Month: May 2016

#GospelDrivenSissyPreacher: Let’s Stop Blaming Each Other & Fix It.

By Jonathan David Faulkner

It is hard to be a Christian in North America right now, I will not deny that fact, though we have it pretty good compared to Christians elsewhere it is getting increasingly difficult for us to minister openly. It does not help that the church in America in a lot of places borders on Apostasy if it is not there already and more and more people like myself are becoming disillusioned with both American Christianity and the American Church in general. To make it worse when something else goes wrong everyone is quick to jump on the hate-train and attack whoever made the mistake. Sometimes people do that when the issue that comes up is not a mistake or error or actually a good thing. Then fingers get pointed and voices get raised and everyone’s favorite “Facebook Evangelist” releases a hate-filled tirade that is directed at his brothers and sisters in Christ.  Pretty soon MaCarthur is blaming Driscoll for Trump (which happened) and God’s Heart is being blamed for encouraging a “Sissy Faith” and there is not a peacemaker to be found.

Then of course you have the other end of the spectrum, like the pastor who sat with us at lunch yesterday who basically told us that by preaching law in any way shape or form was harmful to the flock. Who over-emphasized one side of the tension by dispensing of the other (more to come on this next week). Who would probably find our teachings legalistic because we hold that while the Moral and Civil laws are fulfilled in Christ (like the ceremonial law), they are still a part of the covenant relationship with have with God. (We now keep them out of gratitude and because we can by the power of the Holy Spirit). Who disagreed sharply when it was suggested that we still sin and that the experience of the Christian Life is not normative.

We know, it sounds crazy right? And if you want, you can blame us for being softies…I mean, it’s been done. How do you think we got the Hashtag #GospelDrivenSissyPreacher?

But when did blaming anyone for the problems in the church get us anywhere? When I was still a legalist it got me yelled at by my friend Jackie (She was right of course) and put me at odds with good friends. Later, in my post-legalist fog it would put me at odds with one the men who had helped lift me out of the mindset I was left in after the abuse. It was not nice and as I have said a lot lately I wish I could go back and mend those relationships and reconcile with those people whom I harmed with my fire-wielding, forest burning tongue.

Hey, guess what, the American Church has issues, American Christianity has a lot of issues. We can be real about that, acknowledge it. But why does the realization of these issues seem to give us the right to openly attack other believers both pastor and lay-persons alike because we think they done it? Here is a newsflash brothers and sisters…it does not.

Yes, I am disturbed that many evangelicals have given Trump their support, but does that mean I should blame Driscoll or anyone else for that? No, it is not the fault of one person. None one of the issues that American Evangelicalism is facing is the fault of one individual but the collective body. We have all played a part in creating issues we have in American Evangelicalism. By either not standing up for truth in a manner that reflected Christ and the teachings of Scripture or by perpetuating Folk Theology and Heterodoxy that have led people away from the truth Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We all share in tearing down the Church…so let’s work together to build it back up.

Granted, this will not be easy, it will require us to give up long held convictions that should be relegated to the realm of opinions. It will require us to lay down out weapons aimed at those who disagree with us and start to celebrate our common nature in Christ. 1 Timothy 2:1-9 might be a good place to start if we are to be united in love and if we are to return to a place where no outsiders can hold anything aginast us. Since, that is how it is meant to be anyway. Maybe we should give up our so perceived individuality and started being the corporate body of Christ. Worshiping in Spirit and Truth with whatever style you like and not looking down on another for his chosen style. If we started to see ourselves as part of the Covenant People of God, under the new covenant that was initiated through Christ.

If we decided to strive to be actual peacemakers…

Hey, I know, we paint a bleak picture of the church in America, but we also have the desire to see it renewed and restored. We want to take those things which are good about it (and there are some very good things going on in the American Church right now too) and see those things that have made us an abomination to those outside the church (In some cases) be put aside. To actually live differently and honestly and with integrity, to put on Godliness and remember that our righteousness comes from God and so we are now saved for good works.

We can fix this, by the leading of the Spirit and by the grace of God above we can fix this. We can follow again the example of Jesus Christ and return to the mission which we are called to. It does not mean we have to go back to doing things the way the early church did them, though we should definitely learn from them as much as possible, but it does mean we surrender our own understanding and choose to lean on and rely on God. Trusting in Him as a collective body and acknowledging Him with our ways as a body instead of acknowledging ourselves. It means setting aside our differences and returning to an Orthodox understanding and unity. Allowing for subtle differences and showing grace when needed.

It is possible to live life as believers in unison, it is something we need to relearn how to do and to do that we need to acknowledge that the Spirit is constantly dwelling in us and working in us and working for our sanctification. Seeing each other as brothers and sisters instead of enemies and living together in the tension of the Saint and the Sinner.

This view might make us #GospelDrivenSissyPreachers but that’s okay, we are fine with that.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oJonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

 

Faulkner on the Fifth: On Turning 25

By Bradley Taylor

Every other week I get to sit down with Jonathan David Faulkner over Skype and ask him questions, he also takes time to answer some reader questions. This week Jonathan reflects on turning 25, dishes on the summer plans for God’s Heart for Those and much more.

Q. So, you turned 25 yesterday, how does it feel?

Well, I got to 24, I was not sure I would make it there…no…in all seriousness I do not really feel any different but then I think back on all that has changed in my life since I turned 24 and I cannot help but think I am different, much different, everything is different. The people, my attitude and outlook in life. God has even blessed me with probably the sweetest of very significant people into my life. Yeah, my life is not perfect, but God has shown me immeasurable grace and I want to continue seeking after Him well beyond the age of 25.

Q. You have written a lot lately on changes in your life in 2016, what would you say is the biggest change that you have experienced in thought or in growth?

That is a difficult question to answer because so much has changed. I would have to say that the one that stands out is just my attitude. That has changed, or been changed, the most since the end of the fiasco that was 2015. I think that praying the Psalms has had a lot to do with that in that, it allows me to focus on God and reminds me of the constancy of the Incarnation. Allowing me to rely constantly on the Joy of the Lord instead of having no foundation and becoming overly stressed when things do not go as planned. I would also say that part of that is just the understanding that God truly is always with me and my strength is made perfect in Him. Having someone in my life who reinforces that daily and prays for me and who I can build up and speak life into and pray for has been very good in encouraging me in this change as well. God is good, in all things, God is good.

 

Q. Can you dish on some of the things that are in the works for the summer of 2016 at God’s Heart?

Well, we have a lot going on over the summer, I am hoping to go and visit the Family Promise North Shore Boston Team at some point and interview them, see their ministry first hand. As you know I have a heart for Urban Ministry and what Family Promise does is similar to what we did at Joshua Station in Denver. I am also hoping to interview a close friend of mine who has been very involved in Refugee Ministry and perhaps get to meet some of the men and women he has been serving in Boston. I will also continue work on the four-part God’s Heart Talks and an expansion of my Master Class on First Timothy.

 

Q. Any updates on the music side of the Ministry?

Well, the brothers I have been leading worship with here at the Seminary and I are planning to play some summer shows at some of the local bars and clubs and we were honored with the chance to play Clamfest in September but we have not confirmed that yet as I am waiting for the other band members to figure out their schedules for that weekend. It is difficult to plan all these things so far ahead with Seminary. And it may not be all four of us playing the club shows because the stages are tiny. I have been working hard on adding Electric Guitar to some of the songs and getting new covers ready for some of these shows. No dates are confirmed so, keep checking the website for more information.

 

Q. Do you think Religion is more unifying or divisive in the modern age? 

Hannah – Morrow OH

Hmm, this is an interesting question, certainly some religions are divisive, preaching that you cannot associate with certain people for certain reasons. But to say that all religion is divisive would be incorrect. I think it may also depend on what you define religion as. If you define it by its Latin entomology it quite literally means “Reconnecting one to God.” But if you look at it through the purely modern lens as most do in this generation then it is simply something man made and can therefore be considered divisive because it divides man up into different groupings of what is considered to be truth. By the first it is easy to say that some religions are false because not every religion connects man to the one True God. Some religions do not even connect a person to god at all.

Now, within the Christian Religion there is great potential for unity. In fact, there has never been a religion that brought more unity to a society where it has flourished than Christianity with the exception of Judaism which endured much longer than and even gave birth to the Christian Religion. Now, Christians have not always lived up to the unity that is part of our faith. Today we are more splintered than ever and that is unfortunate. But I do not think we can blame religion for division. That blame, in the modern era, solely falls on the individuals who practice a divisive version of their faith. Religion is not the issue, religion, especially the Christian Religion in all its truth (I do maintain teat Christianity is the one true religion). Is actually a good thing when the teachings are learned and lived out. The issue, the cause of division, is human sinfulness, arrogance and pride. So I would say that religion is not the issue, but human depravity is.

 

Have a question for Jonathan? Submit it here!

 

Bradly Taylor is the Content Editor for godsheartforthose.com

Mark of True Revival

By Jonathan David Faulkner

The first Church I served in suffered because of “Revivalism.” That sounds harsh, but it is true. Way back in the 70’s, before my dad had even graduated from school, while the Second Wave Pentecostal Movement was sweeping across the country and people were coming to the Lord and American Christianity was still popular. As it faded those who had been spearheading such a thing were trying to throw fuel on the fire, keep it going as long as possible until in the 1980’s it became Third Wave Pentecostalism. Inspiring Petra to write, in the 1990’s, “We’re content, to pitch our tent, when the glories evident, seldom to we know, the Glory came and went.” Because of the abuses, the drive to make the experience normative, my church lost an entire generation. A generation who now sent their kids, but would not darken the doors of a church themselves.

In the early 1900’s, inspired by the Welsh Revival a revival broke out on Azuza Street, its brand of Spirit filled teaching and preaching would help to propel the church into its height in the fifties and sixties. The leaders of the Azuza Street Revival understood that the signs and wonders would eventually fade and when they did, it would be back to life in the body. It would give rise to the Holiness and modern Pentecostal movements with all its excess, but at the time had more positive effects than negative.

In the 1720-40’s the Great Awakening was sweeping across New England, Jonathan Edwards was the Pastor at Northhampton, George Whitefield was preaching in the United States and people were coming to the Lord in droves. But, as the Fervor of the Awakening began to fade there were those who tried to keep it going. As what became known as “Excesses” were beginning to become a problem Edwards had to respond to the situation. Safely navigating the gap between emotionalism and intellectualism that had formed as a result of some who were caught in the hysteria of the excess. The result was the captivating (if you love theology) work “Religious Affections.”

Now, I am not saying that Pentecostalism as a whole is bad, nor am I saying that revivalism is wrong. Both can be good and life-giving things and for revival, we should all pray, but when they come up we, like Edwards, must be discerning

With all the news about AzuzaNow and individual revivals reportedly happening all over the country it is essential that we thus look at the wisdom of those who have gone before us, lest we become victims of short-sightedness and fall into some ecstasy that is not of the Spirit of God. Or fall under the influence of power hungry men who desire to harm out spiritual lives with the lies of the enemy.

