PEPC continues to be proactive in monitoring the impact of COVID-19 and has adjusted our services in collaboration with state and health recommendations. The PEPC phase guidelines are below. Check back frequently on our website or the PEPC App for the latest information and communications. Service details and links as well as weekly updates from Pastor Doug are posted below.
Sunday Worship Tools
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Just got back from vacation and cannot wait to join you for worship this week! One of my goals for my time away was to climb Long’s Peak. I’ve done it two times before and it is one of my favorite hikes. So last Sunday I got up super early, made my way to the trail-head, and began my climb. Summitted while it was still dark and got to catch the sunrise on my way back down as I came through the Keyhole at the Boulder Field. It was amazing. As I sat there watching the sun break over the Twin Sisters, I found myself overwhelmed by God’s grace. Like the Apostle Paul once shared with Timothy, “The grace of our Lord flooded over me, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:14) And boy did I ever need it!
Like many of you, I’ve been struggling to keep my head above water. Like many of you, I’ve found myself tossed about by the waves and winds of this season. To mask or not to mask? Send my kids back to school or go online? How do I best care for my vulnerable parents? When should we resume in-person worship and when to live stream? How do I help our church family navigate all the challenges this season brings? New problems seem to present themselves almost daily and I’ve found myself battling what some have called “decision-fatigue.” I’ve felt weak. I’ve felt inadequate as a husband and father and pastor and colleague and friend. (Thankfully we have a great team of staff and elders who help shoulder the load!) But climbing that mountain allowed me to clear my head. Watching the sun rise yet again gave me some much-needed godly perspective. As I sat there, I thought back on all we’ve been through together over the last several months and I am thankful. For the trials. The hardships. The struggles. Because it is only when we come to the end of ourselves that we discover the sufficiency of God’s grace. Again, I love Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Friends, this week we continue our journey through the Book of Ecclesiastes and Solomon reminds us, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecc. 9:11) No matter how hard we work or how much money we make or how much success we enjoy or what achievements we earn…nothing prepares us for global pandemics. Nothing prevents us from experiencing injustice. Nothing protects us from the random acts of time and chance. The only thing we can depend on is the all-sufficient, all-sustaining power of the grace of God given to us in Jesus Christ. Amen? Can’t wait to see you Sunday!
In Christ, Doug
P.S. Please make sure to click here to reserve your spot! And don’t forget to bring a little cash for this week’s sweet treat! Just a little something to make us all smile in a world where there’s not much to smile about. 😉
As we’ve come to the end of July, with the school-year just around the corner (complete with all the uncertainties that brings) I’m praying that you find joy and significance in the midst of whatever your circumstances as well as a settled sense of his peace.
I’m writing to you this morning in place of Pastor Doug’s regular Friday email as he and Kristi and the twins are enjoying some well-deserved and much-needed R&R. If you think of it, let me encourage you to take a moment to give thanks for Doug’s wise spiritual leadership during this tumultuous season and lift up Doug and his family in prayer.
As we have been since early June, we’ll be gathering on the hillside above PEPC for worship this Sunday at 10:00AM. And in fact, at this point we know that we’ll continue to be meeting outside through Labor Day weekend. If you’re planning to join us in person, don’t forget to reserve your spot in advance. You can do that by clicking the link below.
Regardless of how you plan to participate (in-person or online), you’ll want to make sure to have a copy of our bulletin and song sheet on hand so that you can participate fully. It’s available on our website each week, but I’ve also attached that to this email for your convenience.
Looking forward to worshiping with you,
Grace and peace,
Over the last several years, I’ve helped lead training conferences in Eastern Ethiopia near the Somalia border. It is a heavily Muslim area and there is great resistance to the gospel. The last time I was there several of our church planters were in the hospital with injuries suffered from persecution or in prison for their gospel work. It is always humbling to witness firsthand their commitment to the cause of Christ. A few years back I was talking to a Djiboutian woman who had spent time in prison for her church planting work in Somalia. She shared with me that one of the greatest challenges to the gospel in Somalia is the prevailing attitudes of distrust and division in the country. A Somali’s core identity lies within their family or sub-clan. From the time they can speak, they are taught to memorize the family lineage going back twenty to thirty generations. This sense of identity extends beyond the family to the larger clan as well. However, Somali’s are deeply suspicious of anyone outside their family or clan. In fact, they have a saying in their culture – “Family against clan. Clan against tribe. Tribe against nation. Nation against the world.”
Where does your core identity lie? The Somali’s have been fighting a civil war for decades because they simply cannot find an identity that transcends their divisions. Will the same be true for us here in America? When I look around our country today, I see a nation at war with itself. Tribal factions literally battling in the streets. Political “clans” and “sub-clans” on all sides fighting for ideological purity and the political power to impose their view on our country. For those who dare to be different. Who dare to speak up. Who dare to suggest a different way, there is only mockery and shame. Public humiliation. It’s a brutal, vicious cycle that only leads to one place…destruction.
Friends, now more than ever, our world needs Jesus. His is the only name given under heaven by which we might be saved. His is the name above every name. He transcends family, clan, tribe, nation. Those who place their trust in Him find their citizenship transferred from the kingdoms of this world to the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ. As such, we have been uniquely positioned by God to speak into the madness. To proclaim God’s truth in the midst of the chaos. To share God’s love with those who are hurting and desperate and abused and hated. We are given the freedom to lay down our rights and privileges and resources – just as Jesus did – as we seek to serve others. I love the words of Jesus from his inaugural sermon in Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Can you imagine a scenario where we would look back on 2020 as the year of the Lord’s favor? Sounds crazy, right? And yet, it is in these times. In these moments. When chaos and darkness and violence and evil seem to be gaining the upper hand that the people of God, empowered the Spirit of God, go forth to proclaim the gospel of God to those in desperate need of a saving relationship with God. Amen?
I know many of you may feel like we’ve never been more divided as a nation. Perhaps that is true. At the same time, we did fight a Civil War and I love what Abraham Lincoln said as that great conflict drew to a close, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Fondly do we hope. Fervently do we pray. Tirelessly do we work. Full of confidence that – in Christ – our labor is never in vain!
On Monday, we took our kids “back home” to the small town in western Nebraska where so much of my father’s family is from. We got to see the family farm and feedlot. We got to see aunts and uncles and cousins. We got to drive around town and hear some of the history. We went out to the graveyard to visit the graves of grandfathers and grandmothers going back generations. We shared lots of stories. Some good. Some bad. Some very weird. (My family is like that…ha!) I learned some new things. Like how my great-great grandfather – Dr. H.H. Grosbach – treated victims of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and saved many lives. Very cool. I also learned that the rare, wasting neurological disease that took my grandfather’s life seems to run up and down our family tree. Not cool.
As we drove home, I found myself thinking of the Apostle Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, “For we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” My family history is full of ups and downs. Triumphs and tragedies. Successes and failures. Heartwarming and heartbreaking events. I imagine the same is true for all of us. I wonder what future generations will say about our lives when they come visit our graves? What stories will they tell of the global pandemic, racial/ethnic tensions, fight for justice, and economic shutdown? What inspiration will they draw from our example?
I know times are hard. Our church family is afflicted in every way. We are confused and perplexed by the decisions being made. We are feeling struck down. Singled out. Perhaps even persecuted when we see restrictions laid on churches that are not applied consistently across the board. And we are but jars of clay. Broken, chipped, cracked earthenware that is so fragile and frail. Pots that too easily break under pressure. The only hope we have is the “treasure” God has deposited within us. The treasure of the gospel. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The literal life and death of Jesus that sustains us. It is Jesus who keeps us from being crushed or driven to despair. It is Jesus who never forsakes us nor allows us to be destroyed. It is Jesus who saves us and secures us and provides that sure foundation in a very uncertain and insecure world.
And so we gather to worship Him. In Spirit and in Truth. We gather physically and virtually during this crazy season to sing His praises and bring Him glory. I hope you will join us this Sunday at 10AM as we continue worshipping on the hillside. Make sure to invite your unchurched friends and family from across the country to join you. Share our Facebook and YouTube livestreams on your social media feeds. Point people to our website where they can catch the livestream as well. If you are joining us in person, please help us keep everyone safe by observing the following…
- Please register for the service in advance so we can make the check-in process on Sunday morning go as smooth as possible. (Reminder: this information will not be given to anyone outside of PEPC and is purely precautionary should there be an outbreak.)
- Please maintain social distancing when you find your seat or set up your chairs.
- We continue to strongly recommend wearing a mask upon entry and exit and when interacting with others. The new state-wide mandate issued this week applies to public indoor spaces so we do have more flexibility outside but we are not looking for loopholes and want to remain as safe as possible.
- We have an incredible team of elders, staff, deacons, and other volunteers who are committed to doing all they can to help us navigate this time with wisdom and grace.
I recently received a heartbreaking email from a fellow pastor in our area who shared with us how the divisions in his congregation over the public health orders have started to break out into the open on Sunday mornings. Angry words are being exchanged. People are feeling threatened. Feelings are being hurt. Some are leaving the church. It’s gotten pretty ugly. Sadly, he’s not the only one. The longer this COVID season goes, the more stretched we are all feeling. The more stress we are all carrying. The more our fears and anxieties threaten to overwhelm.
PEPC, I want you to know my goal as your pastor is to provide a refuge for you in the midst of this storm. I want your experience of your church family during this time to be one of joy, peace, comfort, and love. I want you to feel the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit as He surrounds us with His tender grace and mercy. I know the days are getting longer. I know we are all feeling the strain of the uncertainties and the unknowns. I know life is growing more and more difficult with each passing day. Now is the time when we turn to God. Now is the time when we lean on each other. Now is the time when we find out how deep the Father’s love truly runs for us. Amen? 😉
PEPC, I also want to thank you. You have been incredibly flexible as we’ve had to adjust. You’ve been thoughtful and encouraging to our staff. You’ve been gentle and honest in your critique. Most of all, you’ve continued to exhibit an infectious joy that has lightened the load of this difficult season. It just reaffirms over and over again what a blessing it is to serve as one of your pastors! I cannot imagine being anywhere else!
As we continue gathering on Sunday mornings and throughout the week, remember our goal is to provide as safe an environment as possible. One where you are given the maximum amount of freedom to engage as you feel led. All in humble yet wise submission to our governing authorities with whom we continue to work closely as we seek the blessing of our local community in the name of Jesus. As such, here are some helpful reminders as you prayerfully discern the level of your engagement during this time…
- If you feel sick or exhibit any symptoms, please enjoy the live stream from the safety of your home until you recover.
- If you are older or in a vulnerable category or caring for someone who is vulnerable, know we are live streaming mainly with you in mind to help you remain connected even as you prayerfully safeguard your health and the health of those you love.
- I also am available to drop by for a visit or grab coffee if that feels safer than a Sunday morning crowd just to catch up and pray together. You know how much I love hanging out with our church family!
- Sunday morning worship services will remain on the hillside at 10AM at least through the end of July and potentially beyond.
- In order to safeguard our church family in the event of a COVID outbreak (defined as prolonged exposure to three or more persons with confirmed cases), we are asking everyone to register in advance or check in on Sunday mornings. This information will NOT be shared with any third party outside of PEPC but is purely for the use of our own internal contact tracing should an outbreak occur.
- Social distancing is required for all events.
- The use of face coverings is strongly recommended in Douglas County (our jurisdiction) though flexibility is given for pre-existing health conditions and in outdoor spaces where social distancing can be maintained.
More than anything else, I want you to know we trust your discernment. Only you know the unique circumstances you are facing and only you can prayerfully make the determination that is best for you and your family. So I want to close by encouraging all of us to extend grace and love and trust to each other. Resist the temptation to use shame or respond with self-righteousness to those around you. Remember, everyone is carrying a unique load right now. The burdens are real. So let’s be kind. Let’s be gentle. Let’s be patient. And let’s look to Christ to carry us through! Amen? Love you, PEPC! See you Sunday!
This morning I read the following words from the book of Hosea, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender…for it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I bent down to them and fed them.” (Hosea 11:8, 3-4) For those who do not know, Hosea is one of the more challenging books of the Bible. God looks down from eternity and sees the violence and injustice and suffering and corruption of His people. He sees how far they have fallen away from their relationship with Him. So He sends Hosea to proclaim His message of doom and judgment. But even in the midst of God’s righteous anger, there is still this note of love. God simply cannot and will not let go. He loves them too much.
These verses reminded me of my own calling as a father. Watching my children be born. Changing their diapers. Teaching them how to eat. How to crawl. How to walk. How to run. These memories are tender for me. They bring tears to my eyes. Joy to my heart. I imagine everyone who is a parent can relate. Now my children are older. They don’t always follow in my footsteps. They make choices and decisions that are not always healthy or wise. What’s my response? It used to be anger or frustration. Now it is even greater love. I’ve been trying to learn from God’s example. In Jesus Christ, we see the love of God overwhelm all our sin. All our pain. All our heartbreak. God’s love is like a flood, washing over all the earth. His heart is warm and tender towards us. His commitment firm. His faithfulness ever true.
Like many of you, I find myself pondering all that’s going on in the world around us. COVID-19. Racial/ethnic tensions. Economic pain. Hyper-partisanship driving our politics. So much anger. So much outrage. So much anxiety. So much fear. It’s palpable. What would happen if the people of God chose a different way? What would happen if the people of God chose God’s way? The way of sacrificial love? Imagine if we chose to offer a gentle answer to turn away wrath? (Prov. 15:1) Imagine if we chose to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? (Matthew 5:44) Imagine if we chose to talk to each other instead of cutting off relationships the moment they got hard? (Isaiah 1:18, Matthew 18:15) Imagine if we rejoiced with those who rejoice and wept with those who weep? (Romans 12:15) What if – in the midst of all the heated debates in our culture today – we chose to overcome evil with good? (Romans 12:21)
When Jesus looked out on the crowds who followed Him, he had compassion. (Matthew 9:36) He felt a deep sense of empathy. His heart grew tender within Him. He could see they were harassed and helpless. Anxious and afraid. Lonely and depressed. They were sheep without a shepherd. Do we see our world the same way? When we scroll through Twitter or Facebook or watch cable news, do we find our hearts growing tender within us? Compassionate? Empathetic? Do we see our political and social leaders the way Jesus sees them? Do we see each other the way Jesus sees us? Imagine how your life or my life or the lives of those around us might change if we made it our aim to share Christ’s love and His love alone? This is my prayer for us as we continue to navigate this season together. May we who call PEPC home be known as Christ’s disciples because of the way we love one another. Amen? See you Sunday!
As many of you may have heard, Tri-County Health issued an order today mandating the use of face masks in indoor spaces. While all the details have yet to be released, we anticipate such an order will include public gathered worship. The order is in effect for at least 90 days with the potential of being extended if necessary. Municipalities can opt out and since we are located just outside Parker city limits in unincorporated Douglas County, it would be up to our county commissioners to provide such a direction and we do not have any information regarding a timeline for their decision.
What does this mean for PEPC? It means we are shifting our plans. Instead of moving inside this Sunday and resuming our normal worship schedule (8:45 and 10:30), we will continue gathering outside on the hillside at 10AM. Live streaming will continue as usual. Children’s programming will be limited to activity bags and we will continue keeping the services to one hour to make them as family-friendly as possible. The public health order reinforces the strong recommendation regarding the wearing of masks but does provide flexibility in outdoor spaces where social distancing can be maintained. We anticipate remaining outside for worship at least through the end of July at which time we will re-evaluate. As always, if there is inclement weather, you can expect to receive notification through the PEPC app, email, and social media noting the cancellation of gathered worship and we will live stream exclusively.
What is the rationale for our decision? Throughout this crisis, we have been guided by three main biblical principles…
- Safety. Our first responsibility (aside from faithfulness to the gospel) is the physical safety of our congregation. This new public health order emphasizes the scientific consensus that gathering outside is safer than gathering inside due to environmental factors such as sunlight, heat, wind, etc. that mitigate the potential spread of the virus. While Douglas County had received a variance on June 26th that gave us directions on how to gather safely indoors, it seems clear from today’s order that the safest course is to continue to gather outdoors wherever possible.
- Freedom. We are committed to giving our congregation as much freedom as is possible. We have plenty of space on our hillside to maintain the necessary social distancing required to enter/exit safely while giving people the option to remove their masks once they are seated for worship. The new public health order allows for flexibility in terms of mask-wearing when outside where social distancing can be maintained.
- Submission. We are committed to humble submission to our governing authorities so long as they do not infringe upon our ability to preach the gospel and gather to worship God. Please note that submission does not always mean agreement with their decisions nor does it mean we will stop praying, dialoguing, and advocating with and for our government leaders.
What does this mean for you? As believers in Jesus Christ, our calling has not changed. We are to be a people of grace for we know each of us carries a unique load. We are to be marked by our love for one another and the world around us. Even those with whom we disagree. And finally, we are to be salt and light in a very dark and uncertain time. God is preparing a harvest, friends. So many are struggling. So many are looking for hope. Foundations built on sand are crumbling. Treasures stored up here on earth are failing. Lives built on temporary pleasures are coming apart. We have the only answer and His name is Jesus! I hope you will join us – either physically or virtually – and invite your unchurched friends and family as we continue to lean into Christ for His strength, wisdom, comfort and peace! Amen? See you Sunday!
Governor Polis gave the latest update on the state of public health in Colorado. In addition, we received the details of the latest “variance” granted to Douglas County via Tri-County Health which continues to give us more flexibility as we move into rest of summer. My key takeaway as I listened and digested all the information is this: Viral suppression and economic recovery is utterly dependent on each of us taking personal responsibility to remain as safe as possible in the months ahead. What does this mean? It means continued social distancing, mask-wearing, and frequent washing of hands. It means self-quarantining if you have symptoms or become exposed. It means being wise and cautious especially if you are in the vulnerable category. The governor and his team made it clear that they want to keep opening the state but they also are fully aware of the recent setbacks suffered by Arizona, Texas, and Utah so they are asking everyone to pitch in and see themselves as part of the solution.
What does this mean for PEPC?
- Under the variance granted, we will be able to gather in our worship center on July 12th as planned. We will return to our normal worship schedule with services starting at 8:45 and 10:30 respectively.
- Both services will be live streamed so people can attend with us from home. Following the completion of the 2nd service, the sermon will be available via podcast or video on our website.
- Limited children’s programming (infant through 2nd grade) will be provided while families with 3rd graders and above are encouraged to worship together.
- Registration is required for each service and will be available on Monday of each week through the PEPC app or on our website. There is a cap of 175 people per service so space is limited. There will also only be 20 spots available each week for children’s programming so please plan to register early to secure your spot.
- Our facility will be set up for social distancing upon entry and exit as well as seating in the worship center. Please follow the guidance provided by our signs. Life Safety members and Deacons will be available to help with traffic flow.
- Masks continue to be strongly recommended.
- Everyone will need to check-in as they arrive so we can provide Tri-County Health with contact tracing information should there be a COVID-19 incident.
- Donuts and coffee will be served!!! YAY!!! Each will be individually wrapped and served to you by a masked/gloved deacon.
- We ask you to please not congregate in groups pre-service or post-service.
What can you expect from the worship service?
- Each service is planned for around 60 minutes to allow the necessary time for cleaning and sanitizing.
- Once seated, congregants may choose to remove their masks as they participate in worship.
- All Bibles, hymnals, and other information will be removed from the pews and chairs.
- Bulletins and other worship aids will remain available digitally.
- Offering baskets will be provided on entry/exit.
- There will be no passing of plates or communion elements.
- The passing of the peace will be conducted in a socially distanced fashion.
- Sadly – for me – we won’t be able to have Kid’s Time during the service. 🙁
What kinds of cleaning is PEPC doing?
- We are planning on bringing in our professional cleaning service before and after Sunday morning to make sure the worship space is deep cleaned.
- Restrooms will be sanitized throughout the morning.
- In between services, we will be cleaning and sanitizing the worship center with special supplies obtained for this very purpose including an electrostatic sanitizing spray.
- All staff and volunteers will be masked for everyone’s protection.
- Hand sanitizer will be available on entry/exit.
I know this is a lot to digest so please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at email@example.com or call me at 720-202-0965 if you have any questions or concerns. Again, our commitment is to remain humbly submitted to our governing authority which is Tri-County Health in this particular case. We realize everyone will be prayerfully making the choice they believe is best for them and their families and we support you 100% no matter what you decide. This virus continues to be highly contagious and potentially dangerous. We cannot guarantee you won’t be exposed or even contract the virus should you choose to attend. All of us have to make the best decision for ourselves as we continue to navigate this difficult time. More than anything else, we want you to know how much we love you and miss you and cannot wait until the danger has passed and we can gather freely again without any restrictions.
This coming Sunday – July 5th at 10AM – will be our last gathering on the hillside. It is July 4th weekend and, providentially, the Lord has provided a message for us from Ecclesiastes 4 that speaks directly to the challenges we face as a nation. It is a message of conviction. A message of hope. A message of unity as God encourages us to come together to lift each other up. Our worship will conclude with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. (Hermetically sealed elements will be distributed before the service and are available for pickup at the church office through Thursday at 4:30PM for those worshiping virtually with us. We can also deliver them to you if necessary. Please just let us know.) Now more than ever, our nation needs prayer. Our national, state, and local leaders need prayer. Our communities need prayer. I hope you will join us and invite your friends as together we cry out for God’s mercy and grace! See you Sunday!
One of the most common questions I’m getting these days is “Where do I find Jesus?” Where do I find Jesus when my marriage is failing? Where do I find Jesus when I get laid off? Where do I find Jesus in my fears about getting sick? Where do I find Jesus in my frustration with our political and healthcare leaders? Where do I find Jesus in the midst of the protests and demonstrations? Where do I find Jesus in midst of the violence, suffering, social unrest and upheaval? Has He socially distanced Himself from us? Is His face hidden behind a mask? Why can I not see Him? Feel Him? Experience Him?
The 16th century reformer, Martin Luther, was once asked a similar question. His answer? We find Christ through “oratio”, “meditatio”, and in “tentatio.” For those whose Latin is a little rusty, essentially what Luther was saying is we find Christ through “prayer”, “meditation” on God’s Word, and in the “tension of life.” I imagine most of us are familiar with prayer and Scripture meditation so it’s that last one I want to focus on. As a general rule, we don’t like tension. We hate feeling awkward, insecure, anxious, and afraid. So we tend to avoid tension if at all possible. It’s why we struggle to do hard things. It’s why we struggle to have hard conversations. It’s why we hate bad news. None of us like tension. None of us like to struggle. None of us like the experience of going through God’s refining fire. And yet, it is where we find Jesus. Remember the three young men who were thrown into the fiery furnace in the Book of Daniel? Remember how a fourth figure appeared in the midst of the fire with them? Protecting them from the flames? As the chorus of one of our favorite worship song goes…
“There is another in the fire
Standing next to me
There is another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
What power set me free
There is a grave that holds no body
And now that power lives in me.”
– Hillsong United
This past week, we launched a series of “Critical Conversations” with people from all different walks of life. All of them friendships I’ve been blessed to forge over the years. Some of the conversations are with people of color. Some are with law enforcement. Some are with politicians. The goal is to listen to one another’s stories. See life through another person’s eyes. Walk in another person’s shoes. Every Monday and Wednesday, we are planning on dropping new videos with the hope it provides a different perspective for all of us. You can find them posted on our YouTube channel or on our Facebook page and eventually our website under the “Media” tab. I would encourage you to watch them with your family, friends, and small groups. Let them become the basis for dialogue and conversation as we lean into the “tension” of this cultural moment together.
PEPC, I know this is a challenging season. But as we’ll discover this week in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time for everything under heaven. And the good news of the gospel is that the Lord of the universe is at our side. He is with us in the fire. He abides with us through every season of life. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. All we have to do is turn and repent and we will find Him there. Arms wide open. Ready to embrace. Ready to comfort. Ready to remind us of His everlasting love! See you Sunday, friends!
One of my favorite book series of all time is the Lord of the Rings. My wife jokes that I probably have more lines memorized from the appendix of the Hobbit than I do verses in the Bible! 😉 She may be right! Recently, I’ve been thinking of a line from the Fellowship of the Ring where Bilbo Baggins, having carried the One Ring for years, starts to reflect on how he feels. He says, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” If you know any of the background of the series, you know JRR Tolkien wrote the books as Christian allegory. The One Ring represents all that is evil in this world and to carry it is to bear a burden none of us was designed to bear. When we take on the burdens of this world, we start to feel stretched and if we aren’t careful we’ll eventually reach a breaking point.
How many of us are feeling thin these days? Stretched? Like butter scraped over too much bread? It feels like we’re in day 597 of the COVID-19 crisis. Weeks and weeks of protests and demonstrations have worn us down. We’re starting to realize – if we hadn’t already – that the work of “forming a more perfect union” where everyone is given equal access, equal opportunity, and equal treatment under the law is going to be long and hard. Many of us are still waiting for jobs to return. Many of us are having to uproot our lives and move to another state because our company closed up shop here in Colorado. Many of our marriages and families are breaking down as issues that have been underground for years suddenly break out. Many parents and kids are wondering what school will look like this fall. Whew! It’s exhausting! And if you’re like me, you are feeling the stress and anxiety and may be struggling to sleep which only compounds things. (I’m thinking of starting a midnight to 3AM prayer team…any takers?)
It’s tempting to give up, isn’t it? Throw in the towel? Grab a bottle of wine and let the kids run wild? Or get mad? Blast off a few tweets? Or look for someone to blame? I think of what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 2:22-23, “What does a person get from all their toil and striving under the sun? Their days are full of sorrow. Their work is full of stress. Even at night, they get no rest. All is vanity.” Yep. That about sums it up. Except…Jesus. Jesus tells us – in the midst of all our struggle and anxiety and stress and fear – to fix our eyes on Him! The One who reigns and rules OVER the sun. The One who came and died and rose again to give our lives meaning and purpose. The One whose labor is never in vain.
Friends, now more than ever, we need Jesus. We need to spend time with Him every day. We need to spend time with His people in worship every week. We need to find a small group of Christian friends who will pray for us, support us, and encourage us along the way. And we need to do what we can to serve others in His name. As life slowly creeps towards whatever new normal is coming, I want to encourage you to “root and ground” yourself in Christ. Make your relationship with Jesus a priority as we come out of this strange season. Take time every day to be with Jesus. Make time every week to gather with Jesus’ family. Build deep spiritual friendships with other Jesus-lovers. And give your time, talent, and treasure in service to Jesus. Do these things and I trust you will find the strength you need to make it through. Love you! See you Sunday! Make sure to invite your friends!
I recently had a conversation with my daughter about the challenges of living through this time. She was feeling tired. Exhausted. Confused. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. She was processing all kinds of feelings. We talked for about an hour and both felt so much better after we were done. It continued to remind me of the importance of listening well, giving each other space, and the power of empathy. Friends, I imagine many of you are feeling the same way. How are we to make sense of everything we’re hearing? The often contradictory information. The confusion in the messaging from our social and political leaders. The seemingly arbitrary decision-making and knee-jerk reactions to the pandemic or the racial tensions. It’s a lot to process in addition to the personal stress and anxiety all of us are carrying right now. My hope and my prayer is that PEPC is a safe and peaceful place for you. A bit of calm in the midst of the storm. I want you to know that we are here for you if you ever need to talk. We’ll do our best to listen. Meet you where you are in the midst of your journey. Give you space to process what you’re feeling. And love you well. This is what it means to be the church and I am so grateful we are in this together.
Couple of important updates…
COVID–19: I just got off another conference call with our governor and am thankful for all the work he and his team are doing to open up Colorado as safely as possible. Thankfully, we continue to show good progress in keeping the virus at bay and our state and local health departments are working overtime to build the necessary infrastructure to keep us moving in a positive direction. They anticipate moving to the “Protect your Neighbor” phase sometime soon which will allow us to gather in groups of up to 500 or 50% capacity with social distancing. Because Douglas County is on the leading edge of those counties that are open, I imagine we will be among the first to move into this next phase. What does that mean for PEPC?
- We will continue outdoor services through July 5th. The scientific consensus is that social distancing outdoors is the safest way to gather in groups.
- We are tentatively planning to move indoors on July 12th. Depending on the phase we are in at that time, we may return to our normal service times of 8:45 and 10:30 or we may add a third service to accommodate the social distancing requirements.
- Children’s programming will return on the 12th at some capacity though not at it’s normal level.
- Volunteers will be key as we return indoors. We will need more than normal to help teach our children, clean classrooms and the worship center between services, learn the new technology we’ve installed as we continue to live stream, etc. Please prayerfully consider how you can help and we will give out more details as we get closer to the July 12th date.
Critical Conversations: Our nation is currently engaged in a very difficult conversation around race and I know it feels like a minefield out there with bombs potentially going off every half-inch. It’s tough to know what to say. It’s tough to know what to do. And many of you are wondering how to even begin. Beginning next week – every Monday and Wednesday – we will be posting a series of video conversations online (website and social media) with people from all different walks of life. You will hear from people of color who are pastors and community activists. You will hear from law enforcement officers. You will hear from politicians. And the goal of these conversations is to just listen to their stories. The temptation in a time of national unrest is to “de-humanize” those with whom we disagree. Hopefully, these videos will help us “re-humanize” one another as we seek both the righteousness and justice that are the foundation of God’s throne according to Psalm 89:14. I would encourage you to use these videos to create conversation in your small group, friend groups, or in your own families. As always, feel free to call me up if you want to talk one on one.
B.R.I.M.: Times like these put our core values to the test. Will we respond biblically to what we see happening all around us? Trusting God’s sovereignty. Submitting (not agreeing or even necessarily trusting) our governing authorities. Putting the needs of others before our own. Extending grace and peace to those around us. Will we respond relationally to one another? Listening well as we all process our pain. Reaching out to those we haven’t seen or heard from in a while. Pursuing those who are lost or isolated or struggling. How will we respond intergenerationally in this cultural moment? Caring for the most vulnerable among us. Paying particular attention to those who are single and live along. Coming alongside young families with children who have had to take on so much over these last few months. Will we continue to engage missionally with our community and around the world? Sacrificially giving to meet the desperate needs that exist all around us.
Friends, I am so thankful for church family. You have risen to the occasion in so many ways over these last several months. As I’ve begun meeting with people again, I have been amazed at the stories I have heard. The ways you have reached out to your neighbors and co-workers and family and friends. So many of you have truly “walked on water” in the midst of this storm, keeping your eyes on Jesus. Let me encourage you to keep it up! I know each day brings a lot of uncertainty and I know we all wish we knew where all of this was headed but the good news is we know the One who does. God is in control. Nothing is new under the sun. None of the events of the past several weeks or months have caught God by surprise. So let’s continue to link arms, pool resources, connect regularly, and trust the Holy Spirit to lead us all the way home. Amen?
Recently I was talking with a friend about something that happened last February and it felt like I was referring to something that happened years ago. Anyone else relate? I know all of us probably wish we could take 2020 and drop it in the ocean somewhere. It’s been a tough year. It’s messed up our plans. It’s gotten in the way of our hopes and dreams. It’s set us back. It’s ruined important celebrations like graduations, weddings, even funerals for those we love. And the hits just keep on coming.
You may find this small comfort but none of this is new. As King Solomon once wrote in Ecclesiastes, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Generations come. Generations go. The sun rises. The sun sets. The wind blows to the north and south, east and west on an endless loop. Streams run into the sea but the oceans are never full. Viral pandemics rage across the earth. Racial or tribal tensions create havoc all over the globe. The economy cycles up and down. Everything we human beings achieve in this life is vanity. Smoke on the wind. A puff of hot air on a cold day.
You say, “Thanks Doug! How depressing! What does any of this have to do with happiness?” Friends, it is true that nothing is new “under the sun” which is why we must find our happiness in the One who reigns and rules “over the sun.” God tells us in Psalm 121 to lift our eyes above the hills and mountains and high places of this world to the heavens from whence comes our help. Jesus builds on this idea when He tells His followers, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose their soul?” The Apostle Paul tells us to “set our minds on things above.” The point of it all is that Christians find their true joy, their true happiness only in Christ. Does this mean we become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good? Absolutely not. We work and we labor for the Kingdom of God in this world but always with the understanding that even our best efforts will blow away like chaff in the wind. This is humbling and yet freeing. It relieves the pressure of thinking the future somehow rests on our shoulders. And this freedom breeds contentment. And godly contentment is the true source of happiness.
This Sunday we’re starting a new series in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Perhaps the more real, most honest, most down to earth book in all the Bible. Can’t wait to get started and can’t wait to share it with you, friends! See you on the hillside or online at 10AM! If you are attending, please remember all the precautions that are in place like hand sanitizing, social distancing, and we continue to strongly recommend – per Tri-County Health – that those who are able please wear your masks until you are seated for worship. Looking forward to our time together, friends! See you Sunday!
Just a quick note to say “Well done!” Your gracious and joyful spirit was on full display this past Sunday as we gathered both on the hillside and online. Thanks for maintaining social distancing. Thanks for wearing masks. Thanks for showing restraint when I know all of us wanted to hug just about everyone in sight! Special thanks continues to go out to our staff – especially Steve Bender and our worship design team who worked so hard to get the hillside “tech ready.” Thanks to Jason McCarthy and his crew for setting up the stage platforms in about 24 hours. Thanks to our Deacons for serving so faithfully and well all over the property. Thanks to our Life Safety team for manning the first aid tent and patrolling the parking lot. Many hands definitely made for light work! Y’all are a tremendous blessing!
Many of you asked how best to direct your offerings now that we are moving back into some sense of normalcy. First and foremost, let me thank you again for your incredible generosity during this season. Through your faithful giving, we potentially saved thousands of people from starvation and food insecurity around the world. We were also able to provide utility and rent assistance to many in our own community as well. Second, recognizing the great needs all around us, we cut our program expenses to the bone so we could free up as many resources as possible. Now that those programs are restarting, we will be slowly increasing our expenses to meet those demands as well. As the Lord leads and as you are able, I would humbly request channeling our gifts back to the general fund. PEPC, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for each of you. We simply could not do what we are doing without your generous support!
If you missed the service, make sure to hit up the following link to see what our own “PEPC Picasso” (great nickname Alaine!) was up to…https://www.facebook.com/685401290/posts/10158527706616291/Love our team! See you Sunday!
Recently, I read these words from Colossians 3:12-14,“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” We are living in a very unique, complex, and difficult time. The enemy is hard at work seeking to steal, kill, and destroy. We see his handiwork all around us. Pandemics. Shutdowns. Racial injustice. Riots. These things threaten our life together not only as a nation but also as a church family. All of us come from different backgrounds and life experiences. We are made up of different races, different cultures, different tax brackets, and different generations. We spend money differently. We vote differently. We think differently. We feel differently. We are all at a different place in our own personal journey with Jesus. The only thing powerful enough to bind us together is the love of Christ.
When we gather this Sunday, I expect the bonds of our fellowship to be stretched a bit. All of us are making different decisions when it comes to COVID-19. As restrictions relax, some will choose to wear masks, others will not. Some will choose to socially distance, others will not. Some will choose to attend worship on the hillside, others will not. We want to assure you that we trust you to make the decision that is best for you and your family. No guilt. No shame. No judgment. We know you will prayerfully consider your options and we look forward to having you join us either physically or virtually. We also want you to know we are doing all we can to align with the guidelines from Tri-County health so we keep our church family as safe as possible. (Please refer to Monday’s email for more information and details on what this will look like so you come prepared. Make sure to remember to bring canopies if you have them or large umbrellas so we can have as much shade as possible.)
I also know the recent events surrounding the murder of George Floyd have sparked a lot of conversations online and in person. I know every one of us is brokenhearted for his family. Outraged at the injustice. Thankful for the peaceful protests and demonstration. Angry at the riots and looting. I imagine we’re feeling “all the feelings” right now. Psalm 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne, steadfast love and faithfulness go before Him.” We live in an unjust world filled with unjust people. We live in an unrighteous world filled with unrighteous people. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. All of the systems we’ve created are fallen and corrupt on some level. Does that mean we should simply accept the status quo? Absolutely not! God has put His “chosen ones, holy and beloved” into the world to model His righteousness and His justice. To quote St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is error, the truth; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved as to love.” This, friends, is our calling in this cultural moment and to this end I am working to create a series of videos for you to view individually, as a family, or as a small group. They are a series of interviews/hard conversations with people from different walks of life. Perhaps the most trans-formative thing we can do is listen to each other’s stories. Get to know each other’s names. Seek to understand the challenges we each face as we walk this road together. We hope to have those ready for you in the coming weeks.
Email 6-1-20 (includes hillside worship guidelines)
With all that’s going wrong in the world, it’s nice to get some good news for a change! This Sunday at 10AM we will begin gathering for worship on the hillside at PEPC! If you’re like me, you can’t wait! The last several weeks have felt like years to me and I am sure many of you feel the same way. I continue to be thankful for our public health officials and governor who have encouraged us to gather as safely and meaningfully as possible. To that end, I want to send out the following guidance to help you as you prepare…
- The most important thing we can do as God’s people is prepare our hearts. Let me encourage you to spend some time this week asking God to open your heart to the movement of His Spirit as He speaks to us through His Word. In addition, ask Him to protect our gathering from COVID as well as any divisions in our church family that may have formed in the current political/social climate. Pray for the peace of Christ to cover our gathering together.
- Pray for those who will not be able to gather with us. Many will make the decision to remain home out of an abundance of caution because of their age or health issues or comfort level. Pray for the livestream to work just as beautifully on the hillside as it has in our worship center. Pray for the tech team who will be managing those details and if you have an interest in helping us on the tech side let us know! (Wdt@pepc.org) We will be holding training sessions in the near future!
- Pray for grace as we gather. We need to maintain social distancing. Tri-County Health strongly recommends wearing masks. Perhaps most tragically, there will be no donuts or coffee available! 😉 In all seriousness, we will be setting up the hillside with socially distanced groupings of chairs and we encourage you to bring your own as well. We will set up several canopies for shade but again encourage you to bring your own and feel free to use umbrellas as well. We are asking everyone who can to wear a mask until you are seated at which point you are free to remove it as you participate in worship. Our mantra over the next several weeks will be “encouragement not enforcement” as we seek to follow the guidelines that have been set while extending freedom to everyone to make their own choices.
- We will be celebrating Communion together and will have individually wrapped, hermetically sealed elements available on Sunday morning. We will also have them available for pickup at the church office throughout the week for those who will worship with us at home and we can deliver them to cars or to homes if necessary. Please let us know if you need the gluten-free option. The church office is open during business hours each day.
- Worship aids like the bulletin and song sheets will be sent out digitally. There will be no public wi-fi access on the hill so you may need to download them to your device before you come. They will be sent out on Friday of each week.
- Offerings will be received before and after the service in designated locations. We encourage you to bring your gifts to the Lord and place them in the baskets provided. We also continue to encourage online giving options as well.
- There will be no children’s programming initially though Pam and her team will provide activities for the children to use during the service. Worship services will be 45-60 minutes in length and the worship order a bit different due to the setting. Singing is encouraged as always as is fellowship but again, we ask you to maintain social distancing and huddle in groups for long periods of time.
- Logistically speaking, we will ask you to maintain social distance as we enter and exit. We will have masks available for those who need them. We will provide sanitizing stations on the hill. Our life safety team will be available at a first aid station on the hill and our deacons will be present to assist you in any way and answer your questions as you arrive. Special parking will be set aside for those who may need it and a golf cart to get you up and down the hill.
- In case of inclement weather, we will send out a message via email, social media, and our website by 8AM Sunday morning cancelling in-person worship as we move into the worship center to provide our livestream.
It promises to be a beautiful morning, friends! Make sure to join us this week and invite your family, friends, and neighbors. Make sure to keep “sharing” the livestream on your social media feeds. In the midst of all the chaos and heartbreak of our world, people are desperate for hope. I love how Paul concludes his letter to the Corinthians, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” Come and celebrate with us the steadfast, faithful, enduring, life-transforming love of God! See you Sunday!
I don’t how many of you have joined the global movement of prayer during these ten days between Ascension Day (when Jesus ascended into heaven) and Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit was poured out on God’s people) but the videos and Scripture passages and prayer resources in the daily “Thy Kingdom Come” devotional app have been profound. Today’s video told the story of adoption through the eyes of a father. This particular father had adopted a young boy who’d experienced quite a bit of trauma and abuse. The boy had one possession he treasured above all others. A little matchbox car. As he played with it, it became broken. Rather than throw it away, the father would fix it. Over and over again. It became the connection between them. The adopted child continually offering up to his father what was broken. The same is true for us. I love how the father puts it in the video, “When we pray – Thy Kingdom Come – we are offering up our broken world for our Father in heaven to fix.” (You can catch the video here…)
Our world is undeniably broken. The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor bring us face to face with the deadly sin of racism. The “Due Date Too Late” petition drive brings us face to face with the tragedy of late-term abortion. The political discourse and media spin bring us face to face with deceit, fake news, and conspiracy theories. The suffering of the most vulnerable in the pandemic brings us face to face with the structural weaknesses in our society. The growing concerns around the world regarding the unintended consequences of the lock downs such as famine, starvation, and the millions thrown into life-threatening poverty bring us face to face with the unequal distribution of resources.Yes, our world is full of sin at a personal, structural, and systemic level. It’s the rotten fruit of original sin. We cannot escape it.
So what can we do? First and foremost, we proclaim the gospel. It is the only truly good news in a world full of violence, suffering, and pain! Second, we live as gospel people. Doing what Jesus did. Laying down our lives for the sake of others. The world is not ours to save, friends. It is God’s. Our role is simply to “do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, for as long as we can.” (John Wesley) Third, we remind ourselves constantly that our battle is not against “flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Only God can bring an end to sin. Only God can bring light into our darkness. Only God can wipe away every tear and heal every pain. And thankfully, that’s exactly what He’s done in Jesus Christ! Jesus is the light of the world that the darkness cannot overcome! Jesus defeated the powers of sin and death on the Cross! And it is this same Jesus who lives and reigns and rules in the heart of everyone who calls God, “Father.”
Friends, our world needs Jesus. This Sunday at 10am, we will be fully online for the final time. I hope and pray you will share our live stream with all your friends and family. We need a break from the violence. A break from the pain. A break from the rage and anger and hate. Make sure to send them our links at Facebook and/or YouTube. Invite them to join us as we worship our Heavenly Father and call on Him to make all things new! Then invite them to join us on the hillside starting June 7th at 10am as we begin gathering again for worship. (Live streaming will still be available) We literally cannot wait to welcome you back, PEPC! See you Sunday!
Like many of you, we were excited by President Trump’s announcement late last week on the essential role faith communities play in our society. Thankfully, Governor Polis and his team were already working this direction along with our local public health officials at Tri-County Health and they were quick to issue some guidance for us to follow as we make our plans to gather again for worship.
To that end, our staff is hard at work making all the necessary preparations to welcome everyone back on June 7th! We are laying cable to the hillside chapel so we can continue to live stream. We purchased a new portable sound system to enhance the outdoor experience. We are prepping and cleaning the area so families have enough room to socially distance when they arrive. We are arranging golf cart transportation up and down the hill for those who need it. We are also putting together sanitizing stations for use onsite. Following our final “online only” service this Sunday, leaders from Life Safety, Facilities, Deacons, and Worship Design will be meeting to put the final touches on all the logistics.
As we make our preparations here, we also need you to begin making preparations as well. Tri-County Health is strongly recommending the following for those who attend worship services under their new guidelines:
Those who are vulnerable due to age or health are encouraged to remain home and participate virtually as are the caregivers for those who may be vulnerable.
Those who are sick or showing any potential symptoms should also remain home.
Social distancing rules will be in effect for families. Please maintain a six-foot distance between you and those around you when finding a place to sit.
Please bring camp chairs, blankets, canopies for shade, breakfast, etc. Under the current restrictions, we cannot serve any coffee or donuts.
Please pay close attention to signage as we will be directing people to come up the hill along one path (by the farmhouse) and descend the hillside via a second path (south side of the chapel). Both will be clearly marked on Sunday mornings.
Bathrooms will be available in the Ministry Center and Farmhouse, limited to one person at a time.
Face masks are strongly encouraged especially as you arrive and depart. Once you are seated with your family for the service, you are free – should you choose – to take off your mask as you participate in worship.
All Staff and Volunteers will be masked for safety unless leading worship and/or sitting with their families.
New masks will be available and offered to those who need one.
Communion will be served on June 7th using hermetically sealed elements for safety.
Bulletins and song sheets will be distributed digitally.
Offering plates will not be passed but made available at entrances/exits.
There will be no formal Children’s Ministry but Pam and her team will make “Busy Bags” – individually prepared and available – to help keep the kids engaged.
We ask that fellowship both before and after the services remain limited and socially distanced.
As I mentioned in my email last week, this new season will feel strange and perhaps a bit awkward. Some may choose to wear masks, others may not. Some may be diligent in maintaining social distancing, some may feel more relaxed. Some may choose to stay home out of concern for their personal safety, others may be itching to get out. No matter where you land, we want to extend grace and peace to one another. We want to respect the fact that everyone may be making different choices depending on their own unique circumstances. And while we will encourage everyone to follow the guidelines set by Tri-County Health, we do not believe our role to be “enforcers” so we are counting on one another to follow the Biblical principle from Phil. 2 and put the needs of others before our own. The last thing any of us want is an outbreak of COVID-19 in our own church family so please take whatever precautions you can so we can safely and meaningfully gather.
Friends, I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for June 7th! I cannot wait to see y’all again! I can’t wait to sing together. Pray together. Learn from God’s Word together. Celebrate Communion together. It promises to be a very special Sunday as life slowly returns to normal.
What a beautiful week we’re having and it’s encouraging to see so many people taking advantage of the weather to come to the hillside chapel to pray and meet and share life together. This time has been challenging for all of us on so many levels and it is good to begin slowly moving back to some sense of normalcy.
Many of you may have seen President Trump’s press conference today where he called for the re-opening of churches. I am thankful for his commitment to the faith community and the essential role we play in the spiritual, physical, emotional and mental health of our nation. I am also thankful Governor Polis and his team were already moving in this direction. They have told us we can expect guidelines for the opening of churches by next Friday, May 29th. This will allow us to make the proper preparations to open safely and meaningfully on June 7th as we had hoped.
So what happens when we gather that first Sunday? Well, as we have communicated throughout this crisis, we will submit to whatever health guidelines Tri-County Health publishes as they are our immediate governing authority on this issue. At the same time, we recognize and honor the fact that everyone has a right to make their own choices. We do not feel called to be “enforcers” but rather “encouragers.” As such, we will ask everyone to please respect the guidelines we publish AND we will ask everyone to please go the extra mile in extending grace to those who need to make the healthiest choices for themselves and their families. Please remember while we are going through the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. Some of us have health conditions that make us vulnerable to COVID-19 and therefore will be wearing a mask. Others of us have health conditions that make mask-wearing dangerous which means we won’t be wearing a mask. Some of us are caring for loved ones who are vulnerable so we will make sure to maintain proper social distancing. Others of us long for a sense of physical touch and will want to give everyone we meet a hug. Some of us will remain home out of a sense of caution while others can’t wait to gather. No matter what choices we make, we must follow the Biblical commands to submit to our governing authorities. (Romans 13) Love each other unconditionally. (1 Corinthians 13) Consider others needs before our own. (Phil. 2) And we must not judge, blame, or shame those who may make different choices than we do. (Romans 8:1)
Times like these test the bonds of our fellowship together. We may feel pulled in different directions personally or politically. I am reminded of the little band of disciples Jesus gathered and how Simon the Zealot would have viewed Matthew the tax collector. Both coming from the extreme ends of the political spectrum of their day. Without Christ, Simon would normally have sought to murder Matthew in the street but with Christ, they are brothers. Friends, we are in Christ. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. All of us made one Body by one Spirit and one Baptism. As such, I hope you will join me in praying for our first Sunday on the hill in two weeks. Pray for a spirit of humility and grace, unity and love. Together, may we model for our community, our nation, and our world what it means to be united in Christ as we worship Him together!
In the meantime, we will continue gathering virtually this Sunday. As always, you can join us via Facebook Live or YouTube Live. Please be assured we will continue livestreaming from the hillside as well. Our heart and our hope is that everyone who calls PEPC home will be able to join us as we gather together to worship the Living God! Amen? See you Sunday!
I hope you were able to join us for worship yesterday as we dove deeper into the resurrection and all it means for us as Christian believers. Fundamentally, the resurrection means God is pro-life. From the womb to the tomb. God is in the business of restoring life. Renewing life. Giving the gift of new life to all who would follow Him. As such, Christians should be on the forefront of protecting life in Jesus’ name. So let me encourage you to take this season and consider what you can do to honor and protect the life God has given to every human being. Here are some ideas…
- Follow the recommendations to wear masks when in public. This is a simple way to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are vulnerable to the disease. I know it can be a pain. I know it can be frustrating. I know it’s often uncomfortable for a lot of people. But I also know it’s one way we can live out Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
- Maintain social distancing. Again, I know it’s hard not to hug everyone’s neck. I know it’s especially hard when you see people for the first time. I know when I lead my small group of middle and high school boys that it’s almost impossible to keep them apart. However, it’s a small sacrifice to pay for what will hopefully be a short (weeks, months) period of time in the grand scheme of things (years). I love how the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
- Refuse to engage in the shame/blame game. Recognize everyone is on their own journey. Everyone carries a burden. Everyone is going through the same storm but not everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is afraid on some level. It may be health-related. It may be business-related. It may be relationship-related. It may be finance-related. The point is you don’t know all the stress people are carrying so be as gracious as possible. Resist the urge to judge. 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
- Keep finding ways to serve. Some of you have given generously to our healthy snack drive for Parker Adventist. Others of you have called the Parker Task Force or SECOR and given time/money. Still others of you have volunteered at the Denver Rescue Mission or Food Bank of the Rockies. And many of you have given generously to our Deacon’s Fund to help those in need in our community. Through your generosity, the gift of life has been extended to the other side of the world as well in places like Ethiopia and Rwanda. What a blessing, PEPC! You are living out Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9:11, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
- Pray for our leaders. One of America’s greatest sins is division. Political polarization. The extreme hate and anger we hold towards those who do not agree with us. It drives us to bear false witness. It drives us to character assassination. It drives us to impugn motives, assume the worst rather than the best, and see our fellow citizens (even fellow brothers and sisters in Christ) as enemies. Jesus warns us that carrying anger in our hearts is the same as murder so confess. Repent. Humble yourself before the Lord and pray for those in positions of power that God might soften your heart towards them. Psalm 133:1, 3 – “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity! There the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”
Friends, you will always find God on the side of life. Not just eternal life but life in this world as well. God cares deeply about the viral pandemic and even now is inspiring scientists the world over as they seek a vaccine. God cares deeply about violence and war and even now is bringing about lasting peace to deeply conflicted regions around the globe. God cares deeply about poverty and the least resourced in any society and even now is bringing about social change to provide a secure safety net. God cares deeply for those facing end of life decisions and is at work even now providing discernment to families and physicians as they make the most heartbreaking of decisions. God cares deeply about the unborn and is at work even now in the crafting of legislation to protect the most vulnerable among us. (By the way, it’s not too late to sign the petitiion to put a law in place restricting partial-birth abortion in Colorado.)
The point I want to make is this…if you want to find God during this season, you will find Him on the side of life. You will meet Him in fellowship with others who are seeking to create life. Nurture life. Protect life. In all its forms. Our world is moving through a season of death. A season of suffering. A season of pain. And we Christians have the good news! In Christ, God has defeated the power of death! In Christ, God has destroyed the fear of death! In Christ, God has won the victory over death! So let’s do all we can to promote life! God’s life! Eternal life! Amen? See you Sunday!
I know all of us are following the news these days as we think about what life will look like this summer. Schools are officially finishing up their first attempt at distance learning. Families are learning new routines as they adjust. Businesses are relocating. Some in our community are having to relocate as well. This is a time of uncertainty and upheaval and I know we are all feeling the strain. I continue to pray for our government leaders at the local, state, and federal levels. The challenges they face and the balancing act they have to strike is real. There are deadly consequences to every choice they make. There is no win. Only the mitigation of as much loss as possible. And to that end, I’ve been thankful our governor recognizes and acknowledges the key role faith communities like our own play in helping stem the tide of this crisis.
As such, we have put together a multi-phased approach consistent with Tri-County Health guidelines that will help us as we move into a new normal this summer. Currently, we are in phase one of that approach which means our church offices have re-opened. Staff is working onsite with masks and appropriate social distancing. Wellness checks are performed daily before staff come into work to make sure no one has a fever or is showing symptoms. Daily cleaning is being performed in all areas of our facility that are being used. Small groups less than 10 people are being encouraged to meet, especially outside. We have resumed one on one contact work and are taking great advantage of our hillside chapel and property. Worship and Youth Group are still being live-streamed. Children’s Ministry remains virtual. Our Early Learning Center remains in summer camp mode. And pastoral care is being conducted either in-person or via teleconference.
Both Tri-County Health and our governor are cautiously optimistic that things will continue to open up as we head towards the end of May and into early June. As such, we are tentatively planning our first outdoor in-person worship service for June 7th on the hillside at 10AM. All safety protocols will need to be followed. (Face masks, social distancing between family groups, etc.) We will continue to live stream – hopefully from the hillside! – and are working hard to get the infrastructure in place to make that happen. More than anything else, we are super excited to gather in person again! Amen?! You will note I have attached our “Phase Two” plan to this email for your information. You can also check out a video update Will Freyschlag and I put together on our Facebook page or YouTube channel. And the full, four-part phased approach will be posted on our website as of Monday. As always, any questions, comments, or concerns are welcome! I’d love to hear from you so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my cell at 720-202-0965.
One of the hardest parts about this experience is we don’t know when it will come to an end. In a recent book I’ve been reading, Holocaust survivor and eminent psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, talks about the challenge of a “provisional existence.” When human beings are put in a “provisional” situation with no end in sight, it is easy to lose all hope. Frankl, of course, saw this firsthand in the concentration camps. However, he also found that if human beings can keep their eyes on a fixed horizon, they can maintain their hope no matter how great the suffering they may endure. I’ve been thinking a lot about that idea as I prepare for the sermon this week. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-34, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ IS the fixed horizon for the Christian. It is the immovable, unshakable reality that gives us hope no matter what we may experience in this life.
Friends, I know this time is hard. I know there are real fears and anxieties about health, marriages, jobs, and the future. And yes, I know there are so many others around the world who may be much worse off than we are here in Douglas County. Here’s the good news I shared with my kids the other night. There’s plenty of God to go around! 😉 He is not limited. He does not have to ration His mercy and grace. He is here for you just as He is here for me or here for someone on the other side of the world. Not only that but He is able! He is able to do more than you can ever ask for or imagine! So share your concerns with Him. Cast all your anxieties on Him. Invite Him into your life and your circumstances and let Him carry the load. Can’t wait to worship with you Sunday, PEPC! See you soon!
Email from Doug on 05-08-20
This morning I read Psalm 51 which is the Psalm King David wrote after being confronted by Nathan over his crimes surrounding his affair with Bathsheba. The words are raw. The emotions real. The shame David expresses is overwhelming and rightfully so. David humbly recognizes the error of his ways and the selfishness of his sins. He asks God to “purge him with hyssop” so he can be clean. He asks God to “wash him and make him whiter than snow.” He begs God for forgiveness and acknowledges his utter brokenness before the Lord. It is a beautiful picture of true repentance and godly humility. David understands that unless he is humble before God, he can never teach others God’s ways. Unless he himself practices repentance, he can never lead others to a deeper life with God. He recognizes he first must check his own heart and attitude before he calls others to account.
These words take on deeper meaning for me as we start to move towards re-opening as a society. Rather than pull together, it seems like our nation is only pulling apart. Battle lines are being drawn. Accusations are being thrown carelessly about. Conspiracy theorists are having a field day. The media continues to push whatever narrative gets them the highest ratings. The dumpster fire that is social media is raging. Now, more than ever, Christians need to be the calm in the midst of the storm. Now, more than ever, Christians need to be the peace of Christ in our communities. Now, more than ever, Christians must demonstrate their trust in the sovereign God who holds all things in His hands. Friends, we must resist the temptation to add fuel to the fire. We must resist the temptation to attack those on different sides of the political aisle. We must continue to follow the biblical commands to practice personal repentance. Godly humility. We must check our own motives and emotions before we dare to speak for God.
These are confusing days. Our political leaders still don’t have all the information they need to make the decisions they are being asked to make. They are human which means they are struggling with all kinds of fear and anxiety. They are reacting in all sorts of ways as they struggle under the burdens they carry. They know every decision they make will result in real lives being threatened. Real consequences being suffered. Real pain and heartache and suffering being experienced. This continues to be a “no-win” scenario. So lets continue to pray they will be brought to their knees before the Lord. Let’s set the example by falling to our own knees in prayer as well. Let’s place our ultimate trust not in human wisdom or human plans but in God Himself. I love these words from 1 Peter…
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-17)
Of course, there is only one thing that makes such a life possible. The gospel. And this Sunday we’ll dive into 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and explore what it means to receive the gospel. Stand on the gospel. And be saved by the gospel. So make sure to invite your unchurched friends and neighbors and loved ones to join you on Facebook or YouTube. Make sure to share our service across your social media platforms as we seek to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. This is a great opportunity share the gospel with those you know who don’t have the hope of Christ to hold onto during this difficult season! See you Sunday!
Recently, a friend of mine posted a message on Facebook that – in essence – pointed to the reality that while we are all going through the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. Everyone’s situation is a little different. Everyone’s struggle is unique to them. I thought about this recently as I went to my bank to make a wire transfer to a good friend, Bishop John Rucyahana, in Rwanda. He works with the Batwa people who are aborigines indigenous to his country who are often forgotten and overlooked by both the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s. As a result, they are among the poorest of the global poor and the nationwide lock down order in Rwanda has put them in real danger of starvation. I reflected on the differences between their situation and my own. Not to compare. Not to compete. Not to self-condemn. But simply to recognize the vast difference between our “boats.” Certainly the same holds true much closer to home. Some in our church family have gotten sick with the virus and others have not. Some are more vulnerable because of age and/or significant health issues, others are young and healthy and strong. Some are facing serious economic vulnerability due to layoffs, job loss, or salary cuts, others are working harder than ever. Some are experiencing real changes in their mental health as the social distancing measures continue, others are using this season to rest and recharge. Some are facing crises in their marriages or family, others are getting stronger as they spend more time together. The list is endless. Each situation different. Each circumstance challenging in its own right.
So here’s the good news. Our God is big enough to step into ALL our boats! Remember, He is Emmanuel! God with us! And that means God is in every hospital room. Sitting beside ever COVID patient on a ventilator. He’s in every break room, His arms around every nurse and doctor and healthcare employee. He’s celebrating with those who are healthy and strong and encouraging them to find ways to serve. He’s with every person who’s gotten a pink slip. He weeps with them as they wonder where the mortgage money will come from next month. He’s with them as they apply for bankruptcy and/or close the doors on their business for the final time. He’s with those who are working harder than ever. Strengthening them. Equipping them. Calling them to be even more generous this season. He’s with those who sit in the darkness late at night. Feeling all alone. Struggling with depression. Anxiety. Overwhelming fear. He’s prompting the call to a mental health professional. Pastor. Friend. He’s recharging those who are able to use this time for Sabbath. Giving them a much needed break from the pace they were trying to keep. He will never leave us. Never forsake us. He will never abandon ship!
And this is why we gather to worship! We gather to give God all the praise for His steadfast love and faithfulness! All the praise for walking with us through every storm! All the praise for remaining at our side in every dark valley! Friends, what a privilege it is to gather – even virtually – to sing the praises of God together. To confess our sins together. To receive the gift of God’s Word together. And to be encouraged and sent out to serve Him together. In the eye of the storm. In whatever boats we find ourselves in. When one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer together. When one part of the Body of Christ rejoices, we all rejoice together. God has so designed His Body that those who are bailing hard to keep their boats afloat cannot say to those whose boats are more secure…”I have no need of you.” Nor can those whose boats seem leak-proof say to those whose boats are sinking…”I have no need of you.” We are one Body. Given a common identity through one Baptism. All drinking from one Spirit. All serving one Lord. Can’t wait to see you on Sunday, PEPC! Make sure to invite those who are trying to go it alone through this storm to join you via Facebook and/or YouTube. Let’s lash as many boats as possible together so we can make it through! Amen?