Staying Anchored & Serving Others During COVID and Quarantine

A Message from Tim Keller | Resiience & Burnout

People love people.

Whether you’re a minister or not, you probably spend countless hours caring others, and even more time identifying ways to care for others. Throw a crisis in the mix and compassionate hearts begin racing while servant’s hands tirelessly move from need to need.

Be careful. Burnout is a real thing.

It may feel as though you are simply tired, but there is more happening than you realize.
Tim Keller, popular pastor and author, recently lead a devotional for pastors. While directed at pastors, his encouragement is profitable for all who care are navigating this time, especially those who are seeking to care for others.

I hope you will spend 25 minutes as he identifies and discusses four things essential to surviving ministry during this crisis.

  1. Extraordinary prayer
  2. Resilience without stoicism
  3. Radical refocusing
  4. Gospel resolve

Need ancouragement, prayer, or have something to add? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Two additional notes:

  • Don’t skip over the introductory comments. I think you will resonate with them and find encouragement there as well.
  • Thanks to a friend who sent me this link so that I might be encouraged. You know who you are.

A New NDP Model

The First Thursday in May. …the National Day of Prayer. (NDP)

May 7, 2020.

What is today for? What’s this about? The answer might seem simple: Prayer. But that simple answer leads to a flood of other questions…

Who is being called to pray? What are we praying for? Who are we praying to?

Well, “the nation,” of course. We’re calling the nation to pray. But is it biblical to call a nation to prayer? I beleive so. Although, maybe not the way we’re doing it. I think we need a new template, a new pattern. Not only does modeling our national call to prayer after 2 Chronicles 7 (and other pleas to God’s people), appear to have serious hermeneutical problems, it does not appear to be producing widespread fruit.

Let’s consider what our nation’s NDP meetings have produced. (This is not meant to be a criticism to the creators, promoters, and participants of NDP over the years. Many of these are dear brothers and sisiters in Christ who are laboring well for the Kingdom. My intent is to simply evaluate what has become of this effort and where we can get it back on track.)

Today will be filled with programs that are not only ecumenical among Christian traditions (which can be a good thing), but many of these representatives will be from traditions and churches that have denied the gospel. More than that, non-Christian faiths are also being represented at NDP gatherings in city parks and on courthouse steps. Which begs the question, who are we praying to?

America, regardless of her foundations, is a secular and plurastic society. If you are going to call a plurastic nation to pray, you will create a pluralistc prayer movement. It has, in a sense, become a Jonah 1:6 call: “Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” (ESV) It has become a “cover all bases, come together in solidairty, work toward the same goal” kind of partnership, and Christ has become lumped in with our cultural spirituality, yoked together with other gods.

Please don’t misunderstand, we can still show respect to those of other faiths, enter into dialogue with them and even partner with them in certain efforts, but prayer is not one of them.

This is why the National Day of Prayer should not be a 2 Chronicles 7 prayer meeting. Even when we keep our meetings Christian and orthodox our prayers (for whatever reason) manage to avoid or underplay what must be the centerpiece of a widespread, cooperative, national call to prayer:

Repentance. Serious, humble, painful, transparent repentance.

Listen to the rhetoric; hear the prayers offered from platforms across our nation today. Read the outlines on the published programs. You won’t see it. It won’t be there except, perhaps, in the periphery.

We will gather to recognize our blessings and to thank God for them? That’s a good thing to do.

We will gather to recognize God, His glory and His throne, to implore Him to bless our families, cities, governments, and nation. I think these prayers are necessary but should not be the meat of our intercessory banquet.

Instead of 2 Chronicles 7:14 (a powerful call to prayer for God’s people), we should be following the lead of Jonah 3:6-9:

The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” (ESV)

This should be the model for the National Day of Prayer.

The model of Nineveh and not Israel. A call to an ungodly nation must sound like Jonah not Solomon.

Consider, what if Jonah (the book not the prophet) became the template for our national call to prayer.

  1. An imperfect prophet (the church) preaches God’s message of warning to a godless people.
  2. Conviction falls on that nation’s leaders.
  3. A proclamation is issued calling for repentance and humility before the One true God.

Then and only then will our NDP actually bear fruit, abundant fruit… far-reaching and enduring fruit. The kind of fruit that leads to salvations, transforms lives, impacts families, and averts plagues.

The fruit of repentance.

Faithful proclamation, serious warning, sharp conviction, and national repentance. These are the true precursors to revival. Let’s seek them with all our hearts. Let’s seek Him.

O Lord, please, let us abandon empty displays of religious activity and grant us humility, repentance, and revival.

Seeking Wisdom Amidst Controversy

Controversy breeds conflict.

