Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 54 – Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Whether it’s thick-papered, glossy ads for various products, roadside signs or social media advertisements, products and services promise that we can become (or seem to be) more hip, smarter, of the socially elite, happier, and fulfilled. The question must be asked, “If ‘stuff’ can meet our deepest needs, why do we still want more?”

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 53 – Perfect Fit

When Spanish conquistadors marched into Peru in the 1500’s, the land was ruled by the Incas. The Spaniards found Inca walls and foundations built of stones fitted together without the benefit of any mortar. Many of these walls still stand today. Some of the stones used in the construction weigh in at over 100 tons and took hours upon hours of painstaking labor to shape using smaller “hammer” stones to chip away the excess rock on the faces. The edges of a block were shaped so they would match exactly with the contours of an adjoining block. The stones were fitted so carefully that even now it is impossible to insert a razor blade between many of them.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 52 – Divine Appointments

I tend to collect stories. I’ll read or hear accounts that lodge somewhere in my mind, and they resurface at odd moments (those of you who have heard me preach for any length of time know this truth all too well). One of my favorites comes from Gary LaFerla’s book Finding Your Way. In WWII, Elgin Staples was aboard the USS Astoria when it was attacked in the battle for Savo Island in the Pacific. This is the story as LaFerla recounts it:

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 51 – Find Your Center

A brief history lesson, if you will…
For many years, people held the basic idea that Earth, not the Sun, was at the center of our universe. Ptolemy, a Greek mathematician living in the 2nd century A.D., was the first person to offer a detailed explanation of this theory. His work was accepted as truth; after all, why wouldn’t Earth be the center of all things? This proposed arrangement of the universe is known as the Ptolemaic model: Earth was thought to be in the center, and every other thing (the Sun, the planets, the stars, etc.) moved in orbits around it.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 50 – Cramping Sin’s Style

My father raised bulls at times on our farm when I was young. One in particular hated being confined to a pen, or a pasture, or multiple pastures, for that matter. When he decided that it was time to take a little walk through the fence (and I do mean through the fence), he would do so and then casually stroll wherever he might want to go. Any barrier, whether perceived or real, was seen as a threat to his freedom and would be dealt with accordingly. 

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 49 – Grace

I know I have said it before, but this season has been revealing in many ways. Crisis has a way of showing what we depend upon, where our thoughts go in the midst of struggle and the underlining nature of our fears. After reading a truly great article yesterday (read it here), I was reminded how one thing is being revealed again and again: the lack of grace we often show each other. It surfaces in our world because it lurks within our hearts. We can talk a good talk about grace, mercy and forgiveness, but if we are not careful, gracelessness will creep into our lives and color everything we touch. If we allow the gospel of grace to work fully, it will enlighten every corner of our lives.

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The Best Things I’ve Read on COVID-19 and Church Leadership (so far)

If you are like me, you have likely noticed how everyone has become “armchair epidemiologists” during this season. I have heard church leaders across the nation state that this crisis is “unprecedented,” but then in the next breath declare that they have the perfect response to these new difficulties. No one is a complete expert on this crisis, and the conflicting information and emotional debates will likely continue for years to come.

I am often asked for information on leadership. It’s a topic that I research, write about (click here) and speak on often.

With that in mind, these two articles have been the most helpful to me personally during this season:

Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You

I hope you might find them to be helpful as well.


Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 48 – The Battle on Your Knees

Engaging in prayer is engaging in battle. Like any powerful weapon, to treat prayer carelessly only increases the danger of the given situation. I might think that I have done all I can because I have prayed, but if I am not praying with power, the words I utter on my knees may give a false sense of assurance that I have truly asked something from God in faith. Over the years, I have discovered some subtle ways that I can become careless with my prayers. 

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 47 – Hands on the Truth

According to government statistics, authorities discover counterfeit American bills totaling between $70 million and $200 million every year. With home-production of illegal funds posing such a growing problem with the arrival of advanced copiers and better computer printers, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing works to continually upgrade the security features of some of the most commonly-counterfeited bills, thus making it much harder for would-be crooks to produce “funny money.” Color-shifting inks, watermarks, raised impressions, micro-printing and security strips increase the uniqueness of American currency. According to the Secret Service, even the paper that bills are printed on cannot be produced legally by an individual. It is of a special composition pressed to a specific thickness and contains tiny red and blue silk fibers (you can see them if you look closely enough).

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 46 – White Elephants

“A man is not what he thinks he is, but what he thinks, he is.”
– M.R. Hickerson

The human brain is the most complex biological organ in existence. Containing 100 billion nerve cells, with each one potentially linking with 10,000 other nerve cells, the brain’s capacity for calculations and the speed at which these functions occur is staggering. It is estimated with such a high degree of connectivity, the human brain is capable of 1 quintillion (1 followed by 18 zeros) calculations per second.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 45 – Schooled

In June 1744, members of the Iroquois “Six Nations” and the Lenape tribes met with early American colonial leaders to negotiate the terms of a treaty regarding land. These meetings shaped not only the growth of the colonies, but the suggestions for governmental structure offered by some of the Native Americans influenced the development of our Constitution as well.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 44 – Tear Down That Wall

It was Christmas day, just before I graduated from high school, when I opened a gift from my parents and found inside a small chunk of concrete. Yes, it was concrete (not coal, so I must have been a really bad kid). Alongside the jagged shard was a certificate of authenticity indicating that I was holding a piece of the Berlin Wall.
Let’s revisit history for a moment…

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 43 – The Unreal

I once read about a scientific experiment with butterflies. A male butterfly was introduced to an environment with two options present. Option #1 was a living, healthy female butterfly. Option #2 was a huge, cardboard cutout butterfly painted with the same colors as a real female. Enter the male. In repeated tests, the males tended to ignore the real female and try everything in their power to attract the attention of the most obvious, but the most unreal, mate.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 42 – Desert Lands and Ivy Roots

“What day is it?” I have heard (and asked) that question repeatedly over the last few weeks. Without normal routines and pat schedules, this season of disruption warps our perception of time. Days blend into other days, and weeks pass without a predictable ebb and flow.

We look at the cancelled events and passing days on the calendar and wonder, “How long?” When time seems to stretch out and creep along at a snail’s pace, we can grow frustrated at our perceived lack of forward movement. But there may be deep work in progress where there is otherwise a lack of obvious activity.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 41 – Rejection and Acceptance

“Is that…a diary?”

The words carried an unmistakable mix of disgust and amusement. I glanced to my right at two of my sixth-grade classmates. My mother, knowing my enjoyment of writing, had given me a journal a month earlier for Christmas, and there in study hall, I was about to share my heart on that first, blank page when the question surfaced with sneers. 

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 40 – Boats, Obedience and the Edge of the World

Last November, a group of us took a trip to Israel. Later, through a series of sermons, I elaborated on many of the places we visited and the lessons we learned (even though there is no way that I could convey every detail with the richness of being in-country). The sights and landscapes helped put many biblical references into context. Early in our trip, we visited the ancient port city of Joppa where I had a perspective-giving moment.

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Prayers from the Quarantined church – Day 39 – Cups

“What would you like to drink?” That is a question we hear often whether at a restaurant, when sitting down for dinner at home or while visiting a hospitable friend. But I have never heard God ask that question.

When he sets a cup before me, he expects me to drink. It may be that he pours a cup of wonderful circumstances, memorable moments or sunny days. But sometimes it is a cup of loss, a cup of sickness or a cup of disappointment. No matter what I may see when I peer over the rim, that cup with my name on it is mean to be drained, whether with a heart swelled with joy unspeakable or through tears unstoppable.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 38 – Season of Sowing

Over the last few weeks of our shelter-in-place / safer-at-home restrictions, I have heard from a number of people who have shared how they are spending their time. Some have gone into a cleaning frenzy that has left no corner untouched. Others have decided to redeem the time by learning a new craft or hobby. Some have gone into exercise mode to avoid gaining the “quarantine fifteen,” and others have resorted to lying on the couch and consuming way too many snack foods. A few people have told me that they have been busy planting during this time. After the frosts passed, they put seeds into the ground and now look forward to the harvest.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 37 – Contentment

How much time do you spend seeking contentment?

If you are like most people (and willing to be brutally honest), you likely use many of your waking hours trying to gain and maintain contentment. Contentment is not a bad thing in itself, but the ways we try to reach it can diverge quickly from God’s methods.

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Prayers from the Quarantined Church – Day 36 – Bootstraps

“Sometimes you must ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.’”

That phrase lingers in our vocabulary as a testament to rugged self-reliance and dependence upon no outside force to bring rescue. The idea is that in the midst of the greatest difficulty, the deepest need or the hottest battle, we can lift ourselves from the chaos and plant our feet on solid ground by nothing more than a sheer act of will, gut-level tenacity and good old “know-how.” That is how we use the phrase, “pull oneself up by the bootstraps.” You reach down, take hold of the straps or loops atop your boots and lift yourself up by them.

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