Friday, May 30, 2008

Launching Personal Prayers from The Lord's Prayer

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with Dennis Fuqua, Daniel Henderson, & Phil Miglioratti
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Greetings in Jesus' Name!

We are committed to helping the Church in their corporate prayers and also in their personal prayers because both are essential in our personal lives and in our desire to see our community changed.

Personal Prayer From the Lord's Prayer

We are committed to helping the Church in their corporate prayers and also in their personal prayers. You probably know that the Lord's Prayer has been a pattern of my own personal prayer life for many years. Praying this prayer has consistently been my deepest and richest times of prayer. Recently, as I was praying through it, this chart came to my mind. (Sorry I am so "left brain"!) I share it with you with the hope that it might help you appreciate and apply this prayer more effectively.

Down the left hand side are the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer. The middle column brings the requests out of history and places them within our reach and realm. The right-hand column is a Scripture related to the request which allows us to pray the request more from God's perspective. You can "point" this prayer in many different directions - your family, your congregation, your city, missionary friends, etc. I invite you to use it as a launching point for some of your prayers.

The Lord's requests

The desired time frame, place and standard

Related Scripture

Let Your name be holy

"This day" (He wants us to pray in this manner each day)

"On earth" (Our world - home, school, work, etc.- is the place He wants these requests answered)

"as it is in Heaven" (just as earth is the target of our prayers, Heaven is the standard for them)

John 17:6 I have revealed Your name to those whom you gave me out of the world

Let Your kingdom come

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit

Let Your will be done

Mark 12:30 - 31 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart... soul... mind... and strength... Love your neighbor as yourself."

Give us this day our daily bread

Phil 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Forgive us as we forgive others

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive... your heavenly Father will... but if you do not forgive... Your heavenly Father will not forgive.

Lead us not into temptation

1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear... he will provide a way out...

Deliver us from the evil one

Luke 22:31-32 Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Thanks again for your prayers. If you click here I will know that you have taken these requests before the Throne. (This will take you to a page thanking you for your prayers and we will be able to see who clicked on this link)
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Dennis Fuqua
International Renewal Ministries | 5511 SE Hawthorne Blvd. | Portland | OR | 97215

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Contemplating Contemplative Praying

NPPNote ~ A close friend forwarded the text below because it raised strong concerns about contemplative praying. My comments are indicated by ===>

Contemplative prayer is based in spiritual formation, it teaches the use of spiritual directors, and it teaches that we need to center ourselves in prayer.

===>Prayer is a dimension of spiritual formation and contemplative prayer is a type or praying that has been integral to the Church since the early fathers.

These terms and phrases are found nowhere in the Bible, nor do they have any Biblical basis.

===>Neither is the term Trinity or the phrase "pray to receive Christ" found in the Bible. Biblical basis is not limited to one-for-one terminology.

Some who advocate the use of contemplative prayer use Psalm 46:10 where it speaks of being still before God to justify this practice. In context, the command to be still has nothing to do with letting go of our thoughts and feelings for the sake of some mystical experience with God. It speaks of trusting God even when the difficulties and troubles of life come. The Psalmist's exhortation is to acknowledge God as sovereign over our life's events and to rest by faith in these truths in order to keep from succumbing to fear, doubt, and discouragement.

===>Absolutely correct ... and if contemplating the truths of God's nature in a quiet manner helps you focus on these wonderful mysteries (from which mystical derives), that is not a bad thing. Plus, how long do we think about an idea when it becomes contemplation? One minute? Fifteen?

Biblical meditation does not involve emptying our minds but rather filling them with truth according to God's Word. We are not to just meditate, but we are to meditate on the Word, a process in which the mind is active and engaged. Joshua 1:8 says, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." Thus, the purpose of meditation is to know God by His Word so that we are careful to live in a way that honors Him. Meditation is not for the purpose of achieving some extra-spiritual oneness or closeness to God, as if we can take our Christian faith deeper through means other than trusting and obeying God's Word. John 6:29 says, "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'" It is with faith that we please God (Hebrews 11:6) and it is by faith that we grow in Him (2 Corinthians 5:7).

===>Correct, we are not to empty our minds but submit them to the work of the Spirit. the Hebrew term for mediate in the scripture referred to above (Joshua 1:8) is "to mur-mur" - a repetition. Empty-minded or senseless ("vain" in Matthew) repetition is of course to be avoided.

