Gordon-Conwell Blog

Celebrate Advent With Us!

November 29, 2012

Sign up today for our 2012 Advent Devotional and join with us as we Journey to the Manger this Advent season. Each day, from December 2 through December 25, you will be emailed a Scriptural meditation written by a Gordon-Conwell faculty member, helping you prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Savior.

Merry {early} Christmas to you!

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Reading Week Survival Guide | Seminary Student Blogger

November 20, 2012

Tim Norton

Reading Week just came to a close—that special time twice a semester where you have a philosophical crisis of epic proportions: do I use Reading Week to rest and shamelessly avoid work, or do I use it to work and shamelessly avoid all human contact for 7 days? By now, most of you have realized that the key to a successful Reading Week is to execute a proper plan of action. In that spirit, it is my desire to offer a few pearls of wisdom. The following is a Reading Week Survival Guide of sorts:

  1. Set High Goals: We all know that you haven’t kept up with your reading this semester. You’re not fooling anyone. Calculate how much work you have to get done to stay on top of your game and set a goal to catch up.
  2. Don’t Set That High of Goal: Now that you’ve calculated how far you are behind, quit freaking out. You can’t start and finish 2 Semlinks and still stay on top of your Hebrew homework while researching your Greek exegesis paper (unless you’re Adam Davis). It’s just not gonna happen. A wise man once said, “The key to happiness is modest expectations.” Your expectations are at an 8…calm down. Let’s return to a 5-6 range, OK?
  3. Pace Yourself: Monday is just as important as Friday. Reading 500 pages of early church fathers on Monday, while impressive, will effectively remove your ability to form a complete thought for at least 72 hours, hurting you in the long run. (Trust me. I know.)
  4. Caffeine:…is a TOOL, not a miracle worker. Remember, friends, if your daily coffee consumption is more than 10 cups…your body hates you.
  5. Forget #4: I don’t know what I was thinking.
  6. Vocab: Let’s be honest. Those of you in language classes crammed your vocab before every quiz and exam so far. Don’t lie. You did. Bust out those flashcards and consider engaging your long-term memory this week.
  7. Cleaning: That pizza box from the first reading week is starting to smell. You probably haven’t washed your sheets since the semester started. Contrary to popular belief, jeans do eventually need to be washed. Take some time to get your life together. You’re a mess.
  8. Friends: Your friends outside of seminary think, “Oh you have no classes! I’ll come visit and remove every last bit of free time you had dedicated to complete #1 and #2.” These friends must be treated much the same way first century Jews treated Lepers. What about seminary friends, you ask? Only associate with friends on the same level of expectation as you (see #2). Such levels of expectation must be communicated in advance because there is nothing more infuriating than that one friend who has nothing to do during Reading Week.
  9. Distractions: That TV show you started at the beginning of the semester is calling your name. Don’t be rude. Answer it! Reading Weeks are free passes to fit an entire season of television into a seven-day period. Don’t even think about missing that opportunity.
  10. Significant Others: It’s that time of year. That DTR you’ve been putting off needs to happen. Remember, if you get rejected, it’s much easier to avoid someone during Reading Week than it is during regular class time. If you score a date, you might actually have time to follow through. Go for it!
  11. Sleep: You may not realize it, but you are not a pleasant person to be around when you are sleep deprived. If you plan on having friends after Reading Week, catch up on some z’s while you can.

This is not an exhaustive list; however, it should be enough to get you started. I hope it was a huge success! And next Reading Week, I’ll see y’all at Starbucks.

Tim Norton is a born-and-raised, small-town Southerner with the sweet tea addiction to prove it. He comes to Gordon-Conwell as a Kern Pastor-Scholar and plans to pursue pastoral ministry in the U.S. after graduation. Tim is a big personality with a strange affinity for the color orange. Currently, he attends GENESIS Church, an Acts 29 church plant in Woburn, MA.



Tags: Author: Tim Norton , current students , student blogger

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Nice article, Tim. However ... about the Caffeine, 10 cups each day would be lethal :).
Flavius 12:32PM 12/05/12

Learning from Our Church Fathers: Part 6

November 13, 2012

Dr. Donald Fairbairn

This is Part 6 in a series about why evangelicals should care about the early church. If you are just now joining us, you can read Part 1 here; Part 2 here; Part 3 here; Part 4 here; Part 5 here.

