disagrees. His friend Barnabus joins in the protest and what followed was “No small dissension and debate…”

They’re sent to Jerusalem to ask church leaders there. On their way they’re converting Gentiles to Christianity; Gentiles - people who were not Jewish - are now Christians.“
In Jerusalem and "after there had been much debate,” Peter - the very man whose faith Jesus points to as the model for building the Christian church - says:

“On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they [meaning the Gentiles] will.”
Nowhere does it say that people had to abandon their understandings, or that everybody came to the same conclusion.

What we do find is the very people that God used to bring the church to life acknowledged their differences and refused to let it divide them.
Instead they all submitted to God’s grace made known in Jesus Christ; a gracious space where God holds righteous love for us regardless of whether we have right or wrong answers.

Join us Sundays at 10AM in our chase for grace.
Together We Serve,
Pastor Mike

Monday, June 1, 2015


Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ (John 1:46)

As Jesus calls His disciples, we often remember the stories of those who were first called; how quickly they dropped everything and off they went.
However, Nathaniel shows some initial reluctance.

From Nathaniel’s perspective - formed by what it meant to be “a good Jew” - Nazareth was on the wrong side of the tracks in the midst of the wrong area surrounded by the wrong people.
And now he learns that God’s Chosen One was coming from someplace nobody would have chosen as a start for goodness.

Recently we had 28 tomato cages stolen from our Community Garden. Part of our garden is being used by Redemption House homeless shelter to teach people to grow and cook vegetables; these cages were for them.

Our disappointment is understandable and in circumstances like this it can be tough to find any goodness.
On the off-chance they might show up at a weekend yard sale we posted the theft on the Facebook page ‘Prineville Free…Sell…Trade’ and asked people to be on the lookout.   

Nearly 40 people replied! Many offering encouragement and prayers…and then somebody offered their unused cages…and then another…and another…and another…and then came a suggestion for a tomato-cage-making-party.  
This all got us to dreaming – if we build the cages at the church we could roll out the gas grill…throw on some hamburgers and hot dogs…add a couple of easy side dishes…a couple of new members have offered to help…hmmm…

We’ll see what happens, but it sounds like a party may be coming out of someplace where we didn’t think there was any goodness.

This a fabulous way to describe God’s Spirit at work.
Join us Sundays at 10AM as we look for God’s goodness in those 'other places.'

Together We Serve,                                                                                                         Pastor Mike

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

“A bridge of silver wings stretches from the dead ashes of an unforgiving nightmare
to the jeweled vision of a life started anew.”                                                                        ~
Aberjhani, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry.

This phrase brings to life some very beautiful imagery for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our church, along with thousands of other churches, celebrated that resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The Biblical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection focus on His body being placed in a tomb, and on the 3rd day the massive rock sealing the tomb was rolled away. With that tomb being opened come promises of great hope for all of humanity. It is easy to understand why Easter services are grand and festive celebrations.

However, in all of our rightful Easter excitement, do we slow down enough to realize that Easter begins with a question? Do we stop to consider the implications of that question?
In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ mother Mary is sobbing. She has watched Jesus become a political pawn that nobody wanted to take, but everybody wanted gone...brutally beaten and His flesh stripped away...nails driven through his wrists and feet...crucified and left to die…Mary watched Jesus take his final breath. Three days later, upon His resurrection Jesus asks Mary:

“Why are you weeping?”
With this question God’s very first move in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is compassion: help me understand.

Lots of people have been coming to our church seeking aid. I am struck time and again by how even the smallest measure of compassion can provide great hope. Looking at our county’s immediate future shows that compassion and hope will remain in high demand.
A health qualities survey recently released compares all counties in Oregon. Overall, Crook County seems to fare pretty well. When it comes to health outcomes we are #9. However in health factors, overall we drop way down to #31. Among the contributing issues: our unemployment rate – while dropping – remains much higher than the state average, and more alarming is that one in four children are living in poverty. In a related newspaper article a county official indicated these challenges are expected to remain, and, maybe even worsen over the immediate future.

Where are we being called to provide compassion as individuals and churches and service clubs? How can we work together to turn this around?
Our church, like many others, is looking for ways to do better ministry. In expanding our outreach we seek to be Jesus’ hands and feet and heart as we come alongside people during difficult times; for this I am very grateful.

Yet, when I hear a teenager caught in the tumult of chaotic family circumstances say “at least in jail you get a warm place to sleep and three meals a day,” it makes me realize how much more there is to do. What do you suppose this teen sees when looking at their future?
In those times and places where life is a constant scramble filled with demands for this and payment for that, and you’re already on the edge with not nearly enough time or money or energy to take care of it all, often the first thing to go is any sense of being worthy of compassion. When that sense of self-worth disappears the thought that God might actually care disappears too.

Whether we are broken on the insides or broken on the outsides, the resurrection of Jesus Christ shows us that God refuses to be careless about any of it. God’s compassion continues to find ways to put us back together again for our wellbeing and for our right relationship with God.
The empty tomb is God’s reminder for us to slow down enough to ask others that simple question: help me understand? And then to consider what our world might look like if we stopped to listen.

