Thursday, December 27, 2007

Start Great in '08

Imagine for a minute... What would happen to the church in North America if the 40% of pastors who thought about leaving their pastorates in the past three months actually quit!1 More than 1600 will this month (and do every month) in the United States.2

They leave from exhaustion, discouragement, conflict and disconnection from God and others.

At Pastors Retreat Network our vision is to glorify God and build His kingdom by strengthening Christian pastors for better ministry to the people they lead.

In 2007, we had to turn away at least 45 pastors due to lack of space. Please help us expand our ministry reach in 2008 so that this never happens again.

Why? This note from a member of a church whose minister visited Pastors Retreat Network a few weeks ago, illustrates the far-reaching effects that a retreat plays in the life of clergy and their churches.

Korby preached yesterday in our church for the first time in three months, and there was a remarkable difference in him... What was the most noticeable was the presence of the Holy Spirit...The work you are doing is being felt in the pulpits and the pews of our churches. So THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOUR EVERY EFFORT ~ B. McNair, Fort Worth TX

Please don’t let this year end without helping keep the ministry to pastors alive and well. Be part of building God's kingdom and keeping the church strong. Every gift matters!

Will you help Pastors Retreat Network finish 2007 strong? To send us a gift of any size, simply click here.

Thank you for your consideration! We’re so very, very grateful!

Scott Papador Executive Director

1 Pastors at Risk, H.B. London, Jr. & Neil B. Wiseman, Victor Books, 1993, page 35.
Focus on the Family Center for Pastoral Care

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thirty-One Prayer-Ponderalbe Questions for the New Year

Questions for a New Year

Written by Don Whitney

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up and get our bearings. For starters, here are 10 questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God:

  1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?

In addition to these questions, here are 21 more to help you "Consider your ways." Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.===>Click headline to access complete article ... Use the questions as you seek the Lord for future direction and decisions ...

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Maybe You Aren't Laughing Enough While You Pray...

“Create a habit of happiness and laughter instead of a habit of worry. When you laugh, it lowers stress hormones and relieves stress. Laughter also boosts the immune system, protects the heart, and improves overall health. Ten belly laughs a day are equivalent to getting a good aerobic exercise workout, and they’re the ultimate ‘stress buster.’” Don Corbert, MD

Did you know that laughter helps promote good health? A laugh can help:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Boost your immune system
  • Improve your brain function
  • Elevate your mood
  • Reduce your stress
  • Help you relax
  • Protect your heart

“True laughing offers one of the most powerful and natural healing methods without any side effects. Laugher lowers the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. It increases feel-good hormones. It keeps you squarely in the present moment. It helps you to reframe and feel thankful and helps you to see negative events in a more positive light. There’s not a single bad thing laughter will do for your body and mind.” Don Corbert, MD

In Proverbs 17:22 the Bible says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” In Nehemiah 8:10 we read, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Bible supports the fact that cheerfulness and joy promote good health. Paul exhorts us in Philippians 4:4-6, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

But is it possible to rejoice in the Lord always? Paul states it twice in Philippians 4:4. He knew that it's something we have to command and encourage ourselves to practice. Struggles are not easy, but Paul, while in prison, was able to rejoice. And then he tells us to pray about everything with thanksgiving as we present our requests to God. Perhaps prayer is a key to the ability to rejoice always. Perhaps prayer is a key to finding joy and laughter during this Christmas season. It certainly is not easy to rejoice in certain circumstances of life, but there really is a choice of how we will view them. God has an answer for everything, even when we don't see it through our human eyes. He knows the beginning from the end, and it's our choice if we want to link with Him or not. The world is negative and tries to squeeze us into its mold, but God has a way that we can walk through our circumstances victoriously.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is not something we can create ourselves. God’s joy is supernatural and can remain deep and abiding even when we are in the midst of hardship. It is not the absence of pain or difficult circumstances. What could be harder than prison? But it is learning to let God’s Spirit fill you with His unquenchable joy, regardless of your circumstances. For a world looking desperately for hope, your life becomes a miracle and a testimony of Christ’s light especially during this time of year.

Choosing to pray is not always easy, but it is the true path of life. Psalm 16:11 says, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." There is joy in the secret place of prayer. There is joy as we choose to center our life in God and knowing Him. There is joy, laughter, and breakthrough even in the darkest of circumstances when we choose to make Jesus our highest ambition, our deepest desire, and our greatest goal. Then He breaks through for us with transcending peace and supernatural understanding.

There are destroyers of joy, laughter, and prayer that the enemy uses against us. Philippians talks about many of these destroyers. It would be good for us to evaluate ourselves at this time of year so that we may guard ourselves diligently against these thieves. Here are some of the ways that the enemy uses to try to steal our joy and diminish our effectiveness in prayer. During this season (and always), guard against destroyers of joy, laughter and prayer.

  • Anxiety - "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • Disagreements and poor relationships - "…agree with each other in the Lord" (Philippians 4:2).
  • Difficulty and discontentment - "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11).
  • Wrong thinking - “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
  • Lack of confidence - "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:15).
  • Complaining - "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure" (Philippians 2:14-15).
  • Selfish Ambition - "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).
  • Bad Attitudes - "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (Philippians 2:5-7).
  • Pride - "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:8)

If you are feeling down and can’t seem to get out of it at this Christmas time, take the authority in prayer that is rightfully yours, and break that discouragement in Jesus’ name. Then ask God to fill you with His joy and peace. Write down the positive things in your life, and thank God for each one of them. God is able to push the negatives out as you begin to praise Him and dwell on the positive things that He has provided for you. Don’t live your life according to your earthly circumstances but according to your position in Christ. Remember that you are seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3-6), are God’s possession (Ephesians 1:14), are chosen of God (Ephesians 1:11), are complete in Him (Colossians 2:9-10), are a kingdom of priests and a royal priesthood (Revelation 1:6, 1 Peter 2:9), are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and are able to do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). Healthy joy and laughter during this Christmas season is yours.

“Don’t be satisfied with a joyless life. There ought to be in every Christian a deep, settled fullness of the joy of Christ that no circumstance of life can dispel. This comes as you allow the Holy Spirit to express Himself in your life. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22). This joy is unlike any happiness that is produced by the world. It fills you and permeates everything you do. Jesus did not pray that you would merely be happy or even that you would escape grief. He prayed that you would have the same joy that the Father had given Him: a divine joy, a joy that comes from a deep and unwavering relationship with the Father. It is a joy that is grounded so firmly in a relationship with God that no change in circumstances could ever shake it. This is the kind of joy that Christ is praying will be in you.” Henry Blackaby

Together in the Harvest, Debbie Przybylski

Intercessors Arise

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Inner~View #36: Seminary Prayer Prof On The State of Prayer

Phil Miglioratti interviewed Dr. Dan R. Crawford

Dr. Dan Crawford

Senior Professor of Evangelism & Mission; Occupant of the Chair of Prayer, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and President of Disciple All Nations, Inc.

Compiler of Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry. PrayerShop Publishing, 2008.
Author of:

  • God's Formula for Genuine Happiness. Hannibal Books, 2007.
  • Coping with Conflict: A Measure of Discipleship. Covenant Publishers, 2006.
  • One Anothering: Praying Through Challenges Together. Covenant Publishers, 2004.
  • Prayer Walking: A Journey of Faith. AMG Publishers, 2002.
  • Night of Tragedy Dawning of Light: The Wedgwood Baptist Shootings. Shaw Publishers, 2000.
  • The Prayer-Shaped Disciple. Hendrickson Publishers, 1999.
  • DiscipleShape: Twelve Weeks to Spiritual Fitness. Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.

PM ~ Dr. Crawford, you are an authentic champion for prayer. How did the Holy Spirit develop this passion in you?

DC ~ Two ways. Through my parents. My dad was my pastor and my mother was a great prayer warrior with a heart for the nations. I grew up observing prayer and God's responses to prayer. The other way was though an automobile accident at age fifteen when the second vertebra of my neck was broken. Long before today's medical technology, I spent nine months in a hospital bed in a neck brace. Tough for an athletic teenager during basketball and baseball seasons. Twice I was scheduled for surgery to wire the bones of my neck together. In other words, twice the doctors were giving up on my healing. Both times and at significant other times, my mother organized twenty-four prayer chains on my behalf. After nine months I was pronounced totally healed (by an atheist surgeon) with no repercussions in the fifty years since. I decided prayer worked, because God worked in response to praying people.

PM ~ You have held a unique position related to prayer . . .

DC ~ For years I thought I held the only fully endowed Chair of Prayer in any theological institution in the world. Then I discovered another Chair of Prayer at Asbury Seminary. Needless to say there are not many of us in such a chair or even teaching a course in prayer in theological education. North American theological education has failed a couple of generations of ministers by not teaching them the full discipline of prayer. The struggling churches of North America and the growing churches of the third world, are evidences of this.

PM ~ Share with us your personal observations on the prayer movement

DC ~ When I began to teach prayer in a theological seminary, I received maybe three invitations per year to attend or participate in a "prayer conference." Today, if I had the time and travel expense, I could attend one each week. Unfortunately, with the growth of the movement, has come a more popular approach to prayer. In the Bible and in church history, the most effective prayer came from a remnant of faithful prayer warriors. Not to say the growing movement is bad, but with growth comes popularity, and with popularity comes a broadening of purpose, and with a broadening of purpose, comes a lessening of genuine prayer. For years I have been taking groups overseas on prayer journeys. The most frequently asked question is, “What else are we going to do?" Likewise the question I hear most often from students who are thinking about taking my course on prayer is, "What else do you teach in the class?" Following the prayer journeys and the class, the most heard response is, "Wow! I had no idea it was so involved." Many pastors and vocational ministers I know believe strongly in prayer but don't have a clue what all it involves. Missionaries are different. Because of who they are and where they serve, they know.

PM ~ Most pastors have had minimal experience and no training in prayer. What key concepts do you present to your students; future leaders in the Church?

DC ~ I teach first that prayer is biblical, throughout the Bible from the first mention in Genesis to the final verses of Revelation, as well as modeled by Jesus. The most often used verb in the ministry of Jesus is not preach, teach, or heal, but pray. There is a popular bumper sticker that reads, 'the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it." Well the Bible teaches prayer and that settles it whether you believe it or not. I also teach the principles and methods of corporate prayer and personal prayer. I teach simple, often overlooked truths, like – We don't talk "to" God, we talk "with" God. And never talk to people about God until you've talked to God about the people. Then I always teach the global implications of prayer. If God's purpose is for the nations, then how can we pray for less? The bottom line, like with other disciplines, is that prayer is more caught than taught. So, in addition to my classroom teaching, I try to model a life of prayer for my students.

PM ~ Explain to us how prayer and discipleship intersect...

DC ~ First let me offer a few definitions. Disciple making (as in Matthew 28:19), is the umbrella that covers three things – (1) Cultivation (or pre-evangelism, building relationships, etc.); (2) Evangelism (the actual sharing of the faith with an intent of conversion); and (3) Discipleship (or follow-up, nurturing, spiritual formation, etc.). Even though it is often valuable to take non-believers (or better "pre-believers") through a study of Christian discipleship as a part of the cultivation process, genuine discipleship is for believers. I believe prayer is the priority discipline of discipleship, just as prayer was the priority discipline for the Lord. I know this is a controversial belief but I'm not so sure how interested God is in the prayers of non-believers, until that non-believer begins to turn toward God (we sometimes call that conviction). Prayer then, is primarily for convicted non-believers and believers and it is the priority discipline.

PM ~ Dan, please write a prayer for the leaders of Christ's Church.

