Tag: church

A Protestant Goes to a Monastery:

 

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

I once considered Cloistered life, no joke, as I studied Church History I found the flow and practice of Monastic life quite appealing. Eventually I began visiting a little Benedictine Monastery and conversing with the brothers. As I prayed about the decision I found God was not calling me to Holy Orders, he wanted me in the Local Church and while one can do that in a Monastery, but it is not the primary purpose. Also, I am not Catholic, as you know I was raised Presbyterian, served as a Baptist Pastor and am working on Ordination in the 4C’s. I am aware there are Protestant Monasteries, even Protestant order of Franciscans, I consider myself a student of the Little Saint from Assisi, (I now own the Omnibus of Sources on him), but the more I prayed about it, the more the Lord called me back to His mission for my life. I still enjoy going to Monasteries, they are quiet places, great for study, praying and listening and resting.

It was the last three reasons that I went. If you live here at the Seminary you know that my life has been a bit crazy lately, between leading worship for Chapels, God’s Heart, Paper Writing and all those other things associated with Seminary Life I had been running a bit low on energy, I needed a rest, since I missed the Soul Care retreat in February because of Mentored Ministry I had not had a proper break and since I load my semesters to get a lot done early on I found myself in need of a break.

So I saw the opportunity and took it, a day trip down to the Monastery with one of my fellow Seminarians.

The Monastery is set in the hills, next to the little towns of Still River and Harvard (Not the school). Its white buildings were built in the 1600’s with the exception of a barn that was built when the Benedictine’s first moved out to the Monastery in the 70’s and took up Dairy Farming. Now it is the multi-purpose facility for the use of the many retreat groups that come through their each year. Benedictine Monks are called to perform some task per The Rule of St. Benedict and this particular Monastery’s good was hospitality.

We arrived for 8AM mass, it was modeled after the Old Mass so everything was spoken and sung in Latin with the exception of Holy Scripture, which was read in English. We of course could not take Communion since we were not Baptized Catholics, but it was interesting to see the Host Elevated and hear the prayers and songs of the Monks as they joyously participated. After that we met with Father Augustine and toured the Monastery, visiting the guest house and learning about the History of the Abbey. After that we were on our own for awhile, we ended up going down to a little stone chapel (My room here on campus is bigger) and spending time in silent prayer and scripture meditation. I also wrote a poem while we were there. Then we trekked back up to the Monastery (about a mile) in the rain so we could meet with Father Augustine to ask questions about Monastic Life. We then went to Sext, one of the divine offices, which was again in Latin, though this time we had English translations, and after that lunch. The rest of the time was spent reading and praying and being quiet before the Lord. I spent the afternoon in the guest house, watching the storm clouds pass by outside, occasionally feeling the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.

It was a quiet and peaceful day, just the day I needed as I drank in the much needed prolonged scripture reading. Meditating specifically on Psalms 130 all morning while sitting in that tiny stone chapel, listening to the birds sing and the rain fall, it was, what my Protestant Soul needed.

I know my readers are going to ask “Why did you go to Mass? Aren’t you a protestant?” The answer to the second question is “Yes, I am a Protestant,” Reformed as the next Reformed Theologian, but does that mean I can reject all that came before Calvin and Luther? We have discussed before how Church History did not start at the Reformation, Catholicism is our roots, and we are all part of the catholic (universal) church, which includes Catholics. There are also some very beautiful and life-giving practices given us by the Catholic Church that even Calvin upheld as good things (i.e Monastic devotion to study of scripture, praying the psalms). I may not agree with Transubstantiation, preferring the Reformed Doctrine of Real Presence and the explanation of Divine Mystery to answer the “How?” But there are many beautiful practices given us by the Early Church and then the Catholic Church that should never have been left behind.

The truth is, I went because it was good for my soul to experience God in another context, to be with Him in a place that was unfamiliar, yet quiet. The Mass was the best place to start, focusing my heart on God and preparing me for a day spent mostly in silence. The beauty of the Latin Service helped me meditate on the beauty of God. The reading of Scripture help prepare my heart to receive more Scripture. By the time we reached the Little Stone Chapel my heart was ready to listen to God.

As I opened my Bible to the Psalms I opened directly to 130. A psalm I long ago memorized and have spent time praying and meditating on. I decided to that this was a good time to pray through it again. As I did verse 7 kept repeating in my head: “Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is Steadfast Love and with the Lord is plentiful Redemption.” With these words came the Joy of the knowledge of that Plentiful Redemption. As I thought through the verses over and over again, the forgiveness of Iniquities, waiting for the Lord, Hoping in him, I could not help but think about how these aspects of the Gospel. Hope, Love, forgiveness of sins, all of those things that this Psalm reminds us of that we now have through the cross of Christ. How do we not come to him in gratitude and seek His will out of gratitude and with tears of Joy as we consider what He has done for us.

Do you know how big God’s Heart for you is? Or do you never get the chance to see it, is your life so full of activity that you never had time to simply retreat into Him. Do you ever sit back and consider what He has done for you by His great work of redemption on the cross. Or is your relationship with Him distant, you being unaware of His indwelling Spirit and Him reaching out to you, but you not knowing?

Oh dear brother, dear sister, I pray you know the Joy of your redemption so fully that it inspires you to sporadic praise of Him who gave it.  That you might be spurred to greater love and good works for those around you. That is might encourage you to encourage others, that it might exhort you to love God more deeply and to walk more closely with Him. That it might encourage you to righteous living and through that you might become an instrument of Justice, peace and mercy.

This is what I took from being with the community of Benedictine Monks. That there is so much Joy in our redemption that to deny that Joy is to deny part of its very core.

Oh brothers and sisters, hope in the Lord, always, hope in the Lord.\

 

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

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

A Bigger Purpose

As my summer series continues I thought I might take a short break, release the next blog in the series tomorrow and take some time to reflect on something I didn’t talk about in the series.

Whether you believe it or not, God certainly frustrates the proud, in fact Proverbs says “God Opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” In my life pride has certainly been a struggle and my pride has certainly brought me too many places of frustration. I was in one of those places last summer in Denver as I sought to continue learning about Youth Ministry, making that the soul focus of my life. Even though at the time I was working at a Homeless shelter, acting as an intern, teaching occasionally and preaching on one Sunday night.

During this time I was also working at another location as one of the assistant Youth Leaders. I didn’t do much in the way of ministry, I mostly acted as crowd control and hung out, but for someone who wanted so badly to be a youth pastor I couldn’t seem to connect with the kids. It was odd for me because I was so used to connecting to the young people I worked with. I thought maybe it was Urban kids, but then as I reflected back on my two years teaching high school youth group I realized I really didn’t connect with rural kids either, nor had I actually connected in Dallas all those years ago.

Now I know that the sole purpose of a Youth Pastor isn’t to connect with the kids he or she is working with, but connecting is important. If we don’t connect with those we are serving on some level it will be very hard to serve them effectively. That doesn’t mean we will find ways to connect to everyone either, let’s face it, there are some people that we may have nothing in common with or connect on in any way except for the fact that we are Christians.

But for me I didn’t connect because I wasn’t doing what God wanted me to do. Youth Ministry was something that I wanted, it wasn’t actually what God was calling me to do. I limited myself because I didn’t want the responsibility of full time pastoral ministry. I didn’t want to stand up on Sunday morning and preach, I didn’t want to build 10:31 beyond Youth Ministry, all of these were what I didn’t want.

But we know that God works in mysterious ways, and we know that when we don’t think we can do something God can use us to do great things. We also know that God works with broken and messed up people who are focused only on themselves. He can change them, but he can also use them and through their brokenness do great things through them.

But when we are prideful it seems that we have a harder time being used by God, going where He wants us to go, when God’s plans don’t seem to agree with our plans we get angry and aggressive towards Him. We go about our own way and then God has no choice but to frustrate our own plans so that we will start acknowledging Him. That is one of the lessons I had to learn as I grew in ministry, if I wanted to do ministry it couldn’t be about me or what I wanted, it had to be about God.

When I began to live out this new mentality the doors of ministry opened with a vengeance. In fact it seems that everywhere I go I have a chance to reach out to talk to someone and we connect, at least most of the time. This isn’t a product of anything I’m doing, but of a choice to conform to the will of God.

Now Youth Ministry is only part of what I do, this week I’ve been blessed by the chance to hang out with the youth group my younger sister works with here in Boston. Each interaction, whether it was riding roller coasters or having a conversation has been a chance for ministry, a chance to bring glory to God.

I still struggle with pride, but the Lord is keeping me humble, reminding me constantly that He is in control and that His plan is perfect. If we rely on pride and in our own achievements then we will be opposed, but if we approach him with humility God will bless us. If we acknowledge that we can’t do ministry on our own, and surrender what we want to do to God, then God is going to take us to places we never would have expected.

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
Director/Founder
10:31 Life Ministries

Good Discipline – Vow Making

Vow Making – More Than a Promise

I love hearing my friends reaction when I tell them what time I generally wake up in the morning. Not that I am boasting in my 5:30am average wake up time, one just has to give an answer when they are asked what time they get up in the morning. The truth is that I never wanted to wake up that early, the combination of hyperactivity and an inability to sleep if the sun was up caused me to get up long before it ever thought about coming up that day. To say that I want to get up that early would be crazy, what I did with that time was even crazier.

Usually I would sneak around the house, at least when I was really young, then later I would wake up and get on the computer and play some sort of video game until I heard mom or dad walking around upstairs. In college I would put my headphones in and try hard to not disturb my roommate. When I returned from Denver though I felt a need to do something very different with that time. so I made a promise to God to spend it with Him in prayer and in study of scripture.

Breaking Vows We’ve Made

Whenever the Israelite’s broke their vows  with God something bad generally happened (read 1 Cor. 10 for a summary). Another example of what happens when we break out vows can be found in the story of Samson (Judge 113-16). God  told Samson’s mother that no razor should come upon Samson’s head and he would deliever Israel from the hands of the Philistines. This is where we get the idea of a Nazarene Vow, because Samson was a Nazarene and so he couldn’t cut his hair.

Now in Samson’s case cutting his hair meant that he would lose all of his strength which he did when Delilah (his wife)  tricked him into giving her the secret to his strength. Samson is a great example of what happens when our vows are broken, whether by us or by those we love. Now we all know that Samson’s hair grows back and he does eventually do what God said he would do and free Israel from the Philistines.

If I don’t get that time that I’ve vowed to set apart for God in the mornings then my day really doesn’t go very well. Unless of course the spirit allows me to sleep in that particular morning because I am in need of rest. Yesterday morning was one such morning where I didn’t get the full hour and fifteen minutes that I vowed to spend in prayer an din the word but I also had a final and a late night the night before so I continued reading in the book of John, wrote in my journal and got my day underway.

Vow Making & Honoring those Vows

On this discipline George writes; “Vow Making is a discipline in response to a holy God. Making a vow and taking an oath are both modern disciplines practiced by Christians of all ages and stages of life. Our promises should be specific and personal.”

The vow I made was specific and personal, and God has honored that vow, making sure that I myself honor my vow. I have several friends who have committed themselves to sexual purity, who have made a specific vow that they are going to save themselves for their husbands and wives. When they are in situations where those vows might be in jeopardy it seems that God steps in and holds them to that vow they made and I believe can even remove us from positions where we may be forced to compromise.

When we honor our vows God honors us, God continues to honor his covenant with us despite our tendacny to disobey, shouldn’t we honor our vows and oath with God.

Making Vows to one Another

I wonder what would happen if we were to make and keep vows to one another. Meaning that Christians in the body of Christ were to go to one another and instead of making vague promises to one another actually vowed to love and support each other. Then we work together to keep those vows and to help keep our weaker brothers and sisters from stumbling as well as working together to help others keep their vows to God.

An example of this would be a dear friend of mine who doesn’t text or like to talk to guys 1 on 1 after a certain time of night. As a man of God I have to honor her decision and help her to uphold that promise she’s made to herself and to God so I have to be conscious of the time if I am talking to her or texting her so that I can honor that.

If we did things like this it would probably make us more conscience to the needs and hurts of the poeple around us because if we vow friendship we are vowing to listen, support, love and serve, all the things that come with a healthy relationship with someone. If I make a vow to serve the 10:31 Life Ministry team I had better serve them to the best of my ability. Figuring out how to do this is tricking and I have to admit I haven’t fully figured it out yet.

–   –   –

So let’s make vows and keep them, practice making them this week, make a vow to spend more time with God through intentional study of scripture. Make a vow to maintain or re initiate a friendship and allow God to work in that situation. Then be faithful to your vows and know that God will be faithful and honor your vows as well.

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries
Director/Founder

“For the Lord is Good
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
and His faithfulness to all Generations”
Psalms 100:5 

 

 The Good Discipline Series
Week #1: Good Discipline
Week #2: Good Discipline – 
Prayer
Week #3: Good Discipline – Obedience
Week #4: Good Discipline – Art
Week #5: Good Discipline – Journaling
Week #6: Good Discipline – Silence
Week #7: Good Discipline – Fasting
Week #8: Good Discipline – Vow Making
Week #9: Good Discipline – Labyrinth Walking
Week #10: Good Discipline – Meditation
Week #11: Good Discipline – Solitude
Week #12: Good Discipline – Practicing God’s Presence