Spiritual formation's idea of "silence" implies that we can find God within us as if turning our minds off leads us to Him.

===>I have never seen this in any spiritual formation material I have seen. The only place I see this kind of explanation is from those who are predisposed against it. Plus, isn't the Holy SPirit in the "inner man" that Paul speaks of in Romans?

Granted, God indwells believers, but we find Him by seeking Him by faith according to truth, not by trying to find Him in weak, fallible humanness, let alone in nature or some pagan, mystical experience.

===>It is impossible to understand faith or truth or any word/concept without some form of contemplation. Pagan and mystical are not synonymous. The evangelical church, in fear of pagan mysticism, has a very shallow view of God's majesty and fear of experiences of His Spirit that might be labeled mystical.

Those who advocate contemplative prayer promote the use of spiritual directors who are supposed to hear the Holy Spirit's personal voice in response to the life stories expressed by the directees.

===>Why is it OK to have disciplers and teachers and mentors who give us scriptural wisdom but not a director who does the same? A spiritual director is not a substitute for the Spirit (anymore than a teacher or mentor), just a vessel through which the Spirit may speak.

Their purpose and goal is to lead these vulnerable ones

===>Ouch ... Most of the people I know who use a spiritual director are mature Christians who do a great job at teaching/preaching/serving others. Vulnerable is an ungracious term to use.

to some newer level of freedom and closeness with Christ, a job the Bible says belongs strictly to the Holy Spirit Himself (John 16:13). Now, it is true that the Holy Spirit leads and guides His people, but He doesn't need a spiritual director to help Him. He can handle it (Romans 8:26-28).

===>Oh that I had a newer level of freedom and closeness to Christ!! Jesus doesn't need writers or bloggers or ...

Futhermore, He leads us through His Word, not through any extra-biblical revelation. God is not going from person to person telling them new things as they enter the "silence." This teaching totally undermines the fact that the Bible is able to make us complete and adequate for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What God has said He has said, and anybody who adds or takes away from it does wrong (Revelation 22:18-19). We are sanctified in the Word, for it is truth (John 17:17). We do not grow spiritually, nor are we formed spiritually or to be guided spiritually by anything outside of the Word of God. This notion of emptying our minds and being freed from our thoughts such that we can hear the voice of God is found nowhere in the Bible. God does speak, but He speaks through His Word as we seek Him in truth and by His Spirit.

Being guided by the Word of God does not mean that we are to repeat single words and short phrases, thinking on them over and over again until we are no longer conscience that we are thinking at all. This is called using mantras, a distinctly pagan practice for the purpose of losing thoughts and feelings. Yet this is the driving force of spiritual formation and contemplative prayer. The teaching is to be so close to God that you just commune with Him rather than communicate with Him. In other words, they believe that God's presence is experienced most deeply without the mind and the emotions. of the ELCA says this, "Respond to God's presence with an act of faith. Do not allow your thoughts or feelings to get in the way[1]" (emphasis added). And again, "When thoughts come into your mind, gently let go of them and focus on a single word, such as - Jesus, Lord, Love." "Center your attention and desire on God. Leave your thoughts and feelings peacefully[2]". Nowhere in the Bible does it say to abandon thoughts and feelings. Rather, it says to think on what is good, right, pure, and noble (Philippians 4:8). It says to have our minds transformed according to the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2). It says to take wrong thoughts captive, which only an active, engaged mind could do (2 Corinthians 10:5). It does not say to stop thinking and feeling. Such teaching is outright pagan and New Age.

===>OK, these instructions are off-center (being centered is good!). What we have is a valid way of praying (contemplative) that can be liberalized too far ... just like preaching, doing good works, whatever. In my opinion, it is not contemplative praying that is critically wrong but those who take the focus off of Christ and the Word. Let's not throw out another baby with dirty bath water.

This contemplative prayer and centering movement is a dangerous addition to any Christian's prayer life. It is not God who speaks in the contemplative's "silence." Whoever is speaking to the Buddhists and to those practicing New Age and to any other mystics is the same being who is speaking in this "silence." Satan, our enemy, gives new pseudo-revelation (Galatians 1:8-9) and enjoys what he can manipulate when a mind is altered by any means, whether drugs, alcohol, hypnosis, or centering prayer. We are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), which happens when we remain alert and sober. Notice why Peter commands us to remain alert and sober: "Be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer" (1 Peter 4:7). If we want to grow in our prayer life and in Jesus, we must stay sober and remain in a state where we can make sound judgments. It is only when we stay alert and mentally conscious and engaged that we can truly pray and honor Christ.

===>I mean no disrespect to the writer and I appreciate their concern and the warning but we cannot disparage a type of payer the Church has been practicing for centuries. "Lord, bless this author/servant of Christ and help us all learn to listen carefully to the voice of your Spirit who will lead us into truth."

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Inner~View #39: Practical Guide for Life, Ministry AND Praying

A Practical Guide for Life and Ministry: Overcoming 7 Challenges Pastors Face

Phil Miglioratti interviewed Pastor David Horner

PM ~ David, you write that you began this book ten years ago - How is it different today than what it might have been had you completed it ten years ago?

DH ~ It’s amazing what looking back over ten years does to one’s perspective! Many of the issues I wanted to address back then emerged from previous years of experience and shaped to basic categories I knew had the potential to throw my life out of balance. That summer in 1998 when I took about three weeks away to write the outline for the book, I had no idea of knowing how much I would need these principles over the next few years.

As I mentioned in the book, ministry took some hard turns as the Lord refined me through the fires of adversity. Many of the ideas and concepts I included in the initial outline were fleshed later out in real life circumstances. I did not have to rely on stories about the experiences of others in illustrating what I was learning during that time, whether for good or bad.Practical Guide for Life and Ministry, A, David Horner, 978-0-8010-9195-7

There is no way I could have known how pertinent these sections on challenges pastors face would be in my own life if had I completed the book before I had been through some of the struggles myself.. Like the Lord often does, He prepares us in advance for what is coming. By having this book in process, the lessons contained in it were valuable beyond words for me as I saw the benefit from them in a very personal way.

PM ~ Most "practical guides" are filled with lists and step-by-step instructions. Your book is laced with words like wisdom, discernment, cultivating, developing, fighting, seizing, running. Chapters include "Owning my mistakes" and "Coming out of the desert." You seem to approach life and ministry (and the challenges they bring) differently than others ...

DH ~ As you noted, I am not sure the term “practical guide” best conveys what I tried to communicate. Hopefully it is practical and does serve to guide our thinking, but I am more inclined to explore the Scriptures for biblical principles and wisdom than a summary of “how-to’s” which might suggest that following Christ can be reduced to a series of lists. I hope that is not that different from how others approach life and ministry! I am convinced that walking with Christ cannot always be boiled down to practical terms. There is a need for reflection and contemplation, a time for being still in the presence of the Lord and allowing Him to speak. If those elements are missing, we become Christian technicians checking off our list of “must-do’s” instead of relying on and seasoning of our lives with the Word of God so that the flavor of who we are arises from a relationship, not performance.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a very practical side to these things and I am glad when I find it. But like most everyone in ministry, I long to know Christ more and want to cultivate a desire to please Him in all things. That is what fuels my passion to keep my life in a balance of obedience to Him at every point.

PM ~ Why do you label the challenges pastors face as threats? Are you concerned for your pastoral colleagues?

DH ~ The underlying premise of the book is that life and ministry tend to be full of situations that throw us out of balance. I tried to identify those special challenges that tend to threaten our equilibrium, unseat us from the saddle or knock us from the high-wire—pick your own metaphor!

I am very concerned for my pastoral colleagues and for all who pursue ministry. From what I have seen and experienced, there are more models of unbalanced living than there are of stable, balanced ones. Somehow the idea that passion for ministry must lead us to be extra obedient in some areas to compensate for our negligence or disobedience in others has gained wide acceptance. Many pastors are trying to be God’s best as a ministry leader but doing so at the expense of their biblical responsibilities in the home. Others are effective at doing ministry but failing to grow the intimacy of their relationship with Christ.

The danger or threat, as I understand it, is to reject the tension between the two and try to excel in one area and pray for grace to cover the others. God never calls us to be disobedient in one place in order to prosper in another. That notion threatens the balance of pastors, young and old.

