Month: February 2012

Outta Control and Outta the Lifeboat.

February 26, 2012

“well it’s a bit passionate for your radio, that’s alright though it’s good for your soul, it feels good to be out of control, it feels good to be out of control” John Ruben.

This morning I want to invite you into a world you’ve probably been a part of for years, a world where Christians are constantly moving, where we never slow down or rest, where we think if we aren’t doing something or being all things to all people at all times we are being bad Christians. Welcome to the new world of the Christian, a world where the demand for purity and action has become so ingrained in us we lose our hearts and eventually our heads. This is a graceless world where one slip brings us judgement from our peers and superiors, where we determine who’s the best by their actions.

We think we can continue under the amount of stress we are putting ourselves under. We start to ignore signs such as sickness and depression, we start to get angry at the people we love, we snap at them, push them away. Then we lose our hearts, we become colder and eventually we are operating totally out of duty and the thought that we have no other choice. Then we either get so sick we are forced to stop and are hospitalized or we die, and when we recover we start the entire cycle again. Helping everybody, doing everything, getting sick, lather, rinse, repeat.

But how did we get here? What has brought us to this point of what we call Burn-Out? I recently posed this question to one of my professors lately, the response I got was this: “That’s something our generation really screwed up, we didn’t do spiritual formation like we should have and now your generation is paying the price. I only hope that we can train your generation to learn from our mistakes.”

I posed the idea in an earlier article that we have forgotten the value of our souls, but I’m starting to see a different problem affecting this. Problems that are holding us back from true Spiritual formation, from really experiencing the work of Sanctification.

The Lifeboat: The place we determine our worth. 

The best analogy I’ve ever heard for this other problem was proposed by Donald Miller in his amazing book Searching for God Knows What. Miller calls this second problem Life in the Lifeboat, I call it Lifeboat theory. Lifeboat Theory is the idea that we basically live in a lifeboat and we’re trying to determine who the best person in the lifeboat really is. I’ve spent most of my Christian walk in the Lifeboat, it’s not until recently that I jumped ship and joined Christ who Miller says “doesn’t need a boat.”

The lifeboat is something our culture has created, culture says that we should all be individuals, we don’t need others so we need to make sure we are better than everyone else, make sure everyone likes us and wants us around so we can stay in the boat, so we don’t get kicked out by those who are better than us. It becomes a lot of posturing, for me it was why I achieved everything under the sun, I wanted people to like me based on those achievements, I wanted to stay in the lifeboat.

House Rules: How the Lifeboat Fuels Burn-Out. 

Think about it as playing blackjack by House Rules, in the end the House will always win, you can play till two in the morning but the house will eventually clean you out (it will never fold, trust me.) John Calvin said that we’re all playing a game, and if we’re playing a game then our busy, individualistic, look at me society has set the house rules and if you don’t play by those rules then you’re out of the lifeboat.

So we do our best to stay busy, to keep going, to run as fast as we can so we can stay in the lifeboat. We teach Sunday School, we love others, we start ministries, we get into relationships, we do school, we go and go and go until we can’t go anymore so we can be accepted and loved by our friends and hopefully not have enemies. We become leaders who just want to stay in the lifeboat and that is far from a good place to lead from.

We Don’t Need a Lifeboat:  Because Jesus Walked on Water 

So how do we combat this, how do we get away from this cycle? We need to start by getting out of the Lifeboat. The best advice I was ever given was to stop, I got that advice this summer when my roommate pulled me aside. You see despite the house rules set for us by society there is a need that is now starting to be vocalized among the leaders of the upcoming generation, a need for authenticity, a need for community, a need to give up control.

Christians are starting to pray, reaching out to God and realizing that the pace we are keeping will only kill us if we allow it to keep going. People are tired of the monster that is devouring their homes and their hearts, culture has reached the end of a break-out cycle and it wants something better. Christians want out of the lifeboat and we’re starting to realize again that Jesus walked on water.

Soul Care: Becoming Irrelevant in comparison 

Henri Nouwen said in his book In the Name of Jesus that the way of the Christian Leader in the next generation needs to look more like someone who is irrelevant. Someone who doesn’t worry about these things, someone like David in Psalms 131, someone who goes against the social norms of business and takes care of themselves.

This requires us to get out of the lifeboat and stop playing by house rules. We need to still and quiet our spirits and learn to listen to the Lord, we need to take time to listen to God and allow Him to move and transform us. This requires us to give up control, to acknowledge that God is sovereign, that God’s views on us are what we are really searching for. That with all our activities and all the seeking of human affection and attention will pale in comparison to what God really thinks about us and has to saw about who we are. God provides the ultimate form of validation that we will never get from our fellow humans. God silently whispers to us, moves in us, tells us who we are and transforms our thinking.

