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 as well as weekly updates from Pastor Doug are posted below.

Covid Phase 1-4 PEPC Reopening Phase Sunday Worship Information

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1-16-21

Many of you asked me after last week’s service for ideas on how to “multiply grace and peace” to those around you. Happy to help out! First and foremost, you need to remember it starts with building on the foundation God has laid in your life. Do not neglect your daily time with Him! Do not neglect your weekly time in corporate worship with Him! Without these spiritual disciplines undergirding your life, you will find yourself multiplying everything BUT grace and peace. 😉 Second, start local. Start with those you live with. How can you multiply grace and peace to your spouse? Your children? Your parents? Your friends? Move out a circle. How can you multiply grace and peace to your co-workers today? Those you live among in your neighborhood? Those you find yourself in class with on a regular basis? Then consider your social media interactions. Are they multiplying grace and peace or are they adding to the chaos? Are you seeking to be a person of peace online or are you a person who stirs up fear, division, and outrage? Remember, social media is literally driven by a mathematical algorithm so what you choose to see, post, and interact with is what you will find coming back your way. The more you engage with grace and peace – especially those with whom you may disagree – the more you will find grace and peace coming back your way.
The journey in 1 Peter continues this week, friends. Recently I read something from a dear friend and sister in Christ who works in Washington D.C. She writes, “This morning I was asked for my documents, which in our day means my driver’s license, as I walked downtown. I was stopped three times as I walked the streets of my city and questioned. These men and women are doing their job. I am grateful for their service and pray their presence will keep people and the home of our government safe. But my heart is broken. Broken that we are here. Broken for people who have this experience every day or any day. Walking in Washington today has given me something my lived experience hadn’t. I don’t really know what it is to be unwelcome in the dominant culture, save for a few moments here and there while traveling abroad but never have I really been unsafe. Today has been a glimpse of what it is to be at home and unwelcome in your place. Of all the feelings I feel about what’s happening in these days, I hope this one sticks with me. It’s a gift I wouldn’t have asked for, but one God knew I needed.” This is a great description of exile. It’s a great description of what it feels like to be in the world but not of the world. To feel like a stranger even in your own land.
Of course, we are not the first to have this experience. I think of my friends of color who have lived this for most of their lives. I think of my friends who live in poverty who testify to feeling this way on a regular basis. I think of the marginalized people groups I have met around the world who have shared with me what it feels like to be aliens and strangers even in a country where they hold citizenship. And then I think of the Christians the Apostle Peter was writing to in the first century. Men and women who lived within and under the authority of the kingdoms of this world but who found their true identity in Christ’s eternal kingdom. I long to learn from them. I long to be like them. And by God’s foreknowledge, sanctification, and obedience, I have become one with them! Thanks be to God!
Join us this week as we keep pressing into what it means to be a people of hope even amidst our exile. Invite your unchurched friends and neighbors to join you as we gather for worship in-person and online. We can’t wait to be with you! See you Sunday!

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1-11-21

Like you, I watched with horror as extremists broke into the sacred halls of our United States Capitol Building. It reminded me of some of the things I’ve seen in various parts of the developing world. It also brought back memories of the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone that was set up in Seattle or the firebombing of government buildings in Portland. A part of me says, “This is not the America I know and love” while another part of me says, “Is this what we’ve become?” The perpetual cycles of hate and outrage and attacks on others by national media groups, social media networks, and reckless political leaders have finally spilled over into actual violence. Five individuals died in the riot including a Capitol Police officer who sustained his injuries while trying to protect the United States Congress while they fulfilled their constitutional duty to certify our national election.

Friends, this is what exile feels like on some level. When we no longer recognize or feel at home in the country we love. Of course, many of our friends of color have been saying this for years and we must acknowledge their pain. Many of the urban, suburban, and rural poor have been saying this for years and we must acknowledge their pain. Many of those who have felt marginalized or left out or left behind when it comes to achieving the American Dream have been saying this as well and we must acknowledge their pain. I know many of you have been watching your dreams slip away over the last year and your pain too must be acknowledged. Many of you are feeling like exiles in your own homes as you experience the pain of separation from those you love. Many of you feel like exiles in your own bodies as you fight the mental health battles brought on by social isolation. Many of you feel like exiles spiritually as you’ve lost a sense of connection to God. We are all in a state of mourning. All grieving what’s been lost. All struggling on some level. And the word the Bible uses to describe these feelings is exile.

However, there is hope! All is not lost! As the Apostle Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 1:1, we are not just “exiles”, we are elect exiles. We are a people chosen by God! We are set apart by His everlasting love to be royal priests, a holy nation, a people for His own possession! This has been God’s plan from the beginning of time. Nothing that is happening today surprises Him. He’s been preparing us for this very moment! He is even now sanctifying us by His Spirit. He is making us righteous through the blood of His Son. He is multiplying grace and peace to us and through us even in the midst of all we are going through as individuals, as families, as a community, as a church, and as a nation. God is not done! He will not rest until He brings His work to completion, friends! This is His promise and it is the hope on which we stand!

I hope you’ll make plans to join us this Sunday either in-person or online as we continue our series, “Exiles in Hope.” Invite your friends and neighbors who do not know Christ or do not have a church home to join you as we discover how and where to find hope in our world. You can follow this link – https://pepc.org/exiles-in-hope/ – to register and find the bulletin for the week! Can’t wait to worship with you! See you Sunday!

In Christ, Doug

p.s. HUGE PRAISE!!! Friends, I just wanted to say thank you yet again for your extraordinary generosity in 2020. It was the most challeging year we have ever faced and yet through your giving, the faithful stewardship of our elders, and the incredible diligence of our staff, we were able to do ALL the ministry we believe God called us to while finishing within ~76K of our budget and breaking even for the year! Praise God!

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1-1-21

Happy New Year to you and your family! If you are like me, you are grateful to have 2020 in the rearview and you are looking forward to 2021 with a renewed sense of hope. God is still on the throne. God is still on the move. And we find our deepest joy and peace in Him. Amen? One of the best ways to grow deeper in our faith is to read His Word on a daily basis. Starting a spiritual discipline can be tough. Especially if you try to do it all on your own. This is why over the last several years, we’ve established reading groups to go through the Bible in a year. This is a “no guilt” experience as it can take a few tries to make it all the way through! After all, it’s tough sledding through Leviticus and Numbers! 😉 But doing it alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ makes for a more rich and enjoyable experience. There are three ways to get connected…

  1. Download the Bible App and search for the “Ligonier Bible in a Year” plan. You can also follow these links to join a group and read with others.
    1. https://bible.com/p/36878598/9090887fd74aac817379d02eb541d354
    2. https://bible.com/p/36878480/01b7e6da9a19c792a8fb8d6a69941c08
  2. Send Greg Daniels or myself an email ([email protected] or [email protected]) and we will connect you with the Facebook Messenger group where daily readings will be posted along with the devotional.
  3. Go to PEPC’s Facebook Page or www.dougresler.com to find the daily readings and devotions. (You can also access the devotional through the PEPC App.)

A new year means a new sermon series as well! This week, we are kicking off a study in 1 Peter called “Exiles in Hope” that will take us up to Holy Week and Easter. We are living in such challenging times. Politically. Socially. Culturally. Economically. Personally. There is not a single person who hasn’t been impacted by all the turmoil and upheaval of the past few years. The same was true for the Christians of the 1st century. Many of them were scattered all over the Mediterranean and often lived in hostile territory. Peter calls them “exiles” and encourages them to ground their hope in the fact that God had made them citizens of a different kingdom. An eternal Kingdom transcending any kingdom of this world. It was good news for them and it remains good news for us today! I hope you’ll join us online (www.pepc.org, Facebook, YouTube) or in-person and I hope you’ll invite your friends to join you as well! See you Sunday!

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12-18-20

As I write these words, I am about to step in to help lead a worship service celebrating the life of a great man named Peter Klassen. Many of you may know Jon and Cathy Klassen who have served PEPC so well as both elder and deacon over the last several years. Peter was Jon’s father and a deeply faithful man. His love for Christ abounded and his service will be a testimony to the amazing grace of God! One of the songs we will sing has a chorus that goes like this…

No one ever cared for me like Jesus. His faithful hand has held me all this way. And when I’m old and gray and all my days are numbered on the earth. Let it be known, in You alone, my joy was found. 

This song has become my prayer for you. Wherever life finds you. Whatever fears assail you. Whatever dark thoughts may bind you and keep you down. No matter how many battles you have to fight. No matter how hard and how deep the struggle right now. Please know that Jesus loves you. Jesus cares for you. Jesus is here for you. And so are we as a church family. You are not alone. You don’t have to face the fight alone. Christ is strong enough. Wise enough. Powerful enough. Rich enough. Engaged enough to meet your every need. Trust Him. Believe in Him. Surrender whatever it is that’s keeping you up at night into His faithful hands.

The message of Christmas is this, dear friends…God so loved this world with all its brokenness, heartbreak, and pain. That He gave His only begotten Son. The One who is before all things and in whom all things hold together. And whosever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. The life Peter Klassen enjoys even now in the presence of His Lord. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through Him. It is Jesus who saves. Not us. God accomplishes His plans for our world not through our might, power, or resources but by His Spirit alone. He saw the mess we had made of the world. The mess we had made of our lives. And in the greatest act of mercy and grace the world has ever seen, came Himself to clean it up. No matter how dark things may get in your life. No matter how dark things may get in our country. No matter how dark things may get in our world. Place your trust in Christ! He is the light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome! See you Sunday, friends!

In Christ, Doug

p.s. The link for this week’s bulletin can be found here – http://pepc.org/wp-content/uploads/Bulletin-12-20-20.pdf

p.p.s. Please remember to register for your spot on Christmas Eve at www.pepc.org! Our services are filling up fast and we’ll add more if necessary.

p.p.p.s. Please remember PEPC as you consider year-end giving. This has been an incredibly strange year for all of us and our elders and staff have done an incredible job stretching every dollar as far as it will go. We’d love to finish the year as strong as possible as we look to jumpstart new ministry in the coming year!

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12-10-20

I continue to be struck by Pastor Matt’s words last week about hope. We find hope for “our days” as we look back to “those days” when Christ was born and look forward to “THE day” of Christ’s return. Such a great message as we continue to labor through this difficult season. Friends, Jesus Christ came into the world to give you hope. Hope in the midst of whatever circumstances you may be facing. Hope in the midst of job loss. Hope in the midst of health concerns. Hope In the midst of fears and anxiety. Hope in the midst of isolation and loneliness. Jesus is the hope of the world because Jesus overcomes the world. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He demonstrates how great the Father’s love is for each one of us. He reminds that all the pleasure and sufferings of this life are temporary. Not worth comparing to the glory that will one day be revealed in us. He gives a sure and certain hope. Not grounded in wishful thinking. Not grounded in circumstances beyond our control. Not grounded in human philosophy or modern science. No, the hope Jesus offers is sealed literally by His own blood. It is secured by His rising from the grave. It is kept eternally in the heavens where the Risen Christ reigns even now at the right hand of the Father. This is what we celebrate on Christmas!
Now I know we’ve all probably heard the Christmas story more times than we can remember. We’ve seen Linus with his I continue to be struck by Pastor Matt’s words last week about hope. We find hope for “our days” as we look back to “those days” when Christ was born and look forward to “THE day” of Christ’s return. Such a great message as we continue to labor through this difficult season. Friends, Jesus Christ came into the world to give you hope. Hope in the midst of whatever circumstances you may be facing. Hope in the midst of job loss. Hope in the midst of health concerns. Hope In the midst of fears and anxiety. Hope in the midst of isolation and loneliness. Jesus is the hope of the world because Jesus overcomes the world. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He demonstrates how great the Father’s love is for each one of us. He reminds that all the pleasure and sufferings of this life are temporary. Not worth comparing to the glory that will one day be revealed in us. He gives a sure and certain hope. Not grounded in wishful thinking. Not grounded in circumstances beyond our control. Not grounded in human philosophy or modern science. No, the hope Jesus offers is sealed literally by His own blood. It is secured by His rising from the grave. It is kept eternally in the heavens where the Risen Christ reigns even now at the right hand of the Father. This is what we celebrate on Christmas!
Now I know we’ve all probably heard the Christmas story more times than we can remember. We’ve seen Linus with his blankie sharing the story with Charlie Brown and his friends. But when was the last time you really stopped to listen to the words? Really let them sink in? Luke tells us that Mary “treasured” what she heard and “pondered these things in her heart.” The shepherds glorified and praised God for what they heard, returning to their lives as changed men. The heavens resounded with the songs of heaven as angels gathered to sing over what God had done. What’s your reaction? What’s been your response? Do you find yourself joining them this year? Stopping in wonder and awe at the idea that God Himself would enter history as a little child?
I hope you’ll join us this week as we continue to walk through the Christmas story, focusing on truly hearing and receiving the miracle of what God has done! Make sure to invite your unchurched friends and family to join you in person or online at 8:30 and 10:30 on Sunday morning. I hope you’ll also take the time to volunteer to deliver our “Peace of PEPC” ornaments and wish folks a Merry Christmas! Finally, I hope you’ll continue to prayerfully consider your financial gifts as we head towards the end of the year. There is still much ministry to do and we’re excited to launch into all 2021 has in store! See you Sunday!
sharing the story with Charlie Brown and his friends. But when was the last time you really stopped to listen to the words? Really let them sink in? Luke tells us that Mary “treasured” what she heard and “pondered these things in her heart.” The shepherds glorified and praised God for what they heard, returning to their lives as changed men. The heavens resounded with the songs of heaven as angels gathered to sing over what God had done. What’s your reaction? What’s been your response? Do you find yourself joining them this year? Stopping in wonder and awe at the idea that God Himself would enter history as a little child?
I hope you’ll join us this week as we continue to walk through the Christmas story, focusing on truly hearing and receiving the miracle of what God has done! Make sure to invite your unchurched friends and family to join you in person or online at 8:30 and 10:30 on Sunday morning. I hope you’ll also take the time to volunteer to deliver our “Peace of PEPC” ornaments and wish folks a Merry Christmas! Finally, I hope you’ll continue to prayerfully consider your financial gifts as we head towards the end of the year. There is still much ministry to do and we’re excited to launch into all 2021 has in store! See you Sunday!

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12-4-20

The Christmas story is taking on new meaning for me this year. I think of the familiar words from Luke about Caesar Augustus issuing a decree that all the world should be registered. Joseph and Mary being forced like everyone else to leave their homes and return to their ancestral city during what must have felt like a national lockdown. Mary giving birth to her firstborn son in conditions she would never have chosen given other circumstances. The First Family of our faith feeling all the effects of being isolated from their community and those who normally would have been right there with them celebrating. The parallels are striking. They also bring me great hope.

