Month: February 2016

Nothing Radical about the Radicals.

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By Jonathan David Faulkner.

 

Since January GHFT has ran two articles concerning popular Facebook Evangelist Joshua Feuerstien. The man who gained national recognition when he began the #MerryChristamsStarbucks controversy last fall. He also released a video claiming that “Disney was trying to send your kids to hell” and is one of the people behind the “Facebook Church” movement that has drawn in 1.5 million followers. His live videos showing him doing everything from shooting guns with his four children to ranting and raving about the Obama and the “Gay Agenda.”

Up until now we have tried to approach this with kindness, compassion and understanding. To lovingly rebuke the public figure with the hope of at least some response. However, Joshua has not responded to accusations that he ceases to teach Christian doctrine at all. Recently though it has been harder and harder for us to approach him, or his followers with love because of another problem that was exposed in the Andy Mineo controversy in mid-February.

The whole debate was over Christians and curse words. While God’s Heart does not necessarily condone  the use of curse words or abrasive language we are willing to make concessions and we do agree with Andy when he says that the “Words in and of themselves are not evil, but their intentions can be.” Of course, his defense of using such language sparked a twitter war which somehow came to the attention of Joshua Feuestine. Feuestine berated and mocked the rapper, who he claims mocked his (Andy’s) own fans. Stating that: “Mineo needs to start taking lessons in Humility- like Yesterday.”

Of course, we have established in previous articles that Feuestien refuses to acknowledge anything less than perfection from Christians. Stating on Facebook the tired and abused misquotation of Wesley that has somehow morphed into “God will make it so you do not sin.” This kind of innocuous, instant sanctification that they have supposedly received has thus given them the right to pass down judgment on everyone from 14-year-old Disney stars to Christian Rapper Andy Mineo to yours truly. Dismissing any dissenting viewpoint and cheering loudly when anyone in popular society takes a misstep.

Of course, they claim to love everyone. Recently he and his wife Jessica released about the most insincere video in all of what is left of Christendom. Posing before the rainbow they told everyone in the “Gay Community” that they loved them and then told them to go and buy Jessica’s CD. This only a week after a video condemning the NFL for supporting the “Gay Agenda” during the Half-time show (Although if he’d stayed he may have been much more offended by what followed). He did the same when Kanye started a GoFundMe campaign to cover his debts. Contributing $10 to the campaign with a note telling Kanye to “Use it to buy his wife’s CD.” Three days later The Radicals ran a story celebrating Kanye’s downfall.

This makes us wonder, why would anyone follow this guy? Why has he amassed one of the largest facebook followings of a religious page ever? Perhaps it is the same reason Donald Trump has risen to power, he plays one everyone’s fears and then throws in some sort of hope that he things is true hope but really is not. Meaning, he may point to Jesus Christ, but if you were to come to Christ under Feuestien and then allow yourself to be coddled and disciple at his “Facebook Church” you might find you feel more oppressed than you did before you were a believer. And were I not a believer, I would want nothing to do with Christianity after watching Joshua’s video.

As we sat at a birthday party last night a group of us were discussing the topic of Christian Rap and Mineo’s defense of curse words. What it comes down to is this; We are justified at Salvation and the work of Sanctification begins. As a brother said to me once: “People say you have to get your life together, well, I quit doing drugs, got off the street, have a job, quit drinking, I still gotta work on the smoking, but I’m a work in progress brother.” Feuerstien of course had to take a shot at Mineo, which is recorded above. GHFT wonders when Joshua became the judge and jury, and subsequent executioner? Who appointed him to be the Holy Spirit? Yes, we live set apart, but it is a work of sanctification by the spirit, not something we can bully others into doing, which is what Joshua does.

Feuestine’s theology and ideology do not allow for that progressive life change and so, abusively, he demands that all Christians live in some strange perfection, making sure they do not sin, not actually enjoying the freedom of the Gospel. This makes grace unattainable and destroys the young believer who keeps falling into sin. On the love-grace spectrum there is no love and there is no grace when it comes to Feuestien.

So stay away from The Radicals, avoid Facebook Church at all costs and encourage your friends away from Feuestien. We would never follow Westboro like these 1.5 million follow Joshua and his message is not dissimilar to theirs. The difference is the group targeted.

We also charge Joshua to respond, not to start some twitter war or made online debate, but to face his accusers and answer our complaints. If he can show us we are wrong then we will cease running these articles, if he cannot, they will continue. This is not a smear campaign, we believe even the worst of false teachers can be redeemed, that is what we wish, in the meantime, we should would be remiss if we did not warn you of the dangers of the teachings of Joshua Feuestien.

If you are wondering how we have the authority to make these assertions, remember we are called to judge a teaching and a teacher by their fruits. If the fruit does not line up with what Scripture and Church History tells us the fruit should be then we can discern that this is not something we should listen to or perpetuate.

The Dry Places or Dehydrated in New Mexico

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By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

I got stuck in New Mexico once, in a town high in the mountains, somewhere between Albuquerque and Denver. Waiting for a bus that would take me north towards the city that would, in a lot of ways, define my spiritual life henceforth. A place where the abused kid would be transformed into the beginnings of the God-directed man. It was dry, the coolness of late May was already giving way to the heat of June. I had not slept in over 24 hours and my fluid intake had consisted mostly of coffee and one bottle of water. I could tell I was dehydrated when I stepped off the train that had picked me up twelve hours earlier in Hutchinson Kansas. A train ride that seemed more ridiculous in its scheduling than having a layover in Chicago when you are flying from Dallas to Detroit. It would be another 10 hours from that moment to the time I would get in the car with Riccardo and go the wrong way down a one way street and nearly get hit by a car, my first experience in Denver.

There I was, down to my last dollar, not sure what God was going to do, not prepared for the Amazing work of grace that would be the next three months. I was essentially alone, waiting at the old train station, watching for a bus that would eventually be four hours late. No gas stations, no water fountains, no place for me to quench my thirst, just me and the dry air and a town that was oblivious to my existence.

There was an advantage to that time, I had all my books with me, my Bible held its usual place in my travel bag. I took it out and began to read it. Something I had often done in the three weeks of near complete isolation in the time since Sterling’s graduation and the time I left for the trip. I had found myself continually drinking of its wine, tasting of its life giving words. I was two years out of Albany Baptist, two weeks out of counseling and two years into a degree in Christian Education with an Urban Concentration. I had not opened my Bible much in the previous years without it being an obligation. Part of some morning religious practice, void of true communion with the spirit or understanding of its words. Along with the church, scripture was in need of redemption for me. But in that time before this trip I had spend a lot of tiem reading it, pouring over it and even, I found, praying it. In the dry and empty state of my soul, believing in God and knowing much theology but not truly knowing Him.

I prayed the prayer of my youth, the prayer of a kid who had met God on a concrete floor, served in Dallas and been called to Urban Ministry. “Lord, show me your heart.” In that dry place, in the middle of that dry little town. I was not sure of what I was actually asking, I was not sure what I was expecting to find in such an inquiry, nor was I prepared to receive an answer. I wanted to fall in Love with God again, I wanted to know who I was in Him. The war between desiring to know Him and be accepted and liked by my peers was about to be put to rest. Had I known that I would have ran, gone to Tarshish as it were, had I known what God was going to do I would have fought it. I am glad for the sake of His glory that I did not. Three months later I left Denver on the beginnings of a journey that has, to this day, been the greatest adventure a young man could ask for.

But it started in a dry place. It started in a time when I felt so far from God that I could not say I truly knew Him. When my study of scripture had been purely academic, meant to meet some requirement I had placed on myself. I would stay in that place of spiritual dryness for the next month in a half, a time when God was completing the work that the deprogrammers had begun. Breaking my heart for His people, tearing me down to the point in which I would say, a month later: “God take it all, let there be nothing left.”

For some of us, sitting in the dry places seems like a contradiction in the Christian Life. We seem to believe that any state of dryness is a sign of spiritual incompetence. We think that going out in the wilderness means we are away from God and that we need to get back to where we are constantly drinking from the mountain stream. We think the dry and the desolate are negative to our spiritual development.

Dr. Briones once asked our Pauline Literature class: “What do you do when you need a break from studying scripture?” Meaning, those of us who have dedicated our lives to study of scripture and the application therein, who can get burned out on it, how do we deal with such a dilemma. My answer was “to read scripture.” In that, my strategy was to step back from the academic study and pray the psalms or practice one of the many meditative disciplines’ I had learned. To just sit with God and His word and let the Holy Spirit refresh me and refresh Scripture in my mind. I had to sit in the dryness of the early minutes of those moments, embrace them, acknowledge the condition.

Desolation was an important part of Jesus Ministry, 11 times in Luke we are told that “Jesus went away to a quiet or desolate place. The temptation of Jesus happened in a dry place and after it was over Jesus was ministered to by His heavenly father, in the dryness. Not after He had returned to the city, but while He was still in the wilderness.

I think those dry places are meant to be places where we wrestle with God. Like Jacob wrestling with God by the river, they become times for us to receive from God directly, void of the distractions and pressures that come with ministry. I would even say that they are necessary to our growth and development as believers. That there are times we must leave the responsibility of life behind us for a season and take a sabbatical. Taking the time, not to minister to one another, but to be ministered to by God. Then, when God has replenished us, we may return to the busyness of life.

