Tag: Bible

More Than Mere Ecumenicism: #FortheUnityoftheChurch

Party-Spirit is something explicitly rejected in Scripture, yet it is something the Church in America has openly embraced. A New Reformation may be one of restoration, the question is will we join the Holy Spirit or fight against Him?

Jonathan David Faulkner

Authors Note: There is a bibliography attached to this article for your further reading. I pray you will prayerfully consider both sides of this issue and deeply consult scripture concerning these matters.

One of the places I would most like to visit in life is the Gravestone of Dr. Philip Schaff which reads: “He worked for the Unity of the Church.” The great church historian’s legacy is one we should aspire too, he was able to work across lines that were even more fervently drawn in the sand, and which would become more-so as the nineteenth century would draw to a close with the rise of reconstructionism and its particularly schismatic brand of fundamentalism that claimed to be: “the only true church.” Schaff understood what the Reformers after Luther did not, that the church is meant to be defined by its historical definition, that is as “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.” That no matter how many lines we drew in the proverbial sand, this is how scripture instructs us it should be and tells us a violation of through party spirit is tantamount to Antichrist. Schaff provides the Anti-Thesis to Hodge’s idea that schism is necessary to “Preserve the Gospel” pointing out that Hodge assumes it is a work of man that the gospel is preserved and not through the work of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hodge’s inability to see the church as an organic body made one by the Holy Spirit and defined by its Love for one another (John 14:21) gave Schaff pause and it should give us pause as well. Schaff was right to say of the American Church that we were a Church without History, working so hard to preserve salvation by grace through faith that we neglected everything after thus reducing Christianity to mere conversionism where we bring people to the cross, but never into discipleship. If Billy Graham said in the 70’s that Christianity in America is “A mile wide and an inch deep” how much worse are we today?

Brothers and Sisters, I love the Church, not the brick and mortar buildings that we call the Church, but the flesh and blood, Spirit indwelled people that is the biblical church. I know the argument is: “Well that’s how it should be, but this is how it is and we cannot make it how it should be.” But if this is how it should be then why are we not falling on our knees, asking God for the unity of the Spirit that Jesus prayed we would have in John 17. The scriptural view of the Church is possible by the Holy Spirit and yes, if we are living out what scripture says the Church should be, it won’t make sense but to the outside world but Jesus promised us it wouldn’t and our refusal to even try, our demands that we keep up the dividing wall of hostility between one another that Christ worked to tear down. Our capitulation to Party-Spirit as some follow Presbyterianism, some follow Congregationalism, some follow Lutheranism, should absolutely break our hearts that in doing this we are doing exactly what Paul warned us against in 1 Corinthians 1:12 and 3:4. I love the church so much that our current reality has made me weep, as a pastor and as a member of the Body. We have taken the very thing Paul warned us against and, ignoring the questions: “Is Christ Divided?” We have cut him into twelve pieces and shipped him to the four corners of the globe. Oh God, please forgive us.

But before I get accused of being a romantic or emotional or even an ecumenic I want to make clear what I am saying here. Schism and Sect and Segregation do not preserve the Gospel, they divide up Christ. Going out and finding a church that meets our preferences and refusing to fellowship with churches that do not, divide Christ, Spreading rumors about the pastors of other churches or hoping that the other churches in town die so you can absorb them is sin and divides Christ. We have become so arrogant that we stand over the church and dictate to it how it should serve our preferences and theological viewpoints instead of relying on the living word of God which we claim is our ultimate authority.

These things even find their way into how we translate the Creed. For instance, in a hymnal your Creed may read: “I Believe in the Holy Spirit, The Holy Catholic Church, The Communion of Saints…” or that second line might read: “I Believe in the Holy Church” or “Holy Christian Church” I even saw one hymnal that said: “Holy Presbyterian Church.” The translation “Holy Christian Church” comes out of reconstructionism and fundamentalism that arose in the 1890’s, from a group claiming they were the “Only true expression of the Church and all others were apostate.” This is the height of party spirit; this is the people in 1 Corinthians 1:10 who said: “I Follow Christ.” The super-spiritual who looked down in mocking jeers at their peers who follow “Paul” or “Apollos.” We see the word “catholic” which in the Creed simply means “universal” or “part of the whole” and think it means “Roman Catholic” instead of digging deeper we just let our prejudice run wild. We then go a step further and try to make our denomination the only true denomination, rebuilding the walls of hostility that Christ worked so hard to tear down (Eph 2). This is sinful and denies both the power of scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit to the point of both quenching and grieving Him. Oh God, please forgive us.

I am not talking about mere ecumenism here; I do not just want denominations to work together across denominational isles. I am talking knocking down the walls of denominationalism altogether in favor of the biblical and historic definition of the Church. I want us to stop acting like our expression of the Church is how it is meant to be and return to a biblical model of the Church. I want the church to be what God intended the Church to be, a universal, set apart, family united by the Holy Spirit that bears witness in our words and actions to Christ and follows His teachings. That would make us the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church that we read about in scripture. Denominations are not even the problem, it is the human sinfulness, the hardness of our hearts towards the things of God and our neglect of those things in favor of what we want, not even what we find in scripture, but what our individualism says we deserve. Brothers and sisters, this is sin, this denies scripture, breaks fellowship, grieves the Holy Spirit and divides Christ.

What is interesting is that God is starting to heal these divisions. All over the united states now there are churches that are combining. Black Churches with White, Older churches with younger, Rich churches and poor. God is starting, by His spirit, to erase these lines sometimes even against our will. We seem to be at the beginning of a new era of reformation one not marked with unintended schism but with God-driven restoration. There is even a Church near me here that is made up of multiple Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.

I have said before and I will say it again. Sect, Schism and Segregations are the unbiblical luxuries of the Church in Power, we are no longer in power, we are even starting to see persecution. Instead of grasping at the last vestiges of the “glory days” of Christendom, instead of denying this work of God of restoration. We should actively embrace it, work to see it through by the Holy Spirit and return to what the Church is biblically meant to be. We do not have the luxury of our consumeristic mindsets in the Church anymore and that reality is only going to keep growing and the church gets pushed more and more to the margins.

And this is a good thing, it may surprise you to know that the places in America where the Church is growing the fastest are places where the Church has already been pushed to the margins. Places like New England where the Pew Research Center recently found that the church in New England is actually “Thriving” when they expected to find it on death’s door. God is doing a work, but it is not the work we have been taught to expect Him to do with our late stage revivalism, unless you read scripture. God is calling His people back to himself, away from all their “isms” and back to one another. The Church in the Majority world has already experienced this and knows that a united church is better than a divided one.

Brothers and Sisters, I plead with you, do not divide Christ or let Him be divided. Our mission is meant to be carried out as one, not several splinters trying to do the same, or not doing what God has called us too, but trying to make sure our own preferences are met and our seat at the table of influence bought and paid for. John Williamson Nevin writes that: “The Church is One and universal (catholic). Unity is essential to her existence.” We no longer have the luxury in America, just as our brothers and sisters in the Majority World have never had the luxury of dividing. Secular Society is looking at us and our bible and asking us if we truly believe what is in there and telling us that if we truly believe then we should practice it. The Doctrine of the Organic Unity of the Church is an essential doctrine of Scripture. It pervades the entire text; it is one of the central themes of three of Paul’s Epistles. It is what Jesus prays for in John 17 and what the Holy Spirit living community of Acts demonstrates for us.

As I said earlier, I love the Church, but not the brick and mortar buildings that are the gathering place of the church, but the people, indwelled by the Holy Spirit who make up the Church who are the Body of Christ. If the government came in and locked all our church doors today and told us we could not gather, that would not be an end to the church, we would just have to follow the example set forth by many of our Asian brothers and sisters who have had to meet in secret.

The ironic thing is this may be the only way to preserve the Church in Rural America, by choosing to live out Gospel unity in a manner that gives up willingly our denominational lines drawn in the sand. This seems to be the path the Spirit is already leading us on as we see it happening more and more in towns and cities across the nation. The question is, are we going to fight against the Holy Spirit or join Him in the work of restoring His people, teaching us again that we are to be “Members, one of another” (Rom 12:5).

So let’s reject party spirit and do that which God has made clear in His word that we are to: “be eager to maintain a Spirit of Unity and the Bond of Peace” (Eph 4:3). So that we can carry the message of the Gospel to the ends of the Earth “Making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:20).

 

References

Charles Hodge, A.A Hodge . 2001. Discussions in Church Polity . Scarsdale : Westminster Publishing House .

Debie, Linden J. 2008. Speculative Theology and Common-Sense Religion: Mercersburg and the Conservative Roots of American Religion. Eugene : Pickwick Publications .

Evans, Tony. 2011. Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom and how we are stronger together. Chicago , IL: Moody Press .

Ford, John T. 1988. “Ecumenical Studies .” In A Century of Church History: The Legacy of Philip Schaff, by Henry Bowdenn, 245-293. Carbondale: Soutern Illinois University Press .

George Marsden. 2006. Fundamentalism and American Culture, . London: Oxford University Press .

Hodge, Charles. 2017. “Response to the Principle of Protestanitsm (1845) .” In The Mercersburg Theology Study Series VIII The Devolopment of the Churh: The Principle of Protastantism and the Historical Writings of Philip Schaff , by Lee C. Barnett, David W. Layman, David R. Bains, Theodore Louis Trost W. Bradford Littlejohn, 209-224. Eugene : Pickwick Publications .

John Williamson Nevin, Sman Hendrix Jr. Charles E. Hanbrick-Stowe, David W. Laymen. 2017. One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic, Tome One: John Nevin’s Writings on Ecclesiology (1844-1849) . Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Miller, Samuel. 2016 . A Treatse on Mercersburg Theology or Mercersburg and Modern Theology Compared (1866). Philadelphia : CrossReach.

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Antichrist: Or the Spirit of Sect and Schism (1848) .” In The Mercersburg Theology Series Vol Vi: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome One: The Ecclesiological Writings of John Williamson Nevin (1844-1850) , by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 160-245. Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Catholic Unity.” In The Mercersburg Theology Study Series Vol VI: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome One: The Ecclesiological Writings of John Williamson Nevin, (1844-1850), by John Williamson Nevin, David W. Laymen, 112=133. Eugene : Pfpf & Stock .

Philip Schaff, . 1964. “The Principle of Protestantism .” In The Lancaster Theology Series on the Mercersburg Theology V: VI , by J.W. Nevin, Ed Bard Thompson Philip Schaff, 48-219. Philidelphia : United Church Press.

Saneh, Lamin. 1995. “Global Christianity and the Re-Education of the West. .” The Christian Century 112.22 715-718.

Strange, Alan D. 2017. Ecclesiology of Charles Hodge. Phillipsburg : P&R Publishing .

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

#GospelDrivenSissyPreacher: I am Not Afraid of Donald J. Trump; I am Resolved.

I AM RESOLVED TO LIVE OUT THE GOSPEL!

By Jonathan David Faulkner

Let me set this out right now so there can be no confusion; I was not nor will I ever be a Trump supporter. I did not vote for him and this website was very open in its opposition to him and support of another candidate who did not make it out of the Republican Primary. I cannot justify voting for someone who would degrade women or speak so condescendingly to those who disagree with him. I am not qualified to judge his heart, but the fruit of division, anger and fear that he has gardened is enough to turn me and those around me off to him.

That being said, I have seen more than one person make the joke that Friday, January 20th 2017 is a day to be dreaded because, that morning, Donald J. Trump will take office. I have listened and read various articles in both the Washington Post and other news outlines that are little more than fear-mongering and seen those around me spout off angry tweets and facebook posts, some of which would make The Donald blush. I have seen posts by the most Liberal of the my friends predicting all sorts of disasters and evil deeds. Everyone is telling me that I should be terrified of this man.

But, I am not, in fact as the Inauguration of our 45th president approaches I have a great and lasting peace. A greater peace than that which I had after the election of a man who’s every policy I have mostly disagreed with. I have a peace about Friday, I am not afraid, I am at rest.

Do I sense the uneasiness of my friends? Yes, I feel all of it.  Am I living in some privileged position because I have this peace and to some that might seem like I am “Shutting it off?” I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. Do I want to invalidate concerns about our incoming president? No, at least not the reasonable ones, but those which are unreasonable and the result of fear-mongering and hate speech from those who so strongly appose him that they would say anything to cause others to cast doubt on him, I would if it meant my brothers and sisters getting to rest their weary, worried souls.

No, I am not afraid of Donald J. Trump, I am resolved. I have a task, and I am going to carry it out.

My task is this; to live a life that first and foremost reflects Christ and, while holding to the Orthodox doctrines of my faith practice living a life that cares for and builds up all around me whether they be LGBTQ+, Black, Muslin, Disabled, Trump Supporter, Trump Hater. Those I agree with and most-definitely those, I disagree with. To find the healthy tension between what I believe and how I practice it and to practice it well. To live out my calling as an image-bearer and Disciple of the Triune God for the benefit and blessing of all I come in contact with, whoever they may be. It is my job now to do the work that Scripture has laid out for me to do and to do that work well.

I do believe, that the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah can apply to us today, that now that we are in an unfavorable position and with an unfavorable ruler we should: “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 6‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 7‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ 8“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. 9‘For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:6-9).

The time has come for us to be the blessing we were called to be, to be salt and light to an increasingly darkening world. Right now, as a direct result of displacement, fear, persecution and the pain of death. Thousands of Arabs are turning to Christ because a light has met them in the darkness. We can have the same result here if we just stop fighting and go about doing the work we are called, by God, in Christ to do. The fields are ready for planting of the true seed. People are questioning, afraid, alone, starring into the immense darkness and beginning to lose their minds. Brother and Sisters, now is the time for us to stand up and work for the betterment of our nation. Not merely because we live here and are planted here, but because others are with us.

Now we must be the people of God. Now we must lay aside our differences and come together as a living, Worshiping, Serving, Missional Body with the Cross and the Word of Truth going before us. A Word that we have learned to rightly divide by the Power of the Holy Spirit so that we may teach and preach it with our words but also with our lives; we must now carry out the greatest two commandments. To Love God and Love our Neighbor. Let us set aside our opinions and cast off that which divides us and be united as one body of Christ, One Church.

No, I am not afraid of Donald J. Trump, I am resolved and at peace for I know that my God is the God who parted the Red Sea, who brought down the walls of Jericho, who made the sun stand still in the sky, who defended Jerusalem. My God is the God who created the world, who sent His only son to die on the cross for the worlds sins. My God is the God of Peace, The God of Mercy, the God of Love, The God of grace, The God of Justice, The God of Righteousness. He is; to use the words of Pastor Matt Chandler: “Immensely Powerful and Intensely Personal.”

This is my God and there’s so much more to Him than this.

This is why I do not have to fear a man and have no fear of who is in the White House. Because my hope is built in nothing less than God himself and my faith will not be shaken by fear mongering or hate-speech from either side.

I am not afraid of Donald J. Trump; I am Resolved to live the Gospel.

And if that makes me a Sissy Preacher, then so be it.

#Gospeldrivensissypreacher

 

 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 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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“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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Giving up the “MY” when choosing a Denomination.

Author: Jonathan David Faulknerdownload 01

            It is 7:30 A.M. on a Monday; I am sitting in the cafeteria up on the Hill contemplating the vast changes in my life that have taken place over the last six months. I live in a new city and go to a new school with new people. I even have purchased a new wardrobe. Every article I have written for God’s Heart for Those, whether we published it or not, has had a theme of change. Consequently, it is not a surprise to me that, once again, God has sought to change my attitude. I have never felt more malleable as though I am the clay in the potter’s hands. At first being molded was hard for me to handle, but now I am taking joy in the growth.

Redeeming the Church

One of the other themes of the last few years has been God’s redemption of the Church in my eyes. Since most of my readers know the struggle I have had with the Church, I will not retell the story. Even so, God has been using the events of the last three years to redeem for me His Church and give me a renewed love and passion for it unlike I have experienced before. Qualifying me repeatedly to fulfill His great and glorious mission for His bride, He has been restoring my desire to sit at the wedding supper and eat with Christ.

This redemption has been a major part of my journey. God called me from the PCUSA to First Baptist in Lyons, KS. Next He installed me as the pastor at First Baptist in Stafford, KS. Then He brought to bringing me to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where He has continued to challenge my long held assumptions and viewpoints. He has caused my love for the church to grow so that it is nearly overflowing. I am excited to see what happens when it does overflow.

Giving Up the “My”

Upon arriving here in August I had one goal in mind, apart from passing my classes: to form relationships with pastors in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with the intent of getting onto their ordination “runway”. Having been raised Presbyterian with the beauty of the liturgy, I thought that returning to that denominational structure was the logical choice. And so, that was the choice I made.

Or so I thought.

God has a funny way of directing you sometimes. He will open multiple doors, or rather, you will perceive multiple closed doors to be opened and, as you try to force them open, you will be met with continued frustration. This is God letting you learn. Learn that it hurts to beat your head against a wall, or a closed door. He is teaching you to trust His guidance. I was beating my head against that door. Not only could I not get to an EPC church, I have yet to meet anyone from that particular denomination on campus. I did, however, meet and exchange information with the representative from what I thought to be my “former” denomination. A week ago now I realized that this decision, as to the place I can do the most good as a pastor, is not mine at all. It is God’s.

Whose Choice is it?

It should be that way, should it not? When you are talking about calling and denominational affiliations? Do you really know or can you really determine ourselves where you would do the most good? Should you not rely on the one who has known you since before the dawn of time? The One who “created my inmost being, knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 136:13), has the hairs on my head counted, feeds me, and clothes me. Is He not the One who knows where you will be most effective?

I think that a God who can create and determine the course of the wind can determine the course of this feeble, depraved man better than any other. He is, after all, the Maker of all and is the One who knows me better than I know myself. I would rather have the One who created me guiding my steps rather than trying to decide for myself and wander aimlessly through life with no purpose.

The Internal Debate

But once I make the decision to follow God into the American Baptist Church my insecurities started burning in my mind. “But Jonathan, they are not reformed, and you are. They do not say creeds and you believe the creeds should be said. Jonathan, there is no beautiful liturgy, no form or structure for praising God. They have nothing you want!”

This is all true, but I am called to pastor. Maybe God is calling me to pastor in such a way that is contrary to all those things that I think necessary. Maybe I have to give up that construct of worship again in order to rediscover it, or help others rediscover it. If there is one thing the Anglicans have taught me, it is that worship is meant to be more than just an hour of our time given to God, but a life of worship given to our God. Although most mainline denominations, even Presbyterians, do not follow this model anymore. It is one I love, living with the idea that God is always with us. Maybe God is sending me to the ABC to be a voice for these things.

Who knows? That is the fun part! We will have to see.

Be in God’s Will

In conclusion, there is nothing better than being in God’s will. Walk through the door that He has opened for you. If we are outside of that will, we will continually be frustrated by the things we try to force to happen or the things others force to happen for us. That requires us to give up the idea of “my” in every situation we encounter. We must learn to discern what is God talking and what is the human heart. Being aware that our own preconceived plans may be in the way of God taking us farther than we could ever dream is just part of learning to discern .

In all things strive for excellence, knowledge, will, and self-control to the glory of our marvelous God and King.

Advice from a Pastor who Pastored before Seminary.

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By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Let me be clear: I am not writing this article because I think I have any answers to questions. I am writing this with one year of experience before heading here to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where I am today. My reasoning for writing this to pass along some things that you might find helpful; some things I learned in my first year of Pastoral Ministry that you should start doing in Seminary that will help make you effective ministers of the Gospel upon Graduation. These are things that I, myself, wish I had known going into my first Pastorate.

 

  1. Learn Time Management Now.
  2. Develop a Strong Devotional Life
  3. Learn to Get Out of the Way.

 

I know, I know, if you are at GCTS orientation and reading this you are thinking; “They have been telling us those first two on repeat since we arrived.” And they have, for good reason, they are pastors and professionals in ministry. But why are they so important? Why not let them roll your eyes at this advice? You should not, and here is why. They are extremely important to learn for you and your congregation.

 

So let’s continue.

1: Learn Time Management Now.

            One of the best questions posed to me so far about what my time as a Pastor is; “How did you manage working a full time job and pastoring a church at the same time?” I gave the person the only answer I could… “I did not.” I turned into the most stressed out and unpleasant person I could have been. The stress played a big role in splitting up my relationship at the time and causing the lack of sleep that lead to the fall that put me off work of two months in February.

Believe it or not, that fall probably saved my pastoral ministry. During that time the only two things that were able to give me relief from the pain were preaching and playing music. The time also served to remind me why I had been so strict on time management my last two years of college. I treated college like an 8-5 job, I did not do that with the pastoral job. In the period of a month I went from working 40 hours a week to close to 100. No one should ever have to do that, adding sixty hours even though I was hired to do about twenty.

It is important to develop a good pattern of time management now because outside of school life gets about one hundred times crazier. Add a wife and kids and bills to pay (As some of my seminarian friends have) and suddenly you cannot spend 100 hours a week doing ministry or work of any kind. It would destroy your marriage. I like the example of my pastor in Lyons, who refuses to answer cell phone calls once he is home with the family. This is certainly a model I will be adopting when I have a family.

It also might help you to sit down and write out a list of what is “Urgent” and what is “Important” and then do your best to work through those “Important” tasks before you even address the “Urgent” ones. Remember, there is absolutely no shame in saying no, something I had to learn in my second six months of pastoring. Remember also that family and your spiritual life are one that list of “Important” things and sometimes, though this is the exception, not the rule, that paper that is due in two weeks is “Urgent.” Which brings me to Number Two.

2: Develop a Strong Devotional Life.

I cannot stress the importance of this particular point. Though I kept my devotional practices during my first three months, I lost a lot of the depth that had been there before. There is a difference between devotional practice and a devotional life. Devotional practice is simply the daily task of reading the bible and praying. The Devotional Life seeks to expand upon the tasks of a devotional practice into a deep and transforming relationship with God.

Cultivating this kind of devotional life takes time, it takes work, it takes dedication. But you are not alone in this journey. Starting by learning to allow the Holy Spirit to direct you into that deeper walk, guiding you into whatever disciplines you find the Holy Spirit uses to draw you in. Past the life of religious ceremony to the depths of the transformative relationship we have in Jesus Christ.

Yesterday, as I was frustrated by a number of things throughout the day I decided to have what in Denver we called an “Artist Date.” I went back to my room and played my guitar and watched a comedy. This is part of my devotional life because it gives my soul a break from the demands of everyday life. This was part of my day, along with silent prayer and listening to God and study of scripture in the morning.

One of the benefits of my time after the fall in February and the closing of 10:31 Life Ministries in April was that I was able to refocus myself on God and rebuilding my devotional life. I even took a week off social media, something I had not done since the inception of 10:31 in 2009.

3: Learn to Get Out of the Way.

I was reading in the Gospel of John this morning about what I have dubbed the “Passing of the Torch” between the way maker (John) and the one for whom he prepared it (Jesus). I was struck by John’s willingness to step out of the way and allow the Son of God to do the work He had come to do. He finishes the passage with “He must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30).

As a believer whose greatest struggle is pride John’s humility struck me. John did not say; “Come, let us go baptize elsewhere, since Jesus has taken our crowds, let us go collect more.” Instead he acknowledges that his work is coming to a close. John has done what he was called to do, he had prepared the way. His ministry culminated in his baptism of his cousin Jesus. Now he was to point people to Jesus and indeed he has already encouraged his own disciples to follow Jesus (See John 1:35-40). Now he would go and preach to Herod until his death in the next few years.

So often, as Pastors, we can be so easily deceived (by pride of the father of lies) to think that we are something special. We tout  our righteousness and deny any thought of weakness because we are called to preach the Gospel. We can think “the Gospel needs me; God needs me.” While it is true that God has given you a calling and a mission, you are disposable. God can raise up another to take your place if your focus is far from him- on yourself and your accomplishments. Like the Casting Crowns song says “sometimes the best thing for us to do, is just get out of the way.” Just as John understood his role must decrease now that Christ had come, so must our flesh. We must seek to be totally kingdom minded and allow the Gospel to advance by the power of the Holy Spirit alone working through us as Vessels. As they have told us here in Orientation; “Do not take yourself so seriously, it will not get you anywhere.”

 

So what did all of this do for me? I quickly found that my relationships with my congregation improved, my sermon writing improved, the gospel advanced. I was able to laugh it off when things went horribly wrong and admit when I had made a mistake. And you will make them and things will go wrong. The Important thing to remember is why you are doing this job. “Not for our own glory but for the glory of the One who calls” (John 8:50)

 

An Open Letter to the American Church

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            Warning: This article will offend you but for that I do not apologize, for I believe now I understand how Paul felt when writing letters to the Corinthians. My grief, even coming from some of my own comments during the past week, is only surpassed by the greatness of the forgiveness of Christ and the Joy that comes with such forgiveness.

Who are we church? Are we a group of people with individual voices? Or are we to be one voice? A positive change in a world that so desperately needs one? Which one are we to be? Did Christ tell us to make sure we got our opinions in and tell others how very wrong they are? Did the world come to our table only to find us fighting and argumentative. As I prepare to preach on 1 Timothy 2:1-7 I am increasingly aware and find myself constantly reminded how much we have forgotten the glorious mission we have been called to. Who has bewitched us, who has led us astray and turned our eyes off of Christ.

For all of you celebrating the court’s decision concerning Hobby Lobby, that’s all well and good, it was a victory for traditional believers. But when someone lashes out at you and you lash back with some opinion that you perceive to be more correct than the person who attacked you are you any better than the world? I am guilty of it too, I know, I removed a post because of the fighting and argumentation and vain discussion going on. I do not want to be a party to division and I was.  No one should desire that the flock be divided and no one should divide.

Are we Cretan’s? Whose own poets called them Liars a fools. Does your opinion, if it is going to cause division, seem that important to you? Yes, maybe the Christians won, but Christ did not. I doubt even the owners of Hobby Lobby wanted the fighting that went on. They stood up for the rights of small businesses, that is true, they made their voice heard. But did they intend for Christians to start calling everyone names? I think not.

The truth is that we have a great and glorious calling, we are to be a blessing, and if a blessing then a change in a world so desperate for one. Do the lessons of our forefathers mean anything to us? Israel and Judah were punished for their disobedience to the God who created them. Tyre was destroyed, as were Sodom and Gomorrah. We have become slaves to the god of opinions, one whose gospel is as divisive as the words themselves from the mouth of the saints.

I do not care if you are Presbyterian, a Baptist, a Methodist, a Catholic or whatever you may be, I do not care. If the church is causing division and chaos then we are not fulfilling our glorious mission. We are far from making disciples, Christ is not winning, oh the Christians may be, and we may think that’s great, but Christ is not. If anything Christ has lost in this past week. Instead of a deep and abiding love we have shared hate, even with other Christians.

You see we are to be LOVE to the world, we are to be PEACE to the world, we are to be HOPE to the world, we are to share FAITH with the world. Why? Because these are the things Christ shared with us, go read Romans, the entire book. Get out of the gospel of public opinion, withdraw your voice, surrender your right to speak. Lest we become the laughing stock of the world.

You want to take back this nation for Christ? Bind yourselves once again to Christ our savior. Return to daily study of the word of God. Renew your commitment to this great calling that has been thrust upon us when we accepted grace and received Jesus as savior. Return to living a peaceful and quiet life, dignified in all ways, praying for all people, kings and rulers and those in authority. Remember the Piety of Hezekiah, the devotion of Josiah, the commitment of Daniel, the Faith of Christ, the life and testimony of Paul, the love shown by believers for centuries and the passion of the early church.

Come back oh Church to the gospel of grace. To the eternal weight of glory given us by our salvation in Jesus Christ, recommit yourself to the gospel that brings life. We need to love again. We need to show grace again. We need to be a light again. Oh tasteless generation, come together and let us rediscover as one what we have lost.

For we are the saints of a Holy God, we are the ones who believed, we are the saints and the chosen ones, the ones God has called free.

It is time for reformation oh Church, it is truly time for awakening.

FIRED UP: Good Men Exist…Godly Men Exist

Good Men Exist…Godly Men Exist

(Fear of Godly Men)

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            “I’m afraid of you, are you afraid of me?”

            “I’m terrified of you.”

 

I do not know why but as I was reading the first book in the popular book series Divergent this particular scene between the main character Tris and her love interest Four stood out to me. Maybe it was the tenderness, maybe it was the hopeless romantic in me or maybe it is because I have had this very conversation, or at least a variation of it, with at least three of my close female friends in the last six years. Two of those girls I was considering courting at the time. Yet as I thought through this today I had to ask myself: “Should I really be surprised?”

 

Should you be surprised?

 

At first, you may be able to make an argument for some form of shock but when you really start to boil it down you find the answer to be “No, we should not be surprised.” Why? Because culture has redefined manhood to a point that has stripped the value away from our sisters in Christ and turned them into objects for sex or property to be had or a trophy to be won. Yet if we look deeper into history we find that this has been going on for a very long time.

Egyptian women for example had one purpose, to produce strong offspring to, particularly males, who could carry on the family line. The Canaanites were the same, both worshiped gods of sex and fertility, both held women up to be objects meant for baby making. In Rome it was customary to beat ones wife if she did not give you what you wanted. Even in Jewish Culture woman’s only value was in child rearing and again sons were highly valued, a barren woman was shunned.

But in Jewish culture we also have the Law, and the law provides for a woman protection. Passages like: Leviticus 21:22 in the Old Testament and Ephesians 4 & Colossians 3:19 in the New Testament. Colossians 3:19 says specifically “Husbands love your wives and do not be embittered against them.” This is specifically a pushback against the Roman treatment of women. Jesus highly values women (John 4,8 anything having to do with Mary & Martha). Gabriel calls Mary, the mother of Jesus “Highly Favored” (Luk. 1:34-37).

So if women are so highly valued and to be protected by men then why do we have conversations like Tris & Four’s? There are a number of reasons. 1. A secular male driven culture is no different from Rome. 2. Masculinity has been lowered to mean how strong you are, how many fights you win and how many women you have slept with. 3. The glorification of Rape Culture by the media and subsequent blaming of the victim. 4. A lack of biblical understanding amongst Christians who are called to be the leaders on the fronts of biblically centered manhood & Godliness.

Considering these factors it is no surprise to me when I hear a young woman say “There are no good men in the world.” This may be true, but ladies do you need a good man? Or do you need a Godly man?

C.S Lewis says in Mere Christianity: “God is not in the business of making nice men nicer, but instead is in the business of making old men new.” Leonard from TV’s The Big Bang Theory is a good guy, a secular guy, he still wants to sleep with Penny, but he is respectful of he throughout the show. A man who’s been transformed by God will be kind, gentle, loving, faithful, peaceful, patient and self-controlled (See Galatians 5). One could also say he will exemplify the fruits of the spirit.

But here is where the problem develops. God transforms good guys into Godly men, or even transforms bad guys in Godly Men. A young woman comes along and he is genuinely and sincerely interested in her, she loves the Lord, she is following after Him, desiring His will but this young woman has also been broken by many a boy claiming to be a man and that is an area of her life that has never been healed. So her first reaction is to make him a brother or a best friend type. Which is good because all relationships should start in friendship, but as time goes on she starts to develop feelings of her own for him, but these she pushes down, rejects them. Why? Because past experience has taught her that she does not deserve to treated with respect, honor and dignity by a man. That when a man compliments her it means he wants to sleep with her.

My friend David always compliments his fiancés beauty because he wants her to know that God made her beautiful. He encourages her and upholds her, honors her. Now I do not know if this scared her fiancé, but I do know it scared my spiritual sister *Lucy when her now fiancé complimented her. She could not believe they were true because in the past compliments had been used as a means to manipulate her into doing something she did not want to do.

I read an article this week entitled “What a Girl Needs: 8 Musts before Marriage.” It was an excellent article, I recommend you read it by clicking the link above. It was very straight-forward in saying that a woman needs a man who is Godly, who works hard & who will protect her. These are things though, that a Godly man should already be seeking to do. These are things that come naturally, as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. These are things that we should be doing to glorify God.

But how do we address the fear? If you are a young woman I would remind you that God still creates genuine men, He is still in control and if you are trusting God with your heart He will keep it til someone comes along who will guard it. Men, be aware that she may be afraid of your kindness, do not simply reassure her that it is real, show her that you are genuine in your approach and treatment. And do not rush your friendship or potential courtship, she will need you to be dependably slow in allowing her to adjust.

When Leonard asks Penny out in The Big Bang Theory they both ask Sheldon for advice. Sheldon’s response is the example of Schrodinger’s Cat. Which does not make sense until Sheldon makes the point that you never know until you open the box. Friendships with the opposite gender are gifts, they need to be cared for and built up and encouraged, but ladies do not be afraid, there are godly men, but if you never let him sweep you off your feet, or let go of your fear and open the box of friendship and courtship, how will you truly know what it is like to be loved and cared for by a Godly man. Your value comes from God, he should know that and if he does not, well keep searching because there is someone out there who does.

Brutal Honesty about being a Single Christian

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Brutal Honesty about Being a Single Christian

 

            Loneliness can be like a flood.

Here I am, just out of college, I’m living with a professor from the college I graduated from. I’m working for the college I graduated from. Trying to find a job in ministry, trying to keep 10:31 running, trying to find my own place and learn how to pay bills. And as exciting as all of this can be at times there are times when I am just lonely.

Some might say that this is wrong of me, some might say that I have no reason to be. I do have incredible friends who I get to see on almost a daily basis, but most of them are in relationships or getting married and those that are not, are not looking. But I have this desire, I have this want, I’ll even call it a need to have someone close to me, to have a young woman in my life who loves the Lord and who loves me. Again, some might say “you’re young” or “why do you want this?”

My Answer

Because God made me this way dang it, and until the day He fills the void that He left for my other half I will have this desire and am meant to have this desire. To be a husband and a father who leads his family to love and glorify God.

Now this sounds like complaining I know, and I’ve heard it all. “You should be content,” or “It’s when you stop looking that God brings the one.” I’ll be honest, there are times when I just want to give up, to resign myself to loneliness, but God did not intend it to be that way. He did not intend me to be that way. I wish I could have the peace and serenity that one of my brothers in Christ has, (he is called to be single), but I don’t anymore. I am no longer content like I once was, now it feels as though something’s missing and I believe God is allowing me it to be missing.

And to my dear friends who don’t believe God would allow that consider how long He allowed Jacob to remain single and then the years of work he had to do to finally get Leah, not Rachel who he’d originally bargained for. God Himself said “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Yes, this is in reference to Adam at creation, but it seems to be true to this day.

Yes, being single and out of college can be a struggle but there is a flip side to this that must be discovered too.

 

THIS IS A TIME OF PREPARATION.

I cannot mention my discontent without mentioning what I have learned from this time. I have learned to love God with all my heart, soul and mind. I have learned what it is like to have no significant other. I have learned how to heal, how to love others deeply. How to build up my friends and love them as part of the body of Christ. I have learned how to do minor household repairs, I have been reminded of the centrality of the word in the lives of believers, how to persevere, how to come out on the other side of heartache and how to resolve conflicts.

So for all the struggle there is a very positive side. I am in much better shape, have a better work ethic and am much closer to God then I was even a month ago. Most importantly though I have learned to walk by faith and lead others in walking by faith.

See, in becoming a man of God there is an honest truth, one must take time to evaluate himself before the light of the throne. Then, upon that evaluation we must change what scripture tells us to change By grace we do this, because of Christ’s death on the cross we get to do these things. But preparation is hard, it is difficult and it can be offensive. There were attitudes and still are attitudes that I needed or need to get rid of before I can lead a family. I have to work a minimum wage job that isn’t very glorifying to learn to glorify God with everything.

So let God deal with me as I will. Yes I struggle with loneliness but who hasn’t at some point. Yes, I struggle with my single state, but I have a body to raise me up and encourage and pray for me. I know she’s out there, I know God’s working on her and making her awesome (if I don’t know her already and don’t already think she’s awesome) I just have to get there. I have to seek and let God prepare me. Not be girl crazy, but be crazy in love with God. Then in the middle of my lonely state I can look ahead to the things that have been promised. God’s grace, love and mercy and the fulfillment of our desires for His glory.

 

Jonathan David Faulkner is the director and founder of 10:31 Life Ministries 

Street Psalms

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Street Psalms

 

            Picture if you will a back alley way. Somewhere in between a large bookstore and a Starbucks Coffee, do you see the sidewalks leading in? They are well kept, red brick, full of people and bicycles going where they will. Occasionally a bus flies past on its way to the next intersection. There are no cars because this part of the city is meant only for pedestrians and busses. Traveling at light speed, not stopping to notice them as they stand over a trash can fire or sit on the curb or attempt to stay warm as the cold mile high night air sinks into their bones. One of them has a bottle of Jack, another has a cigarette and still another man is huddled under blankets. This is how they will sleep tonight, this is how they will awake the next morning, without anyone noticing.

That assumes of course that none of the local patrols come through and run them out, telling them to find somewhere else to sleep. Tonight that will happen and one of them will be arrested for trying to fight with the police officers. Which is what he wanted, after all even one night in prison is better than trying to find another place to sleep.

Welcome to Denver Colorado, welcome to the bleeding places. Where people who are forgotten get together to remember what community feels like. The knowledge is evident, the wisdom is coherent, you won’t survive another night without your brothers. Because there is something strangely comforting in knowing you were not the only one to hear “Get a job” or who someone looked down on during the night.

Three years removed from Denver I discovered how easy it is to forget these things. Forget nights spent with the guys flying signs or trying to sell newspapers. The same guys I would serve a meal to at Christ’s Body, the same guys who’s stories broke my heart day in and day out. I want to go back to that place, to see the faces, old and new. You promise to visit but rarely do you get the chance too. Then you hear the stories from your contacts, men such as my supervisor John, knowing that some of the guys have met untimely ends at the hands of drug addictions, police violence, the person in Aurora who is beating up God’s homeless men and women.

Where is the light in the bleeding places, where is the light that the darkness has not understood. Like a tiny watch light in the darkest place gives off so much light could be the gospel in the hands of the believers. End homelessness? Didn’t Jesus promise we’d always have the poor among us? But where is the lament? Who cares for the beggar Lazarus at the rich man’s door? Are we so caught up in going overseas that our own backyard has grown over and become unattended. Why will we pay so much to go overseas to serve meals but refuse to serve meals to the homeless  men down the street. America needs missionaries too, not Christians who are fighting over who is right and wrong or who look down on the charismatics for their charisma or the reformers for their stringent adherence to the word of God. We need to be the church again, we cannot be so camouflaged by the world that we blend in.

Yes, the gospel is essential; we need the gospel if we are function healthily. But we need crazy men and women of God to be out serving and loving and building up the church, and we need pastors who are deeply in love with God to bring the church to a place where the body deeply loves God. No intense spiritual highs that don’t last, just the pure and unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of grace and peace and does last, and goes well beyond understanding.

What if we stopped thinking it an inconvenience to serve one another? What if the church built one another up instead of tearing down? How would the world be changed, if men stood up to lead their wives and sisters. If Children grew up saturated by the gospel message, would we not see a change? If we stopped trying to have it out way, our will done, and sought God’s will. How would we make a difference? If we turned from the watered down gospel of the seeker-friendlies and turned to the gospel with its full might and transformative power, allowing and participating in the work of the Holy Spirit. How would the world be transformed?

So tonight they will sleep in a warm bed. Because two Christian families had extra rooms and didn’t find it an inconvenience to serve another brother in Christ, and tomorrow they will go to church, clean shaven and hear the height and depths of the Word of God. And though they may return one day to the streets for whatever reason but for a time, even if brief, they will know the true sacrificing love of Jesus Christ. And that, that love will make all the difference.

 

Denver