Conflict exposes pride and arrogance. When we encounter differing opinions, our pride becomes kindled.

Case in point: Coronavirus Response.

Everybody has an opinion and those opinions come with strong emotions and even stronger certainty.

Because genuine dialogue between varying perspectives has evaporated under the heat of controversy, the wells of knowledge and solutions have also dried up.

In contrast, God’s wisdom implores us to learn from varying perspectives, for among multiple counselors there is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:14, 24:6)

So, how can we trust that we are among those truly seeking and holding fast to wisdom?

Consider these diagnostic questions:

  • When listening to a different point of view, can you acknowledge any truth in an opposing argument while identifying specifically what you disagree with and why?
  • How many perspectives are you exposed to first-hand? (I mean, do you listen to the entirety of their ideas in context, listening in good faith, or are you content to merely hear about what was said?)
  • Do you already have an opinion on what will be said even before you hear what is said (either because of who is speaking or what “camp” they’re representing)?
  • Do you assume the worst about the motives of those you disagree with?
  • Do you understand the limitations of data sets, surveys, and projections as well as any possible bias in their presentation?
  • Can you admit your limitations?

These are just a few diagnostic questions that will expose each of us to varying degrees as part of the problem. Which, I suppose, is another question. “Can you admit that you are part of the problem?”

We are all biased and unable to fully compensate for our tendency to assume, presume, react, distort, and misunderstand. So, we must learn to listen with patience, charity, and grace. This takes both effort and humility.

The benefits for the church go beyond modeling wisdom and charity when it comes to societal discourse. For the church, this is how we love one another well. This is how we value one another, see the image of God in one another, and abide in the wisdom and presence of God.

So, let’s work on application. As this Corona & Quarantine continue and as talk swirls around opening back up businesses and meetings, let’s be intentional with our words and attitudes.

Let’s strive to do the following:

  1. Admit we don’t have perfect knowledge; we are limited in wisdom, and have a plethora of presuppositions (many of which we are not aware of).
  2. Realize that while we may think we have accomplished #1, the reality of those limitations are exponentially greater than we know. Even though we may acknowledge these limitations we cannot fully compensate for them.
  3. Remember that many intelligent, informed, and capable individuals differ on the interpretation of data and best way to move forward.
  4. REFUSE to demonize people who disagree with you and make different choices than you. False dichotomies are not true and are even less helpful. One dimensional perspectives are grossly inadequate and simple solutions are for the simple-minded… we can be better than that.
  5. Acknowledge this is a multi-faceted issue, compounded by complex intersections of intricate societal overlap.
  6. Allow grace to reign in our interactions and humility in our opinions.

While I’m sure there are a bajillion more caveats and considerations, these are a good starting point.

What would you add??

What Is Your Quest? …Or Is It a Journey?

I am on a journey. I think.

Or maybe it’s an adventure.

Is life an adventure? It could be a quest. Or perhaps, life is a highway??

OH!! It’s an adventureous journey-quest, quest-ish journey, type…. thing… on a highway.

Ever been there? …not entirely sure where you’re going but in a big hurry to get there?

Life ties us up in knots as we try to navigate the purposes and promises of a million different voices. This world does not lack for opions, philosphies, and theories.

And even bigger than the issues of where we are going, and why, there is the looming question of who. Who am I?? Do I have to know who I am before I figure out where I am going or am I supposed to find myself along the way? And what does all that mean if I go the wrong way?

These are my questions. And I’ve been asking them for a while now. So long that it’s almost embarassing to admit that I’m still asking them. But I have come to know these questions as part of this journey we are all on.

The questions don’t go away. The answers are never one and done, but they are molded by other answers and must be revisited in every season of life. Every circumstance, every porblem, every milestone, every challenge adds another facet to who we are and where we are going and what that means.

And central to all of that is God. We are made in His image so the more we know Him, the more we will see ourselves. The more we become like Him, the mroe we discover ourselves. The more we hear His voice, the greater we will understand our purpose and mission.

There it is. The heart of the quest. The ‘X’ on our maps. The pinnacle of the journey.

And I invite you to come along.

  • Let’s get to know our Creator and imbrace Him as Father.
  • Let’s plumb the depths of the gospel and explore its implications.
  • Let’s experiment with life experience and investigate the world around us.
  • Let’s seek in all things to honor Christ, walk worthy of our calling, and enjoy His presence.

If we can do this, albeit imperfectly, we can be confident we are heading in the right direction. If we can shape our theology by the word of God and then, in turn, shape our lives by our theology, only then can we find joy in life’s journey.

…or whatever you want to call it.