Edwards gives us the best framework within modern Christian Thought to address these issues. Forced to respond to the criticism of Charles Chancy and others that the First Great Awakening had fallen into Apostasy Edwards wrote his great book “Religious Affections.” Where, being the pastor and intellectual he was he reasoned by Scripture those signs that indicate whether something is or is not of the Spirit of God. His final conclusion was relatively simple, but one must know what might not be of the Spirit before they can know what is of the Spirit.

Edwards was wise in reminding us that the enemy can duplicate many of the signs and wonders that people like Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, who organized AzuzaNow says are marks of a true revival. Things like speaking in tongues, visions and dreams and many other signs. I have certainly seen, in my study of mind control, each of those things used as tools of the enemy against the Church. Edwards backs this us by quoting 1 Corinthians 11:14: “And no wonder, for even the devil masquerades as an Angel of light.” This of course comes in the middle of a passage about false teachers who were doing similar works as the Apostles but were truly false teachers and agents of the enemy against the way word church (Indeed the Cretens sound better than these men. See Titus 1).

False Teachers claim special revelations and would seem to perform miracles, but ultimately distort the true gospel of Jesus Christ, sow division in the church, tear down The Body of Christ. These men should be avoided, they fruit they bear is not the fruit of the spirit.

Then there are the emotions, or as Edwards calls them “Affections.” Signs and Wonders can stir these up, but so can good preaching, a nice painting, a beautiful opera. Edwards sees emotions unguided by Scripture and Reason as not part of True Religion. One must inform the other, Edwards tells us that it is “Spiritual Knowledge” that must inform the Affections: “This sort of understanding is that knowledge of divine things from whence all truly gracious affections do proceed, by which therefore all affections are to be tried.” So, the believer must ask, is this a truly religious affection? Or am I being swept along by something that has very little to do with divine things?

In American Christian Teaching Emotionalism is one of the many extremes that is popular on many Christian College Campuses. To the point that young people fully reject theology for the sake of having an “Emotional experience,” emotions are not evil, but they can misinform us, be misplaced, be harmful if they do not come from an outpouring of God’s love and a knowledge that God is the divine source. We cannot do that if we reject theology, knowledge, reason.

So what does mark a move of the Spirit? What should be the outcome? Signs and Wonders? They are part of it, strong emotional responses too. What is the purpose of revival?

Edwards tells us that only those things that spur us to bear the fruit of the Spirit can count as true moves of the Spirit. This is not out of line with Scripture for it is by the fruit of a person we are told by Jesus to judge teachers and those proclaiming a message. No one who is preaching the gospel with a humble heart and a desire to live out the life put before us is going to bear bad fruit more frequently then he bears good fruit. On the contrary, the good fruit will provide overwhelming evidence for the source of such a move. If a charismatic leader splits a church and causes division his work is not of the Spirit. If the congregation grows in love for one another and for God and walks daily with Him, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, then it is of the Spirit of God.

“But what about a deeper relationship with God? Signs and Wonders? Tongues?” The first is assumed with the work of the Spirit, if we are producing those fruits one can tell of a close relationship with the father. By the nature of such a life lived by the Spirit we are growing daily in closeness to the father. Signs and Wonders, tongues, Personal Revelation, Prophetic Word (through scripture) may also be a by-product, but are not the end all deciding factors as to whether or not something is of the Spirit. As we have discussed, they can be present and it actually be a work of the enemy, but they can be produced by the Spirit of God working within us but should be done under biblical direction and done properly.

As for Revivalism, in preparation for writing this article I read an article on “Charismatic News” where the author genuinely believed that the next step for the Charismatic Movement was to see “Tongues of Fire descend like at the time of Pentecost.” This presents a major theological problem as it implies, as did pastor Bill Johnson did in his interview about AzuzaNow that we need a descending of the Holy Spirit and Manifestation of the Spirit to spark revival.

Within Reformed Thinking we have an understanding that the Spirit is constantly present, to the point that we can sometimes forget that it is there. Thus, by the incarnation we have the power of the Holy Spirit to preach and teach and do the work God has called us to do. But if we have to call upon Him to enter that place which we are at then he must not be indwelling and therefore scripture presents us with a false view of the incarnation of the Holy Spirit (John 15-16, Rom. 8).

What does this mean for revivalism? Am I saying there are no revivals? On the contrary, I think there are, and I think they serve a specific purpose. To draw the Saints back to the gospel and renew the covenant relationship where it has been broken. To remind us of the constant and ever present power of the Holy Spirit and to spur us back to love and good works out of gratitude for what God has done for us.

So, let us remember the constant presence of the Spirit of GOD that lives inside of us and works through us. Let us remember that those things that people claim are marks of revival can actually be signs that the enemy is at work and remember what does mark and true move of the Spirit. Bearing good fruit out of the unity that we have in Him to build up one another and Glorify God.

Let us not be deceived, but be discerning about every situation we encounter.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oJonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Why I Support the Babylon Bee:

By Jonathan David Faulkner

So earlier this month we published a question about The Babylon Bee in our Faulkner on the Fifth. I had a generally positive response to the website, and I still do, but I had readers coming to me expressing their concerns about the popular Christian Satire site, and about my support of it. So let me articulate here my thoughts on the site and afterwards I hope you have a better understanding of why I am supportive of it.

The Babylon Bee is satire, Satire is generally the breaking down of a cultural norm or folk idea in a way that is generally humorous. So, by participating in Satire the Babylon Bee is breaking down issues within a group of people, specifically Christians, in a way that is generally humorous. Now, they can go too far, and there are some articles that I have seen that do just that, but we are fallen human beings and Satire can be such a sensitive thing.

My reader base is split on my enjoyment of the Babylon Bee. Some find it offensive, and indeed it is, others try to fact check it and still others absolutely love it. I enjoy it, but I also find it offensive, like in most issues I sit in the middle of two extremes. I do have concerns about it, I have not blindly accepted it.

So why am I supportive of it? And what are those concerns that I have?

I will start with my concerns:

  1. It tears down the Body of Christ.
    1. Some of the articles are ungracious towards certain people. As funny as the Joel Olsteen Posts are I have to admit that instead of seeing Joel torn down I would like to see him return to Orthodoxy and to preaching the truth of Gospel.
    2. This is also the direct opposition to what we are trying to do at God’s Heart. We have a “Blue Print” if you will, for building up the Church, BT and I spend hours talking through these issues that we address on the website, searching God and His Word for our answers to your questions and to those things which we are addressing on this site. We want to see the body renewed, not just to each other, but to the world in general. To see the Church recapture that love that once made it so compelling.
  2. It “Airs out the Churches Dirty Laundry.”
    1. To borrow a quote from my Uncle who disagrees with the website. He is right, it does, and it is unfortunate that it took a Christian Satire website to get us to the point where those things we have held so dear in “Christianity, American Style” (Zahnd), that are not in line with scripture. Organizations like Church Leaders, The Dirty Christian and God’s Heart that have tried to address these issues are by their very nature unpopular because they call for a change in attitude among the general populous. A move away from those things that we have added to the Gospel.
  3. It is Offensive:
    1. Indeed, it is, and if it were not, I would have concerns. Again, I do wish there was another way to expose some of these things than a Satire site. The truth is, the things I have been offended by are things that I myself need to work on. It forces us to look inside and see if the attitude being portrayed is one we hold to and ask ourselves: “Does this really line up with the Gospel?”

So why support such a website?

  1. It exposes Heterodoxy and Folk Theology that have brought us to where we are as the American Church.
    1. If you disagree with me, that is fine, but remember I am one of the many who has become very disillusioned with American Christianity. A lot of the attitudes that they address are attitudes that I grew up hearing all the time or even some of the more modern issues within the bounds of our technology infused world. In fact the first article I ever read by them was entitled: “Girl finished morning devotions without posting on Instagram.” No Folk Theological idea is safe, and folk theology in America has done much more harm than good.
    2. Heterodoxy, which is the opposite of Orthodoxy, is dangerous, it perpetuates heresy such as what we have had to deal with from Joshua Feuerstien, Kenneth Copeland and Henry Wright (See David Faulkner’s A New Look At Job). You cannot deal with false teaching until it is exposed as such, and they have done that.
  2. It opens the Doors for Conversations:
    1. Again, I do not necessarily like that it took a Satire Site to open these doors but now they have been thrown open with a great thrust and now we can discuss why a lot of the ideas that have become prevalent in the American Church. Ideas about Evangelism (method and execution) and our reactions to things that are happening the world or the problems presented by certain Christian Leaders. Like Art in the Medieval Church the Babylon Bee opens the door for the Lay Christian (among whom are its reader base) to discuss these issues with their Church Leaders. It can also help to bridge the gap between the Laity and the Leadership.
  3. It gives us a reason to laugh at ourselves:
    1. Let’s face it, we take ourselves too seriously as believers. We have such a hard time laughing at ourselves. Sure, it is easy to laugh at Target or Apple or the rest of the World. Laughing at the world of its issues is easy, but turn the microscope back onto us and all of a sudden we become the most rigid people on the planet. In the words of Christian Comedian Brad Stine: “We have to laugh again.” After all, God did create laughter and he did create us, so why not be able to laugh at our shortcomings and show each other grace while we address these issues.

 

I know, this is a sensitive topic for us as a Church, we do not want to be told we are doing it wrong, especially in the American Church. The truth is we have a lot of work to do if we are going to impact the next generation. That has to start by addressing these attitudes and issues that have brought us to where we are. To rediscover the truth of the Gospel without addition or subtraction and to move beyond the label of being the “American Church” and learn to see ourselves amongst the universal Body of Christ. So that the church can be the Church for all generations until the return of Christ.

Leaving the Desert Part 2: Getting Rid of Expectations.

By Jonathan David Faulkner

Read Part 1 Here.

I entered with 2015 with all kinds of expectation. I had plans for the year, big plans, 2015 was going to be my year. I had finally cemented my first pastoral position, had a girlfriend, 10:31 was doing well, my ducks were all in a row. I should have smelled trouble, but I was too busy looking at all that I had built. My attitude towards God had gone from gratefulness towards his provision to selfishness, thinking that what I had was not enough, I should have bigger things, 2015 was my year. No one was going to derail that.

Then the stress of the life I had built for myself began to catch up to me, I began edgy, irritable, frustrated, depressed. Jennifer’s death in January only amplified that, then, after a week of sleeping about an hour a night, I feel off a ladder and you know the rest of the story. The world I had built was coming apart and I could not do anything about it. I spent a week at my grandparents at the request of the school and then wrestled with God for about a month while it all came apart.

I heard Matt Chandler say once that when things like this happened, when God allows disaster or the exposure of our sins or whatever it may be, that it is truly an act of compassion. Compassion because it gives us the chance to be restored to God and to one another, to bring restoration into our lives and transformation where it is needed. I was in need of both, restoration to those I was hurting and transformation back to where God had been taking me the previous year.

God had exposed me, all my ducks were dead or dying, the pond was empty, I was at rock bottom. But when you reach the bottom, it is true that there is no place to go from there. I was in a place where everything had been stripped away from me and all I had left was Jesus. And I was okay with that.

But, when we first get back up those old habits can creep back in. So, I had expectations for Seminary, things that I thought should happen, things I thought I would do instantly like make numerous friends or do well in Greek. At the beginning, both of those things became difficult, though Greek eventually turned around and I made some very good friends. The setback in both those areas I attribute to all that was happening outside of my seminary existence. I was still recovering, my recall had not returned to what it had been and I was still trying to adjust to all the changes in my personality. I was more subdued and quiet than I had ever been in my life. Focused on settling into my routine.

Along with the continuing recovery was our fight with Sterling College to finish a Math Class required for my undergrad. Over the years we had tried various courses and solutions and like a typical non-math pastor I did not manage to meet Sterling’s requirements on any of them. It was beginning to come to a head, I had to finish this class so I could stay in Seminary. But that road was far from an easy one for me and so because of all that I did not adjust to Seminary or integrate into the community well. I enjoyed my classes, even Greek, since I liked the professor.

So, by the time Thanksgiving of 2015 had rolled around I was exhausted both physically and mentally, I had been restored to God and was still working on being restored to others. God was still working things out, I had one more lesson to learn.

“Are you trusting me?”

It was the first week back at the Seminary, the Spiritual Life Team was hosting a prayer night and I was not going to go. In-spite of my aversion to attending I found myself in the little chapel praying. I had already decided to give up expectations for the year, to just let God do what He would, but I had no clue what that would look like. I had surrendered 2016 to God, I had no hope for anything other than His provision. Instead of telling God what He should do for me I decided to really be intentional about growing in gratitude for what He had done for me and those blessings that were already in my life.

But that also meant returning some things to Him that I had been holding back from Him, things like the Music, God’s Heart and my role in the community. That night, as I praying to the sound of one of my sisters in Christ playing the piano and another sister reading scripture I gave those gifts back to Him. The walls I had tried to rebuild came back down and for the first time in over a year I felt there was nothing between God and I. It was beautiful, I outed myself as a musician and God led me to a niche in the community as a worship leader.

I am not going to pretend that my life is perfect now, because it is not, I have daily struggles. The issue with Sterling College was unresolved until last week (I get to stay in Seminary) and I still struggle with temptations. But for the first time in my life I truly understand what it means to live out of gratitude and truly love others. To include God in every activity, every part of your day. Depression has not been a problem for the first time since leaving ABC and my bible study time has been richer than at any other point in my life. Again, I am not perfect, I am not fully sanctified, nor do I think I have found the answer, but this is what God has taught me and where He has brought me. But if there is one expectation I do hold to is the hope of God’s fulfillment of His eternal promises.

Dear friends, I want you to know the depth of what we have in Christ. The Joy of His constant presence, a life where He is the absolute center, informing every thought and every word we say. Where we live for Him and serve others out of the outpouring of His love for us.

This year has been amazing, not because of what I have done, but because of what God has done. The people He has brought into my life, the situations He has worked in me to resolve, the growth He has brought. They are His workings, not my own, I would still be a mess if not for Him. He has even brought someone into my life who is becoming quite important to me. Who encourages me to remain grounded in Him and who I can share in the Joy of the Lord with. A dear friend who He has used to bless me and draw me closer to Him.

Long ago I invited you all on this journey with me, and I pray you’ll continue that journey, to come with me into the Heart of GOD. To seek after Him, build up the Church, and grow into a deeper relationship with Him. To discover His heart for the widow, the orphan, the refugee and for you.

Stay tuned, you never know where this adventure is going to take us.

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_o


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

Faulkner on the Fifth: The Babylon Bee and finishing up the first year of Seminary.

By Bradly Tucker:

 

Every other Friday Jonathan takes time to answer questions from me and from you, our readers. This week Jonathan talks about popular satire site The Babylon Bee and his summer plans along with some questions from readers.

 

Q.) So, currently there is a brand new phenomenon sweeping the web in the form of a website called The Babylon Bee. I know that you are aware of them, what are your thoughts on them and their contact?

  • Yes, it is definitely a phenomenon, and one I am greatly enjoying. I like the fact that they approach these issues in a way that is humorous, but also exposes the lunacy that often exists within the confines of American Christianity. I also think it makes us laugh at ourselves, and Christians truly need to learn how to take certain aspects about our faith, like Peripheral issues. I think that the best way to do that is through satire. Plus, it is nice to see Christians unifying around something, even if it is just Satire. I will say though, my favorite thing on the internet is not the Babylon Bee but the commenters who do not know they are reading Satire and decide they need to fact check the article.

Q.) With your first year at GCTS behind you, what is one thing that you can take away from your first year of graduate school that you would like to pass along to our readers?

  • Graduate School is hard work, but it can also be a lot of fun. Do not take it too seriously, but do not approach it flippantly either. If you come into it with good time management skills and an eagerness to learn new things, it will be a lot of fun.

Q.) What are your plans for the summer?

  • Write, work, I am taking another trip in June, we will be closed that weekend, by the way, I also have a lot of reading to do and want to finish the second Mozzaratt book and work on securing publishing for the first.

Q.) Speaking of Mozzaratt, What is the latest on the Mozzaratt Books?

  • Well, I am two chapters into the second book, I will hopefully start chapter 3 today. I have already incorporated some surprises into the second book, it has been fun. Book three is also in the planning stages, detailed mapping, all the stuff that goes into writing a novel.

Q.) How has science affected the culture of Christianity?