One of the most commonly repeated “Sunday-school” stories from the early church is that until the conversion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, the Romans constantly and mercilessly persecuted the church. It is true that in some places and at some times, persecution was quite intense, but it was much more sporadic than constant, and persecution was rarely very systematic. Not only is the Sunday-school version of events incomplete about how widespread persecution was; it is also incomplete about how the church responded. To hear the story in Sunday School is often to come away with the impression that all Christians in those early centuries were heroes, valiantly going to the lions with the name of Christ upon their lips as they were torn limb from limb. Again, it is true that some Christians met their death in this way, but certainly not many. Far more people caved in during persecution, or sought to evade it, or something of that sort. After all, they weren’t that much different from us.

But before we disparage the Sunday-school version of events too much, we need to recognize that the early Christians themselves held up the famous martyrs as heroes for Christ. The martyr stories were the most popular and influential “biographies” of the early church, inspiring the masses of ordinary believers to be more obedient and faithful to Christ as well. What, though, did the obedience of the ordinary Christians look like? If few Christians were actually martyred, then how did the regular Christians emulate the brave martyrs who had gone to the lions?

Part of the answer to that question can be found during the most widespread persecution of the early church—the so-called “Great Persecution” that began in the year AD 303. Unlike most persecutions, this one did extend throughout the empire, although it lasted much longer in the East than it did in the West. Many martyr stories stem from events during this persecution, most commonly describing the brave Christians who refused to give up their copies of the Scriptures when the Roman officials came seeking them as part of their systematic effort to destroy the Christian Bible. In one particularly noteworthy story, a group of laypeople from the church of Abitina (near Carthage in what is today Tunisia) repudiated the action of their own bishop in giving up the church’s Scriptures, continued to hold Christian services without him, and were arrested, tried and executed for doing so. Christians have long celebrated the bravery of heroes like these Abitinian martyrs and have acknowledged the role their bravery played in the preservation of biblical texts.

But in addition to such overt acts of bravery, there were many smaller ones. Papyri sources reveal that some Christians told Roman officials that they had the Bible in their hearts (doubtless true, but probably also misleading, since there were likely to have been manuscripts somewhere as well). Others gave the Roman officials the runaround—giving names of church members who had the manuscripts, and those church members would give other names, and so on, until the officials would give up and inquire at a different church. Still other Christians gave up copies of heretical or even non-Christian writings, hoping the officials would not know the difference. And one account even indicates that a clever Christian handed over a copy of a medical textbook in the hope that the Roman official either couldn’t read or wouldn’t care, as long as he could go back to his boss with some confiscated writing.

Such duplicitous—even humorous—acts don’t make for great, inspiring reading, and it is not surprising that these were not the accounts that the church chose to preserve and pass on. But as papyri discoveries round out our picture of ancient history, we can recognize that such small deeds were acts of faithfulness nonetheless. Indeed the Lord has used the bold acts of people like the Abitinian martyrs to further his purposes and to preserve his Scriptures. But he has also used the little, ordinary actions of regular believers, who were being faithful to the degree that they thought they could.

In Finding God in Unexpected Places, Philip Yancey famously writes about “saints” and “semi-saints.” He has Ezra and Nehemiah in mind, but Christian history also has many examples of saints and semi-saints. Indeed, so does the present Christian church. And for most of us, who don’t feel very heroic and who read the stories of great saints with a bit of embarrassment and shame, maybe it is encouraging to know that God has worked—and does work—through semi-saints like us as well. Maybe the real role that the great martyr stories play in Christian history is that they inspire a lot of little acts of faithfulness—acts that, although small taken individually, amount to something when considered in aggregate. And maybe that is a sufficient reason to keep telling the Sunday-school version of the story.

Dr. Donald Fairbairn is the Robert E. Cooley Professor of Early Christianity. His responsibilities include further developing the Robert C. Cooley Center for the Study of Early Christianity at the Charlotte campus, which explores the historical foundations of the Christian faith.




Tags: Author: Donald Fairbairn , equipping leaders for the church and society , faculty blogger

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Hi, Dr. Fairbairn! I just wanted to say that I read your book, Life in the Trinity, and it has revolutionized my understanding of God and salvation. I'm now going through it with my small group. I praise God for you, dear brother. Please keep making known the good news!
Adam 1:33PM 01/30/13

Nothing To Give Thanks For? | Seminary Student Blogger

November 08, 2012

Dim Alldridge

The turkey is crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. Just right.

The stuffing is the same as it’s been every year since you can remember, and nobody makes it as well as your mom.

The potatoes are mashed/grilled/baked/roasted (or all of the above) to perfection.

And after you’ve eaten your own body weight in savory goodness, you know there’ll be enough pecan, pumpkin and apple pie to keep you going for the rest of the week!

It’s not difficult for most of us to give thanks on Thanksgiving is it?

When it’s our turn to share with everyone around the table what we have to give thanks for to God this year, I’m guessing most of us could come up with a list long enough to make the turkey go cold without even having to try too hard.

But what if there’s nothing to give thanks for?

What if there’s no turkey keeping warm in the oven? What if there are no mashed potatoes steaming away under your nose? What if there is no ice cream to go with your pie and no pie to go with your ice cream for dessert?

What then? Would we still be thankful?

In the last few words of his book, Habakkuk speaks these amazing words.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

To steal the title of recently published Christian book, Jesus + nothing = Everything.

If we know the LORD, if God is our savior, then even if we have nothing else, we have everything. If we have nothing to give thanks for, but Jesus is our king, then we have everything to give thanks for.

If you search for Thanksgiving on Wikipedia it says this…

“Historically, Thanksgiving had roots in religious and cultural tradition. Today, Thanksgiving is primarily celebrated as a secular holiday.”

Perhaps it’s time we took back Thanksgiving?

Why not celebrate Thanksgiving…today?

Dimitri (Dim for short) and his wife, Gayles, moved to the U.S. from England in 2011 to pursue a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell. He grew up in a little town in England called Sevenoaks and completed his undergraduate degree in Automobile Design at the University of Coventry. Upon graduation, Dim spent some time as a ski instructor, a church intern and an assistant pastor. When he’s not pretending to study, he’s usually dreaming about skiing.

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Our Moving God, a Prayer | Seminary Student Blogger

November 06, 2012

Amy Gilbaugh

You are Lord over every lord we know,
And King over every king we can name.
You surpass all the powers familiar to us,
And loom in unexpected majesty.

We find You uncomfortably mysterious.
God of the heavens unseen
God of the endless black mass beyond our sky
God of the systems, labeled, studied, but silent with power.
God of the seas uncharted, undiscovered, unplunged.

We would prefer You be predictable,
Stable and sedentary.
We would like to mark You on our charts and note the order of Your activity.

But instead we find You roaming,
Surprising our most educated assumptions.
We find You in places we did not leave You,
And it unsettles our piety.

We cannot wrap our minds around You,
Nonetheless our hands.
We cannot pin You down in Your puzzling way of being
So unlike ourselves.

And then You came.

In our likeness, in our flesh.
To enflesh the evasive power of the sky
in our time and our space and our language and our manner.

So we wrapped our harried hands around You
And pinned You down in panic.

Because we cannot have a migrant God,
Unsettling our comfortable doctrines of ease and self-import,
We nailed Your feet to the boards of our creeds,
In hopes that You would finally stay in one place.

But then we find You moving still –
Beyond our absorption,
Beyond our awareness;
Beyond our grievance,
Beyond our grave.

We find You wandering into lands we dared not enter,
With people we thought not your type.
We find You speaking and silent,
Tearing down and building up,
Bursting in and seemingly absent.
And we note the way You are still so very unlike ourselves.

Our minds cannot contain You,
Our hearts are fit to burst with desire
To be less stationary,
Less fixated,
And much more moved;
To let You tread across our world,
And amble through our lives.

And so,
In a daring task of faith,
We ask for the great gift of freedom to wander along with You.

Hi, friend. I'm Amy. Mostly, I’m just another twenty-something trying to figure out the stuff of life. I am a nerdy seminary student who loves the smell of old books and early mornings in the library. I am an artist wanabee, a liberal to the conservative and conservative to the liberal, guilty social justice groupie, and a recovering Bible know-it-all with the unreal ability to put my foot in my mouth an astonishing number of times each day. I am a sister to eight of the most hysterical creatures ever created. Good theology, used book stores, and autumn make me giddy. I preach passionately, think deeply, and ask too many questions. I write prayers, poetry and prose. I write about preaching bad and good, gender roles in the Church, the sacraments, stupid things we do on Sunday, politics, and almost everything else that you are not supposed to discuss in polite company. I also blog at oneyellowbird.blogspot.com. Welcome to the journey.

Tags: Author: Amy Gilbaugh , student blogger

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Wonderful poem, is the first time I walk into your blog. Think again. Thank you.
Chris Tienda lamparas 8:53AM 12/12/12
Absolutely wonderful poem! How inspiring and faith filled! Thank you Gordon for writing this. It seriously made my day.
Scarsdale Diet 12:44PM 11/12/12
This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
Sean 1:39PM 11/09/12
this is fantastic. It really sounds like many of us struggle w the whereabouts & plan of God. I especially liked this line - 'We would like to mark You on our charts and note the order of Your activity.' how I wish I could do this! But that's all a part of our trying to control God. Good writing.
David 10:46AM 11/07/12
Amy, I simply love your "trending" here. You tapped into the essence of the Almighty in this prayer. Beautiful!
Marion Clark Ingram 10:21AM 11/07/12

A Simple, Mind-Bending Choice | Seminary Student Blogger

November 01, 2012

Kate Hightower

Confession: when I’m stressed, I bake.

Endless baking. No discrimination, it’s all manners of baked goods. Anything from chocolate chip cookies to Julia Child’s Chocolate Almond Cake (A personal achievement in her massive volumes on French Cooking). My long time best friend and roommate knows when I’m working stuff out because there will be a plate of pumpkin muffins on the counter for the taking.

Needless to say, there has been a lot of baking going on in my house. It’s the heat of the semester, I’ve got a Hebrew midterm in two days and I just turned out a batch of double chocolate fudge cupcakes with cream cheese icing. What’s funny about this is you’d think I’d be eating everything I’m baking, following in line with the female stereotype of “stress eating.” Not the case. I’m actually a really healthy eater. But being a recovering anorexic, I learned a long time ago that the certainty and preciseness in cooking was perfect for those weeks when I’m really feeling out of control.

That feeling is tough to handle, especially at night when I go to stand before a God who is bigger than time. A God who, for all intents and purposes, I have actually wrestled so much with over the years that if he does decide to bless me with kids someday, I planned to name my first son Jacob as a testament to his unfailing persistence in my life. There have been moments in my faith where I’ve just come through a hurricane of a situation and I’ve stood, with red-eyes and tear-streaked cheeks, and demanded he account for his actions because he certainly had to have disappeared. Because no God of Love that I serve could possibly allow for such human torment and agony.

But if there is anything that I’ve figured out about him, it’s that he’s so beautifully unpredictable. And I’m so glad.

I’m so glad that he is so big, and full of light that he overwhelms my dark, sad little perspective on things. I’m so glad that I’m not in charge of this tumultuous universe because when it goes “south” so to speak, I tend to believe that it stays that way. That it’s the end of the symphony instead of merely a transition into a crescendo.

But where there is gratitude, there is also a choice. It’s a choice that I knew in my head but hardly settled into my “heart-knowledge” until recently. Do I trust him? Do I believe, even when I don’t understand? Do I hold onto what he has told me and know that as I wade my way through this life I know, truly, that he will never, ever leave me?

Ashamedly, I admit there have been so many times where I have allowed darkness to settle in. I’ve allowed a happening, or even an outcome of a situation, to make me bitter and pull me away from God. I’ve gone into this numb-Christian mode where I tell everyone I’m great on the outside, but inside I’m aching.

But I had a sharp reminder recently of the reality of God’s presence at any point in my existence, that whatever has happened, it always could have been so much worse. Satan is looking for total annihilation and knows exactly what hurts me the most and how much it could take me down. After all this time, the fact that I’m breathing at all, points to a Presence so grand in scale that one often cannot say anything at all about him. The fact that I am still capable of giving and receiving love points to a Victory beyond measure.

He was there in the beginning. But don’t you dare try to predict him because he’ll blow you out of the water.

Trust me.

Kate Hightower is writing to you in the midst of her Master of Divinity pursuit at Gordon-Conwell—Jacksonville where she is also a Byington Scholar. She is a debilitatingly right-brained, born-in-the-wrong-century, introspective pseudo-nerd with passions that range anywhere from writing, to French cooking to Bob Dylan. These days she resides in Jacksonville with one mental foot in the GCTS Library downtown, and the other is beach-side with her Golden Retriever, Stella… the world's first dog superhero.

Tags: Author: Kate Hightower , student blogger

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Introspective...yes! Nerd...no way!
Dan 4:00AM 11/02/12
Yes. Insight, timing, perspective, depth, .......yes, yes, yes and yes
Mary Shelton 11:16AM 11/01/12

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