Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 12 – God Honest

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts, nor measure words, but to pour them all out just as they are, chaff and grain together knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

                                                                                        –George Eliot

When was the last time that you talked to somebody else?  Really talked?  About the hard, rough, and bothersome parts of your life? 

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 11 – The Possible Impossible

“An impossibility, with God, becomes a glorious impossibility.” -Larry Watson

I remember helping my father set a corner post for a fence once. My brother and I were just little kids, and the post was a section cut from a heavy electrical pole. To sink this post, the required hole was deep and wide. To make matters even more difficult, the section was lying on a flatbed trailer and needed to be moved to the hole and dropped in place.

I looked at the hole, then the giant-sized post, then at my brother and then at my own hands. “This is will not happen,” I thought. My father looked at the pole, then at the hole, then at us. Lowering himself into a crouch beside the trailer, he said, “Roll it off on my back.”

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 10 – Dropping Weight

(Since we may be in this season for a longer period of time than 30 days, after praying it over, I’ll be posting a new prayer focus every day until most of us are back to the new normal. That is the reason that the “30 Days…” title has changed. Praying for you during this season. – DCG)

I read an article recently about a man who started on a seven-month, 7000-mile hike. He began along the Pacific Crest Trail (running from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington State) before connecting with the Continental Divide Trail (running along the backbone of the Rockies from Canada to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to the Mexican border). The hiker explained how he prepared the supplies that he carried with him in order to reduce overall weight.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 9 – Take Up Your Cross

“Sometimes we must experience a death to our own vision before we can catch a glimpse of God’s perfect plan.”  –Dr. Don Rauniker

“If you knew you that today was your last day on earth, what would you do differently?” I’ve been asked that question at times, and I always tell people that I would want to live the day as well as I try to live out every other day. But I suppose that we would all live differently if we knew with certainty that today was our final day of life. 

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 8 – Big Cats, Fear and the Coronavirus

Not all things that make noise beside the path come down the path.
-Traditional African proverb

My grandfather loved to talk the Wampus Cat. We would listen wide-eyed as he wove tales of the massive, mythical, predatory cat. I learned that it’s big: “Once, I heard about a Wampus Cat carrying off an adult cow.” It’s fast: “He can outrun cars, so you can’t get away in one.” And it has some kind of special power over its prey: “If you look at his eyes, he will hypnotize you, your feet will stick to the ground, and you won’t be able to call for help.” As a small child, I had a healthy fear of the Wampus Cat because of the powers it was said to possess, but that wasn’t the most terrifying aspect.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 7 – True Hope

Biblical hope is not wishful thinking, like “hoping” that it doesn’t rain during a baseball game, nor is it the power of positive thought: “think good thoughts and good will come to you.” To say that Biblical hope is either of those things is to make it less than it is. Biblical hope is a confident and favorable expectation of a future reality.

That sounds like a solid definition, but how does that play our in our everyday lives? Glad you asked.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 6 – Hard Reset

A common reality of our digital age is that at certain times a device will require resetting. The problem can lie within the hardware of the device (the actual physical components) or the software (the programs and systems installed on the device). Sometimes the reset requires removing excess data or reinstalling a newer operating system. Often it is as simple as pressing a single button, and other times, an increasingly complex procedure must take place in order to restore the normal operation of the device. A reset may take time and may be disruptive, but when it is needed, nothing else will restore everything to its correct state.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 5 – Tested Hearts

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

A man watched a silversmith sitting quietly while he gazed at the molten metal in a crucible. As the flame steadily burned underneath the container, the smith would periodically skim the silver and remove the impurities that floated to the surface.

“When do you know that it is pure?” the man asked the silversmith.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 4 – Togetherness

As COVID-19 spreads across our country, people are social-distancing more and more out of commonsense caution. Because of this, many families are finding that they are spending more time together, and with that comes more opportunities for families to invest in quality time with each other. And, if you are like most people in the modern age, time is at a premium.

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Some Helpful Resources During This Season

I have been trying to limit the flood of (often-conflicting) information that comes my way, not only for personal sanity, but also because I am seeking the best resources for my safety as well as the safety of those I lead.

These are some of the clearest and most-helpful sources for information I have found; these are the places I go for updates.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 3 – It’s Not Persecution

A few months ago, one of the pastors on our staff and I were talking about the church culture in America. He said, “I think too many times we look at the church as one of multiple options we can engage in on any given Sunday morning. There are plenty of other things people could be doing during that time. Often, we operate as though “the church will always be there,” so we can falsely think that we can occupy that time with other things, knowing that, if we ever have a “real need” to go to church, it’s still there.”

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 2 – Who We Are, Not Where We Go

Many years ago, a man had grown upset with some things within his church. As a result, he made a choice to disconnect from other members and refused to be a part of any of the church’s gatherings. After a while, on a cold evening, one of the man’s friends knocked on his door. The disgruntled church member eyed him suspiciously and growled, “If you plan to try and convince me to come back, you are wasting your time.”

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 1 – Still Moments

Last Sunday, I arrived at our church’s campus a little earlier than I normally do. The parking lot was nearly vacant since we were hosting our service online, and as I stepped out of the car, I was struck by the stillness of the moment. I stood there for a long while, and just thought about everything that has happened in our nation over these weeks. We have seen both concern and panic, legitimate information and unhelpful rumors, public cooperation and partisan bickering. It has been a study of contrasts.

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The Parable of Another Sower

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”  – Matthew 13:3-9

But another sower watched the annual cycle of sowing and reaping with a sense of disappointment and despair. He saw all the soil where the seed would not grow and concluded that something must be done to make sure that growth could take place in all places a seed might land. After gathering a team of other sowers, they began to implement innovative solutions to the perceived problem.

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“The 33 Most-Valuable Leadership Lessons I Have Learned”

A few nights ago at a conference, I sat in a room with a group of other lead pastors. Some carried the unseen scars of many years of ministry; a few still showed a bit of the shine of idealism. The speaker in the breakout session addressed the things we needed to remember in order to make it in the “marathon, not the sprint, of ministry.”

He spoke warmly, sincerely and wisely. He encouraged, challenged and comforted us. As I looked around the room, I saw what I have seen so many times in gatherings of pastors: that worn-out facial expression. I couldn’t help but wonder if I looked as tired as the rest of them did.

When I got home, lying in bed, I stared at the ceiling in the darkened room and thought about what I have learned about being a lead pastor in the last year.

I had recently read an article that gave a very direct and honest list (and one that is perfectly accurate in every respect to my experience. You can find it here.)

Having been in ministry for over a dozen years, there have been many lessons, but if I had to summarize things and convey them as concisely as I could to a person stepping into a ministry role, what would I say?

Though I know that the list would grow exponentially if I thought about it for any longer (because I already know many more things I could add), for now, I would give these thoughts as a primer I have gathered from moments in my own life and from watching other leaders in ministry. Some of those examples showed great leadership, deep wisdom and God-centered motives, and others I use as a self-test (when I think about possible actions to take, I think back on some of these leaders’ actions and consider what they might do in a given situation…then I do the opposite).

So, in no particular order, and as they come to mind, I humbly offer these hard-won lessons… Continue reading

A Culture of Disconnection

Of all the points of discussion among church leaders in America, one currently tops the list: declining attendance among members. Books and articles explore the various reasons and potential solutions, podcast hosts ask leading experts on church growth about the most-recent statistics and conferences, research firms as well as denominational teams attempt to discover what the future might hold for churches across the nation. This is not an isolated occurrence; it is being felt in the largest of metropolitan churches as well as smaller, rural congregations, and the trend is happening across denominational lines. People attend church less frequently than ever before.

The temptation is to single out one factor and claim that it is the sole reason for the decline, but leading research shows that the problem has multiple roots. Continue reading

Prayer

I have not only been praying for our church that we would become a people of genuine prayer, but I have been asking God to teach me how to pray more intimately and effectively. Many churches and quite a few people are known for prayer that is ceremonial, polished and safe, but what I am referring to is something much more than that; I am speaking of direct and honest communication with the God of all creation.

After reflecting upon it, there are some things that I have learned about prayer that have shaped the way I approach God… Continue reading