  • Anthony, Attumwa IA.
  • To answer this question we must ask another: Are Christianity and Science Compatible? Some would say that the two are not compatible, while others, on the opposite end of such a spectrum would argue that they are compatible and even should work alongside each other. I hold to the second view, that they should run concurrently, history even shows us that the greatest advances in Science have occurred in Christian Circles or in more Christ focused points in History. Unfortunately the church has either gone so far as to reject science al-together, or take it too far and allowing it to usurp Biblical Authority. So, it has had two primary influences on Christian culture, either non-influence, because it is rejected, or too much influence as is the case with Philosophic Science’s Intelligent Design Argument. I do believe that we, as believers can pay attention to what is happening in science. For science gives us a glimpse into the glory of the Living God. There are even points where Science and Theology intertwine such as Creation and the Metaphysics of the Trinity (see Yurgan Moltmann). Science is a creation of our loving father, so why not at least pay attention to it. However, we cannot allow it to dictate to us Christian Truth, only to confirm what God has revealed to us to be true.

The False Promise of “Earthly Power”

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

The Teacher is about to leave; he stands on a hill with those who have followed him, watched him die and be brought back to life. He had performed miracles among them, taught them, walked with them, for three years, they had gone to Jerusalem with him. They had seen the resurrected body and the power that he had. So they stood on the mountain that he would soon ascend from and ask him one more question. “Teacher, at this time will you restore the Kingdom of Israel?”

Between 166-122 B.C. another group had tried, and for a time, succeeded to free the Kingdom of Israel, this revolt, known as the Maccabean Revolt had been asking the same question, and for a time, they succeeded. Freeing themselves from the Seleucids before Rome controlled the known world.

In the 4th and 5th century A.D Rome was losing power, co-rulers were fighting each other and there were constant invasions from the Gauls, the Huns and the Vandals. A series of Rulers and Co-Rulers tried with every means at their disposal to keep Rome in tact, striving to return to the greatness of Rome under their predecessors. “Making Rome great again” was the focus of such leaders as Valentinian and Constantinius. Their great empire was crumbling, and the people were panicking. Systematic Persecution of all who were not members of the church became the norm. The Sarasin, the Gaul, the Norman, the Saxxon, they would become the targets of the “Christian Empire.”

It does not matter how phrase it, whether you think this was good, or know that it actually turned out to go very badly for Christendom up through the time of the Reformation. History cannot be ignored, the Church abused its power, there was a negative reaction to that abuse, the church became fought to retain that power and so instead of greatness, the church suffered greatly.

In the 1920’s and 30’s a charismatic despot arose in Germany. His goal was to restore the glory of Germany. To, make it great again, and he enacted the most oppressive and deadliest government policies in history. His name was Adolf Hitler, and he had the backing (based on an agreement he reached with them) of much of the German Church. Something that grieved the Swiss Theologian Karl Barth and the great German Preacher Dietrich Bonhoeffer who became a leader in the Confessing Church and eventually would be killed by the German Government for participating in a plot against Hitler.

In the 1950’s and 60’s the American Church was at its peak, 1-5 people were Christians and a majority of the population attended Church in one of the mainline denominations. The New-Wave Pentecostal Movement was beginning to sweep across the nation and American Fundamentalism was rich with answers that were helpful to the people. The Billy Graham Crusades and Navigators were working together to do Discipleship and the Church enjoyed political power.

Today, American Christianity is in decline. Fundamentalists have largely turned to fear-mongering and legalism and the church is scrambling for a man who can restore us to power. Meanwhile, those of us who are seeking to build up the church in the way of the Gospel are told not to speak, that we should fall in line and openly support the man that they have touted as the answer. Even if doing so violates both our conscious and scripture. As I have said before, we are being force-fed a culture of fear, and many in the church have been eating it up.

We have so easily abandoned hope, we have so easily abandoned grace, we have so easily abandoned Christ.

Honestly Church, if Christ were here would we ask him what those Disciples did? “Teacher, will you now restore the Church to power in America?” How would we react if Jesus told us? “The Days and hours are not for you to know.” Would we, like the Macabees seek to retake a nation by force, or like the Crusaders, murdering innocent women and children. Or like Hitler, carrying out a plan to systematically destroy entire people groups. Have we so forgotten where our power lies? Are we willing to follow a man before we follow Christ? Is this not contrary to everything the church is supposed to stand for?

I weep for our current condition, and as long as those who are encouraging this type of thought have 1.5 million followers on Facebook it will be perpetuated through Social Media and everywhere else. Christian, we need to stop this, we are above this, not because we hold office or because we once had political influence or even because we have something man made to be proud of, but because of who and what the Bible professes to be True.

And we can be proud of that, and we should revel in that, it should be so engrained in us that we cannot forget it. Regardless of who the president is or what war is being fought. Jesus, who serves as our mediator between us and God, whose death made it possible for us to gain entry into the most Holy Place and the Presence of GOD is still our hope. Get this, He does not serve as president, He reigns as King, His power is not based on Earthly Authority, but on an authority that is divine. He is the Son of God, the First Born of all Creation, before America existed, He was. Before the Church was established, before the first dawn of the world, He was present.

Christian, if there was ever a reason for Hope, it is that the God of the universe is still in control and present in the lives of the Saints. It is that He never breaks His promises to keep His people, to do Justice for them. That He sent His son to totally appease the wrath our sins earned us and defeat Sin and Death, to set u free from the penalty of our sins and to proclaim us Righteous in spite of our deplorable state.

We cannot fall into the plight of the Jews of Jesus day, searching for a military leader to free them from the oppression of Rome. We do not need someone to make our nation great again, especially when the idea of greatness is rooted in systematic racism and comes out of fear. We belong to the greatest nation in the Cosmos. Our citizenship and identity are so much greater than merely being American. We are sons and daughters of the Living God, citizens of the coming Kingdom.

Your hope is not in a man, not in a Macabean or Roman Ruler or Hitler type. Their attempts to cease power will only lead to destruction, and they will take you with them.

Believer, again I say, be bold, the hope that you have is greater than anything on this planet. The Joy that you know is not bound up in the events of Earth, but comes directly from the Father. Your power is not determined by the people in the media or our position in politics, but in the Spirit of God that is received at Salvation.

We must learn to use it, to speak the truth in love and to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, souls and minds again, not in some political leader. It is time to abandon this perceived power and start to really do what we, as a body, are called to do. A task that can be accomplished without political power, because it is done by God, working in and through us, to advance His Coming Kingdom.

 

Sources:

Encyclopedia Britannica
The ESV translation of the Bible (Acts 1:6)

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oJonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Leaving the Dessert Part I: A journey into the Heart of God.

By Jonathan David Faulkner

God hears the prayers and teenagers; I know this because when I was sixteen I asked God to show me His heart for people. I had not been a Christian all that long, and I really had no idea what I was praying, but there I sat, on a plane ride from Dallas to Columbus asking God to reveal to me His heart.

Fast forward to 2011, to the weeks leading up to the Labyrinth, where my cracked and dried faith was barely holding a form, I had been in the dessert, and I was dying. The events of the previous four years had left me so desperate for water, desperately roaming the wilderness, looking for any answer. I had to know, that was the only way I could be sure of it all. I was clinging to what I thought was Christianity and I was slowly becoming disillusioned with it.

God was breaking my heart, God was breaking me.

As I sat with the men and women at Christ’s Body, hearing their stories of life on the streets, on nights I would go down and sit with them while they flew their signs. Little did I know, but my prayer was going to be answered, God was going to show me His heart, and it was not what I expected. Like Brian Zahnd says in his book “Water To Wine:”

“I was wrestling with the uneasy feeling that the faith I had built my life around was somehow deficient. Not wrong, but lacking. It seemed watery, weak…Jesus wasn’t in question, but Christianity American Style was.”

I felt the same way, I felt that I was missing something, it did not make sense to me, I felt dry, cracked. A survey of the landscape of my faith revealed a property not worth selling. I knew a lot about God and about Jesus, but did I really know them? Had my quest for all the answers been of any benefit to me? The answers to those two questions were “sort of” and “very little.”

I knew about Jesus, I knew about what He had done, I knew that His death brought propitiation for sins, that I was now reconciled to God. But in my broken mind, I could not comprehend what it meant, I was starting to move past the anger of my former days, but I still wasn’t free. I did not know what it meant to be a Saint of the Living God. I knew a lot about God, but I did not know God. My prayer to see the Heart of God seemed like a distant dream, I was empty. Like St. Francis after returning from the Crusades, or Luther before he wrote the 95 Thesis I knew there had to be something more to Christian Faith. What was I missing?

So as I sat in Coffee on the Point, just over five blocks from Issachar, I read my bible and I read Donald Millers books and I prayed for living water. As my struggle with the community at Issachar neared a head I thought I would lose faith altogether. But God had another plan, and on Monday July 4th, 2011, in the middle of week of intentional silence, meditation and prayer, God met me in the Labyrinth.

I wish I had known at the time how that journey would play out, had I known the deep joys and the cutting pains of the next four years I would have walked out of that Labyrinth, but I did not, and I am glad I didn’t.

I left the Labyrinth that day with not just a deeper sense of who I was in Christ and of His deep love for me, but also a new understanding of the Incarnation of the Holy Spirit. I finally understood what my professors meant when they were telling me “God is always with you.” So my journey from the wild desserts of faith, where thoughts roll around like dried up tumbleweeds and water is scarce, if it can be found at all. My first steps were made with a new understanding of the role of Holy Spirit in the life of the Believer. Practicing God’s presence became a daily activity, I had become so dependent upon Him for everything, I did not know it at the time, but I was seeing His heart for me, what I had always desired to see, I was at the beginning of seeing.

As you know, three weeks later God called me to Pastoral Ministry and began to teach me about a deeper and richer faith.

He did that through the Monastics, I began reading Francis, Bernard and the reformers, Calvin and Luther, seeking to stand on the shoulders of those giants and learn for them. I stopped talking about the world and began to live in it as a believer with a redeemed perspective. I delved into the depths of theology and devotional practice. I visited my first Monastery, studied Romans with a good brother, and discovered what would lay the ground work for the Lectio Divina I would later apply to my study of Scripture. I was leaving behind the fundamentalism and legalism, the dryness of the dessert of American Christianity and discovering a place in the universal church. I saw myself not as one who had to have the answer, but a student of those who had gone before me, my perspective was shifting, my mind and my heart were being transformed.

It was not always easy, slowly tensions began to rise between my friends who held the traditional views of American Christendom. We would argue, get mad at each other, but we always forgave each other. We would debate baptism, art in the church, the sacred, hymns, contemporary worship music, emotionalism. I had found how life-giving this new perspective, this new lens, had radically changed my life. Even the those liturgies and services seemed to have lost their dryness. I could worship with any style of music, I could be with any Body of believers and see them as Children of God. I wanted other people to see what I seeing.

But I met resistance, people have to be ready to go there, they have to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It takes time, one must realize what is at stake. And those who can grow maturely in the style of Christianity I was leaving behind I encouraged to stay there. I did not want there to be divisions and fights and quarrels, but I did want people to know of this new found freedom. I stopped harping about sin and condemning those who didn’t agree with me. I studied Timothy and saw Paul’s heart to have the church restored and the more I studied I found that was becoming my desire.

I had left the waterless dessert I had been trudging through and had discovered the life-giving springs of living water that came from actually knowing and being in relationship with the Trinity. I finally understood what the reformers discovered long ago, what Francis and Bernard and others discovered. Instead of opinions governed by my own mind my thoughts were replaced with scripture, letting God from my thoughts on a matter through prayer and contemplation.

I did not become perfect, in a lot of ways this life is much harder than the one I used to live. But the result and reward has been so much greater, especially as I have entered 2016 with the expectation of seeing God work and being a part of His work in whatever way He calls me too.

It has been a crazy ride, everything is different, from my relationship with God to my friendships with others. I am okay with not having an answer, I can trust God, and I have the chance to commune with Him daily through prayer and scripture reading. American Christianity did lay a ground work, but it could only take me so far. Eventually I had to leave it behind, from desserts to green pastures. God is doing a work in me, and I want to share it with you, and invite you to join me.

So saddle up, let’s go, to a place of deeper faith.

 

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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 inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

#GospelDrivenSissyPreacher: “You Don’t Talk About Sin Enough”

By Jonathan David Faulkner

I always check my email about four times a day, since God’s Heart uses my personal email for site communications BT has access to it as well. So if I don’t see it, BT probably will and it will come up in our bi-weekly meetings. But I saw this one, an email from a concerned reader right after our Celebration article that came out right after Easter.

“I do not like God’s Heart for those, and I am not sure I want to read anymore.” The writer told us, “you never talk about sin, and I think you should.” After praying about it I responded in brief, inviting the emailer to converse with me on the subject. We had a good email conversation over the next couple days and I was able to explain to him why we do not always talk about or harp on sin.

The truth is, we do talk about sin, but we have made a conscious decision to be a positive reinforcement to the church, giving wisdom and guidance in our crazy world. We recognize that sin exists, that people sin, that we sin, we believe what the bible says. I do not pretend to be a perfect man; the reality is that I am a sinner. My job then, is to repent of that sin when it happens and then rest in the reality that I am forgiven and reconciled to God and walk in the spirit and work to reconcile any damaged relationships. I have to do that; it is required of me by scripture, and that requirement is life-giving when it is lived out. Sin separates us from God and repentance and God’s forgiveness reconciles us to Him through the blood of Christ. We are all under grace, and we need it daily.

That’s how we view sin, we want to be real and honest about it, and now we want to tell you something.

You do not need us to remind you of your sins.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that most of us who are believers are well aware of our sins. Those who are not aware of their identity in Christ often say they are haunted by it. Like the Psalmist says; ”My sin is ever before me.” We are aware of when we sin, we are aware of the sins of the past, we are aware of the sins we commit when we commit them. If our conscious is not seared, we are aware of our sin.

So, unlike Joshua Feuerstein and many other groups on all ends of the theological spectrum we do not think it is any benefit to you to throw sin in your face and condemn you for it. In fact, my father has three things that remind us of our sin.

They are:

  1. The World and its depravity
  2. The Holy Spirit who Convicts
  3. The Accuser who condemns us.

Instead, my father believes then that we should be building each other, that we should speak the life-giving words of Christ and: “Be reminded of who we are.”

That is what the late Morris Tee and I set out to do after the closing of 10:31, during a time in my life, just over a year ago now, when I myself was rediscovering who I was in Christ and working to reconcile all that had been broken over the winter. When we were dissolving the corporation and all its various entities (A process that is still going on a year later) we wanted to keep God’s Heart because, although it did not have the readers it once did, it had served a purpose over the years and we wanted to renew that purpose, to build up and encourage the body of Christ.

But you cannot do that when you are constantly putting down and condemning everyone, harping on sins (some of which are not sins) and putting down those who disagree with you. This of course is in stark contrast to the man whose teachings we have spent the last few months addressing. Trying, and sometimes failing, to be gracious towards this man, despite our strong disagreement. We have maintained that we want to see restoration and redemption in this situation and not for this man to be torn down.

We want a healthy and robust church, full of people who are assured of their identity in Christ. It is not that we have some unhealthy view of sin, disregarding it and brushing it off, but you do not create a group of believers who know the joy of freedom by chaining them to sins that they are forgiven for and set free from.

Another reason that comes to mind is that this is a reaction to my own time as an extremely legalistic fundamentalist. I have destroyed so many people, some of which I may never be reconciled to. Before I go I hope I can restore a few, show love to those who I formerly would not have.

So if that makes me a Sissy Preacher, then so be it, if that makes me a coward and a liar in the eyes of those who disagree with me, then let it be. I can be gracious with them, I can love and honor them too and pray for restoration in their lives, that they might know the Joy of true and genuine freedom in Christ.

We will affirm always that Christ died to be the propitiation for our sins, that God’s wrath is totally appeased and we can have forgiveness and can be reconciled to Him. We affirm then that the position of the believer has been changed and the condition before God changed from Sinner to Saint, Sons and Co-Heirs because of the blood of Christ and that we are justified and made righteous by the sacrifice of Christ. We also affirm that the Holy Spirit is at work within the believer, transforming the mind and heart of the believer into Christ’s Likeness and that this is an ongoing process that will come to completion in heaven. That God has completely freed us from sin and when we repent of sins committed He is faithful to forgive and to cleanse us, His covenant People, restoring us to a deeper relationship with Him.

At God’s Heart for those we are #GospelDrivenSissyPreachers, and we thank God for the chance to do that every single day.

 

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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 inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry