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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