Month: November 2011

Our Place of Peace.

November 23, 2011
(See also: The Ministry Burn-Out July 3, 2011)

I’ve always loved coming out to my grandparents farm in Western Illinois. I remember when I was younger we would come out here and spend Christmas. The whole family gathering together at the farmhouse, opening presents on Christmas morning. The smell of Grandma’s Christmas Coffee Cake cooking slowing in the oven. The closeness of family and friends, Aunts and Uncles and cousins that I didn’t get to see at any other time in the year. In the summer we’d visit and climb up to the old Treehouse and swing on the rope swings. Grandpa would take us out and put us on one of his Mare’s and we’d get in trouble for playing pranks and doing stupid things that young kids do.

Then for some reason, most likely money and distance, we stopped coming out here. We started spending Christmas at home and the farm seemed like a distant memory. Then freshmen year of college, while I was sitting in my dorm room pondering my first Easter apart from my family my grandmother called and asked if I wanted to come out to the farm. I got the money and bought my ticket and took the train out to Gailsberg. I got off and was greeted by my Grandmother and Uncle. I spent the night at my Aunt and Uncle’s and then headed out to the farm for the first time of years.

The tree’s still there, the Treehouse isn’t, neither are the rope swings, but it was still the same farm, the place of my childhood. The hot summers, the cold winters with warm family, the memories came flooding back to me as I entered the house, that like everything else there seemed trapped in time, or apart from time.

I returned to the farm last Easter, and then found myself pondering what to do for Thanksgiving for I couldn’t go home because of money, when once again the phone rang, it was Grandma asking to see if I wanted to come up and spend our week long break here. Another train ride and I had returned once again to my place of Shalom, the place where God speaks volumes to me, where peace and timeless memories collide to form a beautiful painting, each brushstroke carefully preserved by a Holy God who created them.

We all need places like this in Ministry, I’ve talked before about the Ministry Burn-Out, this is one of the ways I’ve found to avoid this burn-out. Just getting away from where God has called me, even if it’s a forced get away. To step back and take a break from Ministering to the guys in my dorm and people on campus, from homework and Sterling and just go to a quiet place of solitude and rest. To turn off the computer and smell the cooking of my grandmother’s pies, even help if possible. To see my cousins, aunts and uncles, new family members, future family members and just let God speak to me through the quiet and re-energize me for the final two weeks of school before I get to return home to Ohio for two more weeks of rest.

Dear friends, I think this type of Soul care, just getting away is important in our Christian walks. I know Jesus did it, several times He just went away and found a quiet place to pray, to just spend time with His father. This is a part of being healthy Christians, it gives us time to study and just lose ourselves in the father. It allows Him to get us apart from the busy lives we try to lead and really work and speak with us. To prepare us for the next season of life , no matter how short.

Where is your place of peace, your escape, the place you just get to discover God? How much time do you spend there? How often do you get away? If the answer is I don’t know, none and I don’t then dear friends you are on your way to burn-out. I pray that happens to none of you, yes we must keep feeding the poor, we must keep clothing the naked, we must keep healing the sick and we must keep visiting the prisoners and preaching the gospel. But we can’t do that if we are burnt out and used up by the task God has given us to do well, we have only been portioned one life and God wants to use that to the fullest extent He can, but He also cares for us and wants us to be healthy and to do that sometimes, you just need to get away.

Jon Faulkner
10:31 Ministries

The Cry for Standards

December 15, 2011

“We could be on the verge of another great reformation”
A Pastor quoting someone else.

This past spring I began working on a book that was going to be entitled “New Depth” it was a collection of my essay’s that have been released over the years, redefined with my changed theological stance. After a conversation with a friend and God’s continued changing of How I viewed both Him and theology I quit working on the book, and no I don’t have any plans to pick it up again.

The premise of the book was that there was and is a need for renewed depth in Christian Faith. with the onslaught of the seeker friendly movement that has created what I call “Toothpick Christianity” Christians who were an early part of that movement find themselves searching again for answers.

They had been introduced to a God who simply loved them, a Christian faith without the atrocities of a brutal cross. Told by their pastors that God was simply going to make them happy, that Jesus was their friend and that we were all going to heaven. Taught that if they were struggling then it was because of something they had done. Christians who didn’t understand that God also corrects us, teaches us and reforms us, and that reformation is painful.

Christians without a foundation, without a full view of God as sustain-er in time of need. They were taught that religion was a dirty word and that the standards set by Jesus weren’t meant to be taken as rules but more as guidelines, and don’t worry you don’t really have to follow them, that’s what grace is for.

Passionate on the surface from they were like the seed that fell on the thorny ground. They’re fire quickly died they became cold in their faith and some fell away. The church of seeker friendly faith kept converting people, creating more toothpick Christianity, meanwhile those who remained rooted in the faith began to feel empty, they began to seek out a new answer to their questions. “This couldn’t be right, there’s no way this is right!” they said to themselves

Suddenly a new cry for depth had been raised. What was faith? what did it mean o be on fire for God? Maybe there’s more than just being happy? Maybe God wants more from me than just my worship on Sunday? Maybe there’s a firm foundation?

My friends we must learn the foundations of our faith! The message of the cross, the message of the gospels. We must allow God to reform our ideas and transform our minds. We can’t engage in the conversation if what the conversation is saying is wrong. We are called to be in the word so let’s be in the word. Let’s return to the message of the gospel and retreat to the mighty fortress of our God. We are Children of God and Children have to have discipline but we won’t learn how to be disciplined until we learn the standards God has set.

So what do we do? we learn to pray, we learn to study, we learn to do exegesis. As leaders we learn to lead, to serve to love. Here is the call for depth, the call to come back to the Gospel. To reform our theology and discover once again the gospel free from the countless restrictions of fundamentalism and the extreme social gospel.

“It’s like this” my friend Pastor Joel Wood told me once. “reformed theology is like playing on a mountain top, you can either have a fence and have fun in the fence. Or you can get rid of the fence and put yourself in danger.” So let’s adopt again the reformed theology and instead of pretending, really, truly be free.

Jon Faulkner
10:31 Ministries

Praying in times of Trouble.

October 30, 2011

For those who don’t know because of my visual disability I wear a very thick set of contacts. These contacts are a special prescription that cost around $300.00 to purchase. They generally last about six months and then have to be replaced because they begin to make your vision worse. In the time I’ve worn them I’ve lost the left one and I’ve lost the right one but never at the same time, that is until this week. I had lost the right one over the summer which is okay because I can train my eyes to work just fine off one contact but when you don’t have both your world becomes a hardly discern-able blur so bad that one can’t really make out the people who are speaking to them without great difficulty. The blind have many responses to this inability to recognize people, one of which is to memorize a persons voice, but even that can fail at times.

It’s certainly made the past week interesting considering I still have to go to classes and work. This morning at breakfast someone who was unfamiliar to me sat down (I didn’t know them, had never seen them with contacts) and I had to ask their name. I’ve also had some very intense headaches that yesterday caused me to have to leave work early.

It’s safe to say that this has been a bit of a trial for me. For one I value my independence, I like to make people forget that I have a visual disability, I hate asking for help with anything and because of that Pride has always been a struggle in my life. But then what of my relationship with Christ? Where does the strength and new insight God has given me over the past six months come into this trial?

After the contact disappeared I found myself asking a couple of questions in relation to God’s role in our trials

The Question: Why would God allow to experience trials?: Why would God allow the wind to come up and blow away the one device I use to see at all times? Well if God wants to be good to us I’d say that He wouldn’t allow it. That the wind is part of a fallen creation and therefore unless God said to the wind “Go and take away Faulkner’s contacts” (which I doubt). No instead I believe that God, seeing my contact fly away and seeing the six or seven Professor’s, RD’s and Students searching for it was awaiting my reaction. Would I be teachable or would I slide into depression like I have so many times in the past. Would I be faithful to my studies, using the technology He has so graciously given me to continue pressing on towards the goal of getting my BA in Ministry, or would I sit in my room and pout because I couldn’t see.

I think when we experience trials at the hands of a depraved world or just to fallen creation God wants more than anything for our reaction. He wants to see if we are going to let Him teach us because it is in times of trials that God teaches some of the biggest lessons and reveals to us the most about who He is.

So what is the best reaction in times of trouble?

The Solution: Praying in times of trouble:  When I returned to my room that night I had two options: 1. Be extremely angry at myself for losing that contact, sink into depression and fall asleep for as long as I could so as not to think about it as I would have done last year. Whining the whole time to my friends and causing great strain to my closest friendships or 2. I can fall down on my knees before the true and living God, who’s so big as to have supremacy over all creation who is also personal enough to know me inside and out and loves me despite my short comings.

Now with all that God has been showing me and teaching me this past six or seven months the first option didn’t make much sense. So I fell down on my knees and asked God for His sustaining love to hold me up while I struggled with not being able to see. I cried out to Him, asked others to pray for me, called my dad and instead of taking no action, got the ball rolling on getting a new pair that will hopefully get here later this week. I continued going to work in the Theater, continued going to classes, even asked for help.

The Result: A Closer Walk with Thee: Through this experience I have found that in times of trouble God is closer to us if we let Him. When we turn and run from His grace in times of trouble, when we hide behind our self pity instead of taking troubles directly to the feet of Christ we will only feel worse. However when we drop down to our knees in prayer, and ask others to pray for us it allows God to show up and do something incredible. To reveal to us the strength of our friendships, to show us the strength of His love. If we forget that God can sustain us and rely totally on others we are going to be let down but if we hit the word and pray God draws us in and brings us closer to Him. Our walks get closer, God moves and suddenly a time of trouble turns into a time of communion with Christ, and though the trouble is still there we have a closeness with a big God who’s hand will sustain us through that time of trouble.

It’s interesting that God would choose to reveal all this to me during a spiritual emphasis week devoted to prayer but dear friends this is important. Just as Jesus prayed in the Garden, we should pray in times of troubles. In that moment of weakness we should rely heavily on an unchanging God. Unlike Jesus in the Garden we don’t know the outcome but if we lean on the one who does we are much better off.

If you are struggling with anything, whether it’s the future, a relationship, being far from home, whatever it is, I encourage you to commit it totally to prayer. To allow God the pleasure of glorifying Himself through you. Then rest assured that the same God who sustained the Israelites’ in the wilderness, who took Gideon and made Him a great leader and who sent His son to die for your sins. Is the same God who will see you through your times of trouble, who wants to teach you and who desires to hear your troubles. Dear friends, every thing in times of trouble, take it to the Lord in prayer!

Jon Faulkner
10:31 Ministries