God knows our circumstances, friends. God knows exactly what we are going through. He knows what it’s like to be registered. He knows what it’s like to live under governmental decree. He knows what it’s like to be separated from family and friends at special times. He knows what it’s like to feel isolated and alone and cut off from your community. He lived these things. He had these experiences and under far harsher constraints. And yet, the Bible says He grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was with Him. (Luke 2:40) Friends, I know this is a difficult time. It is a challenging time. It is a strange time. But for those who follow Christ. For those who embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It can be a time of growth. A time where we become more wise. More humble. More loving and gracious. More servant-hearted. It can be a time where we experience the favor of the Lord.

The good news we celebrate on Christmas is this…God is not bound by any human decree. God will not remain socially distant from His beloved children. God will not allow disease or plague or pandemic to separate Him from those He loves. He is Emmanuel. He is God-with-us. He is God-with-you-right-now no matter what circumstances you may be facing. He is God-with-you-right-now in the midst of your anxieties and fears. He is God-with-you-right-now even as you struggle for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. He has walked this road before. Let Him lead and guide you. Let Him take you by the hand.

As a church, we want to do all we can to care for the whole person during this Christmas season. We know the virus is real. We know the concerns over its spread are serious. We also know the mental health crisis is real. We know the stress of this time is creating incredible emotional burdens. We know marriages and families are struggling. We know so many are feeling distant from God at a time when they need Him the most. Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor in that same way. In our efforts to do this well, our leadership has made the decision to remain open for physical, in-person worship throughout the Christmas season. We continue to encourage those who are vulnerable physically to join us via livestream but we also want to provide an opportunity for those who may be vulnerable in other ways to gather for support. This wasn’t an easy decision but it’s one we felt called to make as we sought the Lord in prayer together. Please watch this video – https://youtu.be/Fh_U0511CCo – to learn more and feel free to email me at [email protected] with any questions.

Friends, I know this has been an incredibly difficult year. One that has stressed the bonds of our fellowship together in many ways. As we begin the Christian “New Year”, my prayer is that this Advent season represents a new beginning. A new opportunity to engage more deeply with Jesus, with each other, and with our community. His grace is sufficient. His mercies are new every morning. His faithfulness is great. Amen? See you Sunday!

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11-27-20

Waiting is hard for me. I don’t like waiting in lines. I don’t like waiting for the mail. I don’t even like waiting on the Lord if I am completely honest. And I absolutely hate waiting for the end of the pandemic! Ugh. Thanksgiving just wasn’t the same for us without being able to gather fully with those we love. Zoom conversations simply cannot replace the face to face interactions we get when we’re all together. And right about the time I started to feel grumpy about it all last evening, the Lord reminded me that the season of Advent itself is all about waiting. Waiting on the birth of Jesus Christ. Waiting on the redemption He represents. Waiting on the renewal and restoration of all things when He comes again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about waiting. I think about how long Israel had to wait while in captivity in Egypt. How long they had to wait as they wandered in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. How long they had to wait in exile. How long they waited to see the birth of their Savior. Then I think about Joseph and Mary. Receiving the promise of the Messiah in a dream. Waiting and watching as Mary miraculously conceived. Traveling to their home down in the midst of their own national lockdown to give birth. Waiting on the Messiah to be born that first Christmas night. Perhaps this year more than any other, we have the opportunity to turn our waiting into something sacred and significant as we identify more closely with all Joseph and Mary had to go through on their journey.

We live in a world where the season of Christmas starts earlier and earlier with each passing year. Decorations get put out. Trees get cut. Black Friday shopping now starts before Thanksgiving. It’s almost like we can’t wait for Christmas! This year is a little different. This year won’t feel the same. Our schedules won’t be as packed. Our traditions will be upended to some extent. But in the midst of all the challenges we’re facing, Christmas will still come! Christ will still be born! We will still sing and praise and worship Him!

This Sunday starts our Advent journey. We are keeping it simple this year. No bells and whistles. No big productions. Just a classic Christmas filled with carols and prayers and the traditional Christmas texts. We will be delivering Christmas ornaments to each and every household. We will be holding services – even outdoors!!! – on Christmas Eve. We will do all we can to make sure we take this journey together. If you want to worship in person, we invite you to come. Please wear your mask and maintain social distancing so those who might be more vulnerable are able to join us safely. If you need to worship with us at home, we invite you to grab our livestream at www.pepc.org or on Facebook or YouTube. Make sure to invite your unchurched friends and family to connect with you so no one feels alone this Christmas. Love you, PEPC! So thankful we’re in this together!

In Christ, Doug

p.s. Reminder: We still have a few families left to adopt through our Military Ministry and Parker Task Force gift drives. Special thanks to all who jumped in already to help! Your response has been amazing as always! Proud of you, PEPC!

