Month: November 2016

The Widow, The Orphan, The Refugee, and You!

By Jonathan David Faulkner

In reflecting on Luke 10:29 A.P. Stanly says:

“Who is thy neighbor?” It is the sufferer, wherever, whoever, whatsoever he be. Wherever thou hearest the cry of distress, wherever thou seest anyone brought across thy path by the chances and changes of life (that is, by the Providence of God), whom it is in thy power to help—he, stranger or enemy though he be—he is thy neighbor.”

I wonder if the young Lawyer knew what he was about to unleash. Working to excuse himself from caring for the sick and the poor he asks: “Who is my Neighbor?” Jesus, of course, answers in the form of a Parable, that being the Parable of the Good Samaritan which I hope I do not have to remind you of. One could put this question forward today, what would be the answer? Having worked in the Inner-City I can tell you that the notion of caring for the poor and needy is often after-thought. Or, we give money or send a shoebox full of goodies and a Gospel Trac to a third World country, pat ourselves on the back and then go on our way. These are good things, but have we truly acknowledged our neighbors in those contexts? There was a time when I put my shoebox up on the Church Stage without a thought that my gift may be going to a village with no running water.   I have given money to an organization that digs wells in Africa and not thought about the fact that there is an actual need for clean water in Africa.

Again, these things are good things to do, and I am not saying we should not do that. But as Dr. Emmitt Price said in a discussion on Reconciliation: “Someone needs to dig a well in Flint Michigan as well.” I have attended events and gone on a missions Trip where I worked with marginalized people groups and patted myself on the back. I had played the “Good Christian” card in my own head to excuse me from so many different things. On the streets of Denver I was awakened to this part of my being.

“I really struggled with the stories I am hearing and the lives that are broken” I told my supervisor Pastor John. “God was destroying my heart and I had to deal with it one on one with Him.”

You know my story, the hurt, the pain, the bullying the depression, the abuse. You have seen my posts and followed this blog. I had let that consume me and I was not healing, then I discovered the pain of another and let God take my own pain and then I was able to feel, I was able to heal. Everyday I had the pain of others right before and my job was to love them precisely where they were at as a part of the Shelter’s staff. I could not escape it, and I felt it, I felt the pain of another.

It did not stop there though, if you think that my return to small town America excused me from seeing others pain you are wrong. I started to see all those hurting; pain became to me a magnet. Now that my own pain had passed and was healing, I wanted others to share in that healing. Instead of wanting people to feel my pain, I wanted them to share in my joy.

It is because of that experience that I have been able to say in light of the pain experienced by so many both before and now after the Election. “I want to be able to mourn together, weep together, so we can heal together and then rejoice together.” I want to be for the other, for the hurting and downtrodden so that I can lift him up and invite him to sit at the head of the table. I want to take him from his place of humiliation and elevate him to that place of honor. I want to do that by taking him just as he is and letting the Spirit do whatever work is necessary.

So how do we respond? Especially now when there is so much hate and vitriol on both sides of the table. In the shadow of a historic and historically terrifying election how do we respond to those who are hurting, how do we hurt? What does the Church do now?

When my dear brother and close friend asked a group of us this question tonight, this was my response.

You be the Samaritan: Do you realize that the story of the Good Samaritan would have been considered Anathema to the Religious Leaders. So offensive it would have assuredly got their attention and may have contributed to their anger towards him greatly. Why? Because the Samaritan’s were considered Half-Breeds, a reminder of Israel’s past. Worshiping on Jacobs mountain instead of in the Temple or Synagogue. If you were a Jew and you had to go to Galilee or a northern province you generally went around Samaria. A Samaritan was considered unclean and worthy of contempt. That’s why Jesus conversation with a Samaritan woman in John 4 is so scandalous, the fact that Jesus was even in Samaria in the first place was abnormal for a Jew, especially for a Jewish Rabbi. Today we would see the equivalent in the way middle leaning Christians treat ultra-left or ultra-right wing Christians.

So for the Samaritan to even touch this Jewish man who had been beaten and robbed was probably something that would put him in danger, perhaps even danger of death. Some Commentators believe this is why he drops the man off at the inn and tells the innkeeper to care for the man and when he was well he would return and pay for the cost of caring for him. Josh Riebock points out that this man would have had to “Get down and get his robs all covered in blood and sweat and dirt to pick this man up. He would have had to get down in the mess of this man.” Just to put him on his donkey and carry him to an inn would have required the man to need a change of clothes. If this was a true story, which some Commentators believe it was because of Jesus use of Specific land markers and general specificity not present in other parables. Then the Samaritan is a hero even though he will never be recognized for what he did.

So what does the Church need to do now? Be the Samaritan. It is time to lay aside our personal comfort and peace to help the hurting. To face pain of death for the hurting and the broken, If Atrocities are committed we must stand up with those whom they are being committed against and love so radically that we are willing to give up our lives to protect theirs. We need to be people who are willing to get down in the mud and blood and sweat of the hurting person and lift them out, put them on our own donkey’s, take them to an inn and make sure they are looked after and cared for. Regardless of the cost to us, we need to be willing to and actually be active in seeking to protect those who are afraid, hurting or whatever state they are in. God himself does this in the Incarnation, stepping down into the mess of the world and though we cannot be perfect as He is without the Indwelling of the Spirit (and even then not totally so until after the resurrection) we can imitate him here on Earth.

When I set the tagline on God’s Heart a year ago I thought my hope was to turn your attention to those who were hurting. The Widow, the Orphan, the Refugee and you was not merely a tagline to get you to read my posts, but (I hoped) to get you to think about those things that we have so often ignored. I truly believe that the way we respond to the hurting and broken and in the face of whatever may come will define the Church in America in the eyes of History. It is time for us to stand up and speak for the voiceless, we cannot allow this opportunity to pass like we have so many times before.

Because there are a lot of scared people out there, Blacks, Whites, LGBTQ+, Disabled, Immigrants both legal and illegal, the widow, the orphan, the refugee and you. With that, there is hope that can come alongside them. There is the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the light that “Shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood it” (John 1). We have that hope and that light, we can be peacemakers, we can be, through the Spirit of God within us, a voice that speaks life and hope and encouragement

But that might require us to give up our lives, face persecution, get messy.

I am ready! Are you?

 

 Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid 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

My Anger, The Psalms & Choosing not to Hate

By  Jonathan David Faulkner

 

As far as Trump’s election goes, I am angry, I am hurt and I am scared. I am a disabled American who has many, many friends who are immigrants or who are part of the LGBTQ community. I have sisters and I have female friends and a fiancé all of whom I love and most of whom are terrified. I have watched the news, I have watched my newsfeed. I have watched the hatred and vitriol breed more and more hatred and vitriol until it has mushroomed into the taking over my Facebook Newsfeed. There is so much uncertainty playing out before us, so much that is unknown about the future.

Through it all I have tried to be a positive voice among all the negative ones. I have tried to listen to and feel the pain of both sides. Two groups of people who are hurting one from being ignored for so long, one because of fear and because certain ones who won have treated them in a horrifying and repugnant manner, both want to have their voices heard and both should. Suicides have doubled, violence has surged through the roof and brother has turned on brother. It is a mess.

It has been a hard week for me, there has been so much to process and so much to think about. How do I respond? How do I deal with the turmoil within me? Where do I find comfort? Do I allow myself to descend into the hopelessness around me or do my best to stay positive? How do I react?

Last Spring, during Lent, I began to pray the Psalms, five times a day, five days a week. I work through them in about 34 days. Tuesday I had reached the Sixties which is a series of Psalms of Lament that all end in the victory of the Lord. These were gentle reminders, deep whispers of hope in the middle of my turbulent soul. They were like fresh waters to calm the feelings of disenfranchisement from the party that had represented me for two decades and from the Evangelicalism that nurtured and brought me to reformed faith. I could have said choice words to both sides and have wanted to and been stopped by that flood of peace that comes as I open the Psalms and pray.

This practice, that and my long morning prayer and readings in scripture, currently Job and 2nd Timothy have largely kept me safe in these turbulent times. That does not make me better than anyone, it only means I have found a coping method that gives me hope and allows me to channel my anger into something constructive, not destructive.

Because I am angry, I want to rant and rave and make broad sweeping statements about both sides and spread the same hatred and vitriol that is filling my news feed. I want to spit fire, to be angry, to be mad. But what good is that going to do for me? What good is that going to do for my brothers and sisters if I put down those who I am against? How is being against anyone going to ever change the heart of that person?

Hate only begets more hatred.

I don’t want to want to contribute to more hate…I do not want to hate.

Yesterday I reached out to some of my liberal and LGBTQ + friends who are hurting and scared. Today I chose not to hate, but to be a light of hope, a beacon for love. We do not have to tear down the ones whom we disagree with. We can acknowledge the pain  of others and meet them where they are at. Just because I disagree with them, does not mean I hate another person. That is a fallacy. Yes, I disagree with them, but that does not mean I should separate myself from anyone regardless of who they voted for or what they believe or how they live. I can love someone, be hope for someone who I disagree with. I can listen to the hurting and be a friend to those whom I disagree with.

That goes for anyone is who is hurting. The ones who had not had their voices heard for eight years and the ones who are afraid of their personal futures. Each group actually has good reasons to be angry at either the establishment or the election results. Anger is legitimate, especially here.

Scripture even legitimizes Anger: “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26). It is okay to be angry, but as the rest of the line tells us, it is what we do with that anger that is important. Do we allow anger to turn to hatred? Scripture also tells us that “Anyone who hates his brother is guilty of murder” (Mt 5:22, 1 Jh 3:15, 4:20). We are not meant to hate one another, we are allowed to be angry. Indeed, injustices before us should make us angry, should drive us to desire change, but we should not allow that anger to turn to hatred.

I chose not to hate, I chose not to turn this into a “Me Against them” issue because I do not want to alienate those who are hurting. I want to be a beacon of light and hope in such a dark and turbulent time. I want to reinforce the faith of my brothers and sisters, not destroy it.

Oh brothers and sisters, shall we hate each other? Shall we allow such divisions to endure among ourselves we have lost the fight. If we think it is justified to be bitter towards a group of people, some of who are responding from a place of their own pain. How will we ever close the great divide before us. Both in the Church and in the society as a whole.

This one’s on us Church, how we respond will define us for all time.

 

 Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid 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

Christians: What do we do Now?

By Jonathan David Faulkner

When I went to bed at around 10:00 last night I honestly Hilary Clinton would be our next president. I was not a Clinton Supporter, nor was I a Trump supporter, but I hoped that it would not come to this; I long wished that we could avoid having them both run, but that was not the case. So I hoped for better options and voted for someone I thought was a better choice for America than the two put forward by the two major parties. As I Christian, I just could not consciously vote for either of them and have peace about it.

I have watched as our country has become more and more divided. I have watched as hate and fear have become the norm. I have seen friends, out of fear, block and unfollow and intimidate and mistreat. I have seen misogyny justified and racism legitimized through a presidential candidate, now president-elect. I watched his apposition create further divides by insulting and then demonizing those who support her apposition. I have seen fear and hate and anger in quantities I hoped I would never see in my life. I have seen Vitriol and I have watched fear take hold of the very soul of man. It is okay to be angry, what we do with that anger will define us.

So how does the Church respond now? What do we do now that we are a divided people living in a divided nation? It seems to me that we should do three things: 1. Pray 2. Begin the work of Healing the divide 3. Work to Benefit the Nation God has planted us.

First I want to add a brief note on what we should not do. Let us not participate in trash talk on either side. Let us not further the divide between the two sides. Let us not do any more harm than has already been done. Let us not complain or be hateful. Let us not turn our backs on the hurting and afraid. Let us not, not be the Church.

Let me expand on those things that we can do:

  1. PRAY

Brothers and Sisters, regardless of what we may think of Donald Trump, whether you voted for him or not, we must pray for him. That is, pray for him, not against him and pray that he would truly respond to the Gospel and find true and genuine repentance. This has been true in every presidency, but it is especially true now as Trump’s presidency very well could shake the foundations of our society. That means, more than ever, we need to be in prayer for the office of the president. It also means that now more than ever, we need to pray for unity amongst the congregations of the Saints. To lay down the divides of Denominational differences and in our denominations come together as the Church to pray for one another and to encourage one another in the come challenges that are sure to face the Church.

We need to pray for unity and for peace among all parties. Through prayer we have a ministry of peace that comes directly from God the father. We can be, because of the Power of the Spirit indwelling within us, be peacemakers in this new presidential series. So let us pray for our president and for his advisors, but also for unity within the Church in this time and for grace and peace to spread like a wildfire where once hate and fear, were burning. (See Jesus prayer in John 17).

  1. WORK TOWARDS HEALING:

Brothers and Sisters we have now seen how much and how deep the hurt runs here in America. Throughout this entire election we have seen how those are powerful driving factors in our political system. Now, we as the Church must begin working to heal those divides. We must work to reach both across the aisle and out to our own family members who we argued against and work to reconcile those relationships. Again, to step even across denominational and political lines, in the spirit of the Ecumenicist and unite in mourning so that healing can begin. We must set aside any distrust of other races or other ideologies. Denying our tribes and right to an opinion for the sake of our fellow man who is hurt, afraid and disenfranchised.

We must be the Church, we must follow what St. James says is true and pure religion: “To look after widows and orphans.” Not stopping there but caring for the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the LGBTQ, the Disabled, the Marginalized, the Disenfranchised, the Immigrant, Communities in Pain like the African American Community and other minority groups. We must speak peace and live out the Gospel of truth, being a light to the nations and truly letting them know that we are Christ’s by the love that we show for all people. Especially those whom we disagree with in lifestyle or ideology, we must be the Church and not just that, be the Gospel. Through that love we know from God we can be a voice of peace and healing and love in a nation that now so desperately needs it.

  1. WORK FOR THE BENEFIT OF YOU COMMUNITY:

Dear friends, just like God spoke through Jeremiah the Prophet 2500 years ago, we must now work for the betterment of our communities and nation. Whether that be through the work of Social Righteousness and Justice or through literally:  “Planting gardens and building houses.” That is, through working to better our communities we bless our nation and show care for those who would normally not receive it. We must throw off stereotypes and fear of another and work together to accomplish this goal. It is time for the church to truly be a blessing, not through political power-mongering, but through the action of caring for those we are called to care for and loving all whom are put before us to love. We must work for the benefit of those places where we live regardless of who that requires us to serve. As my Fiance so boldly said this morning: “I was a teacher yesterday with people in front of me to love and today I still am.”

CLOSING: THE CALL

Christians, with this I call you to prayer, I call you to peace, I call you to love and I call you to live out the Gospel in its truest firm. I charge you to be men and women of true and genuine faith in Christ. To seek His face and to receive from Him the healing and peace that you need so that you can go and be that healing voice. Do the work of a minister of grace and maker of disicples of Christ. As Paul tells Timothy; “For you were not given a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love.” So go Church and live in that Spirit from this day forth and forevermore.

 

 Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid 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 Sun Still Rose: A Gentle Word of Peace from the God’s Heart Staff.

By God’s Heart Staff

Today the sun rose, we were told it would not. We were told that one of these two candidates would most assuredly bring about the end of the world merely by being elected. We were told that Hilary was the greatest evil and that Donald was the greatest hope…or was it the other way around. We were told that a vote for one was a vote for another and if we voted for one we were obvious racist or misogynist or if we voted for the other we were liars and criminals. We listened to rhetoric and hate-speech come from both sides of the isle. For those like me who voted third party we were told that our vote did not count, that we were throwing it away. We were told to expect trouble, we were told to expect pain and suffering and we may, but the sun still came up.

Oh Church, why are we so afraid, why do we fear that which is in the control of God? Why do we fear at all when we are told expressly to “fear not” in Scripture. Oh dear and precious people of God, where is your peace, where is your hope. Do you not remember the words that God has spoken to you, the words of the special revelation of God When he said through the words of The Apostle Paul: “Be anxious about nothing, but in all things with prayer and supplications make your requests known to God (Ph 4:6). Oh Church, do not despair, for the today the sun rose just as 2,000 years ago The Son rose. From its resting place below the horizon, He has arisen and has risen to the right hand of God the Father. He is the Son, the “Image of the Invisible God” (Col 1:15). He Is with us, walking with us, guiding and protecting us. We are the sheep of the pasture and He is the good shepherd watching out for His sheep.

Oh dearly loved Body of Christ, let peace rule in your hearts, be not afraid of suffering for in suffering you experience the blessed Joy of communion with our heavenly Father. God has not abandoned you, He has not left you alone in this election cycle, you are not left to the wolves. Indeed, this is your call back to the loving arms of His peace and righteousness. The Teacher is wise when he states with confidence “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to Him and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). Do not fear, your refuge is strong and unwavering, the grace you have been given is greater than any harmful arrow of any enemy. It is true that no weapon that the enemy can form against will prosper. We are the people of God, we are the sheep of His pasture, we are His and no matter who is president our identity as Saints cannot be taken away in the Heavenly places.

Dearly Beloved, you are so deeply cared for, indeed the Psalms says that “I have never seen the children of the Righteous go hungry” How recently have you considered the sparrow in this time of Political discord, how often have you thought on that which is good and Holy? Have you allowed peace to rule in your hearts? Have you allowed the God of peace to Dwell in you? Oh dear people of God, we are not children of fear, we were not given a spirit of fear, but through the Holy Spirit we were given a spirit of power.

Do you hear the Word of God in this post? Do you hear the savior calling out to you to “Be Still and Know that I am GOD.” Oh Holy people do not be afraid, please dear brothers and sisters, rest in the comfort of the God who has always sustained the world, from its very beginnings He formed its foundations, divided its waters, created land, sun, moon, stars, animals, you. Please little flock be at peace. You serve the God who makes the rain fall and the wind blow and the trees bloom. Who has seen and contains the storehouses of snow. He is stronger than Leviathan, above all the rulers and authorities and principalities.

Dear Church you are loved, be in peace, for today the Son is risen and the sun rose.

 

More to come from God’s Heart Later Today!