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The Widow, The Orphan, The Refugee and You.

THe One Who Sets the Table: The Eschatological Vision in Isaiah & Implications for Reconciliation.

 

Jonathan David Faulkner

Have you read the vision of the last days sprinkled throughout the book of Isaiah? The beauty of the described coming Kingdom, a House set on the highest mountain where Rivers flow up to the summit and all the nations gather together as one. When we will “Beat our swords into plough shares” (2:4) and “He will decide many disputes among them” (2:4). Such a wonderful reality that we will one day see when Christ returns and the Revelation Prophesy is revealed. What a day that will be, when we will see the righteous rule of the Lord, the same God who created heaven and Earth. If that thought does not move us to praise and wonder I am not sure what will.

There have been times in Christian History where we have tried to envision this vision before Christ returned. Martin Luther thought the times were upon us, as did Jonathan Edwards and Phil Schaff and others. This was a theory known as Post-Millennialism, the notion that we would see a glorious age of the Church here on Earth before the return of Christ. While I do not subscribe to that (I believe Christ has to return for the Post-Millennium vision to be realized which is called Pre-Millennialism) I do believe that these passages, which though we are waiting on their fulfillment, have already been fulfilled in Christs first coming. In short, these days described in Isaiah and in Jeremiah and elsewhere in Scripture are merely awaiting their appointed time for the work has been complete by a God who is outside of, but steps into, time. These days are coming, when, we do not know, but we have assurance after assurance that they are coming.

But what does this have to do with reconciliation in the modern day? If you pay attention to Christian Print Media, you are aware that there has been a debate going on in Christianity Today concerning the setting of tables. One commentator says that the White Church needs to open up its tables to members of different ethnicities and colors while another argues that people of other ethnicities need to set their own tables and open up seats for members of the White Church to join in while some continue to argue for the separation that is part of our current crisis in the Church.

It is true that for most of the history of the Church, Western Christendom has dictated the doctrines and standards for what is to be considered “Normal” within the Church and even within the culture. The result has been a white, male dominated Christendom that has even done away with the old testament protections for women, widows, orphans and immigrants. Which has most recently defended a man who glorified his own sexual exploits and has ostracized a pastor for being willing to step out of the shell of what has been made “normal” for the sake of standing up for the other, the one we reject. The indictments in our culture, not counting some of the most insane of them (ones obviously made up) are generally true though not in every case and in some places less so than in others.

Soong-Chan Rah and others are right in saying that Western Christendom has set the table and determined what even constitutes a human and those who do not conform to that normate standard or who have conformed but then subvert that system are not considered or lose their standard of humanity. Of course, because this kind of thought has been normalized, western, white Christendom is not the only group to do so, but they have been the most dominate and loudest voice and most insolent oppressor.

If you do not believe the previous paragraph, consider the article I wrote a few weeks back on Lecrae and his divorce with White Evangelicalism. He was considered human because he fit the white Christian Music standard/mold. When he left that he was treated as less than human, when he left the requirements set forth by the power structure, he lost his human status in their eyes. He was lied about, attacked and his life was threatened. Same with Collin Kaepernick who has been told, along with hundreds of NFL players, that because he protested a flag that had never really represented him, he was less than human. These men stepped outside the bounds of the mold set for him and was treated as if they were less than human because of it by the established power structure.

I think one of the greatest problems with this whole business is that Man thought he could set his own table apart from God. What do I mean? I mean that if you read Scripture you cannot come away with anything less than God has determined what is when it comes to his creation and it is part of our rebellion to want to set the terms of creation and make the standard our own when in truth, the standard is much, much higher and broader than anything we can possibly imagine.

I apply the same logic to relationships in the Church. Scripture never uses the Complementarian / Egalitarian Language in scripture, which is why I think it is unhelpful when discussing relationships in the Church. What it does say is that “And he made them, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). And “Be sure to treat older men as fathers, older women as mothers, younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters” (1 Tim 5:1-2). These thoughts should completely eclipse our use of certain passages, some of which are highly contextualized and cannot be applied to the topics they are applied to or are misinterpreted and used to justify oppression and violence. The fact is, Kingdom relationships and relationships in the Church are extremely nuanced and at this point, their extent seems more a divine mystery than something set in stone. As in, the Imago Dei exists in all of us, but how they works cannot be quantified by Man and how we are transformed so that this Image that is intrinsic comes to the forefront is a mystery by the Holy Spirit. In kind, Kingdom Relationships are meant to be relationships that are mutually beneficial and beneficial to the corporate body. When we use unhelpful language or try to define it in terms of human philosophy we fail to understand the deep complexity and uniqueness of relationships in the Church. Be they leadership, friendship, pastoral or whatnot. If we are all created in the image of God, man and woman, then we are equal and if all of us have different manifested gifts then we are equal there too in that we all have the variety of gifts and some of us have certain ones and others do not but I cannot say, based on scripture, that certain gifts are given to men and certain to women. It would be nice if the writers of scripture had said that, but it does not.

What we do find is that man, so affected by the fall, cannot determine for himself who God is and who others are without allowing God to dictate that to us through His word. Because God’s understanding is perfect, for He is the created and He has determined in that creation what denotes being human and man’s understanding is clouded and his interpretation is clouded by Sin. The Holy Spirit then is given so that we can learn the things of God and learn them from Him through prayer and His word. We are desperately in need of Him and yet we are not content to let God be God in every way, we have denied Him the power to be the God of Isaiah’s prophesy. The god worshiped by many of us in White Christendom is not the God who wrote scripture, he is a poor substitute that looks more like man than the God of the Bible. It is certainly true that while God has made us in his image, we have done him the same favor. This is to our detriment and should not be praised, in fact it should be condemned since it has done so much damage to us as the Church.

Brenda McNiel says in her book “Roadmap to Reconciliation:” “We need our difference in order to reflect the glory of God which is our mission and human calling. This was God’s original intent in the beginning and it is still God’s will for the human family today.” God created us the human race and determined that we, as humans, are made in His image and that Image is as evident in our differences as it is in our similarities. Man cannot, and should not, undermine this by trying to whitewash or hide behind the hurtful excuse of “Colorblindness” as a way of diminishing the beauty of the diversity that God has said is created in His image and which is part of His plan.

So what is the point? And where does all this talk of tables mentioned at the beginning of this piece come into play. The point is this: God has set the table, He has set the standard and that standard is that He and He alone, the creator, can determine what makes up a human and that standard is higher and broader than anything, yes anything, than we can even conceive in this lifetime and the very moment that we try to use manmade tables or try to set a table and invite God to it we reject His design and His plan and continue our rebellion. When we try to use manmade measures and philosophies to determine what a man is we commit blaspheme against the creator. God has set the standard, He has set the table, He has determined that the table should infinitely and unapologetically diverse, encompassing every ethnicity and color and culture and that this table does not have a limit to the seating capacity or that one person can tell another they are not invited.

The implications for reconciliation here are huge, that is, God is the reconciler because He has set the table and one day, as promised in Colossians 1 all things will be reconciled to Him. Just as the vision in Isaiah shows us, a world that is reconciled to God and where men are reconciled with one another through righteous and just means. For those in Christ, this is our future and our present reality for it was accomplished from the beginning through Christ. It frees us to live together and to embrace one another as brothers and sisters with many languages, tongues and skin tones. The beautiful and diverse Body of Christ that worships Him and transforms this dark world.

Let us start to live this vision today because we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, received  from God through Christ who is blessed forever and ever, Amen.

 

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 and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. 

The Next Evangelicalism is Here.

Jonathan David Faulkner

One of the books I have been recommending to people is Soong-Chan Rah’s book “The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Captivity.” The book is important and though confrontational in the way it comes across (Rah has obviously been hurt) it is one that many of us need to read if only to wake us up to the fact that the demographics in the Church are changing and have changed even more since the book was written. For Rah, the next evangelicalism is not defined by the current American Power Structure. It is not defined by “whiteness” as in, it is not defined by the Western thoughts and ideologies and normates that have longed defined American Evangelicals and which other groups have been forced to conform too. It is a global, biblical evangelicalism that looks beyond the limits of the current discussions on race, gender and ethnic issues in the secular society.

It probably looks more like my wife’s upbringing, a Christian School, that was not perfect, but where kids from all over the world came to attend High School. Where she was surrounded by and worshiped with Christians from Korea, China, Africa, the Eastern Rim, Austrailia and many, many other places. Where differences were embraced by a majority and where racism as we understand it did not come into play. Again, the school was not perfect, but it was a multi-ethnic, international community that embraced diversity and was united by the Gospel. Because of that my wife learned to respect and see the Imago Dei in people regardless of ethnic background and learn from, worship with and be in community together as a multi-ethnic community united by Christ.

Of course, this vision of a community presents some of us with a problem. Since here in America we still socialize our children with even a subtle racism even if we intend to or not. We use language like “they” and “them” to describe the issues in our society. Implying that there is a “Them” or a “they” allows us the privilege to separate ourselves from the issues in the communities we have designated “theirs” when the reality is this is an “us” “Our” situation. The problems that affect the “Them” also affect us and so we are all dealing with the same problems and suffering in the same ways and are in need of each other to heal. I said in my last article that: “There is no individual sin, every sin affects the corporate body” and I meant that, viewing it as a “us vs them” gives us a perceived excuse to ignore the pain of the other in favor of our own individual pain. We do this with race and we do this among ourselves. So socialized to believe that the individual is the most important and does not need the corporate that we are divided among ourselves. We are all divided by pain and by viewpoint and by self. We are all hurting and we are all crying out for mercy, yet, hurt people, who have not grown to maturity, hurt people. Instead of being the wounded healer and healing together through listening, weeping and working to change the systems that have hurt all of us we want to be left alone in our pain and in doing so continue to perpetuate the hurt done to us.

Issues of identity, human dignity, ethnicity, unity, care, these are community, corporate conerns that we do ourselves an extreme disservice by trying to deal with on our own. Our theology is so fundamentally flawed, informed by the American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, instead of scripture. It is no wonder we are the most depressed nation in the world. That despite our overtones and overtures about personal happiness we are the least happy nation in the world and we are taking our depression out on each other. Divorcing ourselves from the corporate mindset that is pervasive in scripture has completely destroyed our ability to even live together. Like C.S Lewis’s vision of Hell in The Great Divorce, continuing to get further and further about. By the way, before we pat ourselves on the back and say: “Yeah, you may be right, but this is secular society, not the church.” I am talking here, strictly about the Church. I cannot speak to secular society since they do not want to hear, I can only speak to Christians, especially those wrapped up in the mold placed by “White Evangelicalism” or “White Americanized Christendom”

The next evangelicalism is here, it is multi-ethnic, global and corporate and has many, many voices that need to be heard and have much to say and the White American Church is like the dwarves in Aslan’s country who insist they are still sitting in a cold, dank shack full of hay. It is scary, but maybe we need to make the effort to step out of our homogenous comfort zones and recognize the fact that what Rah describes in his book is already the state of the world outside of the White Church. If the “What Church” is going to have a seat at the new table it needs to step back from its own. The new table is very diverse and seats many nations, peoples and tongues. It has many languages and interpretations and styles of worship and we have the incredible opportunity to see Christ in ways we have refused to see in the American Church. We cannot continue to separate ourselves because someone looks different in the church or a woman is preaching. We have to lay down our philosophies that do not even use scriptural language and embrace the fact that relationships in the church, that The Church looks a whole lot different outside our echo chambers than we think it does and when we do step outside the walls not try to dictate to the greater church how they should conform to our viewpoints.

Now, my goal here is not to heap shame on us, we do not need that, but an honest assessment of our current state and the state beyond our walls is necessary, if we are ever going to take our place at the table of true, biblical evangelicalism, we need to see that we have not been. Nor do I want to come across as saying that the church in America is totally lost, there are many people in the “White Church” that have embraced the New Evangelicalism. This movement is global, it is ecumenical, it is multi-ethnic and it requires us to sit at the feet of those who we would not normally sit at the feet of. This is scary for some and a deep struggle for others, especially given how a lot of us were socialized.

Like Lecrae, we should all divorce ourselves from White Evangelicalism, for the sake of the Church and its witness, for the sake of God and His glory. If we are going to build a righteous community it has to be a community built on a mutual, gospel understanding of who we are as individuals and as a corporate body. Seeing one another as equals, brothers and sisters, whose relationships transcend our human definitions and boxes. This starts with recognizing that we all bear the Imago Dei and that image is not bound up in human understanding and not able to be defined by human inventions or philosophies. Accept that it is a divine mystery and accept that it is intrinsic in all human beings and treat everyone according, with dignity and care. View life through a lens that allows for someone other than self or our hemogenic groupings.

The New Evangelicalism is radically different than anything we have ever experienced and if we are going to be a part of it we need to be willing to accept our past mistakes, apologize, ask forgiveness and seek to heal the wounds we have caused in the name of Christianity. When the world sees this happening, when the project of reconciliation begins and the fruit is seen it will so greatly stun the world and many will come to know Christ.

Brothers and Sister, this is not an easy road, this is a hard and difficult road. It requires a complete paradigm shift for many of us and there is not currently a solution but a journey and that journey may take a good while. However, I am willing to walk it, and I hope you are too.

 

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 and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. 

Racism Exists-So let’s talk about it.

Photo Credit African American Policy Forum

 Jonathan David Faulkner

I can very distinctly remember the first time I ever heard a racist slur aimed at someone of color. It was a co-worker at a catering company I worked for in college and something felt very wrong about the slur and though the man who was the target of the term laughed it off, you could see the hurt in his eyes. I grew up in a rural area where I heard a lot of negative comments, but I do not remember hearing a lot of racist remarks so the remark made towards my co-worker was a bit jarring. Not that things like what I witnessed did not happen where I grew up, but I was never really party to it nor was I as sensitive to it as I had my own set of derogatory terms leveled at me because of my disability.

It seems hard for us to accept but, yes, racism exists and it is as ugly and as harmful as ever. It exists in the sinful hearts of men and it exists in the economic and political systems and even in police forces. It exists in our sinful hearts and is carried out in the sinful systems we create. Oh, and it exists in the church too. Before you think I have gone off the deep end hear me out, because I know my audience and I am well aware where some of you stand. No, I do not see racism everywhere, but I do see in certain places in certain attitudes racism seems as necessary (for some) as eating. I have known people who could not let go of their hatred for others, especially those of other races. I have seen on national television NFL fans booing and spewing hate filled tirades at players for kneeling. Seen the Facebook posts of people I graduated High School with condemning the football players and sharing memes that shame and make fun of Collin Kaepernick. Yes, racism exists, in some places it is outright and blatant, in some places it has been talked about and acknowledged and the healing has begun. In some places it is subtle and continues in sinister comments and epitaphs and statues of former presidents being lynched.

The problem is, we do not want to acknowledge it, or we want to brush it off and say things like: “Oh I am colorblind” or “things are so much better than they used to be.” And in some ways they are, but in some ways they are much worse than they used to be, and though we do not like to confess or own up to that, we have allowed it to rise all the way to the upper tiers of our government and shunned rappers for speaking out against it. We tell Black Lives Matter to go home and continue to pass around false narratives without seeking to dig to find the truth.

By the way, Racism is not limited to black and white or white and black. It can be Korean to Black, Black to Korean, you name an ethnic group and there are likely examples of racism. It is a problem that affects everyone, there is no such thing as reversed racism, we are, as Dr. Emmitt Price III says: “All socialized in different ways and some are socialized to hate.”

My goal here is not this, my goal here is not to heap shame or guilt on anyone for being in whatever station or whatever ethnicity you were born with. Your skin color cannot change and should not be criminalized. Nor do I want to turn the tables and criminalize a group for being an ethnicity or for having a skin color or having a “white” mindset or whatever. My goal here is to challenge the thinking those who live with the mentality that there is nothing wrong, those who want to dismiss racism both personal and systematic. I want to help you think outside of the way you have been socialized so that we can acknowledge the pain of others and move beyond the Us vs Them mentality. Shame and guilt do not help accomplish that, to put behind the normalization on one limited people group so that we can fully come together in the unity of the Spirit while celebrating our infinite diversity. Racism is a problem, but it is not merely “their” problem, it is our problem, both as a church and as a society and we have to recognize that. Racism is a sin, but it is not merely a personal sin, but a corporate sin just as much as infidelity or fill in the blank. Every personal sin is felt by the corporate body, the repercussions of sin are not merely personal, they are felt corporately and sometimes universally.

There is pain and suffering in this world caused by the Church and by the world at large. Now, the secular world does not want our morality, does not want our faith, does not want our truth. But in the Church we have the Gospel and yes, we are to take the Gospel to the world, we are to be visible, but we cannot dictate the truth of the Gospel, the blessings of the Gospel, to a world that does not want it until we have taught them. That’s why in the Church we need to acknowledge and accept that we have perpetuated racism both individually and corporately and denounce it as often as we come across it within our ranks and have the hard conversations required of us to let the Holy Spirit work within us individually and corporately in the work of reconciliation.