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11-20-21

In our Bible in a Year reading this morning, I found myself reflecting on one of my favorite verses. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1) It’s easy at first to read this against the backdrop of our own cultural context. To take this verse as Biblical support for our Bill of Rights or other guaranteed constitutional freedoms. It might be easy to lean on this verse as our governor locks down more and more of our state and we see those we love suffering as a result. It might be easy to take this verse out of context and use it to support all kinds of personal choices no matter what the consequences. But the Apostle Paul is after something deeper here. A freedom that transcends any earthly categories.
Our world doesn’t understand true freedom. The freedom it offers is an unfettered freedom. A freedom without boundaries. A freedom without restraint. A freedom that is centered ultimately on the gratification of our own selfish desires. But this is not Christian freedom, friends! It is actually the path back into slavery! Christian freedom results in service to God and to one another. Christian freedom means offering our lives back to God and to His people. It is a freedom constrained by love. A freedom bounded by grace. A freedom fettered by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself up for us. This is the freedom we were called to in Christ.
This weekend, we will be tackling the last subject in our “Gospel Politics” series which is submission. As Christians, we are called not only to engage in politics with humility and repentance, pray for our political leaders, but submit to them out of reverence for Christ. So what does that mean? Where are the limits? What’s the difference between godly submission and ungodly passivity? I hope you’ll join us online or in person this Sunday! See you then!
In Christ, Doug
p.s. If you are able, we’d also love to have help following the 2nd service as decorate for Advent. We know it will look a little different this year but we are still going to prepare our facility to celebrate the birth of Jesus! Please join us!

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11-13-20

Lately, I’ve been struck the by the absolute necessity of prayer. The conditions that currently exist in our world are simply too much. The burdens we carry too overwhelming. The anxiety we feel is significant. Earlier this week, I was praying with a man who is a leader in another church. He volunteered to serve his congregation during one of the most difficult times of its storied history. He’s a godly man with a great heart who loves others well. But he suffered a heart attack recently. The doctors determined he has no major risk factors. The only explanation was stress. He wept as he shared his story and it’s one I’m hearing more and more. Marriages are reaching crisis points. Substance abuse is on the rise. Suicide rates are climbing. Isolation and loneliness is causing many to suffer from clinical depression. And I wish with all my heart that I could make it all go away. I wish with all my heart I could make things better. I wish with all my heart I could heal all that ails us and make whole all that breaks us. But I am not a savior. I am a person just like you who is feeling the weight of this challenging season.

Prayer is necessary because it serves to remind us who’s really in control. It reminds us of our weakness and limitations and frailty. It reminds us of how little actual power we have and it brings us to our knees in surrender before God. Before the only One who can save us. The only One who can deliver us. The only One who can sustain us in this time. Friends, prayer reminds us of the good news that we are NOT strong enough. NOT wise enough. NOT successful enough. NOT gifted enough. To bear up under the burdens of this world. We need Jesus.

This is why the Bible calls us to a life of prayer. For ourselves. For our families. For our friends. For our enemies. For our communities. For our nation. For our world. God has called us to specifically pray for those in high political office that they may walk in His ways and act in accordance with His will. He has called us to pray for their salvation and protection and guidance for the decisions they will make. And He has promised to use them for His sovereign purposes in this world. Of this, we can be confident. There is no president in American history whom God did not ordain to be in office and therefore there is no president in American history whom God cannot use to accomplish His Kingdom ends. Amen?

Join us this Sunday as we dive into the “Politics of Prayer.” It’s one of the most significant ways we can participate as believers in the political realm. Remember, you can join us via FacebookYouTube, or at our webpage at www.pepc.org. See you at 8:30 or 10:00AM!

In Christ, Doug

p.s. COVID UPDATE: Our Session met last month and held a deep discussion over PEPC’s continuing response to COVID-19. Specifically, we discussed and prayed over the Biblical values that should undergird our approach. As a result, we believe we need to continue to do all we can to create a safe environment so that even the most vulnerable among us can attend in-person worship. We also believe we should create as many options as possible – both virtual and in person – so that everyone has the freedom to choose what’s best for themselves. Finally, we believe we are called to submit to our governing authorities as they have not restricted our ability to preach the gospel or connect as a church. We just have to continue to be creative and innovative in our approach.

To that end, Douglas County has moved back a level as a result of rising COVID cases. We are now restricted to 50 people for in-person worship (excluding staff and volunteers). We will faithfully follow this mandate and will continue to monitor things as we move forward. Look for an upcoming townhall where we will share more in the days ahead!

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11-06-20

I remember reading the Bible with my grandfather towards the end of his life. He was approaching ninety years old. He had been preaching since he was fourteen. He served the United Methodist Church with distinction in southern Indiana and had become somewhat of a minor legend in his denomination. He loved the Word. Studied the Word. Lived the Word. As we sat in his living room, I can still see him in my mind’s eye reading his tattered, ratty old Bible which I now have in my office. I have no idea what we were reading that day only that we came to a particular passage and I heard him grunt and say to himself, “Hmm, I’ve never seen that before.” “What?” I asked. “Grandpa, you’ve been a Christian you’re whole life. You’ve been a preacher for almost that entire time. What do you mean you’ve never seen this verse before?” He looked at me over his reading glasses and said, “Doug, God never stops speaking through His Word.”
I was thinking about him yesterday when I ran across these words in my daily Bible reading. “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:4-14) Jesus’ words rocked me. I was stunned at their relevance. Especially as we wait on the results of our national election. There are so many rumors and conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns being waged. So many claiming to speak for God who clearly have their own agenda. So many false prophets predicting all sorts of doom and gloom. I see it on the news. I see it on social media. I hear it in conversations at the coffee shop. The common denominator – whether one is politically Left or Right or somewhere in between – is fear.
But Jesus didn’t give us a spirit of fear, friends! The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in us! This is why do not need to be afraid of what’s to come. We do not need to be afraid of wars or famines or earthquakes or nation rising against nation. These are but the birth pangs of the Kingdom! We do not need to be afraid of the trials or the tribulation or the hatred coming our way for God will not rest until the whole world hears the gospel! Only after the Great Commission is accomplished will God finally make an end to evil! Until that day comes, our job is simply to endure. To persevere. To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, trusting in due time He will lift us up. Our job is to wrap a towel around our waste, get on our knees, and serve the world no matter what persecution may come our way. In this way, the world will see Jesus. Amen?
This week we make a slight adjustment in our “Gospel Politics” series as we begin talking about the Christian response to an election. How do we endure? What does perseverance look like? What form does it take? How do we make sure we honor Christ no matter who becomes President? Invite your friends and family to join us as we continue to dive deep into God’s Word for answers! See you Sunday!
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10-30-20

Church conflict is the worst. Over the years, I’ve helped many churches navigate difficult times as they wrestled with broken trust, broken dreams, and broken hearts. I’ve listened to countless stories of heartache and pain. Wiped away so many tears and shed many myself over the brokenness of the Body of Christ. Recently, I’ve been pulled into yet another conflict with a sister church in our denomination who is struggling with a possible split. I wish with all my heart I could heal their hurt and make it all go away. But I do not have that power. Only Jesus does. And it is only through His love that they will make it through.

The same is true for us. There are so many forces in our culture today that threaten to tear us apart. The global pandemic. Mask mandates. Social distancing. Lockdowns. Economic uncertainty. Job loss. Racial tensions. Peaceful protests. Violent riots. Political divisions. Hateful rhetoric. Public shaming and virtue signaling. Layer in the normal, everyday struggles with disappointment, failure, unmet expectations, etc. and you can see how tenuous things can become. If we aren’t careful, these forces will rip apart our families, friendships, even our church.

Friends, only Jesus is strong enough to hold us together. I love how the Apostle Paul puts it in passages like Romans 11:36 which says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” Or Ephesians 1:10, “In the fullness of time all things will unite in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Or perhaps my favorite, Colossians 1:16-20, “For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body, the Church. He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through Him to reconcile all thingsyes, even Republicans and Democrats, progressives and conservatives, black and white and brown, rich and poor, mask wearers and non-mask wearers alike…whether on earth or in heaven making peace by the blood of His cross.”

I think about Jesus hanging on the cross. Loving His enemies till the end. Holding heaven and earth literally together with His outstretched hands. Dying to set the world free from the tyranny of evil and sin and death. It’s amazing. It’s humbling. All I can do is fall on my face before Him in worship. This week, we have the privilege of hearing from Will Freyschlag as he brings a timely message about how we engage in the politics of love even as we head out to vote on Tuesday. Friends, don’t give the enemy a foothold. Don’t let Satan tempt you to despair or isolate you from your brothers and sisters in Christ. Invite your friends and neighbors and all those you know who are struggling to join us this Sunday – either virtually via our website, Facebook, Youtube or physically – as we gather to ask Jesus to put us all back together again. Amen?

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10-23-20

I recently heard from some friends who had to evacuate their home due to the fires. They packed up as many of their memories and treasured possessions as they could and made their way to the shelter where they would spend the next few days waiting for news on the fate of their home. Evacuating in the midst of a global pandemic with all the social restrictions makes an incredibly hard situation even worse. However, there is just something about connecting with other human beings even in the midst of tragedy that can ease the load. When they arrived at the shelter, they found friends and neighbors. They were able to unload their stuff and grab a corner of the room to sleep. They shed tears. Swapped stories. Played games. Prayed together. And they threw themselves into serving those who arrived after them. In short, their temporary emergency shelter became a sanctuary. A sacred space for them to connect with others in the presence of Christ.
I think those words from James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” My friends found ways to hold onto joy in the midst of their sorrow and pain. Mainly as they connected and prayed and served alongside other people. Friends, I know this is a challenging time. Many are feeling more and more disconnected from friends and family and loved ones. Many are feeling more and more disconnected from their church family as well. It’s hard in the midst of all we are going through to hold onto Christ and hold onto each other. But it’s the only way to find joy. It’s the only way to build endurance. It’s the only way to lay hold of the promise God offers…to make us perfect and complete in Him!
As we continue to navigate this season, know the elders and staff are continuing to prayerfully discern how best to keep our community safe while extending as much freedom as possible. We will be meeting as a Session on Weds to discuss the impact of the lawsuit recently won by two churches in our state. We will also continue to offer both in-person and online options for worship and other programming to give you the power to choose what works best for you. For those uncomfortable meeting in larger groups, I want to encourage meeting one on one or in small groups. I am ALWAYS available to meet and love a good cup of coffee as you know! 😉 Please let me know if we can connect. Mainly, we want to do whatever we can to help bridge the loneliness gap all of us are feeling right now.
This Sunday, Pastor Dan will tackle the “Politics of Mercy” as we continue our Gospel Politics series. If you ever want to discuss any of the topics further, again, feel free to shoot me an email. These are definitely challenging times for us all and it’s good to talk these things through together. See you Sunday!
In Christ, Doug
p.s. Because of the weather, we will not be serving coffee or donuts outside the doors as you exit. However, we encourage you to feel free to bring your own to sip on as we stay warm in our sanctuary and worship the Lord!

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10-16-20

Recently, I was talking with one of my twins about swim practice. Swim practices – for those who do not know – are terrible. They are long. They are exhausting. They are full body workouts. You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. My daughter was fixated on these things and she wasn’t having any fun. So I asked her how she felt after practice. A different story emerged. She talked about how strong she’s getting and how her mind feels so clear after she’s put in the work. She talked about the confidence she’s building in herself and her ability to accomplish hard things. As she talked, you could almost see her attitude change. She became more joyful, less anxious, and more positive about her swim experience. By the end of the conversation, she was ready to get back in the pool.

I’ve been thinking a lot about endurance lately. Obviously, my daughter is building endurance each time she gets in the water. But what about me? What about us? What am I learning about endurance as we go through this challenging season? What am I learning about myself as I wake up to the struggle each day? And do I find myself focusing on the negative? The inconvenient? Everything that’s gone wrong? Or do I focus my mind and heart on the strength God is building in me? The confidence to overcome hard things? The ability to persevere through even the most difficult of circumstances?

I know 2020 is a year we’d all like to forget. I imagine Christians in 1349 felt the same way when the Black Death killed half of Europe. I imagine Christians in 1520 felt similarly when smallpox devastated 60-90% of the indigenous population here in America. What about 1918 and the Spanish Flu? Of course, none of these even hold a candle to the absolute worst year on record…536AD. In that year, a dense fog from an Icelandic volcanic eruption covered the globe in darkness for nearly 2 full years. Global temperatures plummeted. Famine was rampant. Crops failed. Disease ran rampant. This period of extreme cold, starvation, and economic collapse lasted through 541AD and nearly 100 million people died as a result. Crazy, right? And yet Christians endured.

How did they do it? Colossians 3:1-4, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Friends, I know what we are going through is not easy. I don’t want to minimize it at all. The challenge is real. Every single day. But Christ is with you! And if you set your mind on Christ and seek the things that are above where Christ is seated even now in glory, I know God will give you what you need to make it through. As much as we struggle to endure, God never fails. He endures! He perseveres with us! He is faithful and true!

PEPC, I see signs of your godly endurance and I am so encouraged. You continue to join in worship both physically and virtually. You continue to gather in small groups and one on one throughout the week. So many of you are signing up to serve in Children’s Ministry, Worship Arts, or to help serve breakfast as local high schools with our mission team! You continue to give faithfully to the work of the Kingdom. In fact, we are only 1% behind where we were last year in giving! That’s amazing! And yes, we do have some aspirational goals still left to accomplish this year but I trust the Lord to provide exactly what we need in the months ahead. So keep praying over what role God would have you play. Is it to begin giving? Is it to begin serving? Is it to step out in faith in a new way? As you do, let me encourage you to focus on “things above not on things that are on earth!” Focus on what God is doing during this season in your life or family or friendships not the struggles you face each day. Focus on Christ who is seated even now in glory and trust His promise to always take care of His own. See you Sunday, friends!

In Christ, Doug

p.s. Invite your friends and family to join us online at Facebook, YouTube, or through our website. Many thanks to all who are wearing masks and maintaining social distancing when you attend physically. Your sacrifices make it possible for those who are more vulnerable to attend physically as well.

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10-09-20

Like many of you, I am getting so tired of the strain of this season. I am definitely ready to turn the page. Get back to normal. Live my life without all the restrictions. I am sure we all feel the same way. And while we talk about living through “unprecedented times”, the truth of the matter is none of this is new. God’s people have fought pandemics and plagues before. God’s people have survived national turmoil and violent unrest. God’s people have seen their fortunes go up and down due to circumstances beyond their control. God’s people have struggled through divisive political seasons that make this election year seem peaceful by comparison. Through it all, they have not only survived but found ways to thrive. How so?

