Tag: Scripture

The Problem with Christian Celebrity

Athletes and Hollywood Christians are strategically placed for the Gospel, but we cannot and should not act as if they’re testimony means we are free to do whatever we want.

Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Let me say this up front, I hate the idea of Christian Celebrity and I hate the culture we have created around celebrity Christian’s. Believe it or not though it is not the idolatry that it often ends up in, though I am no fan of that, nor is it the pedestal just below idolization that gets me, though again I am no fan of that either. It is the fact that those are the people often referred to when Christians talk about those who live out their faith even though they have no frame of reference other than one comment made to the media. Someone does not have to demonstrate with their lives they are a Christian, all they have to do is say something, even if that thing is tan gently orthodox and biblical and Christians flock to them like moths to a lamp. Mention the name of Jesus and your guaranteed to have 1000 new twitter followers overnight, even if your exegesis and application are extremely questionable.

You all know what I am talking about, you were all alive when Tim Tebow (congrats on your recent marriage by the way Tim), was playing for the Denver Broncos. I can remember people praising him for painting John 3:16 on his face before the game and for what became known universally as “tebowing” praying after he scored a TD. I can remember college girls fawning over him because he was such a good and godly man who did not smoke drink or chew or go with girls who did. He was held up as the archetype for what a Christian should be and in fact, he was, if your archetype of Christianity is the classic conservative “nice Christian boy” who epitomizes purity culture and who never upsets people.

Now, before you accuse me of being disrespectful, let me say that I have a great deal of respect for those who live out their faith in the public square. It is extremely difficult to stand up for your faith in our modern context and Tebow has paid a price for it. I also have a great deal of respect for Tim Tebow as a person, his special prom nights for children with disabilities is a truly gospel-oriented mission that gives dignity to kids who do not get to experience that dignity within the public-school system. I do have a problem with the culture he represents, but no problem with him personally. The problem is with the celebrity status and idolization that occurred because Tim Tebow stood up for His faith in the public square. Tim’s life is attractive for the Gospel, the Christian Celebrity that rose around him, hindered it. I felt the same way about Kurt Cousins recent comments after losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the Playoffs, something my own Packers did the very next week. I appreciate the words that he said, “win or lose, God is on the throne” what disturbs me are the people who raised the concert of praises and allowed the cycle of idolization continue. Again, Cousin’s life may attractive (I do not know enough about him to say) for the Gospel, but that kind of idolization hinders it.

We do the same thing to Politicians, all someone has to do is signal solidarity with Christianity and boom, Christians will flock to unquestioning support for them. Even if upon further examination we find that person is not a believer, or at least not living like one, but only used the manicure to secure a section of the voting base. This is the playing card that we have been watching play out before us in the political arena for the last 30 years, coming to fruition in the worst possible way with the 2016 election. We become uncritical followers of men seeking political power we risk allowing ourselves to be led astray from the Gospel principles found in the Word of God and the moral high ground we have always vigorously defended. I have beat a dead horse with this one, but I will say it again, we cannot insist on certain moral characteristics and then turn around and vote for someone who does not fit those characteristics. Regardless of what may be promised or what we may gain, better to lose the whole world then to forfeit our souls eh? Unfortunately, it looks as though we have chosen to forefeet our souls.

But that is the problem I see, we are not just forfeiting our souls, we are forfeiting our souls in the case of politics, but we are all too often forfeiting our witnesses by outsourcing them to the Christian Celebrity. We seem to think that the person who professes faith on TV or after the football game is going to be what stems the tide of secularism and reinvigorates the witness of Christ around the world. The problem is secular people and younger Christians do one of two things with the athlete/politicians/Hollywood type professes their faith. They either scoff at it because their experience with Christians they interact with daily do not live out what they claim to believe or they applaud it once and move on, getting back to the business of living out their robust faith. They either do not see it as sincere, or they ignore it all together. No one is reached, in fact, it seems that the opposite is happening, people tune it out because the Christians they know are no different than they are.

Celebrity among Christians seems to have become an excuse for not living out the gospel at home before all men. We think because they have testified to Christ we do not have to. It is a convenient way of outsourcing our own responsibility to communicate the Gospel in word and life. We seem to think that so long as (Insert name here) is working out his or her salvation with fear and trembling we are excused from it. Or that the Great Commission is for missionaries and pastors and we just go to church and fellowship and that’s the extent of our Christian Life. The Great Commission becomes “The Great Omission” to use Thom Rainer’s term even if your part of the 48% of Christians who know what the Great Commission is (Lifeway 2019). “Go into all the world and Make Disciples of all nations” apparently does not mean our own, or it does so long as we do not have to do it. “Put off the old self…and put on the new self” (Col 3:6-10) is all well and good and long as we do not have to do it. As long (so and so) is being a light to the world, do I really have to be?

I am being a bit snarky here, but if you look at all the data that has come out over the last 50 years as the Church as declined, this is the picture it paints. Now, there are some areas of the country where this is impossible, I think of our New England Brothers and Sisters who, in most places, have realized that living in a Post-Christian society requires Christians to largely abandon their whimsical, pie in the sky Christianity defined by Consumerism and attractionalism and return to a biblically oriented Christian Faith. I am inspired by the Church Planting movement in my own denomination that has been reaching communities with the Gospel by not being afraid to those whom the traditional Church in America has abandoned by making it a sin for a person of faith to even enter those places. Given the changes in our culture we can no longer afford to sit back and hide in our holy huddles thinking that will bring people back to us. Young people are not returning to church when they get older, even those who have a deep faith in Jesus, they remain in exile and disconnected. We can no longer make assumptions that allow us the convenience of ease and allow us to debate peripheral issues. We can either live out the Gospel or we can die, those are the only two options before us as persecution increases and we continue to be forced out of the public square. We do not have the luxury of outsourcing our witness to another, to celebrities. You want to see young people to return to churches? Take your own faith seriously.

I am serious, this is what I cannot stand about Christian Celebrity Culture, we seem to think that it has excused us from living out our own faith in our own portion of the public square. We think that if we do not sin and go to church, we are fine. The result is a lot of people who have relationships with the church, but no discernable relationship with eh Church. We have a lot of people that can proof-text their personal opinions (see last week’s piece) but have no biblical literacy or knowledge of the Bible beyond those defenses of their philosophical viewpoints. We also have a lot of people to look for the pastor to simply affirm their preconceived notions and if the pastor challenges those notions even in the slightest they get angry and make threats and bully people into agreeing with them.

The problem with all of this is God didn’t leave his Church here so that we could outsource our witness and gather around us people who would confirm our biases. Though we are promised in scripture that will happen. He left His church here to be a family and one that went out and witnessed to the world by showing the benefits and blessings of having a relationship with God. A Church then that does not love God, love people (inside and outside its walls) and make Disciples should not expect God’s blessings to follow them. In fact, they should expect the opposite since they have set themselves in opposition to God by their obstinate refusal to live out His commands. The culture pressures on the Church are moving us back in this direction in some parts of the country, but there are some places where resistance to any change back towards historic biblical orthodoxy and orthopraxy, not the canned conservative Americanized version that Billy Graham called: “An inch deep and a mile wide.”

If we want to see the church grow, especially in the alienated small towns throughout the Midwest and South, then the church needs to step up and be the third place of society it was in the first and second century. We do not have the luxury of debates in the public square over philosophies and ideologies that are loosely biblical, if that. And we certainly do not have the luxury at pointing to the latest Celebrity who put his faith into words and expressed it on public television as though their witness excuses us from our own. The secular world is reading our scriptures and calling us out on how poorly we live them out day to day. This is a difficult reality to accept, but Jesus was serious when He gave His commands and applied them all His people. Not just the Apostles, but to everyone who believed in Him.

Pastors, this starts with us, we need to stand up against these kinds of behaviors and take whatever it costs us knowing that we answer to Christ for how we handled His word and taught His people. We need to be willing to not just preach the Gospel but live out the Gospel and demonstrate the blessings of a relationship with Christ to our congregation. We can do this, even if it costs us calls and comfort because we are promised that God will take care of us and we can lean on those promises no matter what. We can also know that God is pleased when we do what He has commanded us to do even when it means people will be furious with us. We need to hold our congregations accountable to the full word of God, everything in their, not just their preferred theological construct. We also need to be willing to answer question, maintaining an open door for people come to ask us when we preach about those passages that challenge our preconceived notions. Not everyone will take you up on that, you will still have people angry with you, but both you and they have to stand before God and give account for how you lived out the Word of God. Be bold, stand firm and remember the one who has your back is greater than this world.

And the next time someone points out the Christian words or witness of a celebrity ask them how they are living out their faith in their community first, reaching people for the Gospel through loving God, loving people and making Disciples. Ask them how they are living out the Great Commission and how that celebrity’s faith may inspire them to live out more boldly the new life in Christ. IF we continue to be afraid to encourage our congregations to live out the Gospel, we will continue this trajectory we are on, and its not good.

To the lay person, please recognize that Jesus words do not just apply to your pastor or the Christian celebrity, but also to you. That you are going to be held accountable for what you did with what you did with the Word of God and how you treated one another, and those God has placed as under shepherds to lead you. Outsourcing your witness will lead to your destruction, not salvation, and if you do not believe me, read the book of Matthew. It would also be prudent for you to start questioning whom you are following instead of swearing undying loyalty to someone who contradicts the bible you claim as the source of your reasoning. Start reading the bible, the whole bible, and do what you can to learn about the bible and the world it was written into. Does that change how we apply it in the modern context? Well, it just might, but that is okay.

Now may the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob embolden you to live out His Holy Word in word and deed with humility and gratitude for that awesome work that was done in Christ.

 

\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.

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.

#GospelDrivenSissyPreacher: Feuerstein’s Argument with Scripture

 By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

If you have been following God’s Heart for the past year you know that I have sought to address teachings and teachers as part of what this organization does. You also know that I was a victim of spiritual and emotional abuse at the hands of the church and have spent (now) years studying mind-control techniques and search scripture for the answer to theological problems and correct doctrines. I have sought to do these things that I, as a member of the Body of Christ, might build up that body in every possible way. One of the ways we do that is by providing resources on popular teachings and teachers who are heretical or just plain abusive so that the church can be encouraged not merely away from these people, but to discern for their own sakes those things they are hearing and thus be encouraged by sound teaching by avoiding that which is not.

Even as this ministry has sought to do this, we have sought to do this in a way that is also encouraging to those who we are addressing. So, as we release another article on popular Facebook Evangelist Joshua Feuerstein, who we first addressed in a January 29th article entitled “Beware the Modern Pharisee” we have maintained that it is our desire to see Joshua restored to proper fellowship and a proper relationship with God. Our issues with Joshua were not with Joshua himself but with his teachings. This ministry can endure ridicule, being called “Sissy’s” getting blocked and berated, laughed at and mistreated, if one person reads these articles and is freed from having to listen to Joshua or if Joshua finds true and genuine restoration in the full Gospel then what we have endured is of great gain, not loss.

However, after Joshua’s latest series of videos concerning the Dallas Shootings, Terrorist attacks and pastor Jamal Bryant and one where Joshua told his listeners that he would kill anyone who drew on a cop. After warning him once and warning him twice with a group of spiritual leaders and ministries we must give one last warning against him and lay the matter to rest. So as much as I wish I was not saying this about another professing believer, as much as it pains me, I must say it.

Stay away from Joshua Feuerstein and his wife Jessica. They are both Heretics and they will ultimately do more harm to your faith and the faith of others than good. Have nothing more to do with them dear friends, for your sake and maybe even for theirs.

See, if you study Scripture and then take a look at Joshua and his teachings you will find it very obvious that Feuerstein has a fundamental argument with scripture and vice versa. Why do I say that? Because all you have to do is look at the comment section of Joshua’s posts or listen to his highly confrontational tone or read his sub Trinitarian comment on our own post from a few months back and then go read the book of Ephesians it will be glaringly obvious that Joshua not only has a doctrinal problem, but a genuine heart problem.

I used Ephesians, so let me go there to explain: Joshua’s comments are full of arguments, him yelling at subscribers and commenters and attacking people for having a viewpoint other than his own. This is far from: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (4:1-3 ESV). Angrily telling people you will shoot them if they draw on a cop is far from maintaining the bond of peace or walking humbly. Saying “I love Jesus” never justifies threatening to kill someone. Nor is it “walking humbly” when after being approached by multiple teachings and ministries about your own heretical teachings and attacking and then laughing at them and calling them “Sissy’s” if you then turn around and call someone else a heretic. This of course is compounded by previous behaviors such as his open hostility towards Starbucks and a later delete video calling for Christians to attack Abortionists. This is far from sowing peace or walking with humility, gentleness and patience and is far from bearing with one another in love.

Not that I am perfect, or that my ministry has handled all of this in the best way possible, chances are we have not. But we hope we have been loving in the way we have addressed this situation in the public forums.

Joshua also has an argument with Ephesians 4:29-32 which openly condemns “Corrupting talk” and “Anger, rage and malice” which are all attitudes he has exhibited towards President Barrack Obama and anyone who disagrees with him (whether they be Christian or Atheist). Instead the passage gives us an alternative to these things. For example, it tells us to speak “what is good for building up as it fits the situation, to give grace to the hearer” and “Being kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as Christ forgave you.” On top of that Joshua can be found to “Grieve the Holy Spirit” by his insistence on Sub Trinitarian Theology that downplays the role of the Holy Spirit and God the Father in favor of Jesus Christ. One can go far as to say that this is a form of Blaspheme because it denies what God has revealed about Himself through scripture.

Indeed, the entire book of Ephesians, along with the books of Galatians, 1 Timothy, the 4 Gospels, Micah 6 are openly condemning of Feuerstein’s theology and doctrine. Jesus himself, the man he claims to be representing might even turn to him and say, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath” (Mat 22:52).

This is unfortunate, and this is not an article I am writing with joy, but there is a fundamental, doctrinal problem with what Feuerstein is teaching and doing and for the sake of his 1.5 million followers and the rest of the church it must be discussed. Joshua is a Heretic, scripture condemns him, not me, and for our part as believers we should have nothing more to do with him so that he might learn not to Blaspheme the name of God and the Holy Spirit.

I am a #GospelDrivenSissyPreacher because I want the church to know the full freedom that comes with knowing God through the saving power of the Gospel in the work of Christ on the cross. Because I do not want to see the church chained to hatred and malice and all those things that divide what are supposed to be a united people of God. Worshiping as one Church, with One God, in One Baptism and in One Spirit. Please, stop listening to Joshua, do not give him the power to tear down the church anymore. Instead pray for him, that God would soften his heart and transform his life for the Gospel.

 

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 in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

What is the “Old Guard” really Guarding?

By Jonathan David Faulkner,

I will be honest; it was hard to get on the internet last week, especially after Tuesday Morning when over 500 Evangelical Leaders met with Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump. I read some of the more legitimate articles on the subject, Jerry Falwell Jr. and James Dobson’s comments on the meeting, notes from those outside of the group of “Evangelical Leaders.” I took it all in, saw the article about Trump’s Constantinian style Conversion to Christianity (wasn’t he already a Christian, something about a speech at Liberty?) It was hard to read all of it, it really was, I mean, both sides were just aghast and fighting with one another. It was, for lack of a better term, pathetic.

All of it leading to a deeper disillusionment with American Christianity. One that would have grown this week had I not read any of those articles and simply heard the promises Trump made to Evangelicals. Promises like allowing Religious leaders to endorse presidential candidates and creating a “Christian Advisory Panel” that includes Michele Bachman, Falwell, Dobson and others, members of that Old Guard Fundamentalism that at one point was a very good thing for the church in America (I mean, it gave us Jim Elliot, so it wasn’t always bad). Now claiming that Trump has “Accepted Jesus into his heart;” An ideology many Christians in the coming generation have abandoned because it is simply not biblical (See the book of Romans).

Of course, I am not questioning Trump’s conversion (though I am personally skeptical of it) the fruit of his life will determine if it is true or not. But I am wondering, what are Dobson and Falwell and others, the “Old Guard” actually “Guarding?”

I mean, if you are a guard you must be guarding something, either as a leader or a knight or a soldier or whatever, you are guarding something. My question is, what are they guarding, because it does not seem to be the Gospel.

What do I mean? The Gospel is by its very nature unifying to those who believe in Christ. In its truest, unadulterated form, will bring the believers together and through that unity and love draw in outsiders. This point is not in dispute, that’s why we do not only verbally speak the Gospel message we actually live it out. The idea is a two-fold evangelistic approach of living out and speaking, you must let your actions back up your words. It would not be enough for me to talk about encouraging my girlfriends walk with the Lord daily, I actually have to do it by 1.) making sure I am walking with the Lord daily so I can lead her by God’s grace and 2.) by asking her what the Lord has been teaching her and actively showing her what God has been showing me. If I talked about those things and my actions did not back them up I would simply be doing lip service to what I want to do. But if people see her grow closer to God and be encouraged in Christ then they will know that I am not merely talking about doing such a thing but actually doing it.

It is the same with the Gospel, we must live it out and proclaim it. But here’s the thing, part of proclaiming the Gospel is living it out. It also means that instead of throwing in our lot with a man or woman whose rhetoric and life have been openly lived in sin for the sake of having some government influence we should be focused on the building up of the Church and the Kingdom of God where our true and genuine future hope and citizenship lie. Since the church gained power under Constantine it has misused and abused that power in many ways. If the Gospel is in ruins because non-believers see Christians seeking worldly power and caused greater division instead of relying on the God who is all-powerful and Sovereign then the Gospel has not been guarded, it has been left in ruin.

They are not guarding the church, the simple act of doing something so divisive (there was another group of Evangelicals that support Hilary) that it would deepen the already surgically deep wounds in the American Church then you have not guarded the church. The church is meant to be one body, one people (read Galatians) and to not follow any other Gospel but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If your actions cause division in a body that is mean to be one and it becomes two factions (or in our case many factions) then you have not guarded the church by promoting unity and grace among all believers. The catholic (universal) church can be the most influential and greatest influence in the world, in fact, it actually is, but when it is divided, when the American Church looks more like Ephesus or Corinth, you have failed to defend it against Heresy and Division. If all people see of the church is a group of people divided and bitter because of your actions then you have denied them access to the true and pure gospel.

They are not guarding the individual people: A short study of history tells us that Christians who gain and use power often leave the commoner open to more persecution and hatred based on actions. Just look at those who act as though all Christians are like Westboro, the regular, bible-believing Christian becomes the target of outrage and hatred because to some the name “Christian” means hatred because of what one group in Topeka Kansas has done. The people always suffer, whether it was the oppressive authoritarianism of the Medieval Church in the High Middle Ages or Christians in Germany who persecuted the Confessing Church for not backing Hitler or whatever example you want to use. The Common people, those outside of the clergy or those outside of those 500 evangelicals who met with Trump in New York, the everyday Christian suffers. Granted, so do the Clergy who oppose such a group.

So what are they guarding? If it is not the Gospel, if it is not the Church, if it is not the individual people, then what are they guarding? It would seem the answer to that would be simple and sad…”Earthly Power.”

See, since the 1950’s the church has had a perceived Earthly power, I say perceived because while the church did have great influence and it did help define policy and while Christians still made up the majority of the population of the United States (they still do by the way). “Christian Power” was still a bit of a misnomer and the power Christians did have was often misused or not used at all (which was the case during the Civil Rights movement). But that’s what Dobson and Falwell Jr. and so many others are clinging too so viciously, they want that power, as if Christians can’t effect change without a role in government (because Jesus was an ally of the state, you know…that killed him). They want it so bad they will even meet with a presidential candidate who has made a living by living a life that is in almost all ways contrary to the Gospel. As if the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are dependent on Christians holding influence in the government. Or the Gospel needs a lobby to be spread effectively.

It has become for Dobson and Falwell and others an idol of clay and wood. It cannot see them, it cannot hear them and it cannot do anything for them. Earthly Power will not save the American Church from itself or from the direction our society is taking. In the end it will only make things worse for those who are genuinely trying to live out the Gospel. It will lead ot the ultimate destruction of the American Church and not its rise. Just like the Authoritarianism of the Catholic Church in the 14 and 1500’s the desire for power will become our downfall and only further divide and destroy us. These men are watching the church they helped build slide into perceived irrelevancy and they are quite literally grasping at any tidbit that can be dropped to them by almost anyone. Like the Prophets of Baal they want fire to fall down from heaven but they are relying on man-made means to get it.

Here’s the thing I wish I could say to these Evangelicals (who I do believe are sincere believers): We do not need some Earthly power for the Gospel message to spread like fire throughout the land. We do not need to have our voice heard in the government to have the most relevant message of all-time. We have that solely in one place and one place alone. The Gospel of Jesus Christ which has been passed down throughout the ages by men and women who knew, like I do, it to be true because it was confirmed over and over again by God the father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit which dwells within us. The Godhead three-in-one, that is where our power lies, that is where our relevancy lies, that is where our hope lies, that is where our joy lies and that is where our love lies. That is truth and it has been the same since it was first given to us when God created. Because man changes, God and His truth do not.

Does that seem harsh to say to men who have gone before us? It is meant to be an exhortation, men who did a pretty good job at one point building the church in America. In the hopes of seeing them restored to seeking after the Kingdom of God by God’s means and not by mans. The only hope for the American Church is a total reliance in the sovereign God of the Universe. To rediscover the greatness of what God has given us and to turn from the idols of earthly power and trust wholly on God.

It’s time to stop waffling, either we follow God, or we follow Baal.

 

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 in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

 

 

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

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

Who are you to decide?

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By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7

One of the tactics used against me by the pastor who spiritually abused the church I attended in High School was to tell people that “God could not possibly be laying something on your heart if you were not sure of your salvation.” This did a lot of damage to my own family members as well as to my already damaged Psyche. Sad as it is, questioning the salvation of others is an earmark of Authoritarian Leadership. “You are not a Christian if you do X” is a common line or “God cannot use you unless” or “God cannot use you unless” and of course “You are not a Christian if you…”

So when the radical fundamentalist and the leader of the “Facebook Church Movement” Joshua Feuestien comes out and says “You cannot be a Christian and vote for Hilary Clinton” my immediate reaction is to reject the idea completely. While it is true that there are moral issues with voting for Hilary, God’s Heart does not dispute that, nor is this an endorsement of Hilary. We take issue with saying someone is not a Christian because of who they vote for. Or saying someone is not a Christian in general.

In some ways this is also a pushback against things that I myself used to stand for. I have ruined my share of Christian Walks with the legalism I used to practice with great zeal. However, as I have grown and done ministry for myself and as God has redeemed the church and His word for me and redeemed His people, as the spirit has taught me, I have grown to reject those former things. I suppose it is the natural progression of the Christian to maturity, though I am far from mature and far from worthy of being called such.

It came down to having to question myself. “If I claim to be a believer but do such and such, but condemn that act in someone else’s life, calling them non-Christian, how am I actually a Christian?” The radical revelation of our changed condition in Christ thus gave me an answer. “Who are you to say anyone who claims to be a Christian is or is not a Christian, is God not working in them just as He is working in you?”

Who am I to decide if a person is a believer or not? Yet we do, as recently as last month the Pope called Trump an unbeliever. Some Christians have even questioned the faith of those Conservative Evangelicals who have thrown their lot in with Trump, who by the way, professes to be an Evangelical.

We do, also acknowledge, that American Christianity has largely grown illiterate, Biblical Literacy is at an all-time high as anti-Intellectualism sweeps through the laity. It is hard to practice the wisdom given us in 2 Timothy 1:7 when we do not know what it says and preachers preach on Opinions instead of building up the flock to stand firm as people of God.

Still, I am not qualified to judge them as unbelievers, I can look at their fruit (Matt. 7:15-20), I can discern an action or a thought to be in line with the Gospel or error or false teaching or even Heresy. But I cannot say for certain if an individual who professes faith in Jesus Christ is a believer or not. They could simply need guidance, direction, spiritual wisdom, discernment. They may just need to be shown their error lovingly and lovingly led to repentance. That has ben the way shown to me by those who have helped to rehabilitate me as a member of the Body of Christ. Had someone come to me and told me “You are not a Christian because you are a legalist” I would have laughed at them. Which is why we refuse to say that Feuestien is not a Christian, only that his teachings depart from Christian Orthodoxy, into Gnostic Heresy.

As the verse from 1 Samuel 16:7 states: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” God said this to Samuel while as he was looking at David’s brothers, considering their height and strength and physical appearance. But David, who was the youngest and not initially present for Samuels arrival, and certainly not a weakling himself. Was chosen to replace Saul as King of Israel. God calls David a “Man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22) despite the terrible sins of adultery and murder he committed.

Matt Chandler points out in a sermon series on James that “David would not be able to get a job at our church.” And he’s right. Were David alive today we might say “He is not a Christian, look at this horrible thing he did.” Yet David, when he was confronted by his sin repented and God kept his Covenant with David and if was from the line of David that Christ came into this world and now sits enthroned forever.

We are all being Sanctified, we are all being lovingly corrected by the Holy Spirit, learning how to live Righteously and sometimes that is a slow process. We must allow for it, we must also recognize our need for others to come alongside us and speak life into us and most importantly we need to recognize the constant and eternal presence of the Triune God and the Trinity’s role in our lives. Living in accordance with Scripture, becoming refined into the likeness of God while acknowledging and encouraging our identity as one body in Christ.

Friday morning, I released the following post of Facebook after seeing Feuerstie’s indictment against believers who vote for Hilary. I pray you will consider these words prayerfully and with a grain of salt: “It is not a sin to vote for someone in an election. And it is extremely foolish to tell someone they are not a Christian for voting for a candidate. However, we do need to look at the fruit of those who are running. Whether it be Hilary, Trump, Kasich, Cruz, Bernie or Rubio. We have to prayerfully discern through the lens of Scripture the course each Canidates platform could take us and look at the fruit of their past actions and come to a conclusion based on that, a conclusion that should be informed by the Spirit. But we also must not judge our brothers and sisters, calling them Non-Christians for voting for any particular candidate.”

We should not be divisive with our words, participating in foolish talk that causes quarreling among the saints (2 Tim. 2:23). Rather we should seek to build up, exhort and encourage one another. Wisely admonishing our brothers and sisters and joining together to worship God as one body of Christ (Col 3:10-17). Living in the spirit of “Power, Love and Self-control” (2 Tim 1:7) we have found in Christ. Praying for all people and living “Godly and upright lives before all men. For God desires that none should perish” and come to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus (1 Tim 2:1-5).

So let us stop focusing on who is a Christian and who is not. Let’s stop saying “you are a believer, and you are not a believer.” Let God judge the hearts of man and let us look at the fruits we bear and pray that we might produce the good fruit as we are commanded. Not dividing, but uniting, vessels of grace and love that bring people into the Covenant relationship with God that we daily enjoy.

 

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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

Nothing Radical about the Radicals.

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By Jonathan David Faulkner.

 

Since January GHFT has ran two articles concerning popular Facebook Evangelist Joshua Feuerstien. The man who gained national recognition when he began the #MerryChristamsStarbucks controversy last fall. He also released a video claiming that “Disney was trying to send your kids to hell” and is one of the people behind the “Facebook Church” movement that has drawn in 1.5 million followers. His live videos showing him doing everything from shooting guns with his four children to ranting and raving about the Obama and the “Gay Agenda.”

Up until now we have tried to approach this with kindness, compassion and understanding. To lovingly rebuke the public figure with the hope of at least some response. However, Joshua has not responded to accusations that he ceases to teach Christian doctrine at all. Recently though it has been harder and harder for us to approach him, or his followers with love because of another problem that was exposed in the Andy Mineo controversy in mid-February.

The whole debate was over Christians and curse words. While God’s Heart does not necessarily condone  the use of curse words or abrasive language we are willing to make concessions and we do agree with Andy when he says that the “Words in and of themselves are not evil, but their intentions can be.” Of course, his defense of using such language sparked a twitter war which somehow came to the attention of Joshua Feuestine. Feuestine berated and mocked the rapper, who he claims mocked his (Andy’s) own fans. Stating that: “Mineo needs to start taking lessons in Humility- like Yesterday.”

Of course, we have established in previous articles that Feuestien refuses to acknowledge anything less than perfection from Christians. Stating on Facebook the tired and abused misquotation of Wesley that has somehow morphed into “God will make it so you do not sin.” This kind of innocuous, instant sanctification that they have supposedly received has thus given them the right to pass down judgment on everyone from 14-year-old Disney stars to Christian Rapper Andy Mineo to yours truly. Dismissing any dissenting viewpoint and cheering loudly when anyone in popular society takes a misstep.

Of course, they claim to love everyone. Recently he and his wife Jessica released about the most insincere video in all of what is left of Christendom. Posing before the rainbow they told everyone in the “Gay Community” that they loved them and then told them to go and buy Jessica’s CD. This only a week after a video condemning the NFL for supporting the “Gay Agenda” during the Half-time show (Although if he’d stayed he may have been much more offended by what followed). He did the same when Kanye started a GoFundMe campaign to cover his debts. Contributing $10 to the campaign with a note telling Kanye to “Use it to buy his wife’s CD.” Three days later The Radicals ran a story celebrating Kanye’s downfall.

This makes us wonder, why would anyone follow this guy? Why has he amassed one of the largest facebook followings of a religious page ever? Perhaps it is the same reason Donald Trump has risen to power, he plays one everyone’s fears and then throws in some sort of hope that he things is true hope but really is not. Meaning, he may point to Jesus Christ, but if you were to come to Christ under Feuestien and then allow yourself to be coddled and disciple at his “Facebook Church” you might find you feel more oppressed than you did before you were a believer. And were I not a believer, I would want nothing to do with Christianity after watching Joshua’s video.

As we sat at a birthday party last night a group of us were discussing the topic of Christian Rap and Mineo’s defense of curse words. What it comes down to is this; We are justified at Salvation and the work of Sanctification begins. As a brother said to me once: “People say you have to get your life together, well, I quit doing drugs, got off the street, have a job, quit drinking, I still gotta work on the smoking, but I’m a work in progress brother.” Feuerstien of course had to take a shot at Mineo, which is recorded above. GHFT wonders when Joshua became the judge and jury, and subsequent executioner? Who appointed him to be the Holy Spirit? Yes, we live set apart, but it is a work of sanctification by the spirit, not something we can bully others into doing, which is what Joshua does.

Feuestine’s theology and ideology do not allow for that progressive life change and so, abusively, he demands that all Christians live in some strange perfection, making sure they do not sin, not actually enjoying the freedom of the Gospel. This makes grace unattainable and destroys the young believer who keeps falling into sin. On the love-grace spectrum there is no love and there is no grace when it comes to Feuestien.

So stay away from The Radicals, avoid Facebook Church at all costs and encourage your friends away from Feuestien. We would never follow Westboro like these 1.5 million follow Joshua and his message is not dissimilar to theirs. The difference is the group targeted.

We also charge Joshua to respond, not to start some twitter war or made online debate, but to face his accusers and answer our complaints. If he can show us we are wrong then we will cease running these articles, if he cannot, they will continue. This is not a smear campaign, we believe even the worst of false teachers can be redeemed, that is what we wish, in the meantime, we should would be remiss if we did not warn you of the dangers of the teachings of Joshua Feuestien.

If you are wondering how we have the authority to make these assertions, remember we are called to judge a teaching and a teacher by their fruits. If the fruit does not line up with what Scripture and Church History tells us the fruit should be then we can discern that this is not something we should listen to or perpetuate.

Why Jars of Clay is Still one of My Favorite Bands

  1. Why Jars of Clay is Still one of My Favorite Bands.
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  4. (Supporting Dan Haseltine’s comments and Christina Love)
  5.  (DISCLAIMER: This is an exhortation, we are all covered in grace, please take it with a grain of salt.) 

            So this week Dan Haseltine of the Christian Super-Star band Jars of Clay took to Twitter to talk about his support of Same Sex Marriage. The comments, as they usually do when someone in the spotlight makes such comments we jump on top of them, call them a heretic and stop buying their books / music / TV shows etc because they have “Abandoned their Christian heritage.” Haseltine faced more abuse in three days then some people do in their entire lifetime, and a lot of it was from the church.

Before I go on though, I want to consider who this man is. In all my years of listening to Jars of Clay, owning 12 of their albums and listing “Who We Are Instead” as one of the top 5 albums of all time I have found the band to be a thinking band. They tend to be up front and honest about life and their honesty is well-thought out. Just listen to the songs “Show you Love” or “Collide” or “Unforgetful You.” Can you tell me those songs did not have a lot of thought put into them. Consider “Collide” (If I left the Zoo), a song about wrestling with a truer, and more refined version of love that comes from the father. The band has always had something to say, in the words of one of my mentors (whose son was a founding member of Jars) “They are all thinkers.” This is evidenced in the band’s music, the depth of their lyrics at times astounds me, makes me wish I wrote that deep all the time.

Yet on a flight home from Australia he started to ask questions, and instead of helping him answer them, we attacked him, called him a heretic, told him that he did not believe in the bible. Some of the things tweeted at the man were abusive. Some of the articles people wrote were atrocious. Just like the World Vision decision I found myself let down by the church, instead of showing grace to a brother, we released articles asking people to “Boycott Jars concerts.”

Honestly this gets old, am I perfect, I do not believe so. Have I been a part of controversies in the past? Yes! Did I leave a mainline denomination over the issue of Same Sex marriage & Ordination? Yes. I will never claim to be perfect, if I do someone please tweet a reminder at me. This is not the point though, this is far from the point.

The point is this: If the church is to engage a secular culture, to encourage social righteousness and even social justice. Then we must first stop engaging in these vain discussions of whether Haseltine was right or wrong and start answering the hard questions that he is asking. Mainly: “By not supporting same-sex marriage am I participating in a form of oppression?”

I believe as a church today we have developed a dangerous and unhelpful infectiveness that has led to a heavy dose of what I call “Corinthian Syndrome.” We like to talk about big issues, or blow small issues out of proportion to make us feel good about the things that we do not want to talk about but know are sins. A while back I was discussing the issue of Homosexuality with one of my brothers in Christ, a man who to this day amazes me with his insights. He said: “All sins are an affront to God, not one is greater than the other, we just make one worse than another.” We make one sin greater than the other, your gluttony is not as bad as your neighbors covetedness, and so on and so forth. Haseltine just so happened to comment on the issue that the church likes to make the focal point of every sermon on sin. Ignoring the root sin (Lust) and going straight for the throat of the gay community instead of acknowledging that Lust is a sin we all have to struggle with.

Is this not contrary to what Christ commanded? Does the commandment of “Love your neighbor” not extend to the gay man who lives down the street? Apparently it does not for some Christians, at one point in my life it did not for me either. Yet as I get older in my faith I have come to realize the damage we are doing to our own witness by attacking Haseltine, not even by not showing the love of Christ to the gay community, but by attacking Haseltine, world Vision, the owner of Chick Fil-A (need I go on). Realize that person is your brother in Christ, Haseltine is your brother in Christ, The director of World Vision is your brother in Christ, I am your brother in Christ. Remember Jesus words in Matthew 5:

 

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

(Matthew 5:21-22 ESV)

 

By treating Haseltine and others in a hateful and bitter manner for asking these questions has made us a condemnation all unto ourselves. To the world it looks as though we are fighting another civil war, forgetting that there is a world that needs Christian Love now more than ever. Separated by opinions formed with an understanding of scripture that is neither nourished by grace or dependent on the spirit of God, we fight and eat and drink while some are left out in the spiritual cold. We have adopted the Corinthians way of life, allowing the bitterness rivaling Fred Phelps to seep in towards one another and towards the world.

We need to learn to be the love of Christ again.

And I am not talking about a flowerly, watered down love either. I am talking about a love that is not afraid to ask the tough questions, a love that operates with the intent to bring others into the kingdom. A love that can transform the church, transform the communities, transform the world. I am talking about an accountable love, a tough love. I am talking of Christian Love.

We must know that Christ wants us to be better than this. Regardless of how you feel about gay-marriage attacking another believer for asking questions about it is far from Christian Love. So I support Dan Haseltine because he is asking the questions and wanting to seek answers. He still holds to scriptures, but as far as the world goes he has a point, should Christians not hear the cries of all people, regardless of feelings towards a specific splinter group and show them the love of Christ?

I personally believe if we are to win anyone into the kingdom we must do it through the passionate, truth bearing, life giving love that we were shown on the cross when Jesus died to save us.

 

FOR THE RECORD: This article is not intended to be a commentary on gay rights, for biblical & reasons of consciousness I do not and will not support gay rights in the church. However, that should never stop me from loving those people who God commands us to love, or showing the gay community Christ’s love through my actions. As Christians we are to be above reproach, something we fall short of oh so often, something I fall short of, we are called to glorify God in all that we do, should that not mean how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those who do not believe?

FIRED UP: Good Men Exist…Godly Men Exist

Good Men Exist…Godly Men Exist

(Fear of Godly Men)

Fired Up Logo

 

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

            “I’m terrified of you.”

 

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

 

Should you be surprised?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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