Transformed: What I discovered outside of the lifeboat and out of control

When I discovered this suddenly a light switched on, I realized that I was heading towards a dead end in Ministry and in life. My daily activities were meant to make me look good to others and my soul suffered because it wasn’t taking the time to surrender to God’s perfect will. Once I did that I realized that with God in control and my will being transformed into God’s my joy was complete. I was no longer fighting with God or others, nor did I rely on others to tell me who I was, instead I was experiencing God through scripture and through amazing times of prayer. I saw my gifts begin to develop and my love for people grew exponentially. .

God is transforming my thinking through things like quiet time. I know there is nothing wrong with being busy but it does become a problem when you are leading from a bad place and not taking care of yourself.

So let’s get out of the Lifeboat, let’s give up control of our lives to a Sovereign God who has raised us out of the water and given us new names. We should follow Jesus example and get away, go out into the wilderness to pray and listen to the words of the Psalmist “My soul waits for the Lord, and in His word I hope, My soul waits for the Lord, like the watchmen waits for the morning, Like the watchman waits for the morning.” (Psalms 130:5-6 ESV).

Lay it down dear friends, stop the cycle and bask in the amazing love of Christ and presence of God. Find a quiet place where you can mediate on His words and do things that we want to do. We can’t do it all friends, we were never meant to, that’s why the Body of Christ is so important, we are called to live in community and bear each others burdens.

So STOP, listen to God and let Him retrain your mind and let’s lead from a better place!

Welcome to a new world, one with grace and compassion and healthy Christians as we discover true soul care moved by God’s will and sheer greatness to lead from the greatest place possible, God’s heart.

I praise God for you readers!
Jonathan Faulkner

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At the Last Perfect Moment

February 17, 2012

I would have loved to have been a bug on a log the day Abraham took Isaac, his only son, to the top of the mountain, built an alter, bound him and prepared to sacrifice him. To hear the Angel of the Lord say to Abraham as he lifts up the knife to slaughter his son like the bull or lamb they would have been offering. Read the account in Genesis 22:9-14

“When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:9-14 ESV)

How would it have been to witness this test that Abraham had to endure! Praise God for the bull who just so happened to get his horns caught.

Flash forward to the time of Jesus: Here we are just coming out the intertestamental period, Rome is in control and the people of Israel are oppressed both politically and religiously by the pharisees and teachers of the law. The demand for purity was so great, something needed to be done. Then Jesus comes onto the scene and He speaks with authority. He invites a group of fisherman and Tax Collectors into a relationship with God, into a relationship to something bigger. Then people began to follow the teachings of Jesus and they were freed from the strict adherence to laws. The covenant changed from a covenant of law, to a covenant of grace. This all proceeded the death of Christ on the cross, the death that He died so we didn’t have to, the happy exchange. Suddenly we had peace with God, we were no longer slaves to our sin nature. The law became a standard of living, something we do because we are alive, because we have been raised to “Newness of life” Rom 4:18.

Suddenly things changed, grace abounded.

The point here is not the point I made in the last edition of this post. The point here is that God shows up at the exact perfect time, in every situation. Just when Abraham was about to bring down the knife, to slaughter his only son the Lord intervened and gave a bull. Just when man was the most oppressed, when the nation of Israel was in need of something new, something fresh God sent His only son to die on a cross for our sins.

At the perfect time these things happened.

So what about us? This summer, as I was tired of my myself, of the way I thought other treated me, as I was complaining and seeking so much to be validated, God showed up. Through the voice of a discerning leader and teacher who challenged me to spend a week in silence. God met me in that week, allowed me to feel depression, loneliness and ultimately a communion with my creator that I had never before experienced. He began to mold me, shape my opinions and attitudes, my thinking changed and transformed.

So here we are, we’re in our darkest hours or maybe we aren’t. We’re searching for something, searching for an out for a situation or for solitude, validation, friendship, love the list goes on. We let it eat at us and eat at us and when we can’t take it anymore because we may have been ignoring God or not sure about what He’s saying or whatever the situation God steps in.

If you take anything out of this I want you to know dear ones that if you’re lonely, angry, hurting, if you can’t take it anymore, if you’re afraid, unsure, in need of love, in need of council and fallen people are letting you down God will step in and surprise you. His grace will come flooding into your life and as you endure the trial and persevere through what may seem like an unending trial God will show up and He will surprise you.

Just like Abraham was undoubtedly surprised when he turned to see the bull, just like the Jews were probably surprised to find their savior was a carpenters son who would die on the cross. God will surprise us and change us and transform us and move us to a better place.

Dear friends, let grace surprise you, let God surprise you! Let Him move in you and transform you through His word. Don’t fear when trials come, don’t get down when you think you can’t make it. God is there, guiding you, never allowing you to face more than you can handle then holding us and healing us as He carries us through!

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This Changes Everything

February 11, 2012

I got the poster while at Warrior Fest my freshmen year of College from a booth set up by the local Assemblies of God Church here in Sterling. The poster, is a picture of the cross back lighted by a wash of vibrant colors, in big block letters it reads “This Changes Everything.” At that time I was still a legalist, I hadn’t had my encounter with my friend, my whole system of truth was based on going my own, deep study of the Gospel wasn’t important to me and my understanding of God was that he was small and angry. But I liked how it looked so I hung it above my desk where it still hangs today.

As I’ve been reading and studying Romans I’ve been constantly confronted by the question, why is the cross so important. Why exactly did this one act of punishment for someone who the Pharisee’s and religious leaders considered a heretic change everything. How does a punishment that the Jews considered cursed cause a complete change.

How does this work? Since the first presentation of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15 where the Lord tells the serpent “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 ESV). God had a plan in place and I don’t think anyone understood what it really meant when once again Isaiah began talking about Christ being “Pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5a).

Did they even realize what was coming when Jesus says  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
(Luke 9:22 ESV). Or the implications of the last supper. (Lk 22:1-38, Mt 14:17-25). Did they realize what these things meant or had they missed it all together.

I guess it would make since, Israel at this point was looking for a military leader, the Maccabees Revolution of the interdepartmental period still on their minds. They were expecting someone to come in and save them from the “oppressive” Roman Empire, a hero of the people. Instead they got the son of a carpenter, a soft but authoritative speaker who loved those around Him and called out the religious leaders, all while upholding the law. Instead of a Military leader they got a revised teaching, Instead of freedom from Rome they got freedom from making daily sacrifices and sin, and a Cross.

So how does this change everything? Romans 3:21-26

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”
(Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

The Key word here is found in 3:25, “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a Propitiation by His blood.” Suddenly this changes everything. Think my friends, we were under a sacrificial system, a system where we daily had to sacrifice and cleanse ourselves to be presentable to God. That sin we were repenting for, that sin that angered God to the point where He should have destroyed us and at one point did destroy humanity with the exception of Noah and his family. The same sin that caused God to turn us over to a depraved mind (Romans 118-25), the same sin that spurred God’s wrath against us, we have now received propitiation (total appeasement of God’s wrath) through the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Suddenly instead of death we have life through the death of Christ. We now have peace with God (Romans 5:1) because of the blood of Christ (Rom 5, Col 1:20). Instead of getting what we deserve we got what Christ deserved and instead of getting what He deserves, He got what we deserve. The great Reformer Martin Luther called this “The Happy Exchange” and indeed it is. Instead of wrath we receive grace.
Once you really start to think about this it really makes John 3:16 a lot more powerful. Think about it, add the thoughts from Romans in. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, to be the propitiation for our sins so that we might have peace with God through the blood of Christ, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

My friends this is grace stemming from love of a big God who is living and active in our lives. This is where our salvation comes from, not from anything we’ve done but because of what Christ did, not because of our works but the grace of God, this is how the cross changes everything.

Now we are free from sin, buried with Christ and raised to new life in Him, now dead to sin and given newness of life, and have become slaves to righteousness and committed to a new standard of teaching that is the word of God. (Rom 6).

As the real message and meaning of the cross has begun to come alive to me, as the real meaning of the life of Christ has begun permeating my life and my thoughts I find I am moved to tears by the cross. After a discussion today I found myself in tears walking to my room because of the beauty of this message. The bloody, cruel death we are given a description of in the Prophets and the Gospels is why we are free.

We deserved death, but we’ve been given life.

My friends here is God’s heart, here is our new life, here is grace.

This is why this message is so offensive, why some churches have removed the cross from their walls. Because in our culture today we’ve been brought up to be self-focused and the message of the cross makes us totally dependent on Christ for our salvation.

Let us rejoice in this, let us find peace in this and let it daily remind us that we were sinful and have been new, washed by the blood of Christ. Oh dear friends, I say again, this is grace!

Jonathan Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries

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The Surprise of Grace

February 2, 2012

***I know I have an article coming out tomorrow but I felt the need to share this with you, I pray you enjoy it and don’t mind the extra sharing from me.***

I talked to an old friend of mine this morning, from my Global Expeditions trip to Dallas Texas, a trip I probably should share more about in the blog, the very trip where I received my calling. She told me that her spiritual life had been lacking to the extreme but God had recently pulled her out of it and now she was going hard after her father in heaven. It was inspiring to see her so on fire for God and how much God had blessed her for her obedience to His calling.

Along the same lines a brother of mine was recently very tired, he’d been going to class and doing homework and it was absolutely draining him. I stopped him on his way to dinner and confronted him about what I was seeing. He admitted he hadn’t been spending the time he needed to spend in the word. I advised him to spend an hour in the word that afternoon, just him and God. He did and later came back and thanked me for the advice. I’ve noticed he’s seemed a lot healthier the last two days.

In my last post I talked about how I had become burned out, I told you how I was tired and weary and needed some time with Christ. I told you how I went down to the church and sat and prayed and I shared with you the result of that time. Because of that time I am once again spiritually healthy and the last week of quiet time has been incredible as I’ve been exploring the Gospel of Luke.

On a larger scale I look at the church, people are leaving, God has been backed into a figurative corner of system. Our evangelical tradition has given us a set of tract friendly verses that give a good outline, but are far from the big picture. We are either given the “do, do, do” message over and over again or we hear a watered down christian message that creates toothpick Christians. The “do, do, do” results in burnt out Christians, the seeker friendly church creates skin deep Christians. The church is in need of rest, in need of revival, in need of  reformation.

As I’ve begun to involve myself in the study of church history, and more specifically the life of the great American Evangelist Jonathan Edwards I can’t help but get the feeling we are missing something. Isaac Crook tells us in his book on the Evangelist that Edwards was constantly surprised by grace. No wonder since he lived during both of America’s Great Awakening’s. Even great french reformer John Calvin was must have been surprised by grace when had what he called and “unexpected conversion.”

In some ways I can say my own conversion story was a bit of a surprise, I don’t know what drove me to the cold concrete floor that night on November 3, 2005, I just know I encountered a God that at that time I didn’t believe in. Now, seven years later, as I study the book of Romans I find the lengths that the God of universe went to, to declare us righteous and to be the God who justifies through the gift of faith by grace because of the death of Christ as surprising as ever (Romans 1-8).

Think about it for a second, if God is just then He would have no choice but to destroy us. How can He justify us if He is just? This is what my father calls “God’s dilemma,” a dilemma that was solved by Christ who came to be teh Propitiation (total appeasement of God’s wrath) through his death on the cross. It was the act of that death of the cross that we are justified and have peace with God. Because of that death we are under grace and through grace given the gift of faith. If we are broken and sinful, even depraved as scripture says we are then shouldn’t this surprise us? It surprises me, God being greater than the greatest conceivable being chose to be personal and send his son so that we might have salvation. I certainly don’t deserve that kind of love, I’m surprised.

I’m sure grace surprised everyone present at the Pharisee’s house that night the woman came in and poured the Perfume on Jesus feet and washed them with her tears. This story in Luke 7:36-50 surprises me, especially as one who can still be legalistic at times. I probably would have been like the Pharisee or those present who scolded Jesus for allowing the woman to even touch Him. Jesus tells the following story and gives the following response.

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
(Luke 7:41-48 ESV)

The more I dig into Scripture the more I find these kinds of encounters with Jesus. The woman at the well in the book of John as well as the woman the Pharisee’s brought to Jesus under the accusation of Adultery. So many examples of grace that should surprise us. I don’t find this surprise in a tract with tract friendly verses, yes they might do some good but a tract has never saved anyone, grace has been given so that we all can be saved.

So let’s stop, take a second to look around us. Forget the tracts and begin to delight in the grace of God. Listen to each others stories and start digging deeper and deeper into scripture. Following our religion with a passion unmatched by any. Let’s run the race set forth before us and push forward to win the prize that is eternity with Christ Jesus.

Dear friends, let us be surprised again by grace, surprised by the work of God. As my friends above have seen through their time in scripture and recent rapture into the heart of God have been surprised! Look up to heaven be amazing by our big and personal God who is both just and the one who justifies. Dear ones, let us be surprised by grace!

Of this one thing I am sure
It’s time to go deep.
Jonathan Faulkner
10:31 Ministries: Director
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