Monday, March 2, 2015

16But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Luke 18:16).
As we begin our “2nd Sundays” youth events series (March 8), I’ve been thinking about this Scripture passage (also in Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels).

A quick Google search of images regarding this Scripture has lots of lovely and gentle scenes showing Jesus with any number of neat and orderly and well behaved children; they’re all very similar to the picture above.
And while I have no doubt about Jesus’ great love for all, and maybe even His great love especially for children…I gotta ask: where are the other children?

You know, where’s that kid tugging on Jesus’ robe and asking Him how He felt about the nine lepers who did not turn to thank Him for their healing? (Luke 17:11-19).  

Or, “hey, Jesus…what was the deal with the Canaanite woman and you saying ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’” (Matthew 15:21-28).                        

Part of our 2nd Sundays series deliberately includes making space for questions. Man-oh-man I hope they ask all kinds of crazy questions.

In the George Fox Journal, Leonard Sweet says, “A missional church faces outward toward the world. … For too long, churches have faced inward, offering religion as a benefits package—something that ‘meets my needs’ or offers good outcomes.” He tells churches to look at their mission statement. “Is your mission statement based on how to get people to go into the world, or how to get more people to come to church?” He and others who are pushing congregations to be more missional say, “The church is measured, not by its seating capacity, but by its sending capacity.”  (
Scripture never tells us what became of the children brought to Jesus. I do like to think that hearing stories about Him prompted them to want to meet Him; and then having met Jesus they felt their own sense of call to being sent out. And this is where they found faith-filled and God-honoring answers to their questions.

Join us Sundays at 10AM, and bring your crazy questions with you!

Together We Serve,                                                                                                              Pastor Mike
For times and places about 2nd Sundays:                                        or call (541) 447-1017.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The boxes filled with Christmas decorations have hardly started collecting dust in the garage and already we’re rushing ahead to the next holiday.  Depending upon your interests I suppose that would be either Super Bowl or Valentine’s Day.

A couple of weeks ago our choir sang “When the Angels Song Is Silent.” This song is written from an after-Christmas point of view; “the stable door is open…the angels song is silent…the shepherds have gone home…the swaddling clothes are folded…then the promise of Christmas begins.”
Over the last year Prineville Presbyterian Church worked to make good on this Christmas promise by trying new things.

We provided new stuffed animals to the Police Department and Sheriff’s Department for officers to use in comforting children caught in traumatic situations.
We used our “Souper Bowl” canned soup collection on Super Bowl Sunday to launch a monthly canned food drive to help stock the food pantry at St. Vincent DePaul. By the end of the year we had collected enough groceries to provide 1100 meals.

We found ourselves suddenly brought into a situation with a person living out of their motor home. Taking a big, deep gulp - while seeking to authentically follow our Christian faith - we extended temporary sanctuary that allowed this person to catch their breath and position themselves for a brighter future.
Like many people, we are aware of homelessness; however our sanctuary guest brought the challenges of homelessness right to our door step, opening our eyes even more fully to the depths and complexities confronting people lacking secure housing.

This led to an increased sensitivity that has brought us into new partnerships. Now, with our friends at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, we are looking at ways to bring our combined efforts alongside clients from Redemption House - the local homeless shelter - in using our one acre garden to provide opportunities for Redemption House guests to learn gardening skills and other work habits while providing fresh vegetables for their own use.   

Our Squares and Prayers quilters group embarked on an ambitious project that resulted in a gorgeous quilt. Their great work continued as the quilt was raffled off to raise money for our Children’s Fund. This fund is used in our partnership with St. Vincent DePaul to provide aid for families needing assistance with rent or power bills.
We have been honored - and humbled - to use these funds in helping 50 families during the past year. In many cases the financial assistance was only a part of the aid we provided; meeting with the families also created a safe space for people to vent and share and seek God’s comfort.

Words like “we” and “our” are the key to all of this. Carrying out the ministry of Jesus Christ is not the work of one new pastor, nor is it left to the work of one church community.
Rob Bell is a writer and has been a very popular pastor. He has supporters and critics, I find him thought provoking. In his book Velvet Elvis he writes:

“We can insist that hope is real and that a group of people who love God and others really can change the world. We can reclaim our idealism and our belief and our confidence in the big ideas that stir us deep in our bones. We can commit all the more to being the kinds of people who are learning how to do what Jesus teaches us…
 …but I can’t do it alone…

We need you to rediscover wonder and awe.
We need you to believe that it is really possible.

We need you to join us. It’s better that way.
It’s what Jesus had in mind.”

The earlier mentioned “When the Angels Song Is Silent” also included this: “All the world is changed forever…for the echo lingers on.”
That echo begins with all of us rediscovering, believing, and joining. And that echo lingers long after the Christmas decorations have been put away.

Together We Serve,
Pastor Mikeeacons yesterday. Our elders work to strengthen and nurture our congregation’s faith and life. The deacons are a friend to those inside and outside the church, sharing Christ’s love with anyone in distress. Both elders and deacons set the pace for this promise of Christmas.