Gordon-Conwell Blog

Intimacy, the Old Testament, and Finding Light in the Dark | Seminary Student Blogger

September 27, 2012

Kate Hightower

I just finished my first Biblical Hebrew class this past weekend.

And I’m hooked.

I am completely entrenched in the Old Testament this semester. It has an unparalleled magic that often gets overlooked on a regular day. This is an unfortunate phenomenon given how clearly the character of God is revealed here in the early days of Scripture. God wasn’t being coy when he brought his precious Israelites out of Egypt and into his care; he made sure they knew who exactly it was that they were dealing with. Though their relationship would be tumultuous through the next generations and even up to today, the mutual tenderness from the days of old has remained deeply rooted in the hearts of the people and those that followed after.

This is an intimacy that strikes me square in my chest every time I hear about it. The power of it, its ability to affect deeply, those who learn of it comes only from the self-sustaining, all-knowing Father wishing to show us more of himself.

It’s something we can only hope to have a glimpse of while we’re here.

In light of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about a friend I had a few years ago. We attended the same church at the time, and were in the same discipleship group. Looking around the room in my mind, there wasn’t a twenty-something piled on those couches that wasn’t bringing the weight of the world to our Thursday night meetings, and my friend was no different.

She was slowly losing her dad to a malignant brain tumor.

Our discipleship group was a second family for all of us. I would say we were among those in her life praying the hardest for a miraculous healing. As the weeks passed, we watched his condition continue to decline. For a girl in her early twenties, we all knew this was about to be world-shattering. Things were already starting to crumble.

There was one last surgery. Seemingly endless hours in the operating room. It had been a long, brutal day for a man weakened already from the long months of the fight for his life. It was late when he got back to his hospital room. The family had gone to get something to eat while they waited; except my friend, who slept quietly in the recliner next to his bed. The monitors beeping proof of life into the silence of the dark room. He would sleep. She would sleep too.

Suddenly, she awoke to stirring. She sat up quickly, worried something was happening to him. She turned to find him getting up, pain hitching his breathing as he squeezed into the chair with her.

“Dad... what’s wrong? Are you ok?”
“It’s ok. I just want to hold you.”

He passed a few days later. I attended the reception for his funeral, and stories much like this one were told to remember a man who loved his family with everything he had until there was nothing left of him. She wrestled with his passing in the days to come. I remember she shared a journal entry with us that was heavy with grief. But toward the end, a revelation:

The presence of God is thick in my room right now.

This had such a profound effect on me. The beginning of the journal entry had been so tormented with such a devastating loss. She had never been one to express herself like this. She brought us into the darkness of her room that night; how the love of the most important man in her life was now gone.

But then, in the midst of the dark, the Father of Light made himself so unmistakably present. He didn’t take away the grief. He was there with her in the midst of it. Such a timely, beautiful interruption and presentation of everlasting intimacy.

Much like the Israelites sustained in the desert by a loving God, we glean unexplainable strength from moments like these that keep us going.

We can’t miss this.

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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Beautiful story, beautifully told. Comforting and inspiring
Scarlett 2050@gmail.com 1:12PM 09/30/12

First Day of School | Seminary Student Blogger

September 25, 2012

Amy Gilbaugh

The leaves are beginning to fall; they twist and turn and delicately glide to crunch under my oxfords. The sun was peeking at me through the trees and the breeze is a tease for the hairs on my neck. The air smells like fall and has cooled to match, but carries the weight of a summer only half-gone. I had in my arms seven new books that came in the mail; I was on my way to the library, and I was already certain the seven and I would soon be friends.

The top of the hill and the end of the path came far too early, and I turned to take in the view: my building at the bottom, trees all around, books in hand. And suddenly I was aware of how very much You must love me to call me to a place like this.

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 , current students , student blogger , student life

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If Richard Baxter Spoke at the Gordon-Conwell Convocation | Seminary Student Blogger

September 20, 2012

Dim Alldridge

I’m taking Educational Ministry of the Church as a Semlink class at the moment and, as part of that class, you need to read Richard Baxter’s, The Reformed Pastor. I think this is the third time I’ve read this book for my M.Div., but as far as I’m concerned it should be required reading for every class!

And as I read this great book at the start of this new academic year I began wonder…what would Richard Baxter say if he spoke at the Gordon-Conwell convocation…

“What is your goal for this coming semester? For this year? For your time here at GCTS?

If you are a student here today then let me ask you, what are you hoping to learn or discover? What truths are you hoping to test, or examine? What skills are you hoping to hone? What would success look like for you?

And if you are a member of the faculty then let me ask you, what are you hoping to teach, communicate, persuade, encourage or discourage? What are your goals for your students and for yourselves? What are you hoping to read or write, acquire or achieve? What would success look like for you?

As you have thought about this coming year, planned your schedule and chosen your classes, what is foremost in your heart and mind? Where would you like to be in a year or three years or ten years time?

My dear brothers and sisters at the start of this year, a year that I hope will bring you more in love with the Lord and closer to His word, I beg you to put all those other thoughts that you have in your hearts to one side until you have answered this one question…

Are you saved? Have you surrendered your life to Christ and declared him to be the Lord over your past, present and future? Have you died to yourself that you might live for him? Is he your all in all? Is he your everything, is he enough?...”

Of course Baxter would never say it like that. He would say it much better. That’s why students at seminary are required to read his book 355 years after he wrote it and why nobody should be required to read my blog…ever!

But amazes me every time I read the opening chapter of The Reformed Pastor is that he starts by challenging the ministers he is writing to examine themselves and the state of their souls and asking them if they are truly saved.

So should we not also start this year in the same way?

You are a student or a teacher of God’s word. You will learn to read the languages the Bible was written in or teach others to do the same. You will learn the history of the church, the application of the Truth, how to exegete, how to preach and how to counsel.

But do you really know Christ?

Baxter said this:

“Oh what aggravated misery is this, to perish in the midst of plenty! – to famish with the bread of life in our hands, while we offer it to others, and urge it on them!”

In the course of this year the word of truth will often be on our lips and the Word of God will be on our shelves in many different languages. We will quote it in our papers. We will preach it in our sermons. We will share it with others and learn to offer it in comfort. We will argue about it, examine it, study it, learn it by heart and recite it.

But as we start this year the first thing that you and I must do is to ask ourselves, do we really believe it? Live by it? Obey it and strive to keep it?

Whatever else we do this year, let’s start by asking ourselves, am I really a Christian?

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.

Tags: Author: Dim Alldridge , current students , spiritually vital , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

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Really great post! I love how you say, "do we really believe it? Live by it? Obey it and strive to keep it?" Loose yourself in His work and you will surely find yourself!
Orange County Photographer 3:04PM 09/21/12

On Green Ribbons and Worship | Seminary Student Blogger

September 13, 2012

Tim Norton

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I was an award-winning athlete as a child. I know this is shocking considering the present state of my athletic ability. Back then, my physical prowess gave me the necessary edge to dominate my competition. I’m serious. No ‘roids necessary; my body was a blue ribbon winning machine. My sport of choice? Barefoot Marble Relay. Psh! I just blew your mind didn’t I?! Fill a kiddie pool with marbles and water and I will remove those suckers faster than lightning using only my feet. They used to call me Tim “Monkey-toes” Norton. 1 point for the little marbles, 5 points for the giant marbles and I would dominate!

Put a basketball in my hands, though, and I was a hot mess of wannabe athleticism. So, while I was very familiar with the fame and glory associated with Barefoot Marble Relay, I was much more familiar with the lovely little you-did-a-good-job-but-you-lost-but-we-still-want-to-give-you-a-prize-cause-everyone’s-a-winner-in-elementary-school-so-don’t-think-about-losing-even-though-you-lost green ribbon for participation. Were any of us fooled by those as kids? I mean, come on. We knew what was up. It’s blue ribbon for first place, red for second, white for third, and green…green for the losers. The green ribbon was the consolation prize. It was a way of making up for the fact that our original plan of complete athletic domination failed miserably. And while the green ribbon was better than nothing, it didn’t fill the void of a blue ribbon. No consolation prize could satisfy the thirst for victory.

This summer, I spent a lot of time sitting with the phrase “functional savior.” You see, on paper and by confession, I know that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. On paper, I know that my identity is first and foremost a child of the Living God. On paper, I know that God’s merciful approval is far more important than what my friends think of me. The problem is that I don’t act like it. For far too long I have treated God like a consolation prize when my primary sources of identity, security, and worth failed me. Rejected by girls? Well, I guess God loves me. Didn’t get as many compliments on that sermon as I would’ve liked? Well, I guess God is in control. If I only had ________, I’d be happy…but since that’s not gonna happen anytime soon, maybe God could help in the meantime. My primary source of approval, security, and identity more often than I care to admit is not God. Deep down I look to peer-approval and personal performance to find security, only turning to God at the moments when those “functional saviors” (aka idols) fail me. I can’t tell you how many times I have cheered myself with up with a sheepish “I know *such and such* didn’t work out…but hey…at least God loves you.”

To be sure, God is most certainly the one to whom we should turn in moments of hurt and disappointment. But the subtle juxtaposition of turning to God as our primary source of comfort as opposed to turning to God when our primary source of comfort isn’t comforting should not be missed. I cannot shake this idea this tragically ironic image of idolatry and functional saviors relegating God, the Living God–maker of the Universe, to the role of consolation prize, or backup plan, or the safety net in our quest for fulfillment. Where do I find my identity? What occupies most of my thoughts? How do I find my significance in life? My prayer is that I may continue to learn how to truly live the reality of Jesus Christ as the answer to these questions. My prayer is that God will not be a green ribbon in my life anymore.

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 , spiritually vital , student blogger

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Wow! I never thought of it that way. I am certainly guilty of treating God and Jesus Christ as a consolation prize, when I should be viewing them as the wonderful all-encompassing gift that they really are. Great stuff, thanks for writing!
Sean 1:42PM 09/14/12

To Remember September: A Prayer | Seminary Student Blogger

September 11, 2012

Amy Gilbaugh

The memories are fresh before us, nearly too fresh to bear the name.
We remember the newscaster's voice and the red script across the bottom of the screen.
We remember the alarm in older eyes, and the terror that titles such happenings.
We remember the fear and the panic
And even some of us remember the soot and the ash and the embers falling all around.

Not too far back in the archives of our minds, we draw them out and recall
the steel
and
the glass
and
the fire
and
the flesh.

We note the way
screams pierce air,
planes pierce buildings,
metal pierces bodies.

We note the
hatred born of cruelty
the cruelty born of hate
and as we reply
with hate once more
we give ourselves away.

We note new lines draws,
divisions for war,
and each kingdom's ironic willingness
to trade people for peace.

We note
all the ways
we still have not
come home yet.

Even so…
Would you turn our faces to You this day.
Would you lift our gaze from the blaze of our memories and into the light of Your gaze.

Let us never forget, Lord.

In Your way of remembering
would you grant us the holiness to remember
the whole narrative – both ours and theirs.

And the grace to remember that You are still writing Yours.

We ask all these in the name of the only King to whom we dare bow,
Even Jesus.
Amen.

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 , thoughtfully evangelical

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National Preaching Conference: David Wells | Student Live Blog

September 07, 2012

Session 5 speaker: David Wells--"Theology of Preaching: The Biblical Word in the Contemporary World"

Introduction: In order to understand our task as preaching we must understand the issue that Paul engaged in Corinth. As a way of introduction to our point, the issue today is the migration of the preacher from pulpit to plexiglass stand and sometiimes to the bar stool. The pulpit used to be the focal point of a church. It symbolized the authority of God's word and it's centrality to the life of the church. When the preacher was in the pulpit, he was in the presence of God to declare God's word to God's people. The pulpit symbolizes the authority of God's word and it's necessity within the life of the church. But many today have done away with the pulpit (plexiglass stands and barstools), so what is going on here? Have we discovered that the word of God can be preached outside of a pulpit? Wells doesn't think so.

We all know the word of God has been preached ini many settings, from street corner to home to on horseback. Quite often the word of God is not preached from the pulpit and it would be strange to think that a pulpit would be needed. No, this is not the issue, where the word of God is preached from. The pulpit symbolizes a connection with God and the barstool the connection with the people as a friend. Is there something wrong with trying to be connected to an audience? No, of course not. The issue is not the place, but what is going on in our minds when we feel obliged to make this change with our audience. Our horizontal connection with our audience can eclipse the vertical relationship with God! Without the vertical connection the preacher is at best a counselor. This is the issue that Paul engaged.

This is where Wells is going this morning, 3 points:

1) Look at the Corinthian correspondance and think about Paul's conflict which he engaged with the preachers in Corinth. Conflict begins in 1 Corinthians 1:12, a sectarian problem of people follow specific leaders in a divisive way. Outsiders sensing opportunity have come in and distorted the word of God, using it for their own ambition, to get a following (problem in 2 Corinthians). There were many people eager to flock to such preaching, sadly in our day as well. Unworthy motives are at the base of false preaching. Authority is at the base of false preaching, the preachers in question believed in their own authority over God in Corinth, they were self appointed. As preachers, our authority lies in the word that we preach! We need authoritative preaching, not authoritative preachers. Resources are at the base of false preaching. Our resources are in Christ but these false preachers have their resources in themselves. Paul is thinking vertically and these false teachers are thinking horizontally. Corrupt motives leading to corrupting behavior leading to a corruptive message.

2) The Nature of the Conflict: Paul's Rhetoric. 1:18-2 is the entire unit in which we find this specific problem, 1:21. The folly of what we preach is how God speaks. Is it the content that is folly, the Gospel? Or is it the fact of the preaching, that God would use the form of a sermon, a message from imperfect people, is it stupid to think God would use that? Most have opted for the content, the Gospel is absurd, how can salvation be wrought on the cross! But is it not equally stupid and was not Paul viewed this way, in that the preaching, the form is considered folly? We must consider this. Many criticisms of Paul by the Corinthians have to do with his ability as a preacher (but he was sent to preach not with words of eloquent wisdom, the horizontal)! Lofty speech and preaching speaks horizontally as impressive. Eloquence was everything in Corinth, a form of speech widely admired and expected. This kind of speech was first and foremost audience centered, horizontal, so the orator could gain sway over the audience. But Paul refused to walk this horizontal road. His message was God centered, vertical, not audience centered in this other way, not horizontal. He would not lean on rhetoric if it obscured the power of the cross. Paul came as a herald, not a rhetorician, he came under the authority of another.

3) Bring this whole consideration to our present time, contemporary culture. Our expectations are different than what was present in Corinth. Our congregations don't know anything about this oratory in Corinth and yet there is some commonality, that congregations have expectations! Congregations have expectations of us as preachers. There are common expectations in our congregations, and they arise from a place in the culture. The culture echoes in our congregations, it echoes in their minds. Every preacher stands between these two worlds (Stott). We stand before God and before the congregation. One major issue of congregational expectations: never have we had so much, never have we had so little (the American paradox). This impact is showing up all over, even though we have so much, we feel like we have so little, we are so unhappy. There is not a pastor in America who has not seen this. Our experience of this paradox shapes the way we see God and what we want from Him and in turn it shapes what people expect from the preacher.

It comes down to two things in how people's desires have been shaped: 1) on the one hand people want God to be their therapist, to heal their wounds, to solve their sense of emptiness. 2) on the other hand, they want God to be their concierge, to arrrange the good things in life to come their way, to orchestrate pleasing experiences. This grows more acute as we go down the age brackets, highest in teens (moralistic therapeutic deism, God solves problems and makes them feel good). Teens think Christianity is about experiencing contentedness without being disturbed by God. Joel Osteen fits this perfect, he reflects this cultural paradox.

But it's not just our teens with this distorted view, many of us have the same. We are all vulnerable to unrealistic expectations and we bring this into the church before the preacher. No Biblical preacher can allow this, we come to God on His terms, not our own. What our culture inclines us to be is inspirational and therapeutic, we cannot acquiesce to this demand, any more than Paul would to the demands of eloquence in Corinth. We must be met by God, not our thought of who God should be. The vertical dimension is being lost with what preachers are doing horizontally. The whole point of theology and preaching is that we might become God centered in our thoughts and God fearing in our hearts. Bring the congregation into the very presence of God! This is our task in preaching, the vertical. Preaching is not merely communication, the preacher comes with the revelation, not simply a speech, the preacher comes with God's self disclosure and not simply with the skills to rouse an audience.

Prayer

JT Holderman is pursuing a Th.M. in Homiletics here at Gordon-Conwell. He earned his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2012. JT is currently in the ordination process of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with hopes of taking a call as a pastor in the coming year. His journey to Gordon-Conwell began when he sensed a deeper need for clear Biblical teaching in preaching to prepare him for ministry. He hails from Seattle, WA by way of Idaho and New Jersey. JT blogs at Praise and is an avid Mountain Biker and Bodyboarder.

Tags: National Preaching Conference 2012 , student blogger

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National Preaching Conference: Winfred Neely | Student Live Blog

September 07, 2012

Session 4 speaker: Winfred Neely --"March Madness"

With power and poise, Neely narrates the story of David and Bathshba: He began with 2 Samuel 11:5 ("I am pregnant"-Bathseba). These are three simple words, two words in Hebrew. 2 Samuel 12:7 ("You are the man"-David). 2 Samuel 12:13 ("I have sinned"). Four wordds in english, two in Hebrew. Our story todday is rooted in these two word utterances of devastating consequences.

Here we see the story of David and Bathsheba. We all know this scene (Neely narrates). David is on the roof, walking in the evening breeze as he notices a woman bathing. David relishes the visual delight and corruption breaches the walls of his heart as he decides in a moment to capitulate to the lust of his eyes. At this moment the woman is not a person, but simply a seductive image. David sins. Who she is does not matter, David takes her like she is spoil from a battle, despite her union to Uriah. David has a one night stand, bim, bam, thank you mam, and it's over. Lo and behold, Bathsheba conceived! The one night stand with the King will go on longer than any of them anticipated. Her words, "I am pregnant," are few, but saturated with scandal.

Uriah returns and David attempts to persuade him to bed his wife as a cover up. But he doesn't. As if one sin wasn't enough, he places Uriah in the front line so that he is struck down. Wedding bells then fill the air in Jerusalem, David and Bathsheba wed. He takes his abusive power, this adultery, this murder, and crowns it with marriage. Bathsheba bears the child. David pulled it off! He did it, he got away with it, he pulled it off. Hold on, time out. The narrator makes a theological statement about what has occured, "but the thiing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord." Secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven. Heaven is scandalized at David's actions.

Nathan comes to David. Nathan says to him in 12:7, "You are the man." The Lord then emphasizes it was Him who delievered him, he has levereged unspeakable blessing upon him. God begins to talk to David about consequences. They will follow him for the rest of his life, three of his sons will die violent deaths. David says in 12:13, "I have sinned." Nathan tells him the most gracious words, "the Lord has taken away your sin, you shall not die." But the consequencs of his actions spill in all directions, in ways that he has no control. God does not tolerate sin, especially in a public representative of God. Even still, David pleads with God for his childs life. He understands that God is gracious in spite of sin. Yet even still the baby died. In the wake of death, David is in the house of the Lord worshiping the God who said "no" to his prayer, he is worshiping the Lord in light of this! A little while later God grants the son Solomon, David's blessing after such a devastating moral failure.

What is the big takeaway? What is the moral of this story? Every story has a moral. It seems to Neely that it is this: Forgiveness does not eliminate devastating consequences of sin and the devastating consequences of sin do not eleiminate our need to trust and lean on the Lord. Some of us here have already traveled down this road of disobedience and we have confessed and been forgiven, even restored to him, but there are still consequences in our life, and they aint going anywhere! Be encouraged to continue to trust the Lord, continue to walk with God, continue to worship, this is the barometer of our restoration to God! Your character is a vital part of your ministry, the foundation of your public ministry. Sooner or later you will be tempted to throw everything away that God has given to you in a moment of sinful madness. In a moment your entire life can implode like the twin, like a decision made in a moment of madness! Neely has come to believe that there is a deeper person in us, not unlike an assassin, who is the source of behavior which we are against, but it seeks to destroy us and tempt us. Do not think that we are exempt! If David, a man after God's own heart was not exempt, neither will you be.

Prayer

JT Holderman is pursuing a Th.M. in Homiletics here at Gordon-Conwell. He earned his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2012. JT is currently in the ordination process of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with hopes of taking a call as a pastor in the coming year. His journey to Gordon-Conwell began when he sensed a deeper need for clear Biblical teaching in preaching to prepare him for ministry. He hails from Seattle, WA by way of Idaho and New Jersey. JT blogs at Praise and is an avid Mountain Biker and Bodyboarder.

 

Tags: National Preaching Conference 2012 , student blogger

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National Preaching Conference: Matthew Kim | Student Live Blog

September 07, 2012

Workshop Two: Matthew Kim--"Preaching Identity in Christ in a Multi-Identity World"

Matthew has struggled with this idea of identity as an American born Korean. We go through a struggle trying to discern who are we, figuring out our identity. The question today is: Who am I? Who are you deep inside? We can place our identity in so many different places, this is what we do instead of finding our identity in Christ (i.e. I am this type of person, these are my interests and hobbies, this is what I do for a living, etc.). Matt believes everyone has one common identity, it's what you hope to accomplish, it's what motivates you and drives you. This competes with our identity in Christ.

Identity begins with God, he is Triune. Identity gives us a clear purpose in this life, if Jesus is your identity, then all of you day will be lived for Jesus. If it's your job, then you live to glorify your job. God takes pleasure in His identity and it has a purpose to display his glory. Our goal is to help our church find their identity in Christ. Who we are (identity) and who we hope to become (vision) in many ways shapes our thoughts and actions as Christians.

The world of the expositor: The world of Exegesis, Homiletics, Preacher. Each have three parts, the history, language and culture. Knowing how we operate and are wired helps us understand our identity. It is important to know yourself (Kim shared about being an introvert and the importance of knowing it). We need to think about how we are wired to communicate God's truth before we can learn how to do it across a diverse culture.

John Stott (in his text "Between Two Worlds") says a preacher is 1) Herald, 2) Sower, 3) Ambassador for Christ, 4) Steward, 5) Sheperd, 6) An approved worker. These are pieces of pastoral identity. Kim would add "cultural exegete" to this list. We must know our congregations well to preach the Gospel to them well. According to Haddon Robinson's definition of preaching, God is first and foremost doing something within us as preachers, we preach to ourselves first, that message must first embody me! Stott also talks about how preaching is a bridge building exercise between the Bible and our culture.

Preaching has two parts: 1) the preached word, doctrine, 2) the sermon lived. The Bible clearly speaks to our identity in Christ. We are children of God first and foremost (John 1:12, 2 Corinthians 6:18, Ephesians 1:5-8). If we wake up each morning saying "I'm a child of God," it will change us and our outlook on the day! Our identity in Christ needs to dominate and trump everything else. In Christ (our identity as Christ's), we are friends of God, we are eternally loved (Romans 8:39), given eternal life, forgiven, co-heirs (Romans 8:17), complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10), direct access to God (Hebrews 4:14-16), new citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Jesus is everything, those who drink from Him will never thirst, this is the identity issue, this is what we must communicate.

The result of knowing who we are leads to a certain response, our identity results in something. Our response to this identity is that we are dead to sin (Romans 6:11), we are to bear fruit, we boast in Jesus alone not in our accomplishments, we are to be ministers of reconciliation, we are to do good works for Christ, and we are called to go and make disciples. Our identity is not dictated by the culture, but by God Himself! God has designed you exactly how you are, he decided to do it. Embrace who you are. God did not make a mistake in how he created you.

As you preach, it would be smart to get feedback and feedforward from people in your congregation to help you understand how your preaching effects specific people in specific backgrounds. It's important too to look at where our experience overlaps with the congregation and how our language use overlaps. Be sensitive in use of illustrations that capture the congregation and application.

Prayer

JT Holderman is pursuing a Th.M. in Homiletics here at Gordon-Conwell. He earned his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2012. JT is currently in the ordination process of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with hopes of taking a call as a pastor in the coming year. His journey to Gordon-Conwell began when he sensed a deeper need for clear Biblical teaching in preaching to prepare him for ministry. He hails from Seattle, WA by way of Idaho and New Jersey. JT blogs at Praise and is an avid Mountain Biker and Bodyboarder.

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National Preaching Conference: Walter C. Kaiser | Student Live Blog

September 07, 2012

Session 6 speaker: Walter Kaiser--"The Sufficiency of the Old Testament Predictions of Christ"

Introduction: Kaiser wants to show us the sufficiency of Christ in looking at four aspects of the Messiah refered to as the "Branch." This botanical figure of speech has its origins in 2 Samuel 23. In Zechariah 6 there is a looking forward to a man whose name is "branch." This is what Luke's Gospel refers to. Isaiah 4 is the final depiction of the branch, "the branch of the Lord." These four aspects Kaiser wants to hammer home.

1) In Jeremiah 23:5-7 we have the first aspect of the "branch." ("The days are coming when I will raise up a righteous Branch.") This is a promise from the Lord. Here we see the Messiah as th Branch. The idea here in Samuel is that the Messiah will cause to sprout all of the Father's salvation and desire for creation. The name signifies the nature, essence and work of the Messiah to come, He is "our righteousness." The Messiah will bring all of Israel back and they will live in safety. The days are coming when the Messiah will fulfill what the Father has willed for Him, restoration. This branch of David will reign and rule as King (v. 5). God will complete in history what he has said he will do. Preach hard preacher, the time is close, he will come soon as king of kings. Matthew picked this up and traced this royal geneaology. It is a shame on the church how we have hurt the Jewish believers. We must repent. This is not about an ethnic group, but about the word of God.

2) The "Branch" in Zechariah 3:8. The Christ as "my servant the Branch." The branch as a servant, who gives his life as a ransom for many (paralleled to Mark 10:45). Christ is sufficient in his representation as the servant. The Messiah is God's servant the Branch. The Messiah is the one that will bring the ransom for many.

3) The "Branch" in Zechariah 6:12-13. The "Man whose name is Branch." The Lord gives four promises: 1) there will be a "priest on the throne" (how can you have a priest on the throne? unless he is both priest and KING), 2) he wil build the temple (which temple, the third temple!), 3) he will be clothed with majesty, 4) they will come to him from afar. This is a sufficient Messiah! All recognize his divinity, in His blood shed for us of infinite value. It was only as a man that Jesus could impart that ransom to us.

4) The "Branch" in Isaiah 4:2-5. The "branch of the Lord." We get the divine nature of Jesus here clearly. The prayer of the church ought to be salvation to the Jews! They are part of the branch! The Branch will wash people from their sin. The Branch's glory will be a Huppah, a canopy of glory. When will the branch of YHWH rescue the Jews? We don't know. But this ought to be our prayer. The Branch will gather and bring the home, sprinkling clean water on them. This is th sign of the Messiah's second coming. The biggest sign is that he will gather his people back in the land. Half of the Jews have returned. Wake up! Our salvation is a lot closer than we think.

So preach like it is coming, preach like it has gone out of style, preach that he is coming very soon. Preaching need to be urgent. Christ is the sufficient Messiah in the OT, not just the NT.

Conclusion: Is he sufficient? Yes, his kingship speaks to it, his servant ransom speaks to it, his fleshly incarnation speaks to it, his divinity speaks to it. He is sufficient. The OT speaks of Christ as sufficient as much as the NT. What a privilege to be an announcer of the word of God in these days. The Branch of the Lord whose name is Jesus Christ, sufficient, altogether sufficient. Preach this!

Prayer

JT Holderman is pursuing a Th.M. in Homiletics here at Gordon-Conwell. He earned his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2012. JT is currently in the ordination process of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with hopes of taking a call as a pastor in the coming year. His journey to Gordon-Conwell began when he sensed a deeper need for clear Biblical teaching in preaching to prepare him for ministry. He hails from Seattle, WA by way of Idaho and New Jersey. JT blogs at Praise and is an avid Mountain Biker and Bodyboarder.

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National Preaching Conference: Day 1 Wrap Up | Student Live Blog

September 07, 2012

Think of someone who has no clue what he is walking into. He's bumping elbows with people whose rap sheets far outweigh his...that's me. I attended Day 1 of Gordon-Conwell's Preaching Conference yesterday. We were surrounded the men and women who are living out what they've been commanded and called to do by Jesus Christ. We're worshipping with obedient disciples who passionately care about their parish and their pulpit responsibilities. It was fantastic. It was a full day of learning, a full day of worship, a full day of community, and a full day of being fed...and it was cheap, too :)

I am a first year student; called to preach, but with no idea what that really looks like. Then comes Kevin DeYoung and Haddon Robinson. My wife and I were blown away. We loved every minute. DeYoung preached the Word and Robinson enlightened preachers on how to preach the Word. It was quite fitting. The student speaks and then his former professor follows. Both had passion and yet expressed it differently. One is in a fruitful time of ministry while the other concludes decades of mastery. It was a brilliant start to the conference.

Want some details? DeYoung brought the heat: he gave an exegetical teaching on Mark 15. What were some main ideas? Mark focused on the shame of the events leading up to the crucifixion, not the actual pain of the cross itself. DeYoung reminded us, his listeners, that Christ's suffering is a scene of remarkable rejection and systematic desertion of his followers and enemies. He then beautifully transitioned into an atonement theme as He explained that Christ takes care of our shame! He sustained the embarrassment and the ridicule of our sin and he did it in our place. And seriously...this is barely a summary and does absolutely no justice. DeYoung brought an inspired message.