PM ~ You do not isolate prayer as a topic but it seems to me each chapter is ripe with praying potential. Please give us a sentence or two on how a pastor might apply prayer to each of the seven challenges in your book.

DH ~

1. Juggling the demands of your calling: Knowing your calling is from the Lord requires wisdom we do not naturally possess. Therefore, James tells us that if we lack wisdom to ask for it. If you are struggling to refine your understanding of your calling, ask the Lord to help you discern between what He has placed before you and all the other ideas clamoring for your attention.

2. Sharpening the focus of your vision: Without vision the people perish, so it is important to make certain our vision is Christ-centered, biblical, large enough for God to get the glory, clear enough to be understood and compelling enough to engage the hearts of others who will follow your lead. Therefore, Jeremiah says that those who would speak a vision from the Lord must “stand in the council of the Lord” and listen for Him to speak. Pray, then, that each point of your vision matches His calling and character.

3. Gaining balance by building teams: As we stand before the Lord in prayer, we are made immediately aware of our dependence on Him. Apart from Him we can do nothing and prayer serves to reinforce that reality as our finitude comes up against His infinite nature. To move from that perspective to the idea that we are sufficient in ourselves violates the biblical design of being a part of the body of Christ. So we pray that God will place us in teams of Christ-like, gifted people who will join us in seeking His best.

4. Cultivating genuine humility: Knowing our own hearts to be susceptible to pride, we pray that God will use whatever means He chooses to remind us to humble ourselves so that He can exalt us Himself if ever He chooses to do so.

5. Learning to grow through your troubles: While we are not inclined to ask for trouble, neither should we shy away from it. Peter tells us not to be surprised when painful trials come our way but to see them as God’s way of revealing His glory in us through them. Therefore, we pray that as troubles come we have the eyes of the Spirit to see them from His perspective and not be afraid or anxious. Instead, give thanks for them and in them because they represent another opportunity to trust the Lord and grow.

6. Facing the inevitability of change: Since change comes with the territory when we commit our lives to follow Christ, we pray that we will develop the ability to see change with an openness to go anywhere and do anything that Christ sets before us. We also pray that we will not be quick to race off after unhealthy change nor stubbornly resist healthy change and have the discernment to know the difference.

7. Combating spiritual dryness: Early detection is beneficial not only for certain types of cancer but in recognizing the symptoms of spiritual dryness. Our prayer should be that the Lord would give us sensitivity to His Spirit so that when dryness begins to set in, we will see it for what it is. Then we can pray that the Lord will show us how to overcome it, how to avoid the factors that have produced it and what He has already provided to refresh our hearts.

PM ~ Please comment on these statements in the book ...

DH ~

"Not all mistakes are sins" – Genuine guilt needs to be addressed with confession and repentance because the guilt arises from those times we have fallen short of the glory of God. Yet there are other mistakes that we make that arise from ignorance (we offend someone by calling them by the wrong name), miscalculation (we budgeted only half as much as we needed for the new copier), misguided enthusiasm (we got excited and failed to consider all the implications of a course of action—we committed to give every six grader a new Bible when there were ten sixth graders but the church now has over a hundred sixth graders and the cost is exorbitant!). So every mistake is not the result of sin, but could be attributed to any number of other factors.

"We have lost a real sense of God's presence in our lives" – The reality of God as the Lord who is a living, real Person gets lost sometimes when we treat Him as a remote Deity who is powerful and wise and ever-present but not near enough in our experience of Him to be personal and intimate. We believe that He is and intends to be, but in our haste or neglect we miss Him and fail to connect with Him in a meaningful way.

"Sound doctrine and orthodox biblical theology have satisfied the appetite of your mind but never penetrated the hunger in your heart to know, love and serve God" -- Being informed about God and having knowledge in our mind, even when it is true and accurate, is never intended to be substitute for loving Him and knowing Him personally. Like the previous statement about the loss of a real sense of His presence in our lives, our knowledge can become academic and impersonal, theoretical and technical. God calls us to know Him in such a way that the “surpassing value of knowing Christ” leads immediately to loving Him. Curiosity about God and a hunger to know and love Him are different longings. He wants us to understand and know Him, to love Him and seek Him, to draw near to Him and walk with Him. Only an intimate relationship with Christ will satisfy the deep hunger in our hearts for God.

"The indispensable quality of humility" – Humility is not optional for those who follow Christ, nor is it reserved for some upper level course in discipleship. To walk humbly before God is to know and experience the wonder of grace—unmerited favor poured out unconditionally from the heart of an awesome, holy God upon a fallen, unworthy creature, a sinful person. No one can stand in the presence of God and maintain a prideful spirit or pretend to be deserving of His good mercy. Therefore, humility represents the normal state of a transformed heart and is “indispensable” in anyone who desires to manifest evidence of the power of the gospel in their lives.

PM ~ How does a pastor begin moving toward a balanced perspective on spirituality and the challenges of ministry?

DH ~ Awareness of the dangers threatening his balance usually starts a pastor on the road toward recovery of this important aspect of his life and ministry. For those who do not realize how easily they can be neutralized for effective ministry by imbalance in their spiritual lives, no move toward balance even occurs to them. But for every pastor who has sensed that life is spinning out of control by forces over which he has no control, the starting point for gaining and maintaining balance is identifying the primary problem areas threatening his equilibrium. Once the problem areas are identified, solutions arise through prayer and careful study of the Scriptures, through reflection and wise counsel from veterans of the same conflicts. The key is never to accept imbalanced living as the status quo for people in ministry. God calls us to faithfulness in every area of our lives and has promised to provide everything necessary for that to happen.

PM ~ David, please write a prayer pastors reading this can pray that gets us moving toward balance and away from the threats of life and ministry.

DH ~

Great and glorious God of all wisdom,

    Merciful Father and Gracious Savior,

Awaken my heart to the completeness

of your design for my life,

in your provisions for my success,

of your calling for my ministry.

There is no want for those who fear you,

no slighting of those who follow you, and

no indifference toward those who trust you.

Your ways are perfect in conception and in execution.

Therefore, when I am feeling overwhelmed

By the weight of my responsibilities,

By my personal insufficiencies,

By a nagging sense of failure,

I will remember that you called me and

that you sustain me;

that you have promised me and

that you have provided for me.

Then I will come to you and call on you

to restore me

to a life of balanced obedience

to the freedom of a confident calling,

to the joy of a Christ-centered priority in all things.

Thank you for the perfect sufficiency of Christ,

for the fullness of His grace,

for the privilege of being His bondservant.

May I never begrudge this honor of service,

Complain about the busy-ness of ministry, or

Act as if your glory depended upon my effectiveness.

Take my life and ministry and
hold me securely in your hand.

Set my feet on a rock that cannot be shaken,

Secure my stance with a balance that cannot be threatened.

I take my stand in Christ, dearest Lord,

And rest in the stability of His power. Amen.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Depart daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annuallly"

Snow Days

By Rick Ezell

"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his" (Hebrews 4:9-10 NIV).

"We need to depart daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually."-Rick Warren

In recent years catastrophic accidents-Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the fatal navigational error of Korean Air Lines 007, the Challenger space shuttle disaster -all occurred in the middle of the night with fatigue-stressed operators.

When we ignore our need for rest we do so at the peril of others and ourselves. Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that show us were to go. We make faulty judgments. We miss the solitude that gives us wisdom. Consequently, our lives are in danger. Error in our judgment to rest may cost us, too, our lives.

Rest is not optional. Rest was never meant to be a luxury, but a necessity for growth, maturity, and health. God commanded and Jesus demanded believers to withdraw. We do not rest because our work is done; we rest because God created our physical, emotional, and spiritual components with a need for periodic breaks. The old proverb is true, "If you don't come apart, you will come apart."

Do you remember snow days? As a child, when it snowed, you would get up in the morning and immediately turn on the radio to see if school was going to be closed. And when it was canceled you rejoiced. You had a free day, completely unplanned, in which you could do anything you wanted. It was a gift.

We need to create our own snow days, or at least some snow time. We need blocks of time on a regular basis to rest our bodies and recharge our souls, in order to remain free of burnout and breakdown.

That day-that time of refreshment-is what Jesus had in mind when he instructed his followers-then and now-to come to him. In coming to Jesus he gives the rest we need. He didn't say, "Come to me, and I will tell you where you can find rest." When we come to him, he gives rest for our souls. It's better than any snow day could give.

Open your gift.

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