Search

God's Heart for Those

The Widow, The Orphan, The Refugee and You.

In Loving Memory of my Grandfather, Walter Whitson (1933-2017)

Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Few things are more disconcerting than waking up to a strange man in your room. Especially when you’re staying with total strangers in the final days leading up to your wedding. I suppose it makes it better that the person is trusted by your bride but I also suppose though that hearing “Rachel is coming to get you, something about your grandfather” cancels that small detail out. Here it was, 2:30 in the morning on the Sunday of the rehearsal dinner and my bride was giving me a hug and telling me “He’s gone Jonathan, your grandfather is gone.” She was telling me that my grandfather, at 84 years old, my mother’s father had passed away at around 2AM from a heart attack and that the family was gathering at the house they were staying at.

He had got up to use the bathroom and then, he was gone. My grandmother’s host called 911 and the cop tried CPR, then my now father-in-law arrived to try CPR as well. They EMT’s arrived and took him to the hospital with a weak pulse. By the time I arrived mom and dad, mom and dad’s host, Grandma and her host, my father-in-law and the police were gathered. My other siblings were two hours away in the North Shore, waiting to make the trek out to western Mass for the rehearsal dinner. My bride had told me that both mothers had said that the wedding was going to go on despite this lost and we sat there, I held my mom’s hand and she held her mom’s hand. The general feeling in the room was shock. I hugged my grandmother and told her I loved her and she told me she loved me and that grandpa loved me too. This was something I did not doubt give the frequent trips to the farm during college and after college. My grandmother was holding up very well and had the line of the weekend when she said: “A 64 year marriage has ended and a new one is about to begin.”

Sixty-four years. I have barely been married for four days and at this point I can barely imagine what we will be like 64 years from now, something I do very much hope we see. My grandfather had stepped out of the limited joy and happiness of an earthly marriage into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. He was seeing Christ and, as my father-in-law said during the wedding charge: “That ice-cream may have tasted good on earth, but it is nothing compared to what he is tasting now.” Two weddings began that day: my grandfather, as a member of the Church and Bride of Christ and the wedding of Jonathan and Rachel Faulkner. Beautifully enough we celebrate my younger brother’s marriage to his wonderful bride in September. That will be a continued celebration of the new life and reflection on the coming marriage that my grandfather is now enjoying and we will one day enjoy.

He was a wise man, most of the time, a strong man all the time. He taught me about the importance of hard work and how to do hard work. Going to the farm both as a kid and then later as an adult often meant helping with chores around the farm house. Through his daughter, my mother, he taught me to appreciate the process of earning a living. He taught me how to ride a horse and how to shake a man’s hand. He served his country during the Korean War, worked as a trucker, a farmer, and a man of God. We did not see eye to eye on everything. What believer does? We came from separate generations and different times, but I looked up to him and learned from him just the same.

Most importantly though, the lesson I will always remember, the thing I will look on with the most fondness is this: he taught me, through observation, how to love your wife as Christ does and care for her. As my Grandmother poured herself out, caring for the sick and dying over a long career, and later as a companion and friend to those getting up in age, he stood by her side and loved and cared for her, even as she aged. They did not have a perfect marriage, but they did have a godly one. Every morning they would rise and get ready for the day and meet at the breakfast table to read scripture together and pray.  They would each choose their own passage to read through and then they would read from their daily bread. Then they would take turns praying for every single member of their family they could remember to pray for or who needed prayer. I believe that Satan ran for cover when my grandparents prayed, especially my grandmother.

One day, after breakfast, as Grandmother sat there with curlers in her hair, wearing her nightgown, he turned to me and said “You know, I have married the most beautiful woman in the entire world. She just gets more beautiful by the day.” On another occasion, he said: “You know, after 62 years I still learn more and more about her every single day.” There are so many memories. There are so many stories to tell you: listening to Frank Sinatra and Gene Autry, or going to church in Illinois, getting picked up at the train station in Fort Madison, watching thunderstorms roll across the plain with their great power and destruction, or the time my cousin and I broke some windows he was going to sell and learned what it meant to be up a creek without a paddle.

There are so many memories. There is so much to remember.

I loved that man and he loved me. I learned from him things that he may not have wanted to teach. I enjoyed many laughs and even some tears with them. He and grandma were there for me after the brain injury and their home was always a place where we could experience the peace of the Christ.

I will miss him, but his memory will live on forever, and he will enjoy his Savior and worship Him.  One day I will join him in that great and joyous endeavor.

The morning that he passed, someone asked my grandma what advice she had for the newlyweds and her simple response was “Keep God first.” I believe my grandpa would have spoken the same words if he had been asked.

I loved him, and I will miss him, but one day we will all see him again and that is the great hope of the Christian.  Death on earth is not the end, and  there is an eternity that we will one day enjoy: the great marriage feast that my grandfather is now enjoying.
Rest in Peace Walter Whitson. (1933-2017)

NIOTA, Ill. – Walter F. Whitson, 84, formerly of Niota, Ill., beloved husband to Margaret (Sparrow), died Sunday, May 28, 2017, in Greenfield, Mass.

My grandfather walking my mother down the isle on her own wedding day 30 years ago.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel in the North Shore of Boston. 

 

 

 

 

When I say; “I love the Church”

 

Jonathan David Faulkner

 

I got up and walked out, I had tried, as much as a hot-headed eighteen year old could, to keep my cool amidst the flood of accusations being thrown my way. Trying not to lose sight of what I had come there for, to stand in the place of the Youth I had first spoken in defense of, so be the one who received the brunt of the blows and to serve as a warning for parents. The family friend with me had been told he was not allowed to speak, had he not been there it would have been 3 against 1. I had been yelled at, berated and torn down and now I was walking out of the church that had spiritually helped to raise me.

We had started going there during better days, my father was working on his Ph.D and so we started attending a local church. I stayed there after dad returned to the Pulpit and was there through a pastoral change-over that would mark the beginning of a great trial for the church. The man, who I had now went toe to toe with and been told to “Shut up” and “You’re just being prideful and arrogant” was spiritually and emotionally abusive. Intentionally twisting scripture to advance his extremely fundamentalist and legalistic agenda and silencing anyone who disagreed. The sermon series that our former pastor had preached on making sure we did not get a “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” seemed like a distant memory.

I returned to college, as I was on winter break when this incident occurred, and had it not been for my mentor and the pastor of the church I was at I may very well have never gone back to church.

I spent the next two years having my entire thought process reworked. The legalism that I had adopted (despite swearing that I wouldn’t) had to be pealed away one poor doctrinal statement at a time. I had to relearn how to read scripture, study God’s word, something I was doing regularly because I was studying, at the time, to be a Youth Pastor.  On top of that I hated God’s people, they were responsible for what had happened to me, it was their fault, they had not stepped in.

But I continued to attend the Presbyterian Church in town, back to the roots of my childhood. I felt safe there, the pastor loved us. When I was home I attended my fathers country church, another safe place.

Because of my degree I had to move to Denver CO for a summer and do an intership. I ended up working at a Homeless Church. Everyday I worked with , loved and was loved by, the lowest of society, the hurting, the brokenness, the pain. I found myself going to a coffee shop every day after work to just read my bible and pray. I found that the heaviness of what I was experience was breaking my heart, God was using that and other things, to break me. We were told to visit find different churches while we were in Denver. During that time I started to see common strains among God’s people. Perhaps the people of God were not as divided as I thought.

I preached my first sermon outside of a classroom in Denver, to the church I was working at, on Luke 5:5-11. I talked about how in Calling Peter; Jesus was demonstrating the greatness of what Peter was going to be a part of and offering a personal invitation. It made me wonder, what was God inviting me into. At that point, I had already gong through a week of silence and reconciliation with the community, I had the Labyrinth experience a week or two earlier and been reconciled to the community. God was stripping away my pain and hurt, and though I would go through another trial a few years later that would leave me completely empty. God had brought me to a point where He could give me that Invitation. “I want you to be a pastor, I want you to love my people.”

The next two years, before I took the pastorate at Stafford, were filled with God showing me the beauty of His people. The hurt and the brokenness and His hope for them, I was reconciled with the church where the initial damage had been done, (they had parted ways with the pastor and were healing themselves). My time in Scripture was full of God revealing to me His heart for His people, no matter how broken or messes up they might be. When my father told me to leave the PCUSA God brought me, unwillingly at first, to a church with the same denominational name (thought different denomination) as the church where the damage occurred. From there I took a pastorate at a church with that same denominational name in it.

I have seen the Church at its worst, and I have seen it at its best. Though I have since left that particular denomination behind for one that better fits my doctrinal views, one that emphasizes pastoral care and restoring pastors who go astray, something I find I value because of this experience. Still, more than ever before in my life, though I have seen the deep pain and brokenness of the Church here in the United States, God has brought me to a place where I love it, and I love the people who make it up. I have fallen head over heal for God’s people, I have seen them at their worst and at their best and seen the Lord’s intense love for His people. Now I desire for them to know the Love of God for them. To turn to Him to find healing, unity, reconciliation, peace, truth, hope and faith, to step beyond our schismatic tendencies and become a part of (not that we are not, but to view ourselves as part of) the universal Church of God around the world, the Bride of Christ, beautiful and broken.

So when I say; “I love the Church” it is, in some ways, a small miracle. The work of great healing and transformation by the great healer!

If you have been hurt by the church, message me, come find me, I want to help you process through your experience and help you begin the work of healing. God is not His people, and His people, though we should be like Him, are not Him. We are messy, broken, we hurt each other, we hurt those outside of our bubble. We divide over silly things and fail to show the love that has so deeply been shown to us by Christ, His life, death and resurrection.

Oh Church, I do love you, and it is from this love that I share with you my story. You are the Bride of Christ, and His love for you is so deep and so intense and has the power to wipe away all shame and guilt and all your past sins and make you into the Image of Christ.

Oh brothers and sisters, can we heal together? Love one another again?

For the Glory of God and for the Lamb.

I love you!

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Let GOD, be GOD”

Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Back in 2013 when I taught my class on First Timothy I would start each Sunday School Session with a Primer question. Something to get them into the text, get them thinking about the topics we had discussed or what we were about to touch. This time around I had not incorporated that into a class I am co-teaching on Isaiah, since we only have 15 weeks to cover 66 chapters I was focused on trying to get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. With recent events in the news and the great prophesies discussed in chapters 24-27 that changed, mostly because the more I read the text the more the primer question was being asked of me. Ironically, a week after I had asked the question to my Sunday School class a professor told a group of us during a conversation to do this very thing.

The question which I put forward: “Are we content to let God be God?”

Seems simple right, a simple question demanding a simple answer…it is not so simple. In light of such awesome things found in scripture, especially in the book of Isaiah, it may be hard for us to believe. Sadly it would seem what our NT Interp professor said about himself is true about most of us: “When I read those passages that say “and the people were amazed” I just sort of shrug, I am not amazed, but shouldn’t I be?” I have to say that resounded with me until the Labyrinth and my summer in Denver and even in the months leading up to the fall. Up to that point my answer to the question was a resounding “No.” I was not, nor was I going to be content to let God be God because it meant I had to once and for all kill the old man and put on the new permanently and the pain and hurt and desire for control I held so tightly too was a source of comfort. It kept me from having to truly love others, it had become my excuse to cordon myself off from people and self-destruct when things were getting out of my control. I ruined a great deal of friendships and maybe even a life or two living in that cycle, “Let God be God” Why would I do that?

Our world is so broken, one does not have to spend five minutes on Facebook or watching the news to acknowledge that. More and more it seems that we are seeing the results of human depravity. If one is not careful we could lose sight of the common grace that keeps us all from becoming totally debased. Secular society does not want God to be God and I think, sadly, most Christians would have to say that neither do they. It may require of us to truly step into the hurt and pain of another, to give up our society approved “right to individuality” to begin to live together as a community that truly loves one another through the bearing on one another’s burdens and the gentle reminder of the deep and abiding love of God made manifest in Christ and sealed by the Spirit.

When I asked my Sunday School class this question I had one point of Application. Matt Chandler often says: “God is both a God who is immensely powerful, and intensely personal” Meaning that God has displayed to us great power, Holiness, Righteousness, Dominion, Omnipresence, Omnipotence and so on. He has told us of his greatness through the works of Scripture and that which He has done in our own lives. But at the same time He has shown us a deep, intense and abiding love and individual and corporate care that goes beyond anything man is capable of. This is the God who formed us in our mothers wombs, who “Intricately wove” us together and who breathed his breath into us and who has defeated death for us so that we might enjoy His eternal love and presence.

Brothers and Sisters, we have this great hope that Christ who was crucified has risen and is still risen. We have this great hope that the God of the universe, the one who made heaven and Earth, the creator of all good things so very deeply loves and cares of us and wants us to share that care and love for others with others. But for that to happen we must let God be God. We must look to Him as our first source of comfort and healing and be willing to step into the life of another. To not isolate ourselves, but to lay aside our fear of further hurt and do what Jesus did for us, step into our mess and hurt and pain and sin and give up himself so that all who come to Him might live.

When all was said in done and we were shutting down and my co-teacher had left the room one of the older gentlemen in the room stood in the back and looked up at me and asked: “So, are you content to let God, be God.” The answer: “I am more and more content each year, but some days I fail miserably.”

Now though, I do want God to be who He says He is, and I know that He is who He says He is. So brothers and sisters, I want to ask you, are you content? Are you content to let God be God? If so, then go and live the new life that was hidden in Christ and continue in the Holy Spirit that is sanctifying you and helping transform you more an more into the image that we all so beautifully bear. The Unmarred Image of GOD.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

 

Album Review: Demon Hunter – Ovtlive (Outlive)

By Jonathan Faulkner  

4 out of 5 stars

In the ever changing world of music 2000 seems like forever ago. As Spoken said in their recent Kickstarter Campaign: “Many of the bands we used to tour with are no longer together,” A sentiment I’m sure Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter shares as the bands nearly 20 year career has outlasted a good number of their cohorts. This is especially impressive in a general like Metal where some bands are lucky to have the same lead singer for 10 years, let alone nearly 20. The genre also boasts a number of bands that never really grew up or came into their own. Yeah, we all love the raw sound of certain groups like Underoath, and some bands do strive to keep that raw sound and do become mainstays. But the bands that are often remembered longest craft and hone their sound, the ones that really outlive all the others are the ones who mature in both songwriting and in material.

Demon Hunter’s latest outing Outlive moves beyond the growing pains of Extremist and shows the band at its best since it reached its height with True Defiance 2012. Yes, it is Demon Hunter as we know them, they have incorporated many elements that have made the band one of the most popular names in metal since their 2002 self-titled release. The album has its share of raw, metal driven rockers that will take the listener back to previous albums. At the same time there is a maturity and branching out that is almost refreshing. One could say this is not a Demon Hunter Album, it is something much, much more, and potentially surpassing all that has gone before.

The album opens with another intro-track similar, down to the opening instrumentation and key to “Death” from their previous album, but “Trying Times” does more than just introduce a topic that will be loosely referenced throughout the album, it sets the theme and the tone for the rest of the album. Suffering from both our own faults and suffering because of the pain of life itself. Life can be a trying ordeal and the band is trying to acknowledge that and even offer a little bit of hope. Musically “Trying Times” won’t turn any heads, it may actually inspire a bit of trepidation and discourage you to listen to the rest of the album. But that which makes it weak makes it strong as the elements from Ryan Clark’s Side Project NYVES serve the purpose of building into a Classic Demon Hunter piece “Jesus Wept” Like the slow building of classic television drama that suddenly explodes into high action. The setup almost pulls the listener into a false sense of security.

If “Trying Times” is the set up then “Jesus Wept” and the first single “Cold Winter Sun” are the payoff.  The former will catch the attention of both new and old fans and set the bar for the entire album. What was missing on most of Extremist are back for this song which will also remind fans of former masterpieces such as “Someone to Hate” (True Defiance) and “The World is A Thorn” (The world is a thorn). Not only does the track draw on former Demon Hunter Themes musically it also returns to the theme of personal repentance that has long been a central theme of the bands works. (“Eyes wide, see red, I’m why, bloodshed, eyes, wide, so I don’t forget, I’m why, I’m why Jesus wept.”). The latter will appeal to fans of the newer music, reminiscent of “Artificial Light” and “Collapsing” but with a great amount of musical maturity and high guitar rifts than even Artificial Light. The song deals with the difference between serving self and serving the kingdom (“We give way to sorrow, when the self is all we build…. we are the kingdom come, we are the come undone”). All three tracks serve as a 1-2-3 punch to hook you in and get you to listen to the rest of the album, and it’s worth the listen.

In true Demon Hunter style after the quick jump out of the gate the band appropriately slows things down with a beautifully written and wonderfully executed “Died in My Sleep” Though the track does not feel like a traditional Ballad it has ballad like qualities, culminating a chorus that not only shows that the usually hard charging Clark can bring something new to the table vocally, even after all these years. The song almost marries the usual Demon Hunter rifts with the Ballad work that has longed defined them, bringing in more of a rock feel such as that found in “Heart of a Graveyard” from their previous record. If you are wanting for a true, Demon Hunter, Ballad then you will not be disappointed. “Raining Down” follows the outline for a traditional Ballad and is also a standout track for its message. Following the idea that though our lives may be going well and we may have peace and calm in the moment we should remember that in the life of another there may be a storm brewing or a flood coming and so we should not, in our comfort and serenity, close our eyes to the suffering of another. The tag “It may be calm for now, oh but somewhere else.” Is a powerful reminder of this reality and the need to look beyond our own circumstance is essential if we are to live together on this planet.

One thing that is obvious with Outlive is that the band is branching out, this explains the second half of the record which comes off as more of a Rock ‘n’ Roll outing than a metal album. “One Less, Patient and Slight the Odds” are extremely solid pieces but are also a break from what older fans would expect from a Demon Hunter album. Even the four remaining tracks “When I die, Cold Blood, One Less, and The End” which all feature traditional Demon Hunter verse also feature clean choruses. This is not a problem in concept, but may be for the long initiated listeners who want more of what made Demon Hunter famous.

Overall Outlive is a solid Demon Hunter album that shows the band can expand and grow beyond their set parameters. They are willing to try new things and though the experimentation does not always work it still meets the Demon Hunter standard of excellence that now helps govern the Christian Metal industry. The result of the experiment is yet to be seen, but I think fans will warm to the album in the long run.     

. Record Label: Solid State Records
. Album length: 12 tracks: 49 minutes, 56 seconds

  1. Trying Times (2:23)
  2. Jesus Wept (2:44)
  3. Cold Winter Sun (3:25)
  4. Died in My Sleep (4:43)
  5. Half as Dead (4:00)
  6. Cold Blood (4:25)
  7. One Step Behind (5:09)
  8. Raining Down (3:44)
  9. The End (4:39)
  10. One Less (3:24)
  11. Patience (5:19)
  12. Slight the Odds (6:01)

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. Formerly he worked for Altrocklive.com CMG (Christian Music Group). 

Quality of Life: De-Valuing the Disabled

By Jonathan David Faulkner  

The disabled community has been in the news quite a bit recently, more so than normal. Not because the disabled community makes up half the police deaths every year but because France and Iceland have almost eradicated their Down-Syndrome Community through the practice of automatically aborting any baby that has an extra Chromosome. The Washington Post has called this a “Moral Crisis” because it fits the parameters for a Genocide because it targets a group of people based on something distinct to that group. I think it would be appropriate to call it a Genocide because it does require one who sees himself as normal, in this case the non-downs individual – to make a judgment about another group and assign them sub-human status. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of Abortion, targeting a group because you have determined they are less than you is wrong.

The argument hinges on what they call “The Quality of Life.” Meaning, they have determined that a person with any sort of cognitive or mental disability – or even disabilities in general – somehow has a lower quality of life and therefore we should be merciful and spare them of that quality of life. This reasoning is not dissimilar to the ideology of Margret Sanger who called for the elimination of the poor through abortion, birth control and sterilization. She determined that the life of the poor – specifically blacks – was lower than that of their white counterparts and should therefore be exterminated so they might be alleviated of their poverty by any means necessary. The initiated man will acknowledge how evil Sangers mindset is because it claims an entire people group are less than another and should be eliminated because of it. This kind of thinking should, in all forms be rejected, but it is being used again to justify the elimination of another group of people and this time it is not being stopped.

Iceland has all but eliminated its Downs population and it is believed that in France no one under the age of 30 has the extra-chromosome. To say that this is limited to these two nations is foolish, but they have been the most extreme in their pursuit of aborting those with Downs. Based on the logic that someone with Downs lives less of a life or has a lower quality of life than someone without. Not that we in America are any better, we still consider the life of a Downs child or someone with an ASD less than that of what we have determined to be “normal.” Though recent events, such as Toys ‘R’ Us initiating a quiet hour so that people with Autism can shop there without the overwhelming sensory information that can come with a store setting. Or Osh Kosh choosing a young child with Down Syndrome to model their fall child’s clothing line.

Of course, one does not have to point out the hypocrisy of those who insist on life being a totally subjective experience claiming that – objectively – someone’s life is lower quality because of a disability. I myself have had to face a similar sentiment in life being told that; because I am legally blind: “Your life will not amount to anything.” Which, though I have not actually heard since I was a kid in school, is sometimes unintentionally re-stated by popular narratives about the disabled. Again, this is people who repeatedly claim that experience is subjective determining objectively that the life of a disabled person is somehow less than theirs because they, themselves are the subjective criteria for normal.

I have to state again how dangerous and damaging this has been in history, especially in the history of America. The idea of another being less because of a difference was used to justify slavery, internments and many other devastating events that should have been denounced and rebuked by the church based simply on the Biblical Doctrine of the Imgao Dei. Unfortunately; it was this doctrine; that God imprinted upon us and made us in His image at creation and that this image is not marred by sin because it is directly connected and comes directed from God. Has been twisted and taken out of the hands of God and put into the hands of man and used to oppress and denigrate entire groups of people.

These actions are shameful and will weigh on the conscious of those who perpetrate them. The French’s response has been to ban any advertising that positively portrays Downs and ASD Children or any public discourse that might cause the mothers to feel guilt or shame for abortion that ended the life inside them. The problem is government cannot determine to keep one free of shame and guilt. As more and more studies show depression as a side-affect of abortion and as I talk to more and more pastors I hear more and more testimonies about the effects of an abortion. Even from men who dropped girlfriends and wives off at clinics there is often a feeling of shame and guilt associated with the act itself. Popular pro-Abortionists have even written pieces acknowledging that the baby they are carrying is in fact a living being. But we have determined that a child with a disability is going to have less of a life, or a lower quality of life, than the “normal” person. Even when a child is birthed who may have autism we do not get our children tested because we do not want the “Stigma” of our child having a disability.

But what does the disabled community think? Do we consider our quality of life lower because of our disabilities? Does the man with Autism or the Woman with Down-Syndrome consider her life less worth living because they have a disability? Rarely have I met a person with a disability that did not think their life was less full or its quality was less than another because of their disability. In fact, in relation to Down-Syndrome I have never met someone who does not love life. I am sure they exist, but I have not met someone.

As a person with a visual disability I do not think my own quality of life is any less than another, on the contrary, I think my life is very full and I am blessed to be where I am and with the people who I love and who love me. I am contented with life and do not feel marginalized or oppressed in anyway. My only wish is that the Church would talk more about how we reach out to the disabled community because while we are generally happy with our own selves, there has been a great deal of hurt and usury faced by those with disabilities. For example; it does hurt when a group of people that claim to speak for the voices of all actively support the abortion of a person with a disability because the “Quality of Life” is somehow less than theirs.

If all life is valuable, how do we determine which life is more valuable than another? Does a life matter more if it has all the “normal” faculties or doesn’t interfere with the independence of another? Who gets to determine the value of a persons life? Who gets to determine the quality of a person’s life? Isn’t this playing god? Holding ourselves up as the standard for being and for normalcy over what we are told my scripture should be the standard.

If all mankind if created in the image of God and if the church truly affirms this than shouldn’t we be against anything that distorts or belittle that image? That is not limited to the disabled community. But includes any group that has been considered “less” for whatever reason over the course of human history, should we not be able to say when confronted that “This was a mistake.”

I am not advocating here for the tactics of the current Social Justice Movement that more-often fights injustice with more injustice. I am talking about seeking true and genuine justice that stems from a God imputed Righteousness and which builds up both the oppressed and the oppressor. Moving the oppressed out of oppression and seeking life transformation in the oppressor so that the two parties might be reconciled to one another.

See, as a person with a disability I do not think I need to be out marching in the street or having someone march for me. But I do think that there are people in the disabled community who have a lot to contribute but are ignored simply because they are disabled or stigmatized or outside of our view of normal.

This attitude denies us the chance to learn and grow in community with one-another and most importantly with God. The one who really makes life worth living and who has determined for us as the church a greater quality of life than we can ever imagine on Earth.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Disney is not the Problem:

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Famous Facebook Evangelist Joshua Feuestien posted a video last week in response to the latest release from Disney, a cartoon featuring a same-sex Kissing scene. True to his form, and as Homophobic as he can get, Feuerstien called for everyone to #DropDisney and to not allow their kids to watch the TV channel due to the release of this cartoon. The Boycott intends to force the entertainment giant to change its ways. He claims that a similar tactic towards Target worked and so it can work again. He wanted parents to “Push back” and for the church to “Stop being passive” about these things.

In December of 2015 and January of 2016 this website documented and released several pieces on Feuerstien starting with his #MerryChristmasStarbucks campaign. This was shortly after he had called for violence against Abortionists, or should I say more violence, he has since released a video saying he would shoot anyone who he saw pointing a gun at a cop. He even posted a video in which then President Barrack Obama as Satan, condemned anyone who voted for Hilary or Bernie and personally attacked this ministry and others in videos prompting our own #GospelDrivenSissyPreacher identification. The conclusion of this ministries investigation into the fruit of Joshua’s Ministry made us question whether or not the self-proclaimed Evangelist’s ministry is really Christian. We made a point to not question his salvation personally, but the label of Heretic has since been placed on him by more influential ministries and we agree with this unfortunate assessment. The final straw was his defense of Donald Trump after the sexual assault comments and allegations came forward. He Continues to support the President and refuses to be critical, something most leaders, including those formerly supportive of him, have taken up. Joshua’s Doctrine and form of Fundamentalism both reek of heterodoxy and his anger and maligning of those who mistreat him is toxic. The fruit of his ministry is nothing but divisive and hate-mongering.

Actually, I happen to agree that the Church has been passive on a number of issues, but Disney’s inclusion of the LGBTQ community and Culture’s normalization of Homosexuality are not even on that list. I hold that 1.) Culture is separate from Christ and is governed by men and women who are apposed to Christ whether it be outright in just in ignorance of Him and His teachings. Therefore the Church’s dictation of cultural morality is only going to fall on deaf ears and be met with sheer resistance. After all, the Gospel truly is foolishness to those who do not believe (1 Cor 1). 2.) That there are greater issues that the Church can have a direct, sustained and lasting impact on that need to be addressed and that are more pressing than a secular outfit doing what it can only be expected to be. For example, the Churches treatment of the LGBTQ community, something Feuerstien has participated in, is dismal, as is our treatment of the disabled, the poor, Immigrants, Refugee’s, African Americans. Really anyone or anything that might be seen as different from us. The WASP church has routinely failed to address key issues that must be addressed for the sake of our future witness. Beyond that we have just turned to the election of our own version of a “King” completing a conversion to American Idolatry that would make our Israelite forerunners turn over in their graves…and rightfully so. We are so divided and so entrenched in our fights and feuds and anyone who tries to be a peacemaker or call for repentance (i.e Russell Moore) is snuffed out or persecuted.  We are more worried about who we are baking a cake for, than who we are ministering too. We have met the enemy and it is not Disney, it is us.

Let’s not leave out the fact that the Church cannot even have a conversation about Sexual Immorality, that the Mormons are fighting Pornography better than we are. That we allow Pastors in the pulpit who are as unrepentant about Sexual sin as their congregations and those who do call out sexual sin usually do so in such an ungraceless way. We justify abusive husbands, normalize abusive relationships through supporting or by not speaking out against the 50 Shades franchise and shaming victims of Abuse. We divorce at the same rate, we cheat on our taxes at the same rate (as the world) we actively and even passively participate in Oppression and yet, we want to be the Moral Voice in the Culture. We want to condemn Target, a secular company, for their Transgender Bathroom policy and now Disney for having an openly gay character? Right now, we have no right, as long as we excuse ourselves from our own sins, we cannot say anything about anyone else’s.

We…yes we…Church in America, are our own problem and Jesus is the only solution.

Now, I need to make sure I make a disclaimer here; I am not talking about every single church and every single Christian. Certainly, especially in post-Christian areas there are good, Gospel-Centered, Missional Evangelical Churches that have realized that reaching the world and engaging the culture does not mean we rant and rave about culture being evil, but in actual ministry to people; meeting the needs of a culture that is looking desperately for some sort of concrete identity. Nor does my above discourse seek to be condemnatory, but if we cannot have an open conversation about our own, internal issues, then we are not going be able to correct them. If we cannot be able to say that we are screwed up, that our lust for power and “By any means necessary” mentality has harmed us and the hearer, then we will never be able to reach the culture with the Gospel.

We have gutted the Gospel and abandoned Righteousness and through that, Justice, leaving the next generation unequipped to minister to the culture because we have taught them that disengaging with the culture is preferable to actually addressing the issues that it presents. How are we going to go forward if we have abandoned the very thing that drives us forward? Unity in the Triune God, with One Word, in One Spirit and as One Church proclaiming One Gospel.

Russell Moore says this in his book “Onward; Engaging the Culture without losing the Gospel;” We must equip the next generation for different days. They must know how to fight for doctrinal orthodoxy and public justice. An “Almost-Gospel” won’t cut it, a cut-rate Righteousness won’t either. The advocacy is an act of love, equipping the church to push back the arguments behind which guilty consciences hide. In order that they may hear the voice once again, the voice that calls; “Adam, where are you.”

Brothers and Sisters, these are different days. Never have we experienced a time so close to what our brothers and sisters in the days of Apostolic Church (1st and 2nd century). We now exist in a Post-Christian America, this is not something to be upset about, indeed, it Is a reason for hope. Now that many do not even know what or where the Local Church is or what the Church believes. There has never been a better time for ministry here in the United States, but it requires to lay down, repent and ask for forgiveness for a good amount.

Here’s the thing; if we are going to do the same things that secular society does, why would we think we can dictate morality to secular society? To them, we just look hypocritical. We will criticize Hilary, but when our leaders fall in line with Donald Trump we fall In line behind them.

I’m not trying to say its hopeless, and again I do not believe this applies to everyone, but Church, we need to grow up. We need to wake up and start addressing our own issues and then actually start reaching out the world. Until the Church becomes a safe place for the abused, broken, discarded, poor and unwanted we will not reach the world. Unless we trust God and follow Him and rely on the Spirit for Guidance and communion and Christ for our hope we will never reach the lost. Unless we become the Earthly embodiment of the Grace of Christ we will never reach the world.

Because we are the salt of the Earth and we can be a City on a Hill and our Righteousness can be greater than that of the Pharisee’s by the power of the Holy Spirit and a life lived as an imitation of Christ. But for that we must empty ourselves, abandon any notion of doing it on our own and truly accept Christ fully and without abandon.

That’s not easy, none of what I’ve said is easy, but brothers and sisters, there is a hurting and dying world out there that needs you and I, but more importantly they need the power of the Risen Christ, whose Blood takes away the sins of the world.  That is something that not even Disney can take away from us.

If this makes me a #GospelDrivenSissyPreacher, than so be it.

#Gospeldrivensissypreacher

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Dear Mr. President; We should never Prioritize the Hurting.

Refugee Camp, photo by world bank.
Refugee Camp, photo by world bank.

By Jonathan David Faulkner;

 

Unless you have shut off your social media (if you have good for you) to avoid post after hateful-post. Then you know that President Donald J. Trump recently reversed a controversial ruling by Obama that prioritized Muslims over Christian Refugee’s. The move was seen as a slight to Christians which make up 10% of the Syrian Population and who have been just one group targeted by ISIS. Under that prioritization only 1% of the refugee’s that were allowed into the country identified as Christian, a number which seems to baffle Christian Leaders and some of my own family members.

I get it, we need to watch out for our brothers and sisters in Christ, but should we be so exclusive? Is it even right to prioritize people, especially if that prioritization makes one undervalue or even devalue another. If we do that are we any better than ISIS? If we place hurting person over another based on any other category then the fact that they are hurting, we are undervaluing them, or even devaluing.

What do I mean? If you are going to prioritize a group of people you have to come up with some criteria for prioritizing that group. That Criteria has to be something that one group has that another group does not. In this case the Prioritization deals with Religion, a Christian meets the criteria for special treatment and preferred immigrant based on “Christian-ness” while the Muslim is placed second because of his “Muslim-nes.” Putting aside that the Islamic State is a very stringent, Orthodox sect of Islam that is fundamentally opposed to any group that does not interpret the Quran or Islamic Teachings and the debate as to whether they are indicative of all Muslims. (NOTE: They are not, there are peaceful forms of Islam such as Sufism which is primary ascetical and monkish in their peaceful devotion). Like the Christian Faith there are many interpretations and many manifestations of Islamic Faith. There are fundamental, and core teachings at the center of all forms and yes, Sharia Law is one of them, but there are some a number of sects who reject violence as a way of spreading the Islamic Faith).

While Religious Identity is important inside of religion, as in, I am a son of God, meant to reflect Christ and be like Christ or a “Little Christ” or “Christian.” Certainly within my religious group I should, with all my energy, pray for and care for those who are right in front of me and seek to be a voice for those who cannot speak. To be a man after God’s own heart and be a light to those outside of my religious community, I would expect this kind of devotion to the tenants of ones faith from anyone who claimed to be in a religious community regardless of their practiced faith. But I do not think that should determine a person’s priority on a Government list as a refugee or be the determining factor in whether they are allowed to enter a country or not.

That being said, if religion is not the correct criteria then what is? Degree of Suffering? No, that is almost impossible to determine from a Government office and requires one to be in touch with a name on a list with millions of people which is impossible, even for the government. We would get into trouble if we looked at ability or ethnicity, both would cause greater discrimination than merely discriminating on the basis of religion. I mean, we should not be discriminating at all, if we truly believe in working for the good of everyone under our influence, and even those outside our influence, maybe we need a completely different Criteria for determining who we help and who we do not.

How about this, if a person is living, breathing and in need of aid and assistance we do our best to alleviate, step in, build up, love and care for their needs whenever we are able. Like the Good Samaritan, helping first one who considered him a half-breed (a Jew) and making arrangements for his care and recovery. So much as we are able, whomever we find to be suffering whether it be locally, with those hurting in our communities or those hurting and under fear of death in other countries, let us provide aid and care and love and be a healing voice and hand in the midst of the turmoil. Let us step out of our comfortable existence that puts us (myself included) out of touch with the plight of others. Instead of trying to find ways to ignore the hurt of others or coming up with arguments for why we cannot care for such and such or agree with so and so. Let us actually be humans loving other humans.

Is a child starving, feed her, is a father suffering and afraid of losing his family and his faculties, come alongside him. Is a Refugee barely making it by, provide a meal, clothing a chance to work. Share a kind word, a smile, a gentle touch. Stop waiting for or demanding that others care for others and start doing it yourself, where is the good in having material possessions if we are not caring for others. In his book “The Patient Ferment of the Early Church” Allen Krieder lays out the methods that the Early Church used to grow and gain converts in a hostile environment like the Roman Empire. In every chapter there is some reference to the emphasis on lived faith. Christians had to, in the public eye, live their faith by caring for the widows, the orphans and the poor. At first this was done within the community of believers because it was so dangerous to be a Christian, but eventually it spread out from the church and the church began taking care of the families of unbelievers. The love and care of the Christians caught increasingly more attention and the church continued to grow exponentially. This is especially amazing because, as Krieder points out; “There is absolutely no evangelistic writing from this time period.” The Early Christians knew that the best way to reach anyone was to show mercy and grace and love and to serve and care for and alleviate the suffering of whomever was placed before them. Especially when it was dangerous and could get one imprisoned or put to death.

It may sound funny but I agree with Dr. Jim Singleton’s sentiments from class the other day: “We have never lived in a time more closely resembling the situation of the Christians in the 1st and 3rd centuries.” Do you get that? There has never been a better time for ministry and there has never been a better time in the History of the American Church for us to actually be the Church as Christ meant it to be.

So let us not prioritize outside of prioritizing the alleviation of suffering for all who are suffering and doing out best to be a light and witness through our care and love for others. Let us remember that this is not a Christian or Muslim Crisis, but a human crisis and we now have the greatest chance for ministry and care as God intended that we have ever had. Let us learn from our Christian brothers and sisters of the past and care for all who are put before us.

Maybe then we actually can build a better world, where we live at peace with everyone and are a light to all nations, practicing religion that is true and undefiled.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Fire With Fire: We have to Stop Hating.

By Jonathan Faulkner

 

A long time ago, in high school and college I was a big fan of the TV show Bones. For those familiar with it one of the characters, Jack Hodgins is a Conspiracy Theorist who spends a great deal of his dialogue during the shows early years taking every opportunity to remind everyone at the Jefferson-Legal Lab that Big Brother is watching and how corrupt the Government is. At one point, during an especially tense episode Jack and his co-worker and soon to be lover have a bit of a dust up. “I guess I get so worried no one is listening, that if I just keep talking someone will care.” Angela’s response: “Yeah, you have to be careful that you don’t speak so loud that no one wants to hear you.”

I do not know why, but this scene has always stood out to me as profound, a unique moment in a show that should not have carried past six seasons (it lasted 11). The idea that we can become so loud in our protestations that no one wants to listen and shuts off our viewpoint because we have gone so far as to discredit ourselves. Contrast that with the person who, also a true believes in their cause, seeks to use education, research, logic and action to show the validity of their points. For example, if one believes in caring for others they will find the best avenue possible for caring for others. Russell Moore and Timothy Keller are examples of men, in the church, who have a good standing among secularist because they have chosen this second route. To engage culture and ask the questions culture is asking with the intention of seeking to being healing and reconciliation.

Today, we have largely ignored both options, choosing instead to go beyond the rantings of Dr. Jack Hodgins in Bones, to a the constantly critical and hateful rhetoric employed by Westboro Baptist Church, now adapted for the use both the Far-Left and the Far-Right. Both groups, being so out-of-touch with the reality before them they will use any means necessary to get across their point including, and not limited to comments about how “Deplorable” either side is and some pretty terrible comments targeting a 10 year who happens to be related to our President.

Of course, if you call both sides reactions to the other what it is, you are in danger of becoming the target of such hatred and vitriol as you have never experienced before.  Both sides hate the other and as they continue to railroad each other they allow their hatred to further drive them apart. Relying on what are essentially false narratives to fuel their hate-laced tirades. Take note, I am not talking about one particular side, I am saying that both sides have done this; whether it was the hate filled tirades over President Obama that some spent 8 years making or the hate filled tirades against Trump that have only escalated. Hate has continued to breed hate, division has bred more division. No one who speaks of Tolerance, be it left or right, has any idea what it means to be tolerant. Those doctrines which we most completely claim to cherish are the first things we abandon when someone disagrees with us. Speeches about Equality give way to actions that continue to keep other viewpoints down in the name of said equality.

I am of the firmest of opinions that if we had laid down our picket signs and let go of our hatred after the Election was final we would have been much better off by now. Had we put the energy we have put into hatred and angry protest, we would have been able to heal divisions and at least be working towards reconciliation. Had we taken it upon ourselves to seek a peaceful and loving solution to these issues long ago we would already be living in a much better world then the one we live in now.

Please note, I am not saying there is anything wrong with anger or with having frustrations, but when you allow that anger to cause you to degrade any person, no matter how wrong they may be, you have done nothing to aid your cause. If you stoop to the level of the bully, you have not ceased the bullying, only created another bully.

I have said before, true and lasting change will not be achieved through the picket-lines. True and lasting change comes from an everyday desire and challenge to be better individuals so that we can be a better community. It starts with the Resolve to be first-and-foremost a peacemaker, to forgo hate in the interest of love and what is best for all.

Now, this is not a thing man can do of his own volition, it is impossible for us to even lay down our corrupt natures, given to hatred, without the work of the Holy Spirit. I know my non-Christian readers will disagree, but as a believer who holds to Trinitarian beliefs that is my stance. We cannot, and will not be able to conquer these issues on our own. Even the simple task of giving up the vice of hatred towards another is impossible because of our fallen state. We need the washing of regeneration, we need the renewal of the Holy Spirit. That only comes through the blood of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins. We need the Holy God to come and make us Holy and Righteous people. Our own human efforts have continued to fail, we need the saving grace of Christ to flood our hearts.

Oh Friends, we have resorted to fighting fire with fire, hate has begotten hate, our dissenting viewpoints have become so loud that no one wants to listen. It is time to lay down those picket signs and step across dividing lines. Let us acknowledge our pain and brokenness and work through the work of peace and healing that comes through the Cross of Christ.

I love you all.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

#GospelDrivenSissyPreacher: I am Not Afraid of Donald J. Trump; I am Resolved.

I AM RESOLVED TO LIVE OUT THE GOSPEL!

By Jonathan David Faulkner

Let me set this out right now so there can be no confusion; I was not nor will I ever be a Trump supporter. I did not vote for him and this website was very open in its opposition to him and support of another candidate who did not make it out of the Republican Primary. I cannot justify voting for someone who would degrade women or speak so condescendingly to those who disagree with him. I am not qualified to judge his heart, but the fruit of division, anger and fear that he has gardened is enough to turn me and those around me off to him.

That being said, I have seen more than one person make the joke that Friday, January 20th 2017 is a day to be dreaded because, that morning, Donald J. Trump will take office. I have listened and read various articles in both the Washington Post and other news outlines that are little more than fear-mongering and seen those around me spout off angry tweets and facebook posts, some of which would make The Donald blush. I have seen posts by the most Liberal of the my friends predicting all sorts of disasters and evil deeds. Everyone is telling me that I should be terrified of this man.

But, I am not, in fact as the Inauguration of our 45th president approaches I have a great and lasting peace. A greater peace than that which I had after the election of a man who’s every policy I have mostly disagreed with. I have a peace about Friday, I am not afraid, I am at rest.

Do I sense the uneasiness of my friends? Yes, I feel all of it.  Am I living in some privileged position because I have this peace and to some that might seem like I am “Shutting it off?” I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. Do I want to invalidate concerns about our incoming president? No, at least not the reasonable ones, but those which are unreasonable and the result of fear-mongering and hate speech from those who so strongly appose him that they would say anything to cause others to cast doubt on him, I would if it meant my brothers and sisters getting to rest their weary, worried souls.

No, I am not afraid of Donald J. Trump, I am resolved. I have a task, and I am going to carry it out.

My task is this; to live a life that first and foremost reflects Christ and, while holding to the Orthodox doctrines of my faith practice living a life that cares for and builds up all around me whether they be LGBTQ+, Black, Muslin, Disabled, Trump Supporter, Trump Hater. Those I agree with and most-definitely those, I disagree with. To find the healthy tension between what I believe and how I practice it and to practice it well. To live out my calling as an image-bearer and Disciple of the Triune God for the benefit and blessing of all I come in contact with, whoever they may be. It is my job now to do the work that Scripture has laid out for me to do and to do that work well.

I do believe, that the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah can apply to us today, that now that we are in an unfavorable position and with an unfavorable ruler we should: “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 6‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 7‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ 8“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. 9‘For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:6-9).

The time has come for us to be the blessing we were called to be, to be salt and light to an increasingly darkening world. Right now, as a direct result of displacement, fear, persecution and the pain of death. Thousands of Arabs are turning to Christ because a light has met them in the darkness. We can have the same result here if we just stop fighting and go about doing the work we are called, by God, in Christ to do. The fields are ready for planting of the true seed. People are questioning, afraid, alone, starring into the immense darkness and beginning to lose their minds. Brother and Sisters, now is the time for us to stand up and work for the betterment of our nation. Not merely because we live here and are planted here, but because others are with us.

Now we must be the people of God. Now we must lay aside our differences and come together as a living, Worshiping, Serving, Missional Body with the Cross and the Word of Truth going before us. A Word that we have learned to rightly divide by the Power of the Holy Spirit so that we may teach and preach it with our words but also with our lives; we must now carry out the greatest two commandments. To Love God and Love our Neighbor. Let us set aside our opinions and cast off that which divides us and be united as one body of Christ, One Church.

No, I am not afraid of Donald J. Trump, I am resolved and at peace for I know that my God is the God who parted the Red Sea, who brought down the walls of Jericho, who made the sun stand still in the sky, who defended Jerusalem. My God is the God who created the world, who sent His only son to die on the cross for the worlds sins. My God is the God of Peace, The God of Mercy, the God of Love, The God of grace, The God of Justice, The God of Righteousness. He is; to use the words of Pastor Matt Chandler: “Immensely Powerful and Intensely Personal.”

This is my God and there’s so much more to Him than this.

This is why I do not have to fear a man and have no fear of who is in the White House. Because my hope is built in nothing less than God himself and my faith will not be shaken by fear mongering or hate-speech from either side.

I am not afraid of Donald J. Trump; I am Resolved to live the Gospel.

And if that makes me a Sissy Preacher, then so be it.

#Gospeldrivensissypreacher

 

 Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