Tag: God’s Heart for Those

The False Promise of “Earthly Power”

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sources:

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

 

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

Faulkner on the Fifth: “Maybe a little Positivity is what we need.”

By Bradley Tucker:

 

Every Other Week Jonathan answers questions from you and Bradley on Ministry, Theology and Popular Evens and gives us an update on his life.

Q: So we know you are fresh off your mini-monastic retreat, what was one of the biggest takeaways other than what you talked about in Monday’s article: A Protestant Goes to a Monastery?

A. Boy, what a trip, the brothers were extremely hospitable to us, it was not my first time at a Monastery and it certainly will not be my last. I think my other big takeaway though was rest. We are nearing the end of a long semester, coming off of a long year in 2015 and I had not had the chance to attend one of the school’s Soul Care retreats that take place over reading weeks. I have been so busy of late that rest has not been a high priority, though it should be in the throws of a busy season of Ministry, so it was good to get away from everything.

Q. How is the end of the semester looking for you

A. So far so good, I turned in two of my three major papers today and am nearly done with the third. I do have this math course to finish out and it looks like I am going to pass that thing. It will be nice to only be enrolled in one school again.

Q. I wanted to point out that there has been a shift in some of our conversations, we have focused lately on less of the heavy topics God’s Heart deals with, to more of a focus on Joy. Can you elaborate on why that has happened?

A. Well, God’s Heart has always been positive, part of our aim is to edify and build up the flock of Jesus Christ. It’s true that we have been focusing more on the Joy aspect of late and I think the reason for that is because I get on the internet and I see so much negativity and anger and fear-mongering, even amongst my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and I think: “This isn’t what Christianity is about, it’s not about negativity, if anyone should have a positive outlook on life, it’s the Christian.” Even in the face of increased persecution, we have the joy of redemption and the hope of eternal life. Maybe that kind of positive reinforcement is what we need in a world that continues to feed us with supposed reasons to fear. I even stopped following Joshua for the time being.
I think it also has to do with the season I am in. This is a season of celebration and great joy in my life, the hardships of the last years are coming to a close and I can see how God has brought me through each one. Two major hospitalizations, the loss of some very dear people, financial struggles> He has preserved me and sustained me and brought me out on the other side not as a stronger person, but as one more reliant on Him for all things, I want to testify to that, so that the person who is going through that right now can know that there is rest from the struggle and to rejoice in the Lord.

Q. Jonathan, it’s been a year since 10:31 Life Ministries shut down, I know you are quite sentimental, what do you miss most about working with those men and women?

A. The men and woman themselves, of course I talk to Jared and David almost everyday, the three of us being in seminary (different places) or about to be in Seminary, that is a good connection to maintain. The disadvantage to no longer living in Kansas is not seeing the majority of the brothers and sisters who wrote for 10:31 for all those years. I will get to see Hannah in May as she gets ready to graduate from Kent. Alexandria, Isaac, Rosemary and Evan I hear from on occasion. I miss them all, and look forward to a time when we can all reconnect. Maybe I’ll take a trip to Kansas next fall, I miss that extension of my spiritual family.

Q. People may have noticed that we set the Domain name, we are now officially godsheartforthose.com. Can you dish on what may be coming with the upgrade?

A. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I will tell you that with the new upgrade we now have audio and video capabilities, so we plan on doing more with the music on the God’s Heart website. It is nice to have a domain name that does not have .wordpress.com in it and it should make us easier to find. We are also hoping to do more interviews when it comes to current issues. But I can’t tell you too much, you have to be surprised, that’s the fun part of running a website, you can hold the reader in suspense.

 

Have a question for Jonathan? Submit it below and you could see it in the next edition:

 

Bradly Tucker is the Content Editor for God’s Heart for Those. 

 

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Faulkner on The Fifth:

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By Bradley Tucker:

 

It’s Friday and Jonathan is answering questions from Bradley, talks about his Easter Sunday Experience, The Sense of the Sacred and more.  

Q: So, after last Monday’s article on the Fruit of Joshua Feuerstein’s ministry there was a comment left by Josh that suggested you were a liar, what are your thoughts on this?

A: First of all, I want to make it clear that Joshua is not always wrong, there are some points where he does hold to essential doctrine. But the 55% truth does not negate the 45% lie and you do not have to read the article to figure out that we were not off-base, just watch the comment sections of his videos and posts. Many of his followers agreed with us and some even shared the article. It’s a very divided group and a very angry one. That’s far from the fruit of the spirit and Josh does nothing to intervene. Instead he openly insults other pastors and tears them down. Participates in Link-Baiting and Fearmongering, stirring up the people to anger against their own brothers and sisters in Christ and trolls people who do not agree with him. That is not the mark of a Christian Pastor, based on these observations we can make a logical conclusion, this is bad fruit. If making such an observation makes me a liar then that’s fine. I will continue to try to address this issue in as loving and compassionate way as possible. He is still my brother and I can forgive him for the implication. In the end, Joshua needs grace as much as the rest of us, I am no better than he in that category.

Q: But that was not the biggest issue with the comment?

A: No, the biggest issue was that the commenter promoted an Anti-Trinitarian viewpoint, saying we do not need “Father, Son and Holy Ghost cannot save we must call on the name of Jesus.” You can call me a liar all you want, but the moment you profess a heretical and blasphemous doctrine, that is, it is directly in opposition to the teachings of Scripture and thousands of years of Orthodox, Trinitarian Teaching, you are going to spark in me anger. Especially if you then use that doctrine to oppress viewpoints that might disagree with yours or to promote oppression. We would not have the son without the father and we would not have true and genuine Christian Freedom without the death of the Son. The Holy Spirit confirms these truths for us and comes and dwells within us. They are three in one and one in three. It’s a divine mystery. What we do have now is free access to the father, sonship, freedom from sin, total washing and purifying by the blood of Christ and the ongoing work of Sanctification. We do have joy and love.

Q: What does Church History teach us about our response to Authoritarianism in the Church?

A: Yesterday we talked about Julian of Norwich in our Medieval Spirituality Class. She was an Anchoress at the little parish church in Norwich during the late Medieval Period (1360’s-1416). This was the time right before the Reformation where a similar kind of authoritarianism as to what we have in America today had popped up. Julian was a mystic who one day had 16 visions in 24 hours and recorded them in her memoir. Each vision focused on the deep love of God for the people which was and is quite opposite to the Hellfire and Brimstone of Authoritarianism. I could go on for hours, but I will not for the sake of the reader and your hands. The Bottom line is, God shows Perfect Love, Love is at the very center of God’s Heart for His people, it is out of love that we can even exist and the bible tells us that it was out of love that God sent His one and only son (John 3:16). That is, God loves sinners because we are all sinners and fall short of God’s standard and glory (Romans 3:23). God also desires that the whole world come to salvation in Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). And that we are instruments to take that message to the world and make disciples of all nations. So the solution to Authoritarianism then is to daily show a Gospel centered love for everyone we encounter. Acknowledging that person’s identity and potential identity as created by God, son or daughter and loving and encouraging that so they might come to know Christ more deeply, or come to know Him as Lord and Savior.

Q: I have heard you talk a lot about Rediscovering the Arts, and we have talked about Art and the Church before here, but what is the idea behind rediscovery of the Arts in the Church?

A: As I said last time this came up, we have done ourselves a huge disservice by rejecting the use of any art form that is not music. In the Medieval Church art was a discussion starter, the Laity did not have Scripture and so their way of expressing the Doctrines they were being taught by the Clergy was to create art or to consider it. The Medieval Church was covered in Art, depictions and Icons lined the walls. It was impossible to walk into a church and not see an image of the crucified savior, the risen savior, The Apostles, the Church Fathers, The Saints. Now, it did become abused, to the point that people were worshiping the artwork itself and even worshiping the Saints depicted in the art. And we have to guard against that, but art can be a means of discussion, a way to start a conversation with an unbeliever or even stir up the religious affections of young and older believers. I heard a story once of someone showing a Medieval Painting that showed all of the things Jesus went through on his way to the Cross. All of it biblically sound, the person leading the study said that Christians who had read the story a million times were saying “I had no idea that he went through that, and I’ve read the story a thousand times.” It puts an image to the words we read and can help us understand Theology.

Q: What did you do for Easter?

Well, woke up at about 4:30 and got ready for the Sunrise service my church did here on the Hill, then we headed over to Gordon College for a combined service with both services (our church would not fit that many people in one service). Then my sister and I headed over to a church members house for Lunch and then we hiked up to one of the many points looking out at the Ocean down in Glouster. It was a beautiful and relaxing day of celebrating the Risen Lord. I felt energized for the rest of the week!

 

 

Bradley Taylor is the Content Editor for God’s Heart for Those

 

Have a question for Jonathan? Send it in!

 

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Advice from a Pastor who Pastored before Seminary.

Advice from a Pastor who Pastored before Seminary.download (9)

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)

 

With Great Expectation: Christmas Hope for Singles

With Great Expectancy, Some Christmas Hope for Singles

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I LOVE CHRISTMASTIME! It is by far my favorite time of year. I love snow, I love watching children play in it. I love to hear people yell out “Merry Christmas” to one another. I love all the seasonal drinks at our local coffee shop. Seeing friends and loved ones, hearing carols, singing carols, singing carols with friends. In fact the whole season of what the church calls “Advent” is and always will be my favorite time of year.

However, with all the Christmas cheer in the air this year I face a challenge I have never faced before. What is that? This will be the first year that I am not home in Ohio, nestled up in the room I grew up in waiting to go and unwrap our living room in the morning. This will be the first Christmas I am not with my family and it has reminded me of terribly lonely things can seem during the Holiday season. It has been hard for me not being in a the house with my sisters and brother, mom and dad. Watching Christmas movies and attending Holiday Gatherings. Yes, I have attended my share of Christmas gatherings, two in the last week, both of them were at work, both of them were fun and I was blessed by so many. No, I will not be alone at Christmas, one of my longest and dearest friends has invited me to spend Christmas with her and her family.

But even so I still find myself at times, struggling with being single at Christmastime, or single in general. I said in a post earlier this year entitled “Brutal Honesty about being a Single Christian” that: “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.” This desire has not lessoned any since I wrote that particular article, it is just as strong today as it was then. But as I was walking home from a website consultation today I began to think about Advent and the expectancy we have for Christmas and for Christ and I thought: “Well, God sent his son to save the world, why should I not wait with expectancy for him to fill this desire as well.”

Expectancy and Preparation:

 

I also talked in my previous article that part of the purpose of being single is to prepare ourselves for our future spouses. To prepare ourselves to be men and women who serve and love God first and one another as an outpouring of that love, by grace we are able to do this. But this is not easy, we want the end goal, we want the prize now, the Wedding, the last first kiss, the Honeymoon, the kids playing in the yard or the living room on a snowy day. We do not want to be patient, so we try to rush the process while God is saying “my son, take it slow, she is precious to me as are you, I want you to be at your best for one another.”

 

It is easy to forget that God is also preparing our future spouse. We can sometimes get the rose-colored illusion that our spouses will be perfect and that our marriage will be perfect. But God is working on them as well, do you really want God to rush that? Two people who place God at the center of their lives will find each other. That person is not a savior, they are not perfect, they will not cure all our problems, only Christ can do that, but they will be the person God needs them to be for us.

 

And there is the hope my friends. As we wait in Abstinence, deepening our relationship with God and learning how to be in relationship with others, for the coming of our future spouses we should do so with expectancy. The person you are going to marry one day is a gift from God, not a treasure you have won, a precious creation of the most high for you to cherish, to build one another up and to walk together through this life with.

 

And so it should be with all those lessons and trials and joy that help us to grow to maturity as Christians. Those things that draw us closer in our relationship with God (like Marriage should), and our relationships with others, we must wait with great expectancy for the promises of God to be fulfilled. After all, Simeon (Luke 2:25-35) was promised he would not taste death until he Saw the Christ and he got to hold the Savior.

 

Psalm 37:4 tells us: “Take Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The reason Simeon got to see the Christ who would redeem Israel and be the Savior for all mankind is because he was “Righteous and Devout” (Luke 2:26). We are not told that Simeon desired to see Christ, but being a Jew we can be fairly accurate in saying he was waiting for the Messiah. So he waited, and God fulfilled that desire, to see the Messiah as a baby and prophesy over him.

 

So should we not wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise to fulfil our desires if we delight in him with expectancy? We should! Why? Because when we find joy in knowing God, we find Joy in the things of God and that includes his promises. Promises that can be approached with great expectation as we prepare to enter the covenant relationship that Christ as set aside. Are you preparing to be the husband or wife God needs you to be for your spouse? If so do it with expectancy, are you struggling with being single? Take it to God with great expectancy, Delight in God, in prayer bring your needs before him. For He hears the prayers of the Saints, all the Saints, and He loves fearsomely all His creation and is looking out for the needs of His people.

 

So let us hold tightly to the promises and trust that God will fulfill them in His time. Preparing ourselves by the work of the Holy Spirit inside of us to first be men and women of God, standing firm in the word of Truth, for we are His and He is Love. And always in the coming year may we walk together with great expectancy and faith in God.

Part 2: Shame & Guilt

Shame & Guilt

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            “If this problem persists, we are going to call you out of the audience and shame you in front of everyone” the pastor told the youth group “we will call your parents up in front of the congregation and you will have to go and sit with them.”

            It is still difficult to believe that I had the misfortune of witnessing this event. It is also difficult to believe that in the process of sticking up for the youth I would get kicked out of the church. But at the same time if this even had not happened almost five years ago there is a good chance God’s Heart for Those never happens and I would still be somewhere huddled over my legalism, licking the wounds of two years of spiritual abuse.

            Yes, that morning began the path to freedom for me, but there are others who still have not experienced this freedom because of these two little words that the body has embraced whole heartedly, “Shame” and “Guilt.” Shame, or the act of putting someone to shame is a tear down, to humiliate someone or berate their actions. Guilt is the feeling of remorse as well as shame. Both are deadly to the body and we do not need either of them.

            Consider this scenario, a young man spills his coffee in the Narthex of a church. The pastor seeing this berates the young man, shaming him for something as simple as spilling coffee. The young man now feels shame and guilt for spilling his coffee. It may start there, or after a few more encounters like this the man may start to verbally berate himself for doing something that the pastor may consider “wrong.” Or consider the girl who is abused, verbally, physically or sexually and a or counselor or another Christian tells her it was her fault. Chances are that was already the thought process but in case it was not this may cause her to verbally berate and degrade herself, losing respect for herself if she had any in the first place. Do you see the problem? This can lead to depression and even suicide, shame and guilt can literally be deadly. They may also cause spiritual setbacks in the process of emotional healing. These are two examples (one minor one major) that show us that we do not need either.

            But what do we need? We need to regain an understanding of what Paul means in Romans 8:1 which reads “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Or John 8:36 which reads: “Who the son sets free is free indeed.” Or Galations 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free, Stand firm therefore, and do not return to a yoke of slavery.” If there is no condemnation, if we are free, are to stand firm in that freedom then why do we insist on using shame and guilt to control and berate the flock? Are not people like these the “thief” that Jesus describes in John 10:10? If they have stolen your freedom by binding you in guilt then they are a thief, if they lock you down as a “sinner” how are you going to live in the freedom that comes from putting on “the new self” (Col 3)?

Even Paul’s frustration with the Corinthians is untoned by his use of the word “Saint” (1 Cor 1:2). If we are “free” then why do we bind one another with condemnation? Are we not no better than the Pharisees’ who bound the people by “Tradition” (Matt. 15)? If I have one thing to say the body of Christ it is this: You are no longer who you once were, you are a son or a daughter of Christ (Rom. 3-8) you are a Saint, you are not under shame and guilt and condemnation, you are free.

But do we acknowledge this in our own lives? Do we acknowledge this is the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Most of us do not.

So let us join together and acknowledge who God is and who we are because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. And that dear friends is the difference, that Jesus Christ died fo us on the cross, shedding His blood to be the Propitiation (total appeasement of wrath) so that we could live in freedom with a brand new identity. Never let anyone tell you differently, never listen to shame and guilt, but instead live in the freedom that comes from know who God is and who you are in Him.  

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

UNITE!

Fired Up Logo

Unite!

            It was a tense night for the Jackson County School board in Jackson Country Ohio. They were meeting to discuss one issue that had been in the news. A picture of Jesus that has hung in the middle school for 66 years had come under attack by the activist group Freedom from Religion. They picture was reported to them anonymously and so they took up the fight to have the “offensive” picture that was a gift of the graduating class of 1947 removed. The superintendent of the school had no intent of removing the picture, and neither did the school board who voted unanimously to side with the superintendent. What’s more amazing is the student’s reaction. Walking through the school one was created by hundreds of pictures of Jesus hanging on lockers, the students united and most likely influenced their parents vote.

On a national level the news reported that the courts threw out Hobby Lobby’s case appealing a government order that will fine them 1.3 million dollars a day until they accept the birth control provision of the Obamacare bill passed last year. The Christian owners of the store refusal to take on the provision stems from their belief that this particular provision is morally wrong the company would rather support Christian Morality and abstinence than provide birth control. They have a constructional right to not accept this on the grounds of The 1st Amendment after all the owners reasons for rejecting the provision are religious, not political. Colorado Christian University was recently compelled by the courts to accept this provision the government would have pulled what limited funding they provided to the privately held, Christian School.

Dear friends, in pointing these things out I hope you understand what I’m trying to show you. With groups trying to remove century old Nativities from community gardens, to attacks on the CEO’s of large, Christ Centered organizations like Chick Fil-A for his view on marriage and now to Hobby Lobby and CCU our freedoms are slowly being stripped away from us. In the name of “Tolerance” teachers are taking students to Mosque’s and encouraging them to pray, suggest taking them to a church and the school would be sued. We are losing our freedoms, they preach tolerance, but yet we are not tolerated.

Yet, from the pulpit I hear pastors preach from Roman’s 13, telling us to submit to the government. And while it is true we should follow the leadership of a good and moral government what we have is a government so intent on making sure everything and everyone is regulated that the basic freedom to disagree with the government on religious grounds, with our private companies, is not just impeded but trampled on. This is the same government that has nearly ruined the Catholic church, who still refuses to hand out contraceptives on moral ground and has had to close many of its outreach programs to the poor and homeless because of what can only be described as attacks by the Federal Government.

So here’s my question; where are all the Hobby Lobby Supporters? When the CEO of Chick-Fil-A came under fire Christians lined up out the door. Now the government is unjustly fining one of the nations most successful craft stores and we are nowhere to be found. Hiding in the woodwork, afraid of what big-brother would do to us if we stand up to him. We’ve backed down from a fight, or should I say we’ve lost it, our fight that is. Does anyone remember when Christians would fight back, not with weapons but with words. We have an example in Scripture, after Paul and John were arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4. The Christians gathered together and prayed for boldness from the Holy Spirit and the Disciples went out and preached and the Church grew and Christians became an unstoppable force that spread throughout the world (Acts 4:1-21, 2:42-47). They were empowered by the Holy Spirit and they did something about what was happening by that power, that’s what we need, that’s what we should be praying for.

So I say, UNITE. Let this be your battle cry, we cannot let the government or activist groups take away our freedoms in the name of religious freedom or religious tolerance. If a Muslin wants to run a business let him, if a Jew wants to put up a star of David in a community Garden let him. But as Christians I don’t see how we can sit back and let ourselves be door mats. And before you think this doesn’t affect everyone, remember that what happens to one part of the body of Christ affects the whole Body (1 Cor. 12:26). As we did during the Chick Fil-A incident we need to unite again, but this time instead of standing up to Liberal Media we are standing up for our freedoms, standing up to what is becoming tyrannical, standing up for Christian Morals. Folks, it’s time to take the Church back, it’s time to Unite!

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The Opinions expressed are solely those of the Author and do not reflect the views of 10:31 Life Ministries staff and writers. 

Growing in Friendship

A Group of good friends as we prepared to head to Sterling College’s Spring Formal in April of 2012.

Growing in Friendship

 

It’s how are society trains us, Disney preaches it, VH1 promotes it, MTVII glorifies it. Everyday young people are bombarded with the message that you can’t just be friends with someone that you’re attracted to. We’re told “if you like her, pursue her.” Rarely anymore do you hear the wise words of my mother “You should marry your best friend.” No, more often than not we marry someone we don’t really know or can’t communicate with or both and issues arise and problems don’t get fixed and a rift is created and what we thought was love turns into extreme dislike.

In Christian circles these days the single Christian is often looked down upon. For whatever reason, once you get to my age you are expected to be with someone, be ready for marriage, ready to fulfill God’s command to the married couple. Or we are told to be “Content in our singleness, God will bring about the right one after all.”

And He will bring about the right one in His timing. But as Mark Driscoll pointed out in a sermon, if we are content with being single then we are probably content to let God’s chosen man or woman pass right through our lives. If we are content nowadays it seems to mean that we stop waiting and watching.

When we finally do meet the person that we believe God has for us another problem arises. So many times we want to dive right into a relationship, we may get to know the person for a couple of weeks and go “hey I like her, I want to court her.” Then a week later we’ll ask her out and face the possibility of a rocky beginning because we didn’t take the time to get to know her a little better when we had the opportunity.

Now I’m not saying God won’t support a quickly formed relationship, I know many people who knew each other for a short time before they decided to begin a courtship. But if you have the opportunity to, learn to grow and guard in friendship before you dive into a relationship you should be patient and take that time. If you have the time to build a great friendship with someone, for them to become your best friend before you begin courting it may be wise to take it.

