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I completed two weeks plus of residency in pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY.  The campus is a picturesque setting this time of year, as is the surrounding countryside.  God has brought together a diverse group of 55 or so men and women in ministry from all parts of the globe.  Many states of the US are represented as well as Australia, Philippines, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Israel, Liberia, Nigeria, England, Ireland and Canada.  At the first session of orientation, we had assigned seating.  Beside me happened to be a pastor from Ohio, Brian, who grew up in Edenton, NC and whose parents met while attending ECSU, a local college.  Beside him was Simon, an Anglican priest from the Province of Kenya who, of course, knows our friend Qampicha Wario, now Bishop of the Diocese Marsabbit and “one of our best bishops” according to Simon.

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The three days of orientation and learning sessions focused on the overall scope of the program and on the initial phases of the dissertation process that will continue over 3-4 years.  The seminary faculty and staff were impressive in their preparations and focus for the students and program.  It clearly has been continually refined over several years to be the best and most fruitful possible experience it can be.  The orientation activities facilitated new relationships and even team building among our assigned small groups. Throughout the residency, the hospitality shown to the students was overwhelming.  From the leaders of the program to the RA’s who unlocked my dorm room a few times (a story in itself — thanks Tory!), we were treated like VIP’s.  I know that we were prayed for prior to and during the residency.

Because I was able to complete my pre-residency work prior to coming, I was able to use some free time to explore hiking trails nearby.  These outings were some valuable “alone time” during days full of interaction with people.  I was blessed to be directed to some beautiful trails and areas.  I included a link with some pictures.  These adventures included encounters with deer and snakes and one time ending up six miles from where I started and being blessed to meet a family who gave me a ride back to my car.

One of the most rewarding experiences of the residency was the development of the relationships between the members of my small group.  We met about every day, had meals together, prayed for one another, laughed and joked, told stories and talked about all sorts of things.  I believe these will be lifelong friends and cohorts in ministry.

On the first Sunday, Simon Thiongo, the Anglican priest from Kenya, and Mike Mwangi, a Pentecostal pastor from Kenya, and I visited a nearby Anglican church – St. Aidan’s.  It is a five year old church that was planted by an Asbury graduate named Fr. Lee Rogers, now an Anglican priest.  The service and worship were excellent and used the liturgy from the Anglican Province of Kenya. My Christian brothers from Kenya felt right at home.  Our international Christian brothers and sisters have much to contribute to our faith and Christian maturity. I have already benefited greatly from their witness.

The second Sunday, I drove to The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, the Trappist Monastery where the monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton lived.  Celebrating the Holy Communion with the monks and about 25 guests was an incredible mystical experience.  The picture of the fawn is from the garden in front of the church at the Abbey.

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I am very thankful to everyone who has facilitated and supported this effort.  It is especially a blessing to have two trustworthy priests at our church, Fr. Erich Junger and Mother Jessica Lee, to lead worship and preach while I am gone.  Along with our deacons Rev. Susan Witwer and Rev. Dr. Fred Moncla and all of the other leaders and members of the church, all was in good and capable hands.  Most importantly, God is present with us always.

In our discussions in class and in our small groups, three things truths continually arose to me:

  1. All of us in ministry provide a personal and Biblical view of God — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who is uniquely expressed through our personalities and giftedness.
  2. All of us have experienced challenges in life and ministry that God has redeemed by grace.
  3. All of us have benefited greatly from spiritual mentors who have taken us under their care and faithfully nurtured our spiritual development.

Some of the activities of the D. Min. program resemble elements of the M. Div program; however, we all have several years of pastoring and ministering behind us, so we bring to it all a more mature, seasoned approach.  In other words, our eyes have been opened.  We have more wisdom and spiritual gifts to share, and we have more wounds that need attention.  We’ve experienced the blessings and challenges of God’s vocation.  We come asking, “I need to know about this.” or “I need help here.” We also come offering, “I can help you with this.”

The professors of the program who taught the classes all demonstrated deep devotional lives, seasoned experience, passion for God’s word and a love for students and for teaching.  We were truly discipled, challenged and inspired by our professors.

Throughout the residency program and my hikes on the trails, the Spirit of the Lord was present and ministering.  A constant theme of it all was that God loves us and really enjoys us when we are enjoying him and his creation.  A message from the Lord that he impressed upon my heart was this: “Jesus really loves me and enjoys me and gives me freedom to enjoy life with no fear.”

Bringing people into the reality of that statement is ultimately the goal of ministry.  It implies and relies upon the constant presence of Jesus to reveal himself and make alive.  I am confident that the work of this program and the ministry I receive will serve to better facilitate this work of God.   So, may the paper writing continue…

Along those lines, the purpose of my dissertation project is to develop a training in spiritual formation to help equip the staff and volunteers of pregnancy resource centers for their ministry of life.  (helpful resource materials are welcome!)

Here is the link for pictures:

https://picasaweb.google.com/101968136012307111801/6305866782611333393?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCLvtsbH0t9jEQA&feat=directlink

 

 

 

Prayers for Healing

July 11, 2016

Prayer for Inner Healing

Lord Jesus, you came to heal our wounded and troubled hearts. I beg you to heal the torments that cause anxiety in my heart.  I beg you, in a particular way, to heal all that is the cause of sin.  I beg you to come into my life and heal me of the psychological harms that struck me in my early years and from the injuries that they caused throughout my life.

Lord, Jesus, you know my burdens.  I lay them all on your Good Shepherd’s heart.  I beseech you – by the merits of the great, open wound in your heart — to heal the small wounds that are in mine.  Heal the pain of my memories, so that nothing that has happened to me will cause me to remain in pain and anguish, filled with anxiety.

Heal, O Lord, all those wounds that have been the cause of the evil that is rooted in my life.  I want to forgive all those who have offended me.  Look to those inner sores that make me unable to forgive.  You who came to forgive the afflicted of heart, please, heal my own heart.  Heal, my Lord Jesus, those intimate wounds that cause me physical illness.  I offer you my heart, accept it, Lord, purify it and give me the sentiments of your Divine Heart.  Help me to be meek and humble.

Heal me, O Lord, from the pain caused by the death of my loved ones, which is oppressing me.  Grant me to regain peace and joy in the knowledge that you are the Resurrection and the Life.  Make me an authentic witness to your resurrection, your victory over sin and death, your living presence among us. Amen.

Prayer for Protection and Healing

Heavenly Father, I praise and thank you for all you have given me. Please cover me with the protective, precious blood of your Son, Jesus Christ, and increase your Holy Spirit in me with His gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, hunger for prayer, guidance and discernment to help me know your will and surrender to it more completely.

Father please heal my negative emotions and any wounds in my heart and spirit. Send the sword of your Holy Spirit to sever and break all spells, curses, hexes, voodoo and all negative genetic, inter-generational and addictive material, past, present or to come, known or unknown, against me, my relationships and family, finances, possessions and ministry.  Father I forgive and I ask forgiveness for my sins and failings and I ask that my whole person, body and mind, heart and will, soul and spirit, memory and emotions, attitudes and values lie cleansed, renewed and protected by the most precious blood of your Son Jesus.

In the name, power, blood and authority of Jesus Christ I bind and break the power and effect in or around me of any and all evil spirits who are trying to harm me in any way and I command these spirits and their companion spirits in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to leave me peacefully and quietly and go immediately and directly where Jesus commands them and never again return to me or my family.

Dear Holy Spirit please fill up any void in me to overflowing with your great love. All this Father I pray in the name of the Jesus Christ by the guidance of your Holy Spirit. Amen

The above prayers are taken in part from prayers compiled by Bishop Julian Porteous and published in a Manual of Minor Exorcisms.

 

 

The attached file is my latest version of a spiritual autobiography.  This one was required for a Doctorate of Ministry class at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Stephans Spiritual Autobiography

Prayer for America

July 8, 2016

“…from these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World, but the entire world.” The Rev. Robert Hunt, Chaplain to Jamestown, April 29, 1 607, consecrating the continent to the glory God.

 Dear Heavenly Father, you are Almighty God—the Lord and maker of heaven and earth.  Precious is your Living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Redeemer and Savior.  We come to you in humble repentance before your throne of grace asking for mercy and forgiveness for our sin and the sin of our land.  Lord God, your Word says, “Return to me, and I will return to you.”  Thank you, Father, for the freedoms and bounty you have given America because of your gracious blessings and the faithfulness of so many Americans who have come before us.  Remember your people in America, Lord, and let your mercy and grace triumph over your judgment of America.  Keep us under your care.  Send a spiritual awakening and a revival that will establish us as a righteous nation with godly people and leaders who worship you in spirit and in truth.  We desire to seek you and your kingdom first; we are needy, Lord, and we thank you for your steadfast love.  Grant us wisdom and discernment between truth and falsehood and between good and evil that the results of America’s governmental elections will bring glory and honor to your name.  Inspire and empower us to spread the gospel to the people of America, Israel, and to all nations.  We pray in the name of our Mighty King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Redeemer, Savior and the great love of our lives.  Amen.

 “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”   II Chronicles 7:14

I adapted this prayer from a prayer in Manual of Minor Exorcisms by Roman Catholic Bishop Julian Porteous.  I led our congregation in praying it together following a sermon on the Gerasenes demoniac from Luke 8:26-39.  It is the type of prayer that I would recommend praying each day.  The final paragraph is an imperative form of deliverance spoken to any evil spirits.

Lord, almighty, merciful and omnipotent God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, drive out from me all influence of evil spirits.  Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, I plead you to break any chain that the devil has on me.  Pour upon me the most precious blood of your Son.  May his immaculate and redeeming blood break all bonds of my body and soul.  Holy God banish from me all the forces of evil, so that I can be healthy and free to do good deeds for the glory of the name of Jesus.

I ask you for the intercession and help of your mighty angels on my behalf.

In the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of his cross, resurrection and ascension, I command all demons that could have any influence over me to leave me forever.  By Jesus’ scourging, his crown of thorns, his cross, by his blood and authority over heaven and earth, I command all evil spirits to leave me.  By the true God, by the Holy God, by God who can do all, in the name of Jesus, my Savior and Lord, leave me now and go quietly from here. Amen.

victory in jesus

 

Are you a Christian who believes the Bible?  Are you sick or injured?  Are you wounded or broken on the inside? Are you suffering? Do you have sins to confess? Have you obeyed Scripture?

James writes to the Christian church and conveys the command of God,

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:13-16)

This is God’s command through the inspired word of Scripture.  God’s word promises healing and forgiveness for the sick and suffering.  He promises to respond and to answer the faithful prayer of a righteous person.

At Church of the Redeemer, we invite the community to come and obey God and to demonstrate faith in him.  We believe that Scripture is God’s inspired, authoritative word to his children.  Our faith is in him and his faithfulness to fulfill his word.  Our faith is in the gospel story of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead for our eternal life.  We believe with the apostle Peter that the following quote of Isaiah was fulfilled in Jesus Christ for us,

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5; 1 Peter 2:24)

Paul writes that we are saved by grace through faith as a gift from God.  Jesus demonstrated that salvation includes healing – spirit, soul and body.  This is just one of the many examples from the gospels showing Jesus’ desire, willingness and power to heal,

And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.  And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. (Luke 6:17-19)

In his kingdom, there is no sickness or disease.  In the book of Revelation, we get a glimpse of heaven.  In God’s kingdom, there is no pain, no crying, no mourning, no death and no sin.  The leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of God’s people.  In Exodus, God call himself, “The Lord your healer.” (Exodus 15:26)  The witness of Scripture shows that God reaches out his hand to heal and to perform signs and wonders in the Name of Jesus. (Acts 4:30)

Jesus teaches, in fact commands, us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, one earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)  Are you doing this daily?  There is health and freedom in the kingdom of heaven.  To pray for healing now is to pray for God’s kingdom and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  This prayer is not a form to be followed ritualistically but to be desperately prayed with a lively faith that pictures heaven and cries out for that reality to come to earth—to our very lives!  Are you praying as Jesus commanded? Are you praying for the kingdom to come and his will to be done as it is in heaven in your life? Do you see with the eyes of faith what that means?  This is how Jesus commands us to pray.

Jesus told the following parable to teach people to pray and not give up,

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’  For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man,  yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'”  And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day an night? Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)

The author of the gospel, Luke, points out to his audience that Jesus told his parable for the specific reason that his disciples “ought always to pray and not lose heart.”  My friends, we as Christians have too often stopped praying and have lost heart.  We have settled for a feel good, affirmational church experience that placates our complacency or helps us to feel “okay.” We have settled for a dysfunctional life in a fallen world and alleviated our desperation by telling ourselves “we are just broken people; what else can we do.”  The woman in Jesus’ parable had no hope but the judge’s verdict, and she kept going; she kept asking.  Jesus says that God will give a favorable answer to his children that come to him day and night for justice.  Justice in God’s eyes is the proper recompense for the payment of Christ’s blood!   Did Jesus die for the forgiveness of your sins?  Did Jesus die for your healing – body, soul and spirit? Did Jesus die for the destruction of evil—sin, demonic angels and death?  Yes! Yes! Yes!

Jesus asked the question, “Will he find faith on earth?” When Jesus comes, is he going to find people who believe in the present reality of his victory over his enemies of sin, death and Satan? The recompense of his blood and death that wrought victory is his kingdom coming into your life to the glory of God.  He won your salvation.  Your salvation is the kingdom of heaven – as it is in heaven that it would be in your life on earth.  There is an implication in the above parable that those people of God who have faith in God’s justice will cry out to him day and night until that justice – that victory, is manifest in their lives.  Let’s stop denying the power of God to transform our lives and world and start desperately requesting its manifestation.

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Jesus gave his followers a command before he died concerning what we call the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.  The apostle Paul practiced this command and passed it on to the churches.  He writes,

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?… For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”   For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:23-30)

At Church of the Redeemer, we believe this Scripture.  We believe in the meal of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We take the words of Jesus and the words of Paul in the Bible seriously.  Faithfully receiving the body and blood of Christ is receiving the gracious life-giving substance of the Lord.  We are participating in the body and blood of the Lord through this consecrated meal.  The fact that the apostle Paul makes the inspired assertion that people in the Corinthian church were ill and even dead because they unworthily received this meal seems to imply that properly receiving this meal by grace through faith in Jesus would give health and life to the recipients.

Have you received the Lord ’s Supper in obedience to his command to do this “in remembrance of me?” It is right there in Scripture.  And the church has practiced this ministry of grace.  Ignatius (d. 117 A.D.), the third Bishop of Antioch and disciple of John the Apostle, writes to the churches of the Lord’s Supper calling it “the medicine of immortality, and the antidote which wards off death but yields continuous life in union with Jesus Christ.”

Thomas a’ Kempis, the 15th century author of The Imitation of Christ, writes, “Received as a spiritual nourishment, [Holy Communion] is the ‘health of soul and body, the cure of every spiritual malady.  By it, our vices are cured, our passions restrained, temptations are lessened, grace is given in fuller measure, and virtue once established is fostered; faith is confirmed, hope is strengthened, and love kindled and deepened.”

The 16th century Protestant reformer of the Church of England, John Jewel, writes, “In the Lord’s Supper there is truly given unto the believing the body and blood of the Lord, the flesh of the Son of God, which quickeneth our souls, the meat that cometh from above, the food of immortality, grace, truth, and life; and the Supper to be the communion of the body and blood of Christ, by the partaking whereof we be revived, we be strengthened, and be fed unto immortality, and whereby we are joined, united, and incorporate unto Christ, that we may abide in him, and he in us.”

These faithful men are echoing the faith in the Lord’s Supper that was the common posture handed down from Jesus to his followers and taken up by the apostle Paul and the early church.  It is still true today that this meal is the “food of immortality” that we are commanded to receive in remembrance of Christ.  We do not receive it as magic or ritual, but in faith, we receive it as the gracious gift of God given to his people for their supernatural benefit.

We believe it, and we receive it for our healing.  As a Christian, why would you not run to receive such a gift from God?

At Church of the Redeemer, we are taking the word of God seriously.  We are going to obey him in the laying on of hands, the prayers of faith, the practice of Holy Communion, the reading of the word and the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Scripture tells us that the “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)  What can be more gracious than the gospel.  The sayings of Scripture, “are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. (Proverbs 4:22)  Jesus only had to say the word for people to be healed.  His word brings healing.  We will read his word and proclaim his gospel that has the power for salvation for all who believe. (Romans 1:16)

We live in a culture that exists too often in sickness of body, soul and spirit.  We medicate; we suffer pain and anxiety; we abuse ourselves because of inner wounds; we settle for it.  We go to the doctor for physical pain while ignoring the pain of our souls and spirits.  Paul prayed for complete sanctification for people, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

This sanctification is what Jesus prayed for too, “Sanctify them in truth.” (John 17:17)  To be sanctified is to be conformed to the image of Christ.  Christ’s image of us is one of health and life.  Being sanctified is being on earth as it is in heaven as much as is possible in a fallen world.  It is to be light in the darkness and peace in the chaos.  The fulfillment of sanctification is inner healing and physical healing.  We know it will happen one day; however, Jesus didn’t command us to remain broken, wounded and sick until that day.  He commanded us to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

That is why we anoint and lay hands and pray for the sick.  That is why we feed on the Lord’s body and blood.  That is why we proclaim God’s word and preach the gospel.  That is why we cry out night and day for justice.  This is why we believe that when we pray for healing God heals in one way or another.  We believe he answers our prayers, because Jesus promised he would.

That is why Church of the Redeemer is having a monthly Service of Holy Communion for Healing – body, soul and spirit.  You go everywhere else for what you need.  Come to his Table.

Monthly Holy Communion Service for Healing, 1st Tuesday of each Month at 7 pm, Church of the Redeemer, Camden, NC

Two recently publicized undercover videos have revealed that Planned Parenthood’s abortionists kill and extract or dismember babies in the womb, sell their parts to buyers and give the bill to the mother and the taxpayer. This is an atrocity on par with the heinous acts of ISIS and Nazi experiments, and it happens with the approval of our government. The clinical setting cannot mask the severity of this evil process. Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest provider of abortions, aborts over 300,000 babies each year.

Planned Parenthood that has the blessing and advocacy of the President and other pro-choice politicians receives over 500 million tax dollars. It receives donations from corporations and charities around the country to sustain its war on humanity. The U.S. Congress has discussed initiating an investigation into the matter of the selling of aborted baby parts. Several state governors have called for investigations of Planned Parenthood operations in their states. However, much of the media is silent on this discovery

Medicine, science, technology and theology emphatically show that the life in the womb is a person. Images following the development of the baby in the womb inarguably prove its personhood. When that person’s body is dissected and the parts sold, that is evil and consequential. There is no excuse for silence or covering up such occurrences.

For women who are pregnant there is a choice – not at the abortion provider – but at the closest pregnancy resource center. These pregnancy resource centers also provide resources for parents and even post-abortion counseling and support. That is where our funding should go!

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