Sunday, December 3, 2017

“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” ~ Luke 1:13-14.
We got an early start on the Christmas Season as 15 of us from PPC went caroling throughout downtown Prineville recently. We did this as part of the Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Saturday promotion.
As we sang, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between the rich language of the carols and the “raw” sounds of downtown, especially the very loud diesel pickup trucks that roared past us. Amplified by the concrete and glass and asphalt, those trucks’ exhaust sounds drowned out our voices – briefly.

Because we kept right on singing about hope and joy and peace and love.
These are the themes we talk about and reflect upon throughout this season of Advent. Advent is a time to recall the coming of Christ that leads into celebrating the birth of the Christ-child on Christmas Day.

In looking around us today there are lots of forces working to drown out these themes. It’s not so different from Jesus’ birth two thousand years ago. The world then was also desperate to know hope and joy and peace and love.
So too was Elizabeth. She and her husband Zechariah had been childless, and as she grew older day by day, day by day her hopes of having a long-sought child were being drowned out.

Yet she remained steadfast in her faith; “righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord.”

At the end of her long season of waiting she gave birth; she would realize her hopes and joy and peace and love through the birth of her child John.

And it’s John who “leaped for joy” while still in Elizabeth’s womb as he recognized the long awaited hope and joy and peace and love coming as Jesus Christ was being carried in Mary’s womb.

This Advent may we remain steadfast in singing and thinking and meditating about hope and joy and peace and love that we celebrate in the birth of the Christ-child.
These are the gifts the Christ-child brings for us – gifts that nothing can drown out.

We gather every Sunday at 10AM, and we celebrate Christ's birth Christmas Eve at 5PM

Together We Serve,
Pastor Mike

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

In one of the very first pieces of Christian literature known to exist, written to one of the first Christian churches, we find what today the corporate world would call the mission, vision, and values statement. This church was being “remembered” for its:

“…work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Some English translations put commas in between these three ‘elements’ suggesting separation between them. The Greek text however uses a word which deliberately joins everything together.

There is no separation…nor is one done at the expense of the other…nor is there a sense of one of these leading to another…or that one of them builds upon the other layer upon layer…

…nope - just a big “here you go one size fits all” guide for any Christian community.

How each Christian community fills in the details is up to them.

I think that too often today when people see the Christian Church, at least as it’s portrayed by various forms of media, all they see is one or two groups insisting they alone hold the “franchise rights” to Christianity.

This earliest call though reminds us ministry is like a 3 legged stool where all three of these ‘legs’ are needed in equal measure to support a properly balanced ministry.

Come try us on for size. We’d like you to help us fill in the details. We gather Sundays at 10AM.

Together We Serve,
Pastor Mike

Monday, October 9, 2017

The events of the past weeks lay heavy on my heart as we began our worship recently.

The horrific shooting in Las Vegas, growing outbursts of some of our world’s leaders that bring us closer to obliteration (a fear I’m hearing more and more), other outbursts that only drive deeper the wedge that’s already dividing our nation.

And then during our prayer time, Joan shared that the ‘double-stroller” used by Mountain Star Relief Nursery had been stolen.

MountainStar is a nonprofit organization working directly with vulnerable families in an effort to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. My wife Kathleen, and Jaon are among the volunteers from PPC helping this terrific program, and Kathleen had mentioned the theft earlier. It all left an ugly smudge across my heart.

But -- there was more to Joan’s prayer. It came with gratitude because she found a 'single' stroller at a garage sale, and after the seller learned of MountainStar's need, Joan was given the stroller for free.

We celebrated this goodness. And rightfully so.

And this goodness gets even better.

As Joan was leaving church a kind and generous soul pressed a $100 bill into her palm to replace the 'double' stroller. At another garage sale Joan found a 'double' stroller - and a 'triple' stroller too! All for $60 leaving funds to help MountainStar with other needs.

And where previously MountainStar could only take two infants on outings; now they can take 6.

The Bible is filled with longstanding stories of God’s goodness. New stories of this goodness are being written every day.

Come listen to the stories others have and/or come share your story. We gather Sundays at 10AM.

Together We Serve, 
Pastor Mike

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John1:1-5)

“On Monday morning, August 21, a 70-mile-wide swath of America from Oregon to South Carolina will plunge into darkness during daytime hours.”

This quote from is just one of hundreds of articles about the coming solar eclipse. It’s an epic event that will have Prineville in that 70 mile wide path of totality. (The next one to completely cross the US will be August 12, 2045)

Public officials are trying to figure out how to stay ahead of the hundreds of thousands of people headed our way. Here at PPC we’ve been talking about how we can be responsibly accommodating too. You have probably heard that we have the Senior Science Advisor from the Pacific Science Center Dennis Schatz – and others – coming to watch the eclipse and provide a ½ hour lesson about eclipses for us.