There is a statistic, in my field, about pastors who work in the inner city. That is that 40% of them will go into another field after 10 years of Ministry. Another 35% will leave the inner city for smaller churches, burned out and in desperate need of a change. Two of my closest friends in the Pastorate have passed away at young ages (35 and 40) because of the lack of a break in the rigors of pastoral ministry in an Urban environment. Both of their surviving spouses shared with me laments of not taking enough time off, the second lamented their first vacation in 7 years being canceled due to her husband’s death. We need times in the wilderness, we need the dry places, we need to feel dry. If only to be reminded of our need for God to fill us, or to wrestle with those things that may be hindering our relationship with Him.

Yes, God is always with us, He is continuously present, and He will speak life to us if we ask Him. But if we never simply sit and let Him fill us we are going to become quite ineffective in being used to fill others. It is good to have nothing left, it means we are in a great place to be filled and satisfied in the spiritual meat of scripture and drink deep of the presence of Christ.

It may benefit us to seek the wilderness, to wake up in the morning and go out into the spiritual dessert to be filled and satisfied in Christ. Then, throughout the day we can walk with Christ and speak life to others, being aware of His constant life-giving indwelling. Pouring out the love we are shown to others, drawing them deeper into community with Him and with one another.

Do not fear the wilderness, or despise the dry place, turn your face to Heaven in those times and be drink and eat and be filled on the heavenly bread and wine.

 

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

 

 

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Constant Presence: When the Holy Meets the Mundane.

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

There is a modern convention in Protestantism that says that “We must invite the Holy Spirit into these places, he doesn’t show up unless we invite him. God doesn’t come unless we invite him.” There is not a day that goes by when we do not see some Evangelist saying “God just showed up and it was awesome.” Or “The presence of God was heavy on this place, He came.” And it may have been, God certainly shows up when we are together and His power is evident and can be felt among us. But if we show up on Sunday Morning and get out Holy Spirit Hour and then go home I believe we are missing something, denying ourselves the fullness of a Spirit guided life. The Protestant ideal of: “Show up on Sunday and do your best the rest of the week” has created a generation of poorly fed and spiritually frustrated Christians who believe that God only shows up in Churches.

Sadly, this is taken to an extreme when we try to make that experience of the spirit normative for everyone. Legalistically insisting that people have “Conversion Confirming” experiences, similar to the Puritan “Signs of Conversion” that were required to join the church. The idea that we all have to have the same experience of the spirit is absurd, and abusive. But so is the idea that God is only present when we are in Church or in our private bible study, or when we gather together for Wednesday Evening Church Coffee or whatnot.

Perhaps the belief justifies us, if we think God only shows up in the Holy Places we can get away with our condemnation and lack of love towards outsiders. If God only appears during great worship music, maybe we can get away with lusting or stealing or slandering. Or may we think that during the rest of those times God just sits up in heaven and does not mind what we do. Absent from everyday life, conversing with the Holy Spirit and with Jesus about those silly little humans there. Maybe we think God is just waiting to pounce on us in condemnation, the Great Dictator, demanding His own glory and forcing strict obedience on His people. None of these views of God are correct, yes, God hates sin and one day we will answer for what we have done, but we will also be met with Love and Grace and the reality of our covering of the Blood of the Lamb. Yes, God is transcendent, existing outside of time and space, but that does not mean He is outside of human affairs, disinterested in your life, hearing your prayers and then maybe acting…or maybe not.

He is, the Triune God, the Father, Son and Spirit in one, He is the glorious God, the Magnificent God and the Glorious God. Nothing could be greater because nothing greater could be conceived. And He is not disinterested in human affairs, Only showing up when we invite Him, giving us esoteric highs and “Bringing us to new levels of freedom.” He is constantly at work in our lives, seeking to guide us, affirm us, correct us…Love us.

My dad once told me: “I am convinced that we have the word of God, and the Spirit of God so engrained in us, we can sometimes forget that it is there.” I think my father is right. When we become believers and receive the Holy Spirit it becomes a part of us, a great mystery, to use an imperfect phrase, a divine symbiosis where we benefit by being Sanctified and God is glorified by the way we learn to live righteous and upright lives and the mission of God is filled through His presence within us. You cannot separate yourself, even the Apostate may be hounded by the Spirit until they either grow numb to His voice or return to relationship with God. The Nonbeliever feels His calling, sees His grace and is thus compelled by the divine to believe. He is always with us, He has never left, He has never forsaken us, we are His and He is always with us.

We then, must learn to acknowledge that Holy reality, not just when it comes to Holy Sacraments or when the worship leader says to, but in every single mundane and daily activity. We must tune our spirits to hearing God’s voice, knowing He is there and feeling His presence. This is difficult, it requires us to step back, turn off the noise of cell-phones and computers and the distraction of Social Media and really discipline ourselves. Then we may gradually re-integrate these things into our lives and see how God uses them for His purposes.

I remember the story of Brother Lawrence, a Monk who had the desire to serve God but was rather clumsy. A cripple who dreaded those times he would have to go out to the marketplace. He did however have one great talent, washing dishes. Brother Lawrence was a fierce foe to grease and stains, no stuck on food was safe when he was in the kitchen. It was in these times though that Brother Lawrence felt the presence of God most strongly. In these hours when Brother Lawrence felt closest to His savior. Not that God was not present the rest of the time, He knew that He was, but it was in those times in the kitchen and not in the Sanctuary that He was most aware of the Spirit of God.

In my own life I find God in the mundane. Amid the endless papers of graduate work, the countless conversations on Theology and even Sports. In times when I am simply walking in the cool New England air and in those moments when I am alone, playing music or writing songs. I am ever aware that God is in the mundane, making the mundane Holy, a place of worship and of praise. That does not mean that I am unaware of God in the sanctuary, He is, and ever shall be, ever present and with me, I am aware of this, and it helps dictate my actions towards others.

We must learn once again to live in the constant presence of God, the same God who we worship in the Sanctuary is the same God we can worship anywhere. HE is present and we have the blessing of living in constant communion with Him if we allow ourselves the grace of slowing down and truly seeking to listen to God.

 

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

 

 

“THE ONE WHO SHOWS MERCY”

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By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

One day, someone asked the pastor of the local Church; “Who is my neighbor?” The pastor sat back in his chair and thought for a second. Then told the following story. A man was walking along the road in New York City when he was jumped, mugged and left to die on the street. Before long a high ranking politician walked by and saw the man. “I cannot stop and help him, I am an important politician, I have too many meetings to attend, and a country to run.” So he goes on his way. A few minutes later a certain Fundamentalist walks by, seeing the man he scoffs and says “God must have just repaid him for his sins, I should not help him, lest I interfere with God’s judgment.” Finally, a Syrian Refugee walks by, seeing the man he helps him to his feet and takes him to the Hospital. He stays with him throughout his recovery and even gives whatever he can to help pay for and restore the man. He never asked for anything in return, he merely prayed for him and watched out for him. Who do you think was more of a neighbor to the man? “The one who showed him mercy” the church member replied. “Good, now shouldn’t you do the same?”

For those of you who have studied you will recognize this as the Parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37 though it has been contextualized for our modern world. A Politician, a Super-Religious Leader and a Syrian Refugee. In the original context the story would have been quite offensive, a Samaritan helping a Jew, what scandal since the Samaritans were considered half-breeds and even sub-human because they reminded Israel of their adulterous history. In today’s context the story serves to remind us that our neighbor is anyone who we might encounter. It also serves as an example to us to get down in the mess of the life of another and lift them up out of it so that they might glorify God. Most importantly, however, is the reminder to show mercy, always show mercy.

Step into today’s current crisis, millions of refugees, the UN Refugee Center had the number at 13 million with another 5.1 million in camps waiting for relocation as of mid-2014 (The number has most certainly gone up). This is undoubtedly a humanitarian crisis, as war continues to spread and those persecuted, whether it is for being Christian or some other religion, continue to be displaced from home and culture to escape the rise of ISIL and the growing threat of all-out war in those unstable countries. The numbers go up, the destruction gets worse, the situation goes from important to imperative meaning no one should ignore it, everyone should be willing to do their part.

Yet the response of the Conservative Evangelicals, a camp which contains GHFT, has been one of fear and crying out against such a thing. “We do not want refugees here” says one pastor, “They are going to just bring Jihad here.” Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas said in a statement “I have therefore directed all state agencies, departments, boards or commissions not to participate or assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to Kansas.” He goes onto say that is it “Unfortunate” that this has to be the case but the “Safety of Kansas” is the priority.

Meanwhile, Conservative Evangelicals flood to Donald Trump Rallies, with men like Jerry Falwell Jr and many other Conservative Evangelical leaders coming out in support of him, including former GOP Vice President Candidate and former Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin. Franklin Graham even endorsed Trump’s plan to “Kick Muslims out.”

At GHFT we are baffled by this and deeply saddened. Why? Because, in looking out over the vast scope of history we have seen the damage that the kind of rhetoric being used in America today is similar to that used by others who have committed mass atrocities such as Hitler and Stalin. The demonization of a people, namely refuges, a lot of which are Muslim, is exactly what Hitler did to drive his genocide and final solution. The Jewish Journal, a publication here on the North Shore, recently released an article expressing concern for the reintroduction of Mien Kampf into Germany, with its 300 pages of commentary, asking questions concerning the possibility of something similar happening again, only this time at the hands of Syria. Americans should be concerned of something similar happening if the Hate-Speech and continue Fear-Mongering encouraged by Trump and his supporters is allowed to continue, only the target would be people of Syrian origin, and I do not see it stopping at Muslims, but Christians and any refugee who comes from the Middle East.

We have done it once, the Japanese Internment camps that were scattered all over the U.S, blaming all Japanese for the attack on Pearl Harbor, most of whom had no ties to Japan or had cut ties with Japan. Christians then turned a blind eye to the morality of the situation, as they did with Slavery one-hundred years before (with the exception of the Quakers). Trading sound moral living and philosophy, along with the fair and merciful treatment of all for comfort and safety. We have traded true sanctity of human life, the sanctity of all life, for our own security. Are we so conceited that we think we have the ability to slander others for the sake of our own seared conscious? Have we become so fearful that we have forgotten what it means to be truly Evangelical? So afraid that we would openly hate both our brothers and sisters from Syria and those whom they are trying to reach out to? What is wrong with us?

GHFT does agree that we should care for those here in America, a country should take care of its citizen’s, but they should also take care of those who are displaced and do so in such a way that they are built up and encouraged. If there is any organization better equipped to do that it is the church, not the federal government, the Church. With all its members and with all of its parts and programs. If we are to be a righteous and a Just people, then we cannot ignore the refugees or demand that they be denied entrance because they might make us “Unsafe.” Is our safety and comfort so important to us that we would deny aid and even call for the extermination of an entire people group?

Hey, you might die, you might have to be uncomfortable, you might have to give money, you may have to get down in the life of someone you disagree with and help them out. It might be asked of you to do such a thing, but did Jesus not do the same for you? And if He did, then should you not seek to, out of gratitude, seek to serve and love all those who come into your sphere of influence regardless of what you may think of them? At GHFT we assert that it is our responsibility to build up all people with the hope of reaching them for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Regardless of race, creed or religion at the time we meet them. We reject fear-mongering and hate-speech in the interest of being part in the great work of the spreading of the Gospel done through us by God. We recognize that our neighbor is all men and all women within the scope of the human race and we have resolved to treat others with that vision in mind. We invite you to do the same, we hope you would do the same.

I close with this: Last year in my Christian Ethics class here in the Seminary I was afforded the chance to learn Dr. David Gill’s thoughts on Christian Ethics and the Ten Commandments. I was struck by his application of the commandments. For example, “Though shalt not covet” is not merely a command not to covet your neighbor’s possession but is “A command for us to protect and help care for our neighbor’s possessions.” That we are responsible to love GOD and one of the ways we do that is by loving people. As I have pondered this in relation to the current Refugee Crisis I am struck by the fact that it is our responsibility to commit ourselves to aiding those fleeing from this war. Whether that is through boots on the ground, in the field and camps work or through constant prayer and intercession. We have an ethical responsibility, and it is our Christian responsibility to commit in whatever way we can to aiding in, and working to resolve this humanitarian crisis and it starts by accepting, in love, those coming, in spite of fear and possibly at the expense of our comfort and safety.

This is the only Christian Response, anything else falls short and ceases to be so.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

God’s Heart for Those is responsible for the Content of this Article, sources not in print are linked in the article itself, The Jewish Journal is a Newspaper publication from the North Shore in Massachusetts. 

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

 

 

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Jonathan Takes Five: Talks Arts, the Church and Seminary Life.

By Bradly Tucker14140_10151927346899245_829737775_a

Hamilton Mass: Jonathan David Faulkner, the 24-year-old Proprietor of God’s Heart for Those and the former director of 10:31 Life Ministries, Pastor, Musician and Writer took a moment out of his busy study schedule to sit down and talk about his passion for the arts and the church, his current writing project and life in Seminary.

Brad: Jonathan, thank you for joining me.

Jonathan: You’re welcome

Brad: We know that you are musician, many of our readers have heard your music live, but what most people do not know about you is that you write as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that aspect of your life and any projects you might be working on?

Jonathan: Well, since I was a kid I have loved to tell stories, my mother used to say I could make something up and no one would know if it were true or not. I did not always use that power for good, especially before I became a Christian in 8th grade. I never wrote any of them down, what I did write was poem after poem, some in lyric structure, others were just poems. I would write them at school, print them off and carry them around in a huge binder or write them in this big notebook. I still have the binder and most of the songs, I should go back and look at them.

Anyway, I wanted to write a book, so I started writing this weird apocalyptic thing in this huge notebook. The idea was pretty good, or at least I thought it was, but I never finished it. My Junior year of college I wrote a book about my life and God’s work in it in about two weeks, I do not know where that book is now. Then last year I started working on a book series called “The Mozzaratt Saga.” Four books, a Trilogy and an origin story written by the main character of the book. I am almost done with book one and have made a good deal of progress in the origin story. The second and third book are still in the planning stages while I work out the plot, which by the way, you will have to buy the books when they come out. I am also working on a project dealing with Star Trek and another on Reconciliation and Social Justice, this of course while maintaining a rigorous Seminary reading schedule.

Brad: Those sound interesting, we know you have been involved in the Seminary’s Art’s Society. What do you think is the relationship between Christianity and Art?

Jonathan: I think they should be closely linked. In fact part of my mentored ministry responsibilities will be working in promoting art of all kinds at the church. For me it comes down to this; as Christians we are created by God, as part of God’s creativity, part of a natural response to that is to create, and we all do it, whether it is writing a song or coming up with your own paper filing system, we all create. I believe we are called to be sub-creators. Meaning, we create out of the overflow of our hearts of the Love of God with the desire to glorify Him by what we create. In Christianity then, art becomes a discipline for practicing the presence of God and glorifying Him, as well as a means to bless others by the gifts God has given us.

Several years ago, as part of the Good Discipline Series for GHFT I wrote an article on Art as a discipline. I still feel the same way, the closer we get to God the more our creativity will show up in the things we do. Back then I had written like 12 songs, in the 3 years since that article was written I have written over 200 more, that’s the Holy Spirit, that’s God driven creativity, I cannot take credit for that.

Brad: So should the church embrace all forms of art?

Jonathan: Absolutely, we do ourselves a disservice when we relegate art to music and music only. Painting for example is a wonderful expression of the Glory of God. Poetry is part of the Bible, and there is a lot of good poetry and good poets sitting in our congregations. I have talked to artistic church members who feel like they are being stifled, like their creative abilities have no place in the church. So we do ourselves and these an incredible disservice by not embracing their gifts and abilities so that we can all be blessed by them.

It should also be said that arts is individual praise to God expressed in the Corporate body. If you praise God by painting the body of Christ should have the chance to join you in praising and Glorifying God. That way, in your eternal enjoyment of Him, others might also get to enjoy Him through the use of your gifts.

Brad: Do you have time to create while in Seminary?

Jonathan: Not as much as I did before, that is for sure. But I try to take time out of my day to work on “non-academic work” to make sure I have time to let the creative juices flow. I spend a lot of those hours working on the book series or writing music. I call them Artist Dates, a term we used in Denver to describe getting away to do what our soul longs to do.

Brad: So art helps you cope with a busy schedule?

Jonathan: Among other things, I have a strict routine that I follow as far as prayer and scripture reading go. Sometimes I go to prayer on campus, though usually I leave early because the spirit has stirred something within me and I have to write a song or poetry or something. I need to start taking a notepad with me.

Brad: Any final thoughts on Art and life in general?

Jonathan: I think that art is as much formative as it is transformative. I will give you an example; songwriting, for me, usually comes out of times of deep reflection and contemplation on God and what He has done. That is formative for me because it helps me draw closer to Him. But say that song makes it into my life show, someone hears the message and is encouraged and drawn closer into their relationship with God who is transforming us through Sanctification. Or starts to think about God because of it. Whether that night or over time they find themselves drawn to God and become a believer and be transformed by God and the Gospel because God encouraged me, by the Spirit, to write the song. It also may be transformative for me in case I forget the lesson I was contemplating when I wrote the song. It could be the same with a poem, a story, a drawing, a painting any form of creativity, especially when coupled with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Brad: Finally can you tell us what you are working on for the upcoming month at GHFT?

Jonathan: Sure, today I finished up an article on Interruptions and Ministry and I have been doing some research on the latest Joshua Feuerstien’s claims. So there could be another article addressing his teachings and claims. Other than that I cannot say what God is going to do, what surprising work of grace He might see fit to bring about that would make me want to praise Him.

Brad: Thank you Jonathan and have a good night.

Jonathan: You too Brad, night.

 

Bradly Tucker is the Content Editor & Copyright Manager for GHFT 

Restoration:

Solitude

 

By Jonathan David Faulkner

            The first song ends, the upbeat and fun rendition of David Crowder’s “My Beloved” gives way to the slow and passionate “Restoration” by David Brymer, I have been practicing these songs for weeks, preparing for this chapel service, The band had practiced Monday night, we were excited, the guitars were turned, the Lord had called us to lead his people in Worship, but I had started having some trouble, I almost didn’t start the song, the feelings that had been rolling over me all day wanted now to crush me, on stage, during worship, in front of everyone.

I started the song, the opening words making it a little easier to gain some momentum. We were going to be alright, I was going to get through this. But God was overwhelming me and I could not run from it, I had no choice but to embrace it. My mind cherished every word, my heart languishing the thought of God as restorer. Gratitude and praise for God’s own restoration caused my throat to crack and my heart to soar. I was not in sorrow, just overwhelmed by God’s goodness.

Flashback to a year ago, it’s about 10:45 in the morning, February 11th, 2015, it was a Wednesday. I am going about my normal routine that was my nearly 120 hour work week (Between the Church and the College), unloading leaves from the leaf vacumn by the Administration building at Sterling College. I had maybe an hour of sleep the day before, and was not feeling all that well. I step out of the back of the truck and start down the ladder, my next memory is feeling the pain in my neck and head and then a friend asking me if I was okay. Then the hustle and bustle of students coming back from Chapel and someone praying over me, the Concussion test given by the Police Officer and then an ambulance ride to the Hospital in Lyons.

“You have a minor neck sprain and a Traumatic Brain Injury” the doctor told me after I had been scanned and put through the battery of tests. You will not be able to go to work for the next few days, and only then you will be able to go back when your doctor clears it and only for a short time.” My doctor did clear it, and a week later I was going back to work on a limited basis. But the story was not over, I found quickly that I was unable to do most things without a throbbing headache. This was complicated by the fact that my emotions were extremely sporadic. I was living on an emotional Pndelum, a time bomb waiting to explode. Things went from bad to worse when late one Sunday I started having suicidal thoughts, my friends and spiritual family and my girlfriend at the time gathered in my living room and stayed with me until the feelings subsided. Thought the next morning they came back with a vengeance. I called my boss, called the school counselor and a professor, knowing that this was not my usual state, and we prayed and the plan was made to send me to my grandparents farm for a week. I went and had a wonderful time, both with the Lord and with my family.

When I returned though, the healing was not finished, I still had a long way to go. I saw a Neurologist who diagnosed me with “Post-Concussion Syndrome” and I was told to stay home from work until I was completely healed. That meant 2 months of spending time at the house, times when the only relief I could get was playing music or preparing for my sermons. During that time a lot of things happened, my relationship crumbled as we decided it was better to save our friendship than try to save the relationship, my relationship with God was more a wrestling match for the first month and in a time of growth the second. I was in a place where I had to rely on God for everything from day-to-day emotional stability to the ability to pay rent. TO relief from the headaches that plagued me all the way up to June (after I had gone back to work). I cut my hours back at work to 30 (when I would be able to go back) and it was during this time that God called me to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I also renewed my Lectio Divino during that time, knowing that days of deep scripture meditation were required.

We closed 10:31, I started packing and on August 15th my mother and I headed for Ohio where I would be spending three weeks before coming to Boston in mid-September to begin this new chapter of life.

Upon reflecting back on this year there are a number of things that I can say with great confidence again God, He provides, He is good, He is faithful, He is Sovereign but most importantly He restores.  He restores us to Himself when we have run away, He restores us to health if it is needed, He restores our friendships, He restores us to community, He is a God who restores us. At the end of the year I have dubbed my personal “Theodicy.” Where all I had left was God, where I faced down the storm and in the midst of suffering I got God as my only answer, He restored me.

Yes, it is true that most of that restoration had nothing to do with Sterling, though He did restore those friendships that were so hindered by what happened that some even fell apart. It is true that I had to move to a different part of the country, make new friends and live in a new place, get involved in a new community. At first that was difficult, at first I hid my gifts and abilities, not wanting to use them for their intended purpose of building up he flock. But after a time, God drew me out and then thrust me into the community.

“I feel good” I had told one of my brothers on Monday while we practiced for Worship today. “For the first time in a long time I feel alive.” His response: “That sounds like freedom.”  I had been to the depths of the valley, spent time in the wilderness and God had brought me back to the mountaintop to praise His name and to lead others to praise His name. Just as He has done my entire life, from the night I was saved, to that night with the grace killers where my faith was destroyed, to those in Sterling who helped me pick up the pieces, on that Mountainside where God met me in the Labyrinth, to those men and women at Christ’s Body and on the streets in Denver. To the call to be a pastor and the call to my first Church in Stafford. God had been walking with me, through all the abuse at the hands of the church, to the bullying growing up to my own shortsightedness and lack of self-care that led to the fall last year. God was working to restore me to Himself. He has taken all those years of pain and shame and replaced it with Joy. Brought into His constant presence and renewed my mind and my heart. He has grown in my a deep, and ever deepening, love for the Church and His people. One day we will experience the ultimate restoration when we spend eternity with Him in heaven.

I share this with you for the sake of Christian Love, that you might know what God has done and rejoice with me in His great work. But also to encourage you that when your life seems permanently fixed in the valley, when God seems far off or when you are wondering why you are suffering, to remind you that God is there, an ever present force and gentle whisper. He has not forsaken you, He has not left you for dead. He is working on you, preparing you for a new season on life and great joy. He will restore you in His good timing for His steadfast love for you endures forever, and cannot be taken away.

Selah

 

Chill dude


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

Ceasing to Be Christian: A Brief, Critical Look at the Theology of Joshua Feuerstien

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By Jonathan David Faulkner

I talked in a previous article concerning Joshua Feuerstien and his wife Jessica, the popular Facebook evangelist. Addressing his often over-the-top videos and subsequent, abusive, fundamentalism and inability to question their doctrines without being told to “Move along.” The purpose of this article is to discuss what we at GHFT find to be troubling theological assertions. I do want to make it clear that we are not out to get Joshua, these articles are not meant to be attacks against him, but rather to engage his theology in such a way that opens the door for discussion and ultimately for heart change in Joshua and his followers.  It is not my desire to assert, nor would I ever, that Joshua himself is not a Christian. That is not my place to judge, God looks at the heart, I am not God and cannot judge as God does, perfectly.

However we do want to address his theology, because, as the title suggests, we find it in a lot of ways contrary to the beautiful truth of Scripture. Yes, if you listen to Josh you find him using Scriptures to back up his points about God and our country and to defend his radical views on everything from Guns to President Obama. Views that have caused him to release a video calling for Christians to attack abortionists and openly attack Starbucks for a perceived War on Christmas. Since these assertions were made in a public setting GHFT has chosen to address it in a public setting, citing Galatians 3 and Titus 2 as reasons for a public address of Feuerstien’s teachings.

 

The Gnostic Root:

It is important for us then to address what we find to be the root of Feuestien’s teachings, that is, an extreme form of Gnosticism that can so easily sneak into Protestant Evangelicalism. Feuestien seems to assert that the flesh is all evil, all the time, that one must run from the flesh and avoid all sins, the implication becoming that man, but living by the spirit can avoid all sins. Or sin no more.

The Dualism then is that Sin, which could easily be substituted for “Flesh” is bad and Spirit is good. This is Gnostic Dualsim applied to Christianity, Yes, GHFT acknowledges that sin is contrary to God’s plan for humanity, that we are to put off the things that are Earthly and put on the things that are from Christ. But like the Gnostics Joshua and Jessica preach a kind of Ascetic that seems to allow themselves to claim some sort of Earthly perfection. The reality is that we will not attain perfection, we all sin, and ranting against other peoples sins, like Obama’s, does nothing for your own spiritual walk.

 

The Small god.

It would seem then that the Feuestine’s god does not seem to be the bible at all, instead he is a very small, angry god, dependent on Starbucks cups and Republicans to achieve his plans and purposes. One could even make the assertion that the god of the Feuestine’s is American Christendom, and even then an scewed version based on Western Ultra-Fundamentalism. The idea that Christian = Republican, gun owner, church goer. GHFT has no problem being a Republican, Gun Owning church goer, but when that becomes your view of Christianity, as it seems it has for Joshua, then you have distorted the image of true religion. When you rant and rail against what you deem to be its “Destruction” one can assert it has potentially become a false idol, and if the viewpoint has not, perhaps your view of god has become such.

At GHFT we affirm the God of the bible, a God that gives grace to the humble, but is also all-powerful. We affirm the Trinity, that is, God is three in one and a Trinitarian Spirituality. Based on a Holistic study of scripture and years of Theological Training and Education in the reformed Tradition. We do not believe that one can or should limit Christianity to being the religion of the right or what have you. We believe that shows a worship of ideologies rather than the God of the universe who transcends our current western culture and desires that we be Salt and Light in that culture and context in which we daily live.

 

An Eisegesis Issue:

Eisegesis is when we read our own ideologies into scripture instead of allowing Scripture to inform our own ideologies, opinions, persuasions and convictions. An example of Eisegesis would be the misuse of passages such as Chronicles 7:14 to insist that God is going to restore America if we repent of our fleshly sinfulness. Ignoring the reference to the renewal of the Covenant between God and Israel. The Transcendent truth here is that God’s people should pray, but that does not mean God is going to restore America. There is a greater context in which a passage must be read and be considered. God’s words to Israel do not always apply to us today. Yes, prayer is important to a healthy spiritual life, but Feuerstien wants us to pray for his version of American Christianity to prevail, a type of Christianity I am increasingly wary of given the increasingly damaging effect people like Feuerstien are having on the secular view of Christians. God may let America fall by the wayside, but his believers, who are truly following after Him, they will persevere, they will be preserved.

 

Chaining the Flock 

The result of all of this is a flock chained to western Ideologies and their own small view of the great and transcendent, Triune God of the universe. Creating what Dallas Willard, in his book “The Divine Conspiracy” a “Gospel of Sin Management.” Chaining people to life of constantly trying to make sure they do not sin, or sin less and less everyday that they might become perfect. Ignoring the freedom of a deep relationship with God the father as co-heirs with the son in the Joy of the spirit. To Josh we live primarily to escape evil and become good spirits. Saying nothing of glorifying Go or seeking to achieve the desire of God by preaching the decree of God until the whole world hears. If you subscribe to Feuestine theology you are chaining yourself to a very small, angry god that can do little unless you act. God can work without you, remember that, or as Casting Crowns points out “Sometimes the best thing for us to do (with the gospel) is just get out of the way, because we are slowing it down.” Feuerstien’s logic does more to hinder the Gospel then it does to advance it.

 

No Longer Christian:

This is why God’s Heart comes down on the teachings of Joshua Feuestien as “No longer Christian.” Meaning they no longer reflect the truth and righteousness of Scripture. Preferring a Pharisaic twisting and adding on of so many requirements that the believer can barely function. As Timothy Keller points out in his commentary on Galatians, “Any addition to the Gospel causes us to “Lose the Gospel.”

 

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