The secular world may not want reconciliation, it certainly seems that way, but in the Church we are called to be different, we have the ability to see the Imago Dei in every person by the Holy Spirit. We do not serve a powerless savior, Christ’s death and resurrection is for everyone, even if, like me, you believe in the doctrine of the elect, (we do not know who is part of the elect so we had better preach the Gospel fervently), Christ’s death is for everyone and the Gospel is for everyone. The transforming power of the Gospel can remove us far from issues of ethnicity and divisions over ethnic lines and far from the evils of racism, but it will not do that unless we acknowledge the elephant in the room. Not that God is powerless to transform us, but because He is not going to use force to make us deal with this. He will, and is, stirring in our hearts to bring us to the table, His table, not a white table or whatever, so that we can discuss and heal and through Him, do the work of reconciliation. That is what should happen in the Church, that is what God is calling us and stirring us too. We cannot move forward unless we recognize and seek transformation from what is behind. In the words of a Casting Crowns song: “Jesus is going to change the world, but we can’t chain ourselves to the Gospel, because we are slowing it down.”

We are not mere individuals in the Church, I know that upsets some of our western, post-Enlightenment sensibilities, but we are not mere individuals. We are part of a collective, and like I said, I do not want to talk about guilt because scripture is clear, we are all guilty and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). God takes away guilt, and together then we are responsible for dealing with the hurts that have been caused by our history. If there is to be reconciliation there has to be acknowledgement of something bigger than and outside of our own limited space or individual pride. We have to let each other in and we have to be let in and guess what? We have already been let in by the Father. If you are a Christian and you have confessed your sins he is truly faithful to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). The language of scripture is clear, there is no such thing as the lone wolf or solitary Christian, we are a corporate body with corporate responsibility to the Gospel.

Racism exists and it is a sin, a corporate sin, but God can and will redeem us and He is stirring the waters and seeking to do the work that is required for reconciliation. But we must see each other and walk together and let God do the work.

 

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 and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. 

Lecrae, Matt & Toby, “White Evangelicalism” and “Quitting Church”

Photo Cred: The Santa Barbara Independent

By Jonathan David Faulkner

My brothers and sisters who have been following this site for a while know that a huge part of my story has been a journey from hating the Church and its people, but still being a Christian, to falling in love with and developing a heart for the people of God in ways I never thought possible. Part of that has come through ministry and some of it has come through hard conversations with pastors and fellow Christians. A lot of it has come through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the word as experienced both personally and corporately. Having mentors and a pastoral staff that understand my struggles have been devices used of God to draw me back to His people whom I had largely given up for dead.

This semester has also been a part of that healing journey and learning to fall in love with God’s people. As I have seen a great man in my church fall to exhaustion and sin and have read books like Dupont’s “Mississippi Praying” and Philip Drey’s “At the Hands of Persons Unknown” Alongside works like “The Next Evangelicalism” by Soong-Chan Rah and “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin, but also as I have paid attention to the Christian Music Industry I once covered so closely during my time at Altrocklive.com. Specifically, the drama that has unfolded between BadChristian Records, Lecrae and the Christian Music Industry as a whole.

For those who do not know: BadChristian Records was founded by Toby Morrell of the band Emery and operates under the banner: “Bad Christian, Good Savior.” The title of their most recent release, from the acoustic Emery side project, Matt & Toby being “I Quit Church” a collection of Hymns with two featured songs that follow the story of a man who left Church because it quite literally did not minister to him at all and in fact, left him hurting. Even the preacher coming by his home could not persuade him to return, something I can relate with seeing as I was very nearly “that guy.” Lecrae on the other hand has been vocal about divorcing himself from “White Evangelicalism.” A move that has drawn critics from everyone from some groups of casual churchgoers to the upper echelon of the biggest CMG’s (Christian Music Groups) and labels in the industry and support from Christian Evangelical Leader John Piper. It has not affected sales of his recent record “All things work together” A solid album worthy of air-time and purchase, and likely the most important Christian Rap Album of the day. His compliant laid out brutally and honestly in the song “Come and Get Me” The second verse is quoted below:

Huh, once upon a time, God Opened up my mind
And showed me I don’t have to be a product people buy
With this God given wisdom I can climb up out these holes
Stay up out the system cause the system never let go
Speak the Truth with no fear, it’s gonna ruin my career
I’ve been a mascot for too long, I ain’t come here for no fears
First of all, let me be clear one time Let me be real one time
If you want a religious puppet you’re gonna have to hang this guy
I’ve been around the world, seen pretty girls caged up as sex slaves
Crooked cops done pulled me over treated me like I ain’t made In the image of God and that’s so odd
I’m at Sunday service with a snapback
And if ya hatin’ on me go and hate, but if you gon’ ride
You better tell me if you’re with me.

Honestly, this is a difficult lyric for me, who has read thousands of lyrics and listened to much more than that in actual music. I struggle to even put my own thoughts into words after reading it and reading again. The same struggle as I listen to the stories of my brothers who have been profiled and harassed by police for simply being Black. It is true though, to many in the church Lecrae and his music has served as the token black man, the reinforcement of stereotypes about Black men in Christian Music. Not rockin’ the boat, but definitely rocking the flock. He has been used as the managements way to reach Black neighborhoods and while he has risen to one of the greatest names in Hip-Hop, His rise has been used to ease the consciousness of an industry that still tries to relegate rap (as a genre) to the underground and who does not take kindly to rappers stepping out of the mold that was set for them. Like when Josh Feuerstien attacked Andy Mineo for using the F-word on Twitter (not even in a song) or when Lecrae tweeted a July 4th Photo with the caption: “This is what my ancestors were doing on Independence Day.” A remark which was meant with everything from nasty looks to death threats.

Of course, this is not relegated to the Christian Music world, I am, of course, referring to the response to Collin Kaepernick’s Anthem protests that have now led to him filing a grievance with the NFL due to the fact that he has been blacklisted and been denied job after job and passed over for many jobs in favor of QB’s with much worst records. He too has faced death threats and endured a great amount of media persecution and hatred and vitriol from football fans who failed to hear why he was protesting. Taking it as a slight against the flag and against the troops instead of a statement that the flag truly never has represented him or his ancestors, and by the way, historically he is right, so are BLM’s founders, Black Lives have not mattered unless they capitulate to the White requirements, but as Lecrae and Kaep have shown us, if you step outside the boundaries set before you, you cease to matter and are going to be instantly dehumanized.

I must contrast this with Emery, who is an all-white Emocore band that left Tooth ‘n’ Nail records to form its own label. But who has always been critical of the church and of Americanized Christianity. Their song “Listening to Freddie Mercury” from “The Question” should have got them kicked off their label because of how sharply it pushed back against the works based, health and wealth righteousness and gospel that is so essential to American Chrstendom. The line “What About God” that is screamed throughout the song is an indictment, and one that should ring in our ears and, if we were constant, hate Toby and the band for their words. Instead, they produced two more records on TnN and the album went gold. See the problem?

Yet most of us do not sit back and think about these things, we want to be entertained and those who entertain us better not step out of their boxes or use their platform as a way of pushing some sort of agenda. Or, we would rather choose to be ignorant or repeat the lines so long used “Just wait your turn” or “Things are so much better for you, stop complaining.” In some ways, a concession can be made that, yes, things are better, but in a lot of ways we have to acknowledge that things are worse and what is subtle is much more dangerous than what is blatant. We defend statues in the name of “not erasing history” but we forget the historical reason those statues were put up; to enforce Jim Crow and celebrate the White Supremacy of the South. We do not want to acknowledge the sins of the Church and we choose to live in ignorance, turning our back on those who are hurting and condemning anyone who speaks up for the disenfranchised.

It may be too soon to see the fallout from I Quit Church but we have seen the effects and fallout of Lecrae’s words and actions. And we have responded wrongly, to him and to Kaep. We have continued to force the marginalized further into the margins and for fear of losing our power perpetuated what Rah calls: “The Western Captivity of the Church.” Carried out through “White” evangelicalism. Claiming we have the corner of the market on doctrine and the authority on what makes a human and what makes a Christian. Defining the imago dei so narrowly as to deny it to anyone who does not capitulate to the framework put forward by our limited History. Never before have Bonhoeffer’s words at Union been more correct, we are a church “without Theology” or the words of Schaff been more prevalent, we are a church “without history.” The sin of the discovery doctrine continues to get repurposed for modern times, the cycle repeats, in more subtle and dangerous ways and through it all we try so hard to remain ignorant and not listen to one another. When we are confronted by it, we are silent, and when we are silent, we are complicit.

So how do we address this? How do we begin to seek reconciliation in the midst of a world that does not seem to want to. How do we bring to the churches attention as a whole, not just to those who are already listening, but to those who are unintentionally ignorant and those who know and who know and know better? I heard a statistic in class recently that if 2% of the population believe in an idea then it will affect the entire culture. The best way, in my mind, is to turn to God, turn to Scripture and turn to one another and hear, on the individual level, on the corporate level and on the international level. To listen to the voices that are speaking, that are using their platforms to be a voice for the oppressed and then let their voices spur us to action. In that action, we cannot simply turn the oppression onto the oppressor, but must actually seek to reach liberty and justice for all, as we claim too in our nations pledge.

Toby Morrell has a reason to “quit church,” Lecrae has a reason to leave behind “White Evangelicalism” both are true and they should make us run to the only one who can bring reconciliation. If there is to be genuine reconciliation, then there does need to be acknowledgement of and genuine repentance from sin. To turn a 180 and see that the Imago Dei is inherent in all people. Stop seeing this as a “Them” or “Their” problem and see it as our problem.

This is hard, these topics do not just go away, they must be discussed and debated and acted upon, brothers and sisters, there is not ever going to be a quick solution to this. We will never poach the elephant on the roam if we are not willing to even acknowledge his existence. We cannot, and I will not, be silent anymore. I will pursue righteousness so that Justice may be done for all. I have come to love the Church too much to be silent, anymore.

Recommended Reading:

  1. Mississippi Praying: White Evangelicals during the years of the Civil Rights Movement – Carolyn Rene Dupont
  2. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Captivity – Soong Chan Rah
  3. Jesus & the Disinherited – Howard Thurman
  4. The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
  5. At the Hands of Persons Unknown: A History of Lynching in Jim Crow South. Phillip Drey

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 and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. . 

Crucify the False Teachers

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Historically I would not want to be an enemy of the church. No matter what era you are thinking of, I would not want to be an enemy of the “status quo” in the church. It is truly disheartening to think about, the amount of brutality, incendiary language, and, in extreme cases, killing, at the hands of the church throughout the ages for being either an enemy outside of the church or within it. Even in the formation of American Christendom there were (and still are) groups that you did not want to be considered an enemy of. Fundamentalism and its hyper-extreme reconstructionism serve as just one example, but there are many others. It is not enough to simply eat our own. We have to mutilate them until they are beyond recognition and then take every single opportunity to attack them once we have thoroughly chased them from the church. This stems from a human failure to separate the person from the false teaching or secular lifestyle. We de-humanize people based on whether or not they hold to what we believe. Ironically both the current secular fighting groups, the alt-right and extreme-left, have adopted this very strategy in their secular movements in a war that is currently playing out at the highest level of our countries leadership. As a target of words by one fundamentalist and a hate group, I can tell you how it feels to be eaten alive by people claiming to be our own. I have stood toe to toe with Feuerstien and his supporters, as well as the people of Westboro Baptist Church. It is brutal. Yet, we do it. If we are good at anything, it is chasing off false teachers.

The problem is, we often crucify the false teacher, but then we forget to focus on doing away with the teaching itself. We think, “Well, if we get rid of the person teaching it, we will get rid of the teaching.” History has proven it does not work that way. It took almost a thousand years, but some of Arias teachings found their way into the church in the form of very early Theological Liberalism. We fought off the Gnostics, only to have American Baptists traditions adopt a Gnostic Dualism nearly Manichean in its pursuit. (Note: Dualism had been a part of Christianity since Augustine, but the above example is considered an extreme application). The Southern Baptists chased out the liberals because they were upsetting the church and causing arguments, and now they cannot stop fighting, as evidenced by the recent strikes at Russell Moore.  Frankly, Holy Scriptures give us an answer for how to deal with false teachings: we are to avoid them at all cost. Given the now idolatrous state of American Christendom steeped in both major and minor forms of constitutionalism and draped in the American flag (note: I am not against the American Flag, just what appears to be worship of the flag) and embracing of the false “health and wealth gospel.” We have not done a good job of putting away the false teachings that so often confront us.

We have however done an incredible job of getting rid of, alienating, destroying the lives of,and all-around dehumanizing those who perpetuate those false doctrines. Do not hear me wrong. This is not a new problem for the Church. It goes back to the first Ecumenical Councils. However,  at least then we have letters from people like Ambrose encouraging and exhorting Arias to repent of his sub-trinitarian heresy. Ignatius was almost burned at the stake, though what he was teaching was closer to reformed Orthodoxy rather than heresy. Servatus was burned at the stake, even though Calvin urged him to recant and prayed for and with him that he would. Gilbert Tennant questioned Charles Chauncy’s salvation on multiple occasions (something not even the great Jonathan Edwards, for all his attacks on Chauncy’s arguments, would not have considered). John Piper cheered and celebrated the downfall of Mars Hill’s Rob Bell, and John MacCarthur continued attacks against him long after the fight was over. (See the introduction to John MacCarthur’s “Truth Wars” for one such strike).

This last one is the reason for the writing of this article. Especially since Relevant released an article defending Bell against the continued onslaught by Christians of all evangelical stripes. To me, it really does not matter if Bell was making direct judgments that were in error/heretical, or simply asking questions. That does not matter at this point, though if he was merely asking questions, as the Relevant article articulated, then the attacks against him were uncalled for and unfounded. What does matter is the way that we, as a body, as one body, have treated Bell as the Body of Christ has been utterly embarrassing and totally unworthy of the name of Christ. If one is complicit, we are all complicit. We are the Body, and we should be, merely by name, better than the attacks the world uses to destroys others.

See, scripture not only tells us what to do with the Heresy, to flee from it, it also tells us what to do with the false teacher or one who sins against us or the Church. There are two very obvious passages in scripture that come to mind right away, Matthew 18:15-20 and Titus 3:10-11. The first is for direct church discipline, and I have seen it work very well and save the church body a lot of pain and the other deals directly with leaders. The book of 2 Corinthians deals with bringing someone back into fellowship who has repented. Philemon deals with forgiving one who has wronged us. Even in 1st Timothy 1, the second harshest chapter in the New Testament (second only to the book of Galatians) Paul has a stated purpose for putting two teachers out of the church: “That they may learn not to blaspheme.”

If you stopped and read the above passages you may have noticed that the advice was not: “Take them out behind the woodshed and beat them thoroughly with an ESV Study Bible” or “Tear them down, remove them from ministry, chase them out of the church.” It was ultimately, taken within the context of scripture, to seek first and foremost the total restoration of the brother while fleeing the false teaching. The “putting out” of Hymaneus and Alexander at Ephesus was likely at the end of this process, if what the false teachers at Ephesus were doing what historians think they were doing then an answer to their refusal to listen was that they exist outside the comfort and protection of the church body that they might repent of their blasphemous teachings and then, maybe, be restored to the congregation.

One must assume, through studying Jesus’ teachings, that Jesus’ motivation in his harsh words to the Pharisee’s was ultimately their restoration. Yes, Paul and Jesus show us that sometimes hard truth is necessary in confronting a brother. Sometimes we must be stern and use tough love. However, tough love must come from a place of compassionate hope and a sorrowful love that longs for the restoration of the Saints in question to the corporate body of the Saints. The goal has to be the reconciliation of the teachers, Pharisee’s included, to the Body, and ultimately to God.

The worst part is, I was just as angry and bitter towards Rob Bell. I treated Bell terribly through my ministry and through my words. I have been ruthless to the pastor that spiritually and emotionally abused me. As much as I tried last year to be gracious to Westboro members in person, and even cheered when I saw the video of Decyfer Down’s lead singer playing Westboro for the protesters. Even after I had promised to stop blasting them on my websites and banned 10:31 writers from taking shots at Westboro. I am just as guilty and complicit in this as the next person, but as I have gotten older, as God has worked hard to do the healing work required in my own life, as I have studied Scripture and been drawn to a ministry of reconciliation and revitalization, I have found that God has a whole different plan for these things than I do. I want to respond in anger and hatred towards those who hurt me, hurt the church, teach false doctrines, towards the reconstructionist and fundamentalists and legalists and whoever else is violating the gospel message. However I have become unshakably and unchangeably aware of the fact that these people who hold these viewpoints are still humans in need of the same grace and love I have been given in my fallen state both by God and by those whom have been part of my healing and growing.

This attitude should not simply be limited to those inside the Church, but it is definitely one place is should be practiced. Seeking the reconciliation of one who has fallen and the restoration of them to the body, or evaluating if my attitude towards that person is wrong, should be the first thing I desire for that person. Since I could be the one that is wrong or since God loves that person so much more than I do and that should spur me to deeper love those whom I disagree with and whom may disagree with me. Instead of crucifying Rob Bell, maybe I too should have asked the questions then that I have been asking for the last few years. If Relevant’s article was right, then Bell just wanted what I have found, but the attacks may have pushed him farther from the truth of the gospel rather than drawing him closer and the positions he holds now, some of which are truly anti-scriptural and openly heretical, could very well be our fault. Instead of drawing him towards Christ, we may have driven him away.

From my end, I never want to be a part of driving someone from the gospel again, and I pray that you, oh reader, would start to do that same. Rupertus Meldenius writes in the 1627 pamphlet on Unity: “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty and in all things charity.” If we do not show love and grace  to one another when we are in error or even  and seek to biblically resolve the situation with the intention of renewal and restoration, we will drive away the ones  who most need grace at that point.

So, let us continue to flee from false teachings and seek to restore the false teachers, instead of vice-versa, so that God would be glorified in our land and in every life restored to Him.

 

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. 

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). 

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