And then came Robinson - everyone in the room knows this man. Years and years of excellence, leadership, preaching, expertise, and advice. We were here to listen. He was so practical. I loved it! He gave a down-to-earth, clear message about bad assumptions preachers make about their audiences. He gave us seven assumptions, which I will spare you the time. Nevertheless, the man's insight is priceless. I only wish I had more time with this man. He was funny, full of wisdom, and naturally commanded your attention. Toward the end, he left us with a prayer that every preacher should pray as he or she prepares for a sermon: "Lord, get past me to the people". Incredible.

My wife and I just got to campus this week...nervous...excited...pregnant...new...and then we settle in with the community of Christ, His Body and celebrate our King. This conference is simple, clear, and godly. To my friends, this conference is for every preacher.

Blessings!

Joshua Pool is a Kern Pastor-Scholar and is pursuing a Master of Divinity at Gordon-Conwell. He is married to a wonderful woman, Mandi, who loves God and loves him. They are expecting their first baby next month and look forward to their little girl, Abbie.

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National Preaching Conference: Kevin DeYoung | Student Live Blog

September 06, 2012

Speaker: Kevin DeYoung—"Bearing Shame and Scoffing Rude"

Dr. Scott Gibson Introduction: Preaching, what we do as communicators of the Gospel. A grand welcome. This conference is to equip to proclaim to Word of God.

President Dennis Hollinger Introduction: "There is nothing like hearing the word of God read and proclaimed." Read 2nd Corinthians 4, we have this ministry and do not lose heart...for what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.

Kevin DeYoung:
Always a privilege to preach God's word, especially so back here at his former seminary. A great privilege. Reminisced on his time here at GCTS, especially the surreal experience of having lunch with his former professors. Told a jr. high story of misunderstanding the coach and was humiliated in front of his peers. We all have embarassing stories, we all have the same experience of shame. No matter how bad our story of shame is, it is not worse than the one he is about to read, it is not so bad that we cannot be helped by this story about Jesus:

Mark 15:16-32 (crown of thorns, purple cloak, saluted as king of Jews, then crucified Him, inscribed King of Jews above him, crucified between two robbers, reviled). The writer had very little interested in the physical aspect of the crucifixion, they simply crucified him (no description, matter of fact). Mark does not focus on the pain of the cross. Mark does not want us interested in the pain of the cross, instead he draws our attention to the shame of the cross. He wants us to see how Jesus is reviled and despised!

The soldiers mock Jesus by equipping him with garb worthy of a king, a robe, a crown and a title, King of the Jews. They mock him, they spit upon him, the kneel in homage, a phony display of worship. Jesus is bloody, bruised and battered, and yet they mocked him. At the cross they stripped him and nailed him to the cross, without any dignity, he's almost completely naked. The maker of the universe is shamed. What sort of king would this be? Even those passer bys derided him with insults and curses. They dropped F bombs on our Lord Jesus. These are nobodys who are deriding him, they just happen to be passing by. Even the criminals on his left and right reviled Him according to Mark!

This scene is one of remarkable rejection. If we look back at chapter 14 to this moment, we see a systematic desertion of everyone close to Jesus (begins with Judas, Peter, 3 closest disciples in the Garden, the disciples flee when he's arrested). Even a naked man runs away rather to be naked than be caught with Jesus. Our shame compares nothing this! Jesus never sinned, he never lied, insulted. Instead he lived the moral guideline. He deserves medals and accolades, standing ovations, Nobel peace prize. What he received instead was rejection by everyone. Has there been a man treated with such little dignity by those who were so far beneath Him? The insulters did not know their place. They should have shown reverence but instead they showed contempt and insult!

What is the point of this passage? If it was pity, he would have described the physical torture of the cross to make us feel sorry for Him. Mark does not want us to feel sorry for Jesus. Too many people in our churches feel sorry for Him and mistake that for worship, it is not worship. This story shows us that Jesus is sufficient to bear our sin and our shame. There are two kinds of shame: 1) the shame we should feel, guilt. Our world wants to remove shame, but when there is objective guilt there should be shame. 2) The shame we should not feel, misplaced shame, a sense of dirtiness because something happened to you (all sorts of reasons we can feel shame that we shouldn't). Jesus helps with both kinds of shame. For the first kind he forgives our real sin, he severs the root of shame! He sustained the embarassment and ridicule that we should face for our sins! We deserve shame, but because of Jesus we need not feel it. All the shame that we should get has been taken upon Jesus Himself, the cross was the fulfillment of divine justice for you and for me. The good news of the Gospel is Jesus paid it all! And he helps with the second kind of shame, that which we shouldn't feel. Jesus is a sympathetic high priest, we have a savior who experienced that shame a thouseand times more and he cares and understands. He can show us the way to turn from the shame and not return it. Hebrews 12 says Jesus despised the shame, he regarded it as unworthy of his consideration, I count this to be nothing, because the eternal joy was everything, so present humiliation was of no consequence. We can despise shame because the end of the story for us is JOY!

Shame is not the end of our story as a Christian because it was not the end of the story for Jesus. Remember the two states of Christ, his humiliation and his exaltation! Humiliation is not the end. These will be our states, days of exaltation and days of humiliation. Our life is a journey to this final Joy, this final exaltation. There is no easy path to this. Despise the shame, but you cannot run from it. With His stripes our shame can be healed.

Prayer

JT Holderman is pursuing a Th.M. in Homiletics here at Gordon-Conwell. He earned his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2012. JT is currently in the ordination process of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with hopes of taking a call as a pastor in the coming year. His journey to Gordon-Conwell began when he sensed a deeper need for clear Biblical teaching in preaching to prepare him for ministry. He hails from Seattle, WA by way of Idaho and New Jersey. JT blogs at Praise and is an avid Mountain Biker and Bodyboarder.

 

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I love my savior Jesus Christ and am forever grateful to Him for what He bore on our behalf. I enjoy the sentiment that there are two kinds of shame. God wants us to be happy, so we should never feel like He loves us less because we have sinned. That is why Jesus made the sacrifice He did; so we could turn away from our sins and come unto Him once more. If we truly make the effort to change and lay our sins at His feet, there is nothing we can't be forgiven for.
Sean 3:09PM 09/14/12

National Preaching Conference: Haddon Robinson | Student Live Blog

September 06, 2012

Session 2 speaker: Haddon Robinson--"Seven Dangerous Assumptions Preachers Make About Their Listeners"

The most important person in the room as a speaker is the audience. The audience is the most important, a subtle fact. In the operating room the most important person is the patient. We make many assumptions that get in the way of our communication, here are seven specific assumptions that are common:

1) If someone is looking at you it means they are listening. A good communicator learns to read the audience. When the audience is no longer interested, move (a moving speaker is more interesting and helps to get the audience engaged).

2) When you start speaking, the audience starts listening. Distraction carries over. Sometimes we need to work to get them to listen. A good speaker realizes he has a few seconds to hook the listener. TV shows go after your attention in the first 20 seconds. You have to make your beginning seconds count in the introduction, grab their attention. Start with an interesting statement and work to their need, surface their need. Do it with a story and you have really won. The first minutes of the message are essential. You are not only introducing your message, but yourself. You have to win them to get them to listen.

3) If I present the material well, people will remember what's most important. Is it your purpose to get them to remember? No. When we say that the sermon is an embodiment of a single idea, that's not being clever, but looks at the reality of what people actually remember. A good sermon is the embodiment of a single idea. It answers the question: what am I talking about today and what am I saying about it. There's a rule of primacy for the first and last thing you say, they are more likely to remember these statements.

4) Listeners stop listening when you finish talking. It sounds logical, but it's not reality. People stop listening any time they feel like stopping. People can think five times faster than the preacher can speak. Good transitions are key, it tells people where you have been, where you are now, and anticipates the future, it reviews, states and previews. Work on transitions, they are tough to work on because they seem boring, but do it. Also use as much variety as you can, keep your message clear.

5) If you speak accurately, the audience will be able to trace your message clearly. Everything you say that is important must be said at least three times. It takes restatement for the mind to get it, we have to help people. It seems tedious but it isn't if what you state is important. You can feel like your nagging the audience, but as a listener you welcome it! Handouts and overheads help memory too.

6) Listeners will process information in the same way I do. When writing have a few people in your mind, specific different people from your congregation and act as if they are there when you are writing. It is easier to imagine someone younger than you than someone in an older life stage than you, but it's good to think of all ages as you are preparing your sermon. You owe your congregation to think as they think.

7) If you explain things clearly people will know what to do with it now that you have taught them. They may or they may not. Good conclusions are specific and deal with the how and why. How do I put it into practice? We need to address this clearly and specifically. People have a hard time applying generalities, easier with a specific step. People need to know the preacher is taking it seriously enough to invite them to do something.

Prayer

JT Holderman is pursuing a Th.M. in Homiletics here at Gordon-Conwell. He earned his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2012. JT is currently in the ordination process of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with hopes of taking a call as a pastor in the coming year. His journey to Gordon-Conwell began when he sensed a deeper need for clear Biblical teaching in preaching to prepare him for ministry. He hails from Seattle, WA by way of Idaho and New Jersey. JT blogs at Praise and is an avid Mountain Biker and Bodyboarder.

 

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Thanks for the write-up! A question about: "You have to win them to get them to listen" in #2 above. I'm taking Gary Parrett's Semlink version of Educational Ministry of the Church. He makes the point that it's good to start with people as they are, but not necessarily leave them there. I think he'd call for training the congregation so that you don't *have* to win them to get them to listen. It may sound idealistic, but we can ask, isn't the Gospel itself "winning" enough? I've preached enough sermons to know that some people don't think it is, so Robinson's points are well taken. But what of the role of the preacher in helping to shape *how* the people listen to and engage sermons, and God's Word proclaimed, whether preceded by an attention-getting introduction or not?
Abram K-J 9:22AM 09/13/12

National Preaching Conference: Stephen Um | Student Live Blog

September 06, 2012

Workshop 1 Speaker: Stephen Um--"Gospel Centered Preaching"

We should read the Bible as redemptