June 19, 2016
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.
August 25, 2015
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.
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!
July 18, 2015
The V. Revd. Archimandrite Kyrillos, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Essex answers the above question in this lecture to an Orthodox Youth Conference in 2007. I learned of the lecture listening to a sermon by Fr. Josiah Trenham, an Orthodox priest at St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside, CA. I recommend listening to any sermons or talks you can find by Fr. Trenham, too.
I appreciate all that the Abbot says in this lecture. It is a contemporary answer to an enduring question.
This is a letter to the editor of The Daily Advance published in today’s edition. The WBC plans to protest four churches in Elizabeth City this Sunday.
The Daily Advance devoted three articles in today’s (Thursday’s) edition to the Westboro Baptist Church and its visit to Elizabeth City. I understand the reason for the attention of the paper, but the real story is not the inconsequential protests by this perverse group. These protesters prove the total depravity of the human heart that is “deceitful above all things.” The real story should be the hundreds more who will gather within the churches’ walls to receive the grace to renew their hearts with Christ’s love.
The Sunday of the protests, like other Sundays, the faithful folks at Holy Family Catholic Church will worship in the same manner that Christians have worshipped Jesus for nearly 2,000 years. Like at our Anglican church, they will partake of the Holy Communion of the Lord’s Last Supper joining with a Billion Christians around the world in shared faith.
At each of these churches where the annoying protests will occur, the life-giving name of Jesus Christ will be exalted as salvation is once again freely offered to all who come. Because, unlike the WBC’s protests here, our worship occurs every week, we may take it for granted; however, it is no less a miraculous phenomenon that has occurred since this one man rose from the dead.
April 5, 2015
During the message that was part of a “Week of Renewal” for a church, he began chastising people whom he described as treating Jesus like some sort of mascot of the church rather than the Pantocrator (Lord Almighty) revealed in Scripture. He bemoaned Christians treating Jesus like a mere art object to hang on the wall or wear around the neck. Manning could drift in his preaching back and forth between focused rage and gentle tenderness.
Manning then points to the example of Mary Magdalene in the gospels and asks something like, “Can you imagine talking to Mary Magdalene about some of the things we discuss in the church? If you talk to Mary Magdalene, you talk to her about Jesus.”
Now I know the importance of taking care of church business and being “real” in the world. Few of us Christians are in danger of seeming unreal to worldly folk or of ignoring the pressures to stay up with the technological trends in the culture. I laugh when I hear Christians say stuff like, “We have to be ‘real’ if we want to relate to the world.” The world is not going to be saved through Christians acting like them. The last thing I need to do is to become more worldly. I’ve been there, and it didn’t work out so well for me.
The world will be saved through Christians demonstrating the passionate devotion of Mary Magdalene who didn’t care about the politics of Rome or the latest centurion celebrity or whether the high priest should wear traditional vestments or jeans. She wanted to know one thing, “Where is my Lord?! Where can I find him?! Where can I go to be with my Lord? How can I hear his voice again? How can I experience his love more fully? How can I serve him more truly? Mary doesn’t want applause. She isn’t satisfied with visions of angels. She doesn’t want to promote a book or podcast. She doesn’t even want a multi-site church. She wants her Lord and Savior.
Mary Magdalene had followed Jesus to the cross and watched from a distance, as he painfully died. She then followed those who took his body and placed it in the tomb. She “saw where he was laid.” She didn’t want to let Jesus out of her sight.
After the resurrection, two angels appeared to Mary and spoke with her. She doesn’t care. Even when she thinks Jesus is dead, she just wants him. This is her second trip to the empty tomb. The first visit occurred when the “sun had risen.” She was desperate to be near her Lord. When she saw the empty tomb, John tells us that she ran and got Peter and John. They ran back to the tomb and looked around. Peter and John walked away wondering what had happened. Mary stayed at the tomb in her desperation.
When Jesus appeared unrecognized by her, she, thinking he is the gardener, demands, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Mary Magdalene is telling the resurrected Jesus (unrecognized) that if somebody doesn’t tell her where the body of Jesus is laid, she is likely to become hysterical. She has had it. She wants Jesus. At this point, you could tempt Mary with anything—riches, a mega-church, her own tv show, a million shades of grey, an empire, etc. She doesn’t care. She wants Jesus!
She gets Jesus seconds later when Jesus speaks her name. Mary must have been looking away from Jesus. Perhaps, she was frantically scanning the landscape searching for signs of Jesus’ body. “Mary,” he says. She turned to him, and she must have lunged toward him and hugged him or fell at his feet and held him.
Do you recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice when he speaks your name? In the midst of your anxieties, fears, work, amusements, do you hear his voice and your name? Do you hear but think it is your imagination, that it can’t be Jesus calling you? Are you too busy or too distracted, even with appropriate activities, to hear and turn toward his voice? It would be normal if this is the case. It only means you are like most humans.
Rather than dismiss Mary Magdalene as extraordinary and, therefore, outside the scope of our vision or God’s expectations for us, I think it is better to accept Mary as an exemplar disciple of our Lord. He calls us into both a similar intimacy with him and an extraordinary devotion to him. If we are to follow Jesus, this is where he leads us.
We can think of Mary Magdalene as the former demoniac from whom Jesus exorcised a gang of evil spirits and ascribe her devotion to her new-found freedom. I would recommend that we let this reality of her deliverance inspire our own self-examination and plea for deliverance from our own demons that oppress and harass us daily. We may not be possessed but we are harassed and need deliverance from those who harass. We likewise need deliverance from those worldly attachments that hinder our intimacy with the Lord. Mary’s life was simple. She followed Jesus. Her attachments to the world had dissolved in the light of Jesus’ face. May those attachments we have that are outside of Christ likewise dissolve and drift away. Jesus has done nothing less astonishing for us than he did for Mary Magdalene; we deceive ourselves if we think otherwise.
Mary Magdalene and the Song of Songs
Mary M.’s singular devotion to Jesus reminds me of the beloved woman’s passion for her lover in the Song of Songs. Song of Songs offers a poetic narrative of a lover identified as Solomon and his beloved. Through the ages, this relationship has been interpreted as a picture of a godly marriage, a description of God’s love for Israel and an illustration of Jesus’ love for each and every person and his desire for them to requite his love with earnest devotion.
At whatever level we interpret the Song, the beloved demonstrates a passion that Christians would do well to emulate in our relationship to Jesus. Likewise, the lover (the man) demonstrates an unconditional love and delight in his beloved that mirror’s the unconditional love God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit demonstrate for each of us.
The opening lines of the Song (1:1-4) emphasize the romantic love consummated between the two through their physical union. Scripturally, we know that a godly marriage between a man and a woman points to the relationship between Jesus Christ, the bridegroom, and his bride the church. (Ephesian 5:31-32; Revelation 19:7-8) The beloved says, “The king has brought me into his chambers.” The King of kings Jesus Christ has called and wooed each of us with his love to come and relate to him intimately. He has brought us into the chamber of his throne room to reign with him.
Listen to the loving words of the lover (man) to his beloved (woman,) “Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful.” (1:15) She responds, “Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful.” 1:16) This demonstrates a romantic love for each other, but it also represents the unconditional love of the Good Shepherd for his flock. We often speak of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, but what about our passionate and unconditional love for Jesus—our bridegroom. Mary Magdalene lived a passionate, robust love for Jesus that declared to him, “You are beautiful, my beloved!” As Christians, who are saved, we must stop waiting for our love for God to spring up automatically amidst the distractions of the world and the dissipation of our lives. We need to proactively develop and nurture a love for Jesus. We can do this by declaring his beauty and our love for him, as he does for us. This is more than spousal love; this is the love of the saved for his or her Savior who is perfect in every way.
I think some of the most moving writing in the Bible is the woman recounting the words of her lover to her. She says,
“My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” My beloved is mine, and I am his. (Song of Solomon 2:10-16)
Not wanting to put words in Jesus’ mouth, I think this sounds like his voice wooing his bride—each member of the church, even each person for whom he died. This is how he calls us. Through Jesus Christ, the winter of sin and death is passed for us, as we have passed from death to life, from darkness to light, from captivity to freedom, from exiled to embraced. In the silence of his loving presence, if we are quiet and listen, we can hear Jesus saying, “Let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” Is it possible that your voice is sweet and your face is lovely to Jesus? Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus cast out demons, came to believe and know this truth—that she was lovely and beloved to Jesus, and she clung with all her spirit, soul and strength to this lover of her soul. She would not let any “little foxes” spoil the blossom of her spiritual intimacy with Jesus. No distractions, no temptations of sin, no returning demon would she allow to interfere with her devotion to her Lord.
Listen to the desperation of the beloved woman for her lover when he is not in her arms, “I will seek him whom my soul loves…When I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go.” (3:2,4) The beloved woman adjures her lover, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm.” The Lord’s heart is sealed with love for you and upon his arm is your name. With a glance of your eye toward him, you have captivated his heart and bound him to you forever. (4:9) To those who overcome the world in steadfast faith, he will seal them with his name and kingdom. (Revelation 3:12) This sealing and binding is the new covenant in Christ’s blood and the eternal marriage between the bridegroom and his bride that will never be disjoined. God will not divorce his bride in Christ.
February 5, 2015
This is a response to a book jacket blurb by Shane Claiborne recommending Mike Slaughter’s Renegade Gospel: The Rebel Jesus
Shane writes on the cover “This isn’t your grandma’s Sunday school curriculum… this is a call to a holy uprising.” Shane Claiborne, Author/activist
I may just be a pastor of a church on the corner of a corn field in a small town with two stoplights; however, I know Jesus and the Scriptures, too, to some extent. I also know several grandma’s who know and live the Bible better and more Christlike than anyone I know. To put it frankly, I am quite angered that Shane would disavow and belittle the faith practices of these women. It is shameful to so disrespect and repudiate faithful women who are today the models of faith, commitment to marriage and family. These grandmas in our church had and have Sunday school curriculums that are The Bible! They don’t study some man’s façade of an innovative look at Jesus. They study the revelation of God in the Scriptures and then go and live it taking care of adult parents, children, praying for others, sharing all that they have, because through their studies they have learned the kingdom of God and that all that is not of him passes away.
I’m sure that the Sunday School or small group curriculums Shane espouses are cool and edgy, but when his students know the Bible and live out their callings like these ladies, when they have been married to the same person for 50 years, when they have spent hundreds of hours on their knees in prayer for loved ones and strangers, when they have given more than the tithe through their careers and still give more to missionaries and those in need, then have Shane endorse a book by dismissing these ladies’ spiritual disciplines. Until that happens, Shane, the author and publisher ought to repent before the next Christian grandma they see and publicly apologize to the them all.
May God give the above grace to live like the Christian grandmas in my church!
Craig Stephans — Rector
Church of the Redeemer