DC ~ Gracious Father. We who have experienced Your call to leadership, stand in awe that You would call such as us. But when we study Your Word, we discover that has always been Your practice – not so much ability, but availability. For whatever reason You had in mind when You singled us out, we offer thanks. As You continue to shape us into Your image, please remind us frequently of the importance, yea the priority, of communication with You. And when we remember this, and when You respond to our intercessions and petitions, remind us to give You the praise. To You be all glory because we ask this in no other name but the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Book Review: The Lord and His Prayer by N.T. Wright

Book Review: The Lord and His Prayer by N.T. Wright
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===>Click headline to access book information online . . .

Main Overview: Wright approaches the Lord’s prayer from a missional perspective. This book is not only a great aid to prayer ministries but also care and share ministries. Wright draws out how praying each aspect of the Lord prayer invites us to receive from the father but also join in his mission of taking his kingdom to others. “Jesus is the musical genius who wrote the greatest oratorio of all time; we are the musicians, captivated by his composition ourselves, who now perform it before a world full of muzak and cacophony (disharmony).” (p. 30)

Critique: This book is a bit philosophical where some practicality on prayer could have gone a long way. This would be my only critique. It might leave some thinking, “wow - great stuff - challenged me - obviously written by a brilliant scholar but what are the practical steps of growing to pray more like Jesus?”

I was personally very blessed by this book. It reminded me that the text we are the most familiar with have much more to teach us. It did a great job of exegeting the passage without going over anyone’s head. Wright wonderfully brought a historical-grammatical approach that connected each line of the Lord’s prayer to the day and culture of Jesus.

I believe this book offers much to the local church. It offers hope that Jesus work is still very much going on and the father desires us to receive his ministry, expects us to join His work and empowers us for it as well. It doesn’t softplay sin and it doesn’t beat up sinners but calls us to wash our hands and come eat with the father. It also does much to bring unity, “It is a prayer that should both undergird the ecumenical movement and remind us daily of the need to be reconciled within our own communities.” (p. 59)

Chapter Overviews
Chapter one and two reminds of that there is still much to learn from the Lord’s Prayer. Wright relates all aspects of prayer to the Exodus of Israel. The Lord freed Israel from bondage but there was still work to do to reach the promise land. In the same way the father desires for his kingdom to come and to be established after Jesus broke us out of the prison of sin. Prayer is the father’s method because it not only invites the father to act but encourages us to join the work of establishing the kingdom. The term “father” in the first phrase of the prayer should be understood in light of the 1st century role of father as mentor to his child apprentice. We are learning to do the father’s work.
Chapter three points out that we should not jump too quickly to praying,” give us our daily bread.” The father desires and expects us to look to him for our daily needs but prayer should center on what the father is doing and the role he calling us to play. Our spiritual needs and physical needs are represented by the “bread” and like every verse of this prayer we must keep in mind that the father meets our needs so we can meet the needs of others.
Chapter four focuses in on “forgive us our debts.” This prayer ends with the statement that our being forgiven is dependent on forgiving of others because this is the very heart of the kingdom. If we can’t forgive then we have never understood THE point of Jesus coming - we’ve never really joined his mission. Wright also strives to help us find the balance between confessing our sin and beating ourselves up for our sin.
Chapter five points out we can pray for and be delivered from evil because Jesus wasn’t. He broke the enemies power over us through suffering and death. We can enter evil and deliver others out through his power. We must also be mindful of the evil in us.
Chapter six points out that phrase, “thine is the kingdom the power and the glory forever is not in any of the earliest manuscripts but something like this would surely have ended a 1st century prayer. In addition, this phrase completes the thought that God is establishing his kingdom for his glory.

Caleb Plumb
Preacher, Encounter Christian Church, Cedar Rapids IA

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

10 Prayers to Protect Your Humility

Advice to a Young Leader in a Time of Shaking
Churches and ministries are crumbling because of pride, greed and hidden sin. Here are 10 principles that can help bring stability during this tumultuous season.

Note >>> Turn the points below into petitions as you prayer for humility and stability - "Lord, help me ...

Kevin, a 31-year-old pastor from Minnesota, asked me an honest question this week. He’s been reading about all the scandals that have rocked the charismatic world, beginning with Ted Haggard’s embarrassing moral failure late last year and continuing with the recent divorces among prominent church leaders and the allegations of financial mismanagement made against leaders at Oral Roberts University.
Kevin wrote this: “I am guessing that none of these people started off with the goal of having this be their story. If you were someone in my stage of ministry, what would you do to prevent this from being my lot?” I shared these simple truths with him, and I’ll pass them along to a wider audience—hoping that they will strengthen our foundations while everything around us is shaking.
“If the spirit of entitlement is seducing you, humble yourself and wash some feet. That is what true ministry is about.”
1. Live a humble, transparent life. Just because you are a leader doesn’t mean you don’t have issues. You are a flawed, broken individual who has experienced the miracle of God’s mercy. Resist the temptation to live in denial about your weaknesses. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Stay in close relationship with mature mentors and trusted peers who know your temptations, insecurities and any past addictions. Confess your sins to God and to your inner circle regularly.
2. Stay open to correction. Many of those whose ministries are imploding today either worked in isolation or they surrounded themselves with yes men. As your ministry grows, increase the number of people who speak into your life. If your colleagues are rubber-stamping everything you do, consider that a warning sign. If they tell you they can’t correct you because you are either authoritarian or subtly controlling, take a sabbatical and get counseling immediately.
3. Audit your actions regularly. God watches the way we handle the little things. Are you telling the truth? Are you mishandling ministry finances? Are you “fudging” in any area of sexual purity? Do you have checks and balances set in place so that you always comply with the law? God sees every Web site you visit, every personal expense you charge to your ministry account and every exaggeration (i.e., lie) you put in your newsletter.
4. Stay in touch with the real world. Ministry is about loving people. (Duh!) But you will never develop compassion unless you are close enough to the grass roots to smell the poverty, lay hands on the sickness and cry with those who are in pain. The days are over when preachers can arrive in limousines to announce salvation. The Lord is requiring all His servants to come down to earth.
5. Don’t allow people to make you a celebrity. Before Jesus began His ministry, the devil showed Him the kingdoms of the world and offered Him fame and fortune. The enemy of your soul will try to cut you a similar deal. Resist every urge to become a star. Don’t let people put you on a pedestal. If the spirit of entitlement is seducing you, humble yourself and wash some feet. That is what true ministry is about.
6. Make family a priority. We have crusaded against abortion and gay marriage, yet at the same time many in our movement have neglected their spouses and children. People need to know that what we preach works at home. The Bible makes it plain: “But if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5, NASB). If we enforced this one biblical principle today, most of the shenanigans happening in charismatic leadership would end overnight.
7. Live modestly and give extravagantly. In a few more years the selfish, money-focused doctrines that tainted charismatic churches in the 1980s and 1990s will be gone. God is bringing balance and correction to a message that has encouraged greed. I do not know Texas pastor Robert Morris personally, but he has become a long-distance mentor to me in the financial area. His book The Blessed Life has redefined how we charismatics should view money. Bottom line: We don’t give to get, even though we know God blesses generosity. We give to give.
8. Don’t build your own kingdom. In the previous season leaders got away with naming their ministries after themselves. That will not work today. The one-man show is over. Leadership today is about building a team. Those who think they can “do it all”—and take all the credit—will end up with meager results when their work is tested by God’s fire.
9. Develop keen discernment. The devil is on the prowl, and we can’t afford to be ignorant of his schemes. Leaders must develop an early warning system if we expect to survive. You must develop a team of watchful intercessors who are committed to praying for you. Those whose ministries are crashing and burning today most likely ignored prophetic counsel from people who saw disaster coming.
10. Maintain your spiritual passion. People who experience moral failure almost always lose their spiritual passion first. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not just a one-time encounter. Because we “leak,” we need to be refilled and recharged regularly. We will burn out quickly if we don’t stay plugged into the Source. The man who led me to Christ, Barry St. Clair, taught me to have a daily appointment with God. I try to guard my time in prayer and Bible study because I know I can’t give what I don’t have. The more I read His Word, the deeper and stronger it grows inside me, providing daily revelation of the Savior—and giving me more and more reasons to make Him my magnificent obsession.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

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