First and foremost, they kept their eyes on Christ and His Kingdom. They understood at a deep, foundational level that they were aliens and strangers in this world. Made to live eternally with God, they didn’t cling to the things of this world that are passing away. At the same time, they valued life in this world. They understood it to be a gift from God. So they got married. Raised families. Worked hard. Basically, they did everything you and I do on a daily basis. And when the hard times came. When crops failed and famine hit. When disease ran rampant and loved ones died. When economies shut down or armies invaded or the government fell. They simply kept putting one foot in front of the other, stayed in step with the Spirit, and rebuilt what had been torn down.

Without a doubt, this season has been hard. The virus continues to run its course. Our economy is fragile at best. Jobs are being lost. The mental health crisis is growing. The political chaos increasing. Tempers are flaring. Emotions are rising. How will God’s people respond? I want to suggest we do what our spiritual mothers and fathers have always done. Simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Keep in step with the Spirit. Begin rebuilding what has been torn down. How do we do that? We rebuild relationships. Relationships with God. Relationships with God’s people. We rebuild lives by reconnecting with those we love. We rebuild livelihoods as we help one another network and look for work. We rebuild our church as we look for ways to give and serve.

One thing to remember as we engage in this rebuilding process…the way we rebuild is just as important as what we rebuild! As Christians, we rebuild with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We refuse to rebuild out selfish ambition, greed, anger or bitterness. We refuse to give the enemy a foothold in this new life we are building with God and each other. Friends, the promise of God is true – “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the rest will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Or as a friend of mine likes to summarize it, “You take care of the things God cares about and He will take care of the things you care about.” Sounds about right to me!

This Sunday is our second Sunday indoors. Couple of quick reminders. We have services at 8:30 and 10:30AM. Both services are online and can be found at our website, Facebook, and YouTube pages. Children’s Ministry is only available at 8:30AM but all children are welcome to join us for worship in the main worship center as well. If you have the ability and availability to serve, we’d love to have you! Opportunities abound with the Deacons, Life-Safety, Greeting, Children’s Ministry, and Worship teams. As we “rebuild” our programming to reach out to the lost and hurting in our community, we know our needs will grow as well so thank you in advance for continuing to prayerfully give to the work of the Lord here at PEPC. It’s a privilege to serve you, PEPC, and I can’t wait to see you Sunday!

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10-2-20

As some of you know, I’ve been reading through the sermons of Dr. Gardner Taylor during my devotional time. Dr. Taylor was a legendary African-American preacher and civil rights leader and served his church faithfully for over fifty years. During the course of his life and ministry, Dr. Taylor faced many challenges. He fought many battles. He struggled against injustice, social unrest, and discouragement when his church burned to the ground. He didn’t have an easy life at all. And yet, this morning I read these words from a sermon he preached towards the end of his life…
“The bedrock of the Christian faith is that we have seen God in the face of Jesus Christ. He is all the God we need. In Christ, Father God has come down out of the clouds to live among us. In Jesus, Father God has made Himself forever visible. In Jesus Christ, Father God has visited His lost and wandering children in the far country. In Jesus Christ, Father God has made His true makeup known to us. God in Christ heals the sick and raises the dead, gives extra vision to the sightless, and lets deaf people hear the music of the spheres. God in Christ visits families that are mourning and sits down at feasts with those who rejoice. God in Christ forgives our sin. He promises to be with us in life and to come and get us in death. Jesus Christ is God enough for us now and when the journey is over, He is God enough to bring us home in glory.”
Jesus is God enough. I can’t think of a more important truth to hang onto right now. Jesus is God enough to handle the global pandemic. Jesus is God enough to provide during this economic crisis. Jesus is God enough to overcome our political and social divisions. Jesus is God enough to forgive our sins and heal our land. Jesus is God enough!
Friends, I know we are living through challenging times. I know things are not easy. I know we are all on edge. Disappointments that in the past would have rolled off our backs now weigh us down. Fears that in the past would not have made much of an impact on our lives now cripple us in too many ways. Frustrations are boiling over. We’ve had enough. And there seems to be no end in sight. But the heart of the gospel is not the end to all suffering and pain. It’s not the end of all trials and hardships. Jesus is clear. In this world, we will face tribulation. No, the heart of the gospel is that even in the middle of all we are going through…Jesus is God enough!
This Sunday, we are kicking off a new series. One that promises to be one of the most challenging we have ever tackled here at PEPC. The series is titled “Gospel Politics.” For the next several weeks, we will be diving into some of the most contentious issues in our culture today, seeking God’s wisdom for how we – as followers of Christ – should engage during this season. I know we’re touching a raw nerve here but I truly believe if we come with open and humble hearts that we will discover what Dr. Taylor discovered during the course of his own life. Jesus is God enough!
So make sure to invite your friends and neighbors to join you! Share our livestream with those you’ve been arguing with on your social media feeds! 😉 If the prospect of wearing a mask during the worship service is uncomfortable, invite friends over to your home and host a “worship party.” Friends, our nation is desperate for a fresh hearing of the gospel. Jesus is the only hope we have if we are find our land healed and renewed. Thankfully, He is more than up to the task, amen?! He is more than sufficient, amen?! Jesus is more than enough! See you Sunday!