Tag: Meditation

The Dry Places or Dehydrated in New Mexico

Wild one

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 Ministry Eb & Flow

            It’s just common sense that when you do Ministry you are going to see some changes in the people and the faces around you. Throughout the journey of Ministry we will see lives transformed, and not just the lives of those we are ministering too but those who work with us. No matter what you do in Ministry there will be change.

I was reminded of this during the week when the assistant director of Social Media & Marketing told me he felt the need to step down. Now, believe it or not this wasn’t a surprise to me, I knew it was going to happen, I expected it to happen. I had already started making plans with the leadership team to add one other person, though I was expecting them to be in place long before David stepped down. As it stands though David has stepped down and we haven’t even received an answer from our fourth leadership team prospect.

But that is how ministry goes, I suppose. You may have people who are in it for the long run and you may have some people there for  a short amount of time. David was only in leadership for five months before stepping down to join the writing team. But in that five months he practically built the 10:31 Life website. He updated and set in motion a growth in our social media presence and helped to get the organization on its feet again.

It won’t soon be forgotten all that David has done to help this ministry get restarted after it was nearly dead at the beginning of the last ministry year. But that’s the way Ministry goes it seems, as I said, some people are there for the long run and some are just short term. While it’s true that David will still be involved at 10:31, he will not be a leader that is a change, now Angel and I have to adapt, find someone to take the place.

So what do we in times like this? I’m finding the best thing to do is to pray. God’s in control of your ministry, doesn’t he know what’s best for all involved. I know that I’ve felt led to step out of ministry positions because of the amount of strain it has put on me in the past. Someone is always there to fill the role, and if they aren’t then maybe there’s a reason. At 10:31 we found someone within the organization to temporarily fill the Social Media and Marketing position. The person actually said if they like it they would take on the full responsibilities of the position.

I think a lot of the time when we do ministry and something goes wrong we give up. At least the perception is that something’s going wrong. Some might gasp at the fact that DT stepped down (in fact some have) but I know there’s a bigger purpose there. This ministry, as much as it has my name on it, isn’t mine, it belongs to the Lord. If this type of surrender is what’s needed for it to be effective then so be it.

The goal is to learn how to do ministry anyway right? So why wouldn’t God teach us how to handle personnel decisions beyond hiring new writers? Which by the way we have added two new ones. God’s got a plan for every ministry, He has a purpose for every good work. As I learn this it becomes clearer that He is also going to see that plan through to the end.

Because I can’t tell you how true it is that God qualifies the called, this is just part of the qualification process.

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

Good Discipline – Meditation

MEDITATION: Time to think

 

I love to sit in coffee shops, they are probably the most relaxing places on Earth and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I’ve shared before that after work at Christ’s Body I would often go directly to a coffee shop to sit and pray about what I was experiencing. Coffee on the Point specifically was a good place to just go and sit for awhile without interruption. It was a chance to focus my thoughts on God and allow Him to heal the torrent of emotions that had me under siege all day because of the hardships of the homeless I was working with.

It was in this coffee shop in Denver that I learned to meditate, learned to think about the things above instead of the things below. If I hadn’t had those times I’m sure now that the heartache would have driven me crazy and caused a huge amount of burnout. So this is a discipline I would say is necessary, not that they all aren’t, but this one in particular allows us to get our minds off of things, if only for a moment, and into the mind of Christ.

Different Meditation

Now I know when someone mentions the discipline of meditation everyone’s minds instantly envision a man in a funny looking hat sitting cross-legged on the ground say “ommm” and for the most part this is what popular culture depicts it as. There’s a scene in Annie where the girls come across Pune Jab meditating and they get very afraid.

This isn’t the type of meditation I’m talking about, this is a type of Eastern Meditation meant for those who want to look deep inside themselves. Christian Meditation is different, Christian Meditation can take place everywhere you go, no one has to know that you are doing it, and is highly beneficial to our Christian walks.

Christian George writes; “Meditation moves us to a deep and penetrating presence of God. It charts the inner landscapes of the soul and teaches us to adopt the mind of Christ…Meditation syncs us with the savior in a way the other disciplines do not” (109).

What Do We Meditate on?

But what is it that we meditate on? Paul tells the Philippians at the end of his letter to them “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil 4:8 NIV).

Look at the list, whatever is; true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, anything excellent or praiseworthy. These are the things that we need to meditate on; it is these things, in relationship to God that should fill our minds every day. We should desire and want these things because we are different from the world and what the world often meditates on (sex, drugs, alcohol) are in no way honorable in the context they we tend to think about them.

If we do meditate on these things we’ll find a whole new world opened up to us, suddenly our vision won’t be the same. Our minds also won’t be the same, we’ll find that we can’t get our minds off them. That the things of God really are real, alive, active and penetrating in ways we never could have imagined.

 

Meditating on Scripture

My favorite thing to do is meditate on scripture, especially the psalms. Recently I’ve spent a lot of time thinking on Psalm 25:12 which says “Who is the man who fears the Lord, Him will He instruct in the way he should choose.” The reason I’ve spent so much time meditating on this verse is because of situations in my life where I need more than anything for God to instruct my paths.

This scripture also has a lot to unpack and think about, like what does it mean to fear the Lord? And. How does God instruct us in the way we should go? Through meditating on these two questions God has led me to other passages, such as Isaiah 6:1-7 and Israel’s encounters with God in Exodus 18. So through meditating on this one verse suddenly a whole new idea is opened up to me.

Scripture meditation is extremely beneficial, especially if we want to be like the Psalmist in 119 who says “I have hidden your words in my heart that I might not sin against you” (v. 11). Or follow the example of the writer of Hebrews when he considers the word of God and the name of God to be a place of rest, so that we might not disobey.

To Be Set Apart

I’m coming to find that it is times of mediation that I am finding out what it truly means to be truly set apart for the gospel. That as I’ve thought over scriptures like Ephesians 5:3-6 that I’ve learned to cut out things like course Joking and work towards a humor that is holy. It is through thinking on what is right that I have been really challenged by conversations with a close friend of mine. It is through meditating on what it means to be a man of God that I’ve actually found myself becoming a man of God.

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So today I want to challenge you to go off someplace, a park or a coffee shop, and think about the things of God. Take your bible and try to memorize a psalm, then meditate on that psalm one day at a time. Really think about what it means to be a man or woman of God allow Him to speak to you about the things you are thinking on. Enter into His presence and allow Him to make the toughest subjects fun again.

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving

His courts with praise

Give thanks to the Lord

Bless His Name”

Ps 100:4

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