How else might we prepare ourselves for this event that will dominate everybody’s attention for a while? Well, I think there are some tremendous opportunities to fold our Christian faith into conversations; as well as give greater consideration to our faith.

I thought about this as I read Mr. Schatz’s explanation of a solar eclipse. In that book, When the Sun Goes Dark, Mr. Schatz says “a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes in front of the Sun, blocking the light from it.”

At Jesus’ crucifixion the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all say that in the middle of the day darkness came over the land. As Christians we know Jesus’ crucifixion to be God’s ultimate gift for us to make us right with God. It’s that love from God that strengthens our faith and offers us hope.

What would our lives be like if somehow that “darkness” were to linger forever?   

Or, to turn this around, how comforting is it to know that we walk in the light of Christ's love?

Come walk with us as we walk in that light - and push back against the darkness. 

Together We Serve,
Pastor Mike13

Monday, June 26, 2017

Then Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath. He’s in charge!” (Mark 2:27).

This verse came to mind as I was heading out on vacation. Only this time, in addition to reading this verse in my New Revised Standard Version Bible, I also looked it up The Message Bible (quoted above).

That wordlackey” jumped out at me. It’s not a word I use, nor is it a word I come across very often. A quick Google search took me to and its definition: “Servant...someone who does menial tasks or runs errands for another.”

Jesus came to serve; yet nothing He does is menial. After all, as God coming to us in human flesh, Jesus Christ is in charge.

I find this “lackey” definition a helpful reminder when it comes to taking time off; particularly with technology following us to nearly every corner of the globe. You see,

You see, I was debating whether or not to turn off my cell-phone during vacation because there’s always the thought that if something comes up I can always be reached…and I must always be reached – right?!?!

Yet if I leave my cell phone on, am I really fully taking time off? But, when I turn my phone off, why do I feel guilty? Especially when almost ¾ of people surveyed say cell phones add to the stress in their lives. Isn’t the purpose of vacation to be a stress-reducer?  

We come across lots of occasions in the Bible when God’s people took way too much control of way too many things, and that still happens today. This would explain my own conflict about what to do with the cell phone on vacation.

I think the struggle I felt about turning it off is a symptom of something more; that is that we get used to taking charge, and our controlling things then becomes a habit that leaves God standing there on the sidelines.

May this conflict be our reminder that God being-in-charge is God giving us a clean and clear conscience to renew ourselves – it’s God saying “I got this…so go ahead, enjoy yourself!”

Together We Serve,
Pastor Mike

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2)

I’ve been thinking a lot about laughter lately. There was lots of laughter throughout everything tied to our recent Yard Sale and Plant Sale, and with those proceeds going to our General Mission Fund, our prayer is those funds will bring laughter to many parts of the world where laughter is hard to come by.
Instead of laughter, what is heard is weeping.

Might the best way to measure a community’s health begins by listening for laughter?
Something laughter and weeping have in common is they’re both an emotional reaction.

A study was done by the University College London involving two groups of people; people living in Britain, and the Himba tribe. The Himba live in an isolated part of Namibia with no electricity, no running water, no formal education, and no contact with people from other groups.
In the study, participants listened to a short story based around a particular emotion. At the end of the story they heard two sounds from the other group such as crying, and laughter. They were asked to identify which of the two sounds reflected the emotion in the story.

Researchers found that basic emotions including amusement and sadness are among the most easily recognizable -- and one positive sound was particularly well recognized by both groups was laughter.
What if we imagined people very different from us yet laughing like us…

...and laughing with us as we laughed with them…

...and let that guide our every action?
Based on Scripture and based on science laughter is the one emotion we all desire and the one language we all understand.

Join us Sundays at 10AM as seek, and work, to make laughter very real for all.
Pastor Mike

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

“How much further to Boulder, Colorado?” I asked the desk clerk as Kathleen and I were checking in to our motel at Rock Springs, Wyoming during our recent vacation.
"Not really sure…should be no more than 5 to 10 hours” she replied. I was surprised to hear this since: that’s quite a wide range; and, Interstate 80 is a preferred route into Boulder, and Rock Springs is along the way. (To her credit, she did offer to Google it).
At dinner we also asked our server who didn’t know either. Both had spent their entire lives in Rock Springs, which is one of only a handful of communities along Interstate 80 as it stretches over 300 miles through southern Wyoming. Everything they knew about life came from this one pocket of existence.
Kathleen and I talked about this as we drove through those open spaces; the vastness went as far as our eyes could see. I held this image in contrast with our daughter Allison’s neighborhood in Philadelphia; there you see streets bordered by sidewalks on both sides with row houses starting at the edge of the sidewalk jammed in side by side and that’s all that you can see for blocks and blocks and blocks.
We wondered: what would it be like to suddenly drop the Rock Springs motel clerk into that Philadelphia neighborhood, and vice-versa; taking somebody there and put them in that southern Wyoming hugeness.
And then, if we were to bring them together after 30 days; what did one view as common and the other as surprising? What would prompt shared feelings? How might there be some very different impressions from the same experience?
Our life’s history forms the lens for the way we view things. This is good for us to keep in mind as we keep growing here at PPC; that while we all look to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the foundation of our faith – each of us looks through our own lens which means we likely focus on different aspects of Jesus, and we might even see things differently.
And that only as a community can we best see the fullness that Jesus Christ has to offer.
Together We Serve,                                                                                                                                      Pastor Mike


Monday, March 20, 2017

“...and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ 4So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ “ (Exodus 17:3-4)

I admire the honesty we find in the Bible; like in this account of the people who knew themselves to be God’s chosen people quarrelling with Moses. Moses - the very same guy they were convinced was chosen by God to lead them out of slavery and out of Egypt and “into the land of milk and honey.”

Only now Moses fears for his life at their hands.  

And if they were to stone Moses? That’s not going to lead them to water, it’s just going to leave Moses dead – and put them in violation of the commandment “thou shall not murder.”

Their thirst threatens to separate them from God.

Sometimes we fall into the habit of letting “the way it is” determine our willingness to “see things the way they are” and that can put distance between God and us.

We’re half-way through the season of Lent, a time some of us Christians use to let go of habits, or at least suspend them in order to draw ourselves into newer and even deeper relationship with God.

God did quench the Israelites thirst from the least likely of places.

Likewise, God offers to quench our spiritual thirst by sending Jesus Christ to us from the least likely of places ("Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" John 1:46).

Join us Sundays at 10AM as we take a big thirst-quenching gulp and strive to see things the way God-in-Christ sees them.

Together We Serve,
Pastor Mike

Monday, February 6, 2017

“To God be the glory.”
This is how we come together following our time of reflection at the end of the sermon. We find this phrase in Galatians, and there are differences among the translations:

·         “To God be the glory forever and ever!” (The Good News Bible).
·         “All glory to God through all the ages of eternity.” (The Living Bible)
·         “May He have all the honor forever.” (New Life Version)

We quickly begin to see the enormity of this declaration as it means glorifying God through all time and at all times which includes all times within each of our lives!

So with this understanding then we should be doing those things that glorify God every second of every hour of every day of every week – month – year throughout our lives. A lot of those times in our lives that we more or less walk through without much thought now take on the urgency of always being, and always doing, the extraordinary for God.

As I think about how this applies to my own life, I would have to admit that this would go so far as to be a radical ambition for me as an ordinary Christian. It leads me to ask whether I’m saying “To God be the Glory” as a reality - or - is it a goal?

In his blog “A Few Thoughts About Being Ordinary Christians,” Tim Brister puts these ideas about ‘ordinary’ head to head against ‘radical’ as he raises similar questions. He concludes with: “At the end of the day, I don’t want to be ordinarily ordinary, but ordinary in every sense that Jesus defines ordinary. It just seems that such a notion is, well, a radical thing to do.”

May we strive to be ordinary in every sense that Jesus defines ordinary.
To God be the glory!
Pastor Mike

Monday, January 23, 2017

Are we really “one nation under God, indivisible?”

It’s a fair question to ask given the events of the past few months, and more specifically around the recent inauguration.

And that phrase we find in our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance comes surrounded by divisiveness as the pledge developed.

Colonel George Balch wrote the nation’s first pledge in 1887 which was quickly deemed too juvenile and lacking dignity by Francis Bellamy.

As Mr. Bellamy re-wrote the pledge in 1892 he wanted to include the words ‘equality’ and ‘fraternity’ but because of prevailing views at the time concerning women and minorities he felt those words would be divisive, so he left them out.

The words ‘under God’ were added to our current version of the pledge in 1954, and addition divides people today.

Throughout the development of our pledge and its call for unity, it’s carried the tension of divisiveness.

So how do we as citizens, and more specifically those of us who call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ, make this goal of unity work?

First of all, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ we remember that power is never to be used at the exclusion of fairness.

Secondly, we take hope as Craig D. Lounsbrough writes:

“Contradictions are the impossible chasms that create forever separations. God is the forever bridge that creates impossible reunions.”

I invite you to join us Sundays at 10AM as we dare to cross this bridge.

Together We Serve,
Pastor Mike