Tag: religion

Sermon Cast: “Cry Out” Psalm 88

Our Sermon from Sunday, August 30th reflects the deep cry of lamentation our world is experiencing and encourages us through the example of Christ and the teachings of Scripture, how to mourn with our grieving neighbors and walk through our own grief in a healthy manner that looks first to Christ and then to His Word.
 
Watch the full service here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6j5MGBQBd8

The Radical (and Ancient) Third Way of Christianity.

The Church once again finds herself in a philosophical landscape that is incompatible with Her Doctrines, the way forward, is perhaps the way ancient.

Jonathan David Faulkner

Last week I posted the following on the Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner Facebook Page: Upon investigation of all the evidence it would seem that Christianity is incompatible with both Marxism which denies the radical unity of Christ by dividing groups into class and western, capitalistic radical individualism which denies the radical unity of Christ by asserting the idolatry of the individual. Neither consider biblical teachings of the New Humanity (Eph 2:11-22, Galatians 3:28-29) And adherence to either deny the teachings of Jesus as they are applied in the Gospels, book of Acts and the Epistles. It would seem the only favorable source for Christianity in responding to the present crisis is only the Word of God. Read in such a way that we the human let the text stand over us as an authority, rather than read our fallen human ideas back into the text. Once again Christians should find themselves in the middle, a radical third way to the options put before us by the World. A way that brings life, rather than destruction, which is all the ways of the world, marred by their total depravity, can bring.

I wrote earlier this year that Jesus was neither a Socialist (as portrayed by many on the left) or any other of our modern philosophies which we read back into the ancient world. Philip Schaff is correct that: “Christianity, awakening in a certain historical reality, did not seek to destroy the culture, but infuse it with its transformative power, to make it the best version of itself.” What this means is that while Christianity interacts with the philosophies of whatever culture it finds itself in, its goal is ultimately to transform that culture and its philosophies into what God intended them to be. It should remove the sinful aspects of the culture in favor of its own recreative power, but it does not destroy. Christianity also comes with its own philosophies and moral teachings that are greater than anything man made because they are not man made, they are God’s own teachings and philosophies. One of two things has happened philosophically that have led to distortions of Christian Teaching over the millennia, either Christians have borrowed the world’s philosophies and tried to syncretize them, such as is the case with Gnosticism and Christianity, a Syncretism still very much alive today in Evangelicalism. Or secular philosophies have taken certain teachings or Jesus and of Christianity and syncretized them to their own philosophy. Whether it was intentional or not, is beside the point, most western philosophy, including the moral philosophies of Atheism has been heavily influenced by Christianity. As I have quoted before: “Western Culture swims in the soup Christianity created.” So while there are aspects of both Marxism and Individualistic Capitalism that reflect Christian teachings, neither are compatible and when put with Christianity are distortions of Biblical truth, not reflections of it.

For example, it is true that the Early Christians believed in a form of redistribution based on their concern for others within the strong group, family dynamic and the broader community they were a part of. However, Historians note that this was voluntary and meant to be done out of the Joy that came knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. In the OT the redistribution was even encoded into the law, but in the NT Christians are encouraged to give out of the joy of Christ and concern for their neighbor and they did, generously. The finances of the Church should still, today, reflect the values of God and go towards care for the poor and needy, as they did in the ancient Church. (The pastor should also be paid for their services, but that is a different matter). The younger generation will give to Churches where money is being used for these purposes. Individualistic Capitalism rightly glorifies the dignity of an individual’s work, as Paul does in 1st Thessalonians. Those who can work, should work and work for the glory of God. The early church had a well-developed “Theology of Work” that was accompanied by a “Workplace Theology” which prompted them to be well known for their moral and upstanding business practices. However, when a convert could no longer work in their field, as was the case with many theater actors who were converted, the Church would provide for them until they were ready to pursue a new profession. Both ideas made their way into separate modern philosophies, whether the creators of the separate ideas knew their origins to be biblical or not.

It is unfortunate, as I said, these are either distortions of Christianity or borrow from Christianity. But both stand in opposition to the actual teachings of Jesus and the life put before the Body to live as one Body. They both ignore the reality of the new humanity that is formed in Christ, one that is radically different from either philosophy. Marxism is dependent on splitting people between classes and pitting them against one another. According to Marx history is the repetition of the Proletariat rising and overthrowing the Bourgeoisie ruling class. The wealth of the ruling class is then redistributed to all. This is commonly called Socialism but is also known in its more sinister form as “Communism.” When this has happened, for instance during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the role of oppressor merely changed hands, the previously oppressed rise to become the oppressor. This is portrayed extremely well in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” It is true that redistribution can be done and is done in a way where this is not the case, such as many democracies in Europe which are hybrids between Capitalism and Socialism (commonly called Democratic Socialism) but these countries are not truly Marxist or truly capitalistic, rather try to take the best of the two and mix them. The Body of Christ is a strong group, such as what Marxism tries to create, but it is one group, not divided into many. More on that in a second.

Individualistic Capitalism, while it does rightly elevate the value of individual work, also places the primacy of the individual and the individuals work to the point of idolatry. That is, the self and what the self accomplishes takes precedence over all else and the self is divorced from the group to which the person belongs to the point of isolation. This is what we commonly call a “weak group” society and it is the exception in the world and in History, rather than the rule. The consequences of this, especially in the late stages we find ourselves in today, is that people feel increasingly disconnected and isolated. A phenomenon we are seeing explode with COVID-19, but which was already on the rise as Cell and other Digital Technology increased throughout the early 2000’s to today. Games like “The Sims” and Social Media Platforms have only served to create a false sense of community while they really lead to further isolation and depression. When someone is reduced to their job, disconnected from the groups that support them, the result is dehumanizing and the work which once brought dignity because it was just one part of the individual’s sense of self, leaves the person wondering if there is anything else to life. Work is a dignifying thing, there is no way to deny that, but a person’s profession is only one part of them. Christianity encourages work as part of the peaceful and quiet life, but Paul is never reduced to a “mere tentmaker.” Instead he is identified by his associations with his strong group or groups, A Jew, part of the Sanhedrin, then An Apostle, A Christian, A Roman Citizen. He is always identified as part of his group before he talked about what he did.

Society has made it seem like the Church desperately needs to chose between these two ideologies, but in reality if we settle for either, or even some syncretism of both, we are falling far short of what Scripture actually gives us to live out and the example to which we are to aspire. Christ has come to make an entirely new humanity that transcends the old one, not to reinforce social and class divisions as Marxism does, but to eliminate them altogether. While work is still important to Christianity, the worker is not reduced to their work, rather their work is one aspect of their life, it is also how they contribute to the transcendent new humanity, through their work they are engaged in active evangelism to reach others. They also contribute to making sure the group can take care of those unable to work or who need time to figure out a new profession. The model of Biblical reconciliation given us in Christ Jesus is one that eliminates the categories of oppressed and oppressor but also values someone based on their being In Christ and made in God’s image, rather than their profession or what they contribute. Redistribution that is done comes through the Church Leaders out of Joy and Gratitude for what Christ has accomplished on their behalf. It is not meant to be forced or demanded but should be done when possible. By doing this Acts even tells us that no one among them had any need, a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 15 (Acts 4:33). Individuals are thus to be viewed as human beings made in the image of God with that Image fully activated and renewed in Christ (or potentially so). Individuals have autonomy, but also need to be recognized as part of the larger group. Christian (Little Christ) should be the first identity that all over identities are subsumed under or subordinate too. I am a Christian before I am a Pastor, I am a Christian before I am a Father, I am a Christian before I am a Police Officer. But this does not erase cultural distinctives, but meshes them, transforms them. A Christian who is Black is still Black and brings their culture, transformed in Christ because God created it, to the table which God has set before us. There is to be, in the body of Christ, Unity in Diversity. Christians are every skin color, (almost) every profession, making up the whole of God’s created humanity.

It seems obvious that both ideologies have zeroed in on two different aspects of Christian Teaching and either knowingly or unknowingly, both scheme to form the perfect humanity either through Utopia (impossible) or total autonomy (also impossible). The New Humanity however requires us to hold in tension the individual and the group. The New Humanity is meant to be a strong group made up of individuals who are caring for each other not out of obligation but out of gratitude for what Christ has done. The New Humanity is meant to be both Salt, a preserving agent in the ancient world, and light to the world. That is, the New Humanity preserves the world and seasons the world, preparing it and curing it for Christ’s return but is also to be a beacon for all the world to see on how to live. This is a radical third way that does not diminish humanity to classes or to individuals, but which draws us up into something completely different, divine Union with Christ and with one another in which all the hostilities of this world, personal and corporate, are destroyed by the death of Christ on the Cross (Ephesians 2:11-22, Galatians 3:27-29). Christianity is not mere moralism, it is something new, as John Williamson Nevin tells us when speaking of the Incarnation: “A New principle of light and life.” Man is now in relationship with God the Father through God the Son. Nothing like this has ever been since the time of the fall and nothing like this ever will be again until the end of all things and that union is once again renewed and perfect at the end of all things. To diminish Christianity, to make it less than it is, denies the work of Christ and makes a mockery of his sacrifice. It is blaspheme against God to take away from Christianity, to make it less than what God has designed it to be, a New Humanity, meant to resemble what God intended Humanity to be in the Garden.

The judgment we heap upon ourselves by embracing anything less than what the Bible teaches us will be swift and fierce. Forget what the world may do to us in calling our bluff, those who think they are Christians but have no relationship with Christ and who actually live the opposite of what He has put before them to live are calling judgment and eternal damnation down on their heads. (Matthew 7:22, 23, Romans 2:1-11 1 John 1:1-11 and so on).

Lord, Heal your Church, call your people back to you. Amen.

 

Bibliography

Hellerman, Joseph. 2009. When the Church Was a Family . Nashville : B&H Publishing .

John Williamson Nevin, Philip Schaff, Daniel Gans, William B. Evans, W. Bradford Littlejohn . 2014. The Incarnate Word: Selected Writings on Christology . Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “The Church .” In One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, John Nevin’s Writings on Ecclesiology (1844-1849) Tome One: The Mercersburg Theology Study Series Colum Five, by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 144-159. Eugene : WFPF and Stock .

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

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

 

 

 

The Tale of Two Speeches

One Speech and One Sermon, two different perspectives on the Church in America, One from the President of the United States, One from the President of a prominent Evangelical Seminary, who is correct?

Jonathan Faulkner

I just spent the last half-hour listening to the president’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. Like many, I am tired of the insults and put downs that have become common place within these speeches and so I would not normally have watched it, but since the President tends to talk up his accomplishments and since he was before one of his primary bases, Evangelical Christians, it seemed logical to expect to see much of the same in this speech. Guess what? I was not disappointed. Listening to the speech made it sound like Christianity was alive and well and he even used the word “Thriving” to describe what was happening. A similar word was used by Pew and Lifeway when they did their research on the ever-marginalized Churches in New England, Churches that are no longer sitting at the forefront of social influence and power and are increasingly further from those centers. The President also made mention of how he has done more for Christians than any other political leader in the nation’s history and one could infer “Since Constantine.” Still, between the self-endorsement and the attacks on political enemies one saw what the second speech reiterated over and over again.

The Second speech, which was actually a sermon on Psalm 85 by the new president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Dr. Scott Sunquist from GCTS Spring Convocation which served as my wife and I’s spiritual nourishment and preaching as we sat at home Sunday Morning waiting out the snow storm that canceled our own service. The sermon opened with one poignant and heart-wrenching line: “The Church in the United States of America is sick, Evangelicalism is sick, brothers and sisters, we are sick.” He then went on to paint the grim picture, combining for us all the statistics on church-decline all the reasons the people in our pews are so anxious, but at the end of that he gave us hope, he showed us the way back to health, his solution? Reach out to God and ask Him for restoration. I know this is likely the first time some of you have heard of this sermon so please go and take a listen before you continue reading.

I said above that the presidents remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast proved, in many ways what Dr. Sunquist said in his sermon, I will get back to that in a second. First, I want to ask the question that I asked in the tagline on this post because these are two very different views of the state of the Church in the United States of America. There is no compatibility here, either the Church is doing amazing and things are great, or we are sick and in need of a biblical restoration. The question we have to ask here is “What is the truth?” Is one of these men passing around false information meant to make himself look better in the eyes of a constituency? Or are they both way off base and the truth is somewhere in the middle? Many of us would like to believe the president, as a Pastor that would take a load off my mind. I would like to say that Christianity is thriving here in the United States of America. I would love to be able to stand before my congregation and say that all their fears are for not, we are in great shape.

However, I cannot ignore what I see with my eyes and hear with my ears. I cannot ignore what the cultural exegetes tell me, those people whose job it is to know exactly what the state of the church in America is like. I cannot help but think about Peter Bienart’s article in the Atlantic in 2017 that talked about “America’s Empty Church Problem” or the pianist at my church who lamented about a town where all the churches are either museums or condo’s or homes now (that was a town in Wisconsin no less). I think of what Barna Group calls: “the rise of the none’s” and what David Kinnamen calls: “the dropout problem” where young Christians who leave the church are not coming back and many are abandoning their faith altogether and the heartbreaking reasons why this is so. I think of the increasingly close entanglement between cultural evangelicalism and Political Power and the promise that all these things I mentioned above are no longer true, even though they are. I think of Dr. Peter Kuzmic who told the church we attended in Hamilton in 2019 that the president of the United States was: “Absolutely hindering missions work all over the world because of Evangelicals association with him in American Politics.” I see and read all of this, I hear the way people in my town talk about the people on the other side of the isle, people who are otherwise perfectly kind men and women who treat bitterly their political rivals. I cannot help but think that Dr. Sunquist is right, that we are in need of restoration. We have violated what Philip Schaff defined as the definition of Religious Freedom in the United States: “It is a Free Church in a Free State, or a self-supporting and self-governing Christianity independent but in friendly relation to the Civil Government.” That the very people who once wrote into their founding confessional documents like the Saybrook Confession that Christian Magistrates could not “proselytize” are now looking to the government to do just that.

Yes, Dr. Sunquist is correct, we are sick, and the president is incorrect, we are not barreling towards a brighter day, we are headed for our own destruction. Yet, I would be a fool to not look at the positive things that are happening in Christianity. The article by Peter Beinart I mentioned above does point out that one affect of our current situation in American Religion is that cultural Christianity is declining and biblical Christianity, which at the time was apolitical, is on the rise. According to a 2018 article in the Washington Post: “Conservative churches” which would better be defined as “Bible Believing” are growing while Liberal churches are dying on the vine. It is also true that 4 Million people between the age of 20-35 classify as what Barna calls “Resilient Disciples” that churches in the places where they are not longer the dominate power structure and where Power Religion is mocked and the church marginalized are laying down their denominational hard lines and embracing a biblical definition and the biblical example of the Church. In short, the Church is reforming, and though this time around there is not a one pivotal figure who has walked up and nailed 95 thesis on the Cathedral doors, there are many spirit led men and women who have found a more ancient voice, the voice of the Holy Scriptures. This new Reformation is taking place around our dinner tables and our fellowship times, at Theology on Tap and in Post-Sermon Q&A sessions. It is active and extremely organic, at times to a fault. Jesus is once again eating with the sinners and the tax collectors and the religious pharisees are once again condemning Him. It is true in Church History and it will prove true again, anytime the church aligns itself with the halls of power it never ends well for the church. Further, anytime we lose our power and influence it forces us back to a time when we had to live out what we believe rather than speak from a place of assumed authority. As Schaff predicted in The Principle of Protestantism, the cultural sects are dying off or reforming and rejoining the main body. Sectarianism has proven untenable.

Now, back to a point I made earlier, I said that the President’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast points to the truth of what Dr. Sunquist said about our sickness. If you listen to the president’s speech, he does exactly what James 3:9-12 tells us not to: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olive, or a grapevine bear fig? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” In almost the same breath the president of the United States both cursed and attacked his enemies, those who he saw as working against him, and then praised God and even, at points, touted his own accomplishments as being from God. It may also surprise you to find that the general way of speaking, by the president, or tweeting, by the president, tends towards cursing man more so than it does to praising God. This is a sign of how sick we have become; we have propped up and praised a man who is in direct violation of the commands and text of scripture, and not only James 3:9-11. We have embraced a man who regularly participates in “course joking” who has openly admitted to sexual immorality a man who, at the National Prayer Breakfast, openly and brazenly admitted to hating someone who is very possibly his sister in Christ and accusing that sister of making false claims about her own religious practice. His harboring of anger and hatred puts him direct violation of Jesus own commands in Matthew 5:27. If this is not proof of illness, I am not sure what is. We claim the bible is authoritative, we claim that scripture is the means by which we are to live through the Holy Spirit, but then we do not live it out in our own lives and ignore it when it is convenient or expedient.

We are quickly coming to a point of no return, will we pray the prayer of Dr. Sunquist, “Restore us oh God.” Or will we continue to whore after the god of political power and influence? Will we continue to ignore scripture in favor of our preferences and our safety? Or will we repent and remember that it was not Christians in power that brought the Roman Empire to its knees, but a Church under persecution? IF we continue this line of pursuit, we put ourselves in danger of increasing persecution (some places this has already begun). Or we can return to the intention in Schaff’s definition above, two separate and free entities with only a friendly relation unless that government is openly apposed to Christianity. We may not be able, at this point, to back to what Schaff described as: “The relationship of church and state in the United States secures full liberty of religious thought, speech and action within the limits of the public peace and order. It makes persecution impossible. Religion and liberty are inseparable. Religion is voluntary and cannot, and aught not, be enforced.” I fear we are passed the point of a return to this vision and continued attempts to use the government to proselytize we will only face increased persecution.

This is why the president was wrong and Scott Sunquist right, all that is happening that is good in the church right now is actually in spite of what the president is doing or not doing for the church. His own speech and actions, violation of the biblical text which we claim is sacred, and so on and so forth are proofs to Dr. Sunquist point. Further, As David French pointed out our propensity to make excuses for him and to justify his behavior is even more damning and destructive. As we have seen countless times, in the attack on Russell Moore, in attacks on Mark Galli and in too many other cases to admit, we have violated Biblical teaching and done damage to our Gospel witness in a world that already wanted nothing to do with God. We are certain not in the favor of all the people (Acts 2:42-47). Just the opposite, we have taken the offensiveness of the Gospel (you cannot save yourself) and added our own offensiveness to it by not turning to God, but to man, to save us. We should be quick to repent before it leads to our destruction.

Bibliography

Bornman, Adam S. 2011. Church, Sacrament and American Theology: The Social and Political Dimensions of John Williamson Nevin’s Theology of Incarnation. Eugene : WFPF & Stock Publishing .

Fea, John. 2019. Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump . Grand Rapids : Eardhman’s Publishing .

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

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “The Church .” In One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, John Nevin’s Writings on Ecclesiology (1844-1849) Tome One: The Mercersburg Theology Study Series Colum Five, by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 144-159. Eugene : WFPF and Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Thoughts on the Church .” In The Mercersburg Study Series Vol VII: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome Two: John Williamson Nevin’s Ecclesiological Writings (1851-1858, by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 131-152. Eugene : WfPF and Stock .

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

Schaff, Philip. 1888. Church and State in the United States or The American Idea of Religous Liberty and its practical Effects . New York : Charle Scribner & Sons .

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

Leaving the Dessert Part I: A journey into the Heart of God.

By Jonathan David Faulkner

God hears the prayers and teenagers; I know this because when I was sixteen I asked God to show me His heart for people. I had not been a Christian all that long, and I really had no idea what I was praying, but there I sat, on a plane ride from Dallas to Columbus asking God to reveal to me His heart.

Fast forward to 2011, to the weeks leading up to the Labyrinth, where my cracked and dried faith was barely holding a form, I had been in the dessert, and I was dying. The events of the previous four years had left me so desperate for water, desperately roaming the wilderness, looking for any answer. I had to know, that was the only way I could be sure of it all. I was clinging to what I thought was Christianity and I was slowly becoming disillusioned with it.

God was breaking my heart, God was breaking me.

As I sat with the men and women at Christ’s Body, hearing their stories of life on the streets, on nights I would go down and sit with them while they flew their signs. Little did I know, but my prayer was going to be answered, God was going to show me His heart, and it was not what I expected. Like Brian Zahnd says in his book “Water To Wine:”

“I was wrestling with the uneasy feeling that the faith I had built my life around was somehow deficient. Not wrong, but lacking. It seemed watery, weak…Jesus wasn’t in question, but Christianity American Style was.”

I felt the same way, I felt that I was missing something, it did not make sense to me, I felt dry, cracked. A survey of the landscape of my faith revealed a property not worth selling. I knew a lot about God and about Jesus, but did I really know them? Had my quest for all the answers been of any benefit to me? The answers to those two questions were “sort of” and “very little.”

I knew about Jesus, I knew about what He had done, I knew that His death brought propitiation for sins, that I was now reconciled to God. But in my broken mind, I could not comprehend what it meant, I was starting to move past the anger of my former days, but I still wasn’t free. I did not know what it meant to be a Saint of the Living God. I knew a lot about God, but I did not know God. My prayer to see the Heart of God seemed like a distant dream, I was empty. Like St. Francis after returning from the Crusades, or Luther before he wrote the 95 Thesis I knew there had to be something more to Christian Faith. What was I missing?

So as I sat in Coffee on the Point, just over five blocks from Issachar, I read my bible and I read Donald Millers books and I prayed for living water. As my struggle with the community at Issachar neared a head I thought I would lose faith altogether. But God had another plan, and on Monday July 4th, 2011, in the middle of week of intentional silence, meditation and prayer, God met me in the Labyrinth.

I wish I had known at the time how that journey would play out, had I known the deep joys and the cutting pains of the next four years I would have walked out of that Labyrinth, but I did not, and I am glad I didn’t.

I left the Labyrinth that day with not just a deeper sense of who I was in Christ and of His deep love for me, but also a new understanding of the Incarnation of the Holy Spirit. I finally understood what my professors meant when they were telling me “God is always with you.” So my journey from the wild desserts of faith, where thoughts roll around like dried up tumbleweeds and water is scarce, if it can be found at all. My first steps were made with a new understanding of the role of Holy Spirit in the life of the Believer. Practicing God’s presence became a daily activity, I had become so dependent upon Him for everything, I did not know it at the time, but I was seeing His heart for me, what I had always desired to see, I was at the beginning of seeing.

As you know, three weeks later God called me to Pastoral Ministry and began to teach me about a deeper and richer faith.

He did that through the Monastics, I began reading Francis, Bernard and the reformers, Calvin and Luther, seeking to stand on the shoulders of those giants and learn for them. I stopped talking about the world and began to live in it as a believer with a redeemed perspective. I delved into the depths of theology and devotional practice. I visited my first Monastery, studied Romans with a good brother, and discovered what would lay the ground work for the Lectio Divina I would later apply to my study of Scripture. I was leaving behind the fundamentalism and legalism, the dryness of the dessert of American Christianity and discovering a place in the universal church. I saw myself not as one who had to have the answer, but a student of those who had gone before me, my perspective was shifting, my mind and my heart were being transformed.

It was not always easy, slowly tensions began to rise between my friends who held the traditional views of American Christendom. We would argue, get mad at each other, but we always forgave each other. We would debate baptism, art in the church, the sacred, hymns, contemporary worship music, emotionalism. I had found how life-giving this new perspective, this new lens, had radically changed my life. Even the those liturgies and services seemed to have lost their dryness. I could worship with any style of music, I could be with any Body of believers and see them as Children of God. I wanted other people to see what I seeing.

But I met resistance, people have to be ready to go there, they have to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It takes time, one must realize what is at stake. And those who can grow maturely in the style of Christianity I was leaving behind I encouraged to stay there. I did not want there to be divisions and fights and quarrels, but I did want people to know of this new found freedom. I stopped harping about sin and condemning those who didn’t agree with me. I studied Timothy and saw Paul’s heart to have the church restored and the more I studied I found that was becoming my desire.

I had left the waterless dessert I had been trudging through and had discovered the life-giving springs of living water that came from actually knowing and being in relationship with the Trinity. I finally understood what the reformers discovered long ago, what Francis and Bernard and others discovered. Instead of opinions governed by my own mind my thoughts were replaced with scripture, letting God from my thoughts on a matter through prayer and contemplation.

I did not become perfect, in a lot of ways this life is much harder than the one I used to live. But the result and reward has been so much greater, especially as I have entered 2016 with the expectation of seeing God work and being a part of His work in whatever way He calls me too.

It has been a crazy ride, everything is different, from my relationship with God to my friendships with others. I am okay with not having an answer, I can trust God, and I have the chance to commune with Him daily through prayer and scripture reading. American Christianity did lay a ground work, but it could only take me so far. Eventually I had to leave it behind, from desserts to green pastures. God is doing a work in me, and I want to share it with you, and invite you to join me.

So saddle up, let’s go, to a place of deeper faith.

 

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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

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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Untwisting, Twisted Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:15

 

By Jonathan David Faulkner

Untwisting Twisted Scripture looks at popular teachings and their use of Scripture.

I have heard a lot of popular Fundamentalist Evangelists respond to critics by using 1 Corinthians 2:15 to justify maliciously condemning others. The verse says: “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” (ESV). Pulling this verse out of context it is easy to say, as they do, that no one can judge them and that they are the final authority on all things. This verse has been twisted by Authoritarians, it has nothing to do with malicious condemning someone and then justifying yourself.

Let’s look at the immediate context of the passage:

            The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

(1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV)\

It is interesting here, as you can see, that this is a comparison between the man who does not know Christ and the one who does. The Greater context talks about the Spirit’s working in our lives, giving us the ability to understand the teachings of Scripture, specifically giving the Corinthians the ability to understand Paul’s words, this of course comes through the incarnation of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling of God inside of us. If we did not have the spirit we would not have the ability to determine or discern the things of God. But because we have the Spirit of God, because we can learn to grow in and learn to listen to and be led by that Spirit, we can have the ability to judge those things that we come across.

Paul is also commenting, starting back in verse 4 about how the Corinthians received the Gospel in general, by the wisdom of the Spirit, and not by the wisdom of man. Noting a desired progression in the Corinthians own life from the world’s wisdom to the Spirit’s wisdom, because it was by the Spirit’s wisdom that the Gospel was seen and understood. Again noting a progression or growth from the World’s Wisdom towards the Wisdom of God because through the Spirit we have “The Mind of Christ.”

John Calvin, writing on verse 13 says this in his Commentary on 1 Corinthians:

Because they are spiritually discerned. That is, the Spirir of God from whom the doctrine of the Gospel Comes, is the only true interpreter, to open it up to us. Hence in judging of it, men’s minds must of necessity be in blindness until they are enlightened by the Spirit of God.

But what of the verse in question? How then does the Spiritual Man “Judge all things?” What does it mean for him to do so? Well, if you asked Feuerstien, he might tell you it means he can be prosecutor judge and jury and no one, not even other Christians, can question him. But if you look at the Greek word used here, you find a different story unfolding. The word is “Anakrino” which means to judge, discern, question, investigate, sift through or to scrutinize. Yes, it has a legal ramification, but only in the investigative sense. It is the same word used by Pilot when turns Jesus back over to the Jews in Luke 23:14 saying “I have examined him and found no guilt in him.” Yes, it does involve a verdict, but a verdict in the Christian sense requires a graceful dealing on any subject and with anyone.

Christians who practice an authoritarian interpretation end up looking more like the Prosecutor in God’s Not Dead 2 rather than images of the Living God. Such an interpretation invites and “Us against them” mentality that is driven by fear of opposition. Instead of a fair judgement or the proper discernment of a situation, instead of judging the idea, or the fruit of a ministry we become judge, jury and executioner of anyone who disagrees with us. This is Pharisaic at best, demanding that everyone stand in line and be judged by us. If we continue in this we should tremble on the day we stand before God (we will anyway) knowing that the measure we judged others with was so very hard that we ourselves could not stand up against it.

True and genuine Christian Maturity is being able to look at a thing and examine it with the help of the Holy Spirit. To be able to say about an idea, a thought or the fruit of a person’s life and say “This is good” or “This is bad.” And then be able to either encourage or exhort that person in a right manner that will either spur them on to more love and good works or lead them to restoration through repentance.

True and genuine Christian Maturity does grant us the ability to judge all things, but that is not a judgement that ends in condemnation of the individual person, but if there must be condemnation than it must be of an ideology or group mindset because it bears bad fruit. As I have said before, every single thing we come across, every teaching, every politician’s platform, every doctrine must be thoroughly examined and held up against the standard of Scripture. The only way we have the ability to do such a thing is by the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to understand as we study Scripture. There can be no proper exegesis or interpretation without the Spirit’s guidance, it is not a work of man, but of God himself, incarnate in us through the Holy Spirit. Like the Eunuch in the book of Acts, reading the scrolls of Isaiah, it took Phillip, a man filled with the Spirit of God, to help him understand what he was reading.

The word of God is life-giving, even David’s lament in Psalms 51 can be used to bring life to the lost soul. When someone uses this Word to bring about more bondage or put down other believers who disagree with them that is not a Holy Spirit led reading of the Text. We must learn to discern a teaching, like the Berean Christians, always studying, always searching the scriptures. So that the living and active Word of God can be used by the Spirit to do that transformative and life giving work. We were not called to go from one cruel master to another, but to become Children of God, with all the rights and promises thereof.

 

 

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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

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. 

Programmed

If you’re not familiar with me or my ministry then you don’t know that I once worked at a church with an abusive pastor. In fact I spent my last two years of high school slowly becoming more and more legalistic, more and more hateful and more and more like the man who was spiritually abusing me. With that abuse it also became ingrained in my head that no one cared about me, that no one wanted to spend any time with me and that I was exactly what I’d been told my entire life that I was a loser.

Growing up with a disability I was also fairly empathetic. I saw people who were down and wanted to help them, to bear all their burdens with them and to love them. The whole while hoping that I could feel love back, to believe for only a little while that I’m worth something to someone. Back then I didn’t believe that God loved me or that anyone else did for that matter.

This is a sort of classical conditioning, when we are taught to believe something. It happens all the time, we’re conditioned to believe the government’s going to run day to day even if it doesn’t. We’re conditioned to wear a shirt and shoes at McDonalds. These are okay conditionings, I personally am thankful that people wear shirts at McDonalds or in public in general.

Before the church I worked at turned abusive I had sat through several months’ worth of bible studies based on Cult Education. It was extremely informative and it defiantly has become an interest in my studies. To see how groups condition people fascinates me, the type of things they believe do too. Yes I know you’re thinking “oh no he’s going to try to control us.” Don’t worry, it also terrifies me, beyond all measure. After being in a controlling group you very rarely want to control others, unless you take over that group or find the control you gain to be exhilarating. Then destroying others might become a hobby for you and destructive to your friends.

The worst part about being conditioned to believe something is the difficulty in trying to forget what you’ve believed and believe what is true. The idea that I’m worthless and no one cares is so engrained in my memory that it becomes an extremely stressful activity trying to reach out to other people for help. So much so that most of the time I just shut down and don’t come out of my room for several days (except to go to class) this is destructive and it’s also hurtful to your friends.

But how do we get over this type of conditioning? How do we believe the opposite of what we’ve been taught?

One of my professors, a former cult deprogrammer gave this advice. Find a scripture to meditate on and remember Philippians 4:8 which says; “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (ESV).

This is where community comes in handy because as you come out of the programming you won’t be able to do things on your own. You’ll need God and you’ll need the people that God has put in your life. Find someone who cares, they are out there, even if you’re conditioned to believe that no one does.

So go this week and focus on what is good and right and seek God to see if you’ve been programmed to believe this. Then go and be with your community of friends.

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

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

Summer Reflections: Book & Books

Reflection #8: Book & Books

  

                Like most of my spring semester it wasn’t planned. I was in the cafeteria with my laptop in front of me, a blank word document begging me to write something. It was mid-term week and I was more than ready for spring break. A lot of my friends were completely burned out and several of them had already left. As I said last week I was planning on staying on campus, but by that time I had already agreed to go to Texas the next Thursday.

I started to type, before I knew it I couldn’t stop. Words flowed from my fingers, the keyboard “tap, tap, tapping” out to the rhythm of whatever song might be playing through my headphones at the time. They words kept coming, all the frustration I felt towards the fact that everyone around me was burned out started to form into a book. Everything from Denver started coming back to me as I sat in the cafeteria and later in my room.

50 pages, then 100 pages, then 150, then 200 pages, I worked on this book all day Friday, Saturday and part of Sunday. Into Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and even a little bit before we left on Thursday, I continued to write on the trip, then off into the next week after we returned. All the way up till the Thursday after. I sat back in my chair at about 3:30 in the afternoon, clasped my hands behind my head and sighed, 224 pages on the problem of burnout. Now I was burned out.

Those two weeks were probably the most interesting two weeks I’ve had since July 4th of last year. I could only write at certain times, when I had homework to do I couldn’t work on the book, a block went up that stayed there until I finished assignments. Then I could go back to counting pages and reading sections of books pertaining to the problem.

When I think back on those two weeks I can tell you that the only way I could have written a whole book and done all the research on it was through the power of the Holy Spirit. God showed up and wrote through me, not that this book is anything special, but as I prayed they be His words and not mine that is the only explanation I can give.

Bring back to the front life in the spirit. Since surrendering everything to God’s will, these types of things have been happening. Could it be that God is giving me a unique view of life in the spirit? My goal here is to give you my experiences; I know that God works with all differently, so your experiences will be different from mine. But to really get to know God, to see what He does when we lay down our desires and surrender them to Him.

The book is in the first editing phase, but I hope and pray that God will allow this to become a published work in the next year or so. When my friend Emily heard about this she told me “Jon, please tell me you’re going to grad school, because I feel as though someone who can write a book in two weeks is a genius.” She’s right, I do plan on going to grad school, but I’ll leave it up to the spirit to be the genius and rely on what God has taught me.

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

Summer Reflections Series
Reflection #1: Re-Entry
Reflection #2: Pulled Out
Reflection #3: Set Apart
Reflection #4: Focus Change
Reflection #5: Spirit Thing
Reflection #6: Science and Christianity
Reflection #7: Texas Sweet Tea
Reflection #8: Books & Books
Reflection #9: Bearing Burdens
Reflection #10: Heading Home