Why? Because you learn that persons boundaries, you learn their likes and dislikes, you learn the best way to serve them. Most importantly you both learn how to communicate and you both learn how to trust one another. Working to build a strong friendship will also strengthen your relationship when you get to the point where you decide if it’s God’s will to move forward. Also a God centered friendship can very easily become a God centered Courtship, you already have built a foundation in friendship, that foundation can keep you grounded in courtship.

Now, men this comes with a very responsibility for us. One initiation, initiating friendship first, and two learning to lead her within the context of friendship, this will help you initiate and lead in a relationship. Yes friends walk together, but so do married couples, the purpose of learning to lead in friendship is so you can lead her in spiritually if you decide to step into a relationship. Men also seek out the wisdom of older males, men who are either single or who have gone through the process with their wives or significant others.

Women, encourage men to initiate friendship, then encourage him to lead you and learn to lead you. To seek out older men who are still single to spend time with or married men to gain wisdom from, men who have been through the experience. You yourself should seek out the wisdom of older women, both single and married. Encourage him to spend time with his male friends and you spend time with your female friends.

Growing in Friendship is very rewarding despite what Hollywood tells us. It helps us build a foundation for the possibility of a future relationship. It allows to learn how to communicate and trust and when done with patience gives us the chance to really marry our best friend. Be patient and wait on the Lord, for He knows what’s best for us.

Foggy Mornings

Growing up in the foothills of the Appalachians I can recount many a mounting in the spring and the fall where we would wake up to a wall of fog. So think in fact there were mornings you could barely see the neighbor’s house across the street and up the road. There were some mornings when you could only see the school bus by the bright flashing fog lights as it moved down Ramar drive across the housing development.

It was mornings like those when creation stood out to me the most. As I stood looking out at the soupy fog I couldn’t help but imagine what might be behind it. Would the hills reappear when the sun came out? Or would they be replaced by something else, maybe mountains would fill the landscape, or maybe a dragon would be seen flying over head. Fog always brought out the adventurer nature in me, always asking “What’s back there?”

This morning was the first time in a while I’ve seen fog as thick as pea soup. But as I walked to breakfast reveling in the beauty around me I started to think of God and His creation that was inevitably hiding behind that fog. In Kansas, unlike Ohio you can see for miles without anything to block your view. This morning the fog took that away and it made me wonder if I’d ever see the plains again.

I’ve come to learn that often times this is how we view God. Sort of like the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind some mysterious thick cloud or smoke, or concealed by fog. We go through our lives trying to get all our ducks in a row, thinking that the will of God is hidden, and often times it is. Or we think, God will reveal himself when we get ourselves straightened out. When we get through everything God will come out from behind the curtain or the fog and be revealed.

The truth is both of these are lies. Now, I’m not saying that God isn’t a mystery, He most certainly is mysterious and wonderful and terrible and all the things words we use to inadequately describe Him. For us to try to understand God will take a lifetime, that’s why we constantly need to pursue Him. But the notion that we have to have it together or figured out to learn who He is, is ridiculous.

God has said to us through the psalmist “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). We are told by Paul that “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20 ESV). And Jesus promises at the end of the great commission;  “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

With those promises why do we think that we cannot know God, true we can’t fully know Him in this life, but to say that He is hidden from us is like saying that we couldn’t tell the NFL replacement refs blew the call on Monday night. We can know God, we can come to Him and say “God I need you, God I want to know you” and He says “I will be with you always” or “I have been with you” and even still “You are my son or my daughter.”

If we want to become like Christ or in Christ (Phl 2, Gal. 2:20) then there has to be a way to know God. That is through the revealed or special revelation of God, aka the Bible. The “God Breathed” 2  Tim 3:16) inspired word of God. Meaning that word that God gave to men to write down so that we, 2000 years later could know who God is and how He works.

As for the idea that we need to get things together before we can go to Him, remember that we are His children. That God is about building people, Check out Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”( ESV). Meaning God prepares us for what He has called us to do, He does a work in us. Titus 3:5 says “Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by the washing and regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit” (ESV).

This is amazing, that we can go to God as we are and He will begin to do the work as we get to know Him. As God draws us closer we will find healing, we will find restoration, we will find that God is not hidden behind a wall of Fog. That He is living and present and active in our lives and it doesn’t matter if we have it together, He has said “Come as you are.”

I find that when the fog lifts, things look a lot more beautiful. Back home the fog would lift and the sun would hit the wheat fields behind the development and nothing in nature has since captured my eyes as part of God’s revelation of Himself. When the fog lifts, and we start to seek after and pursue God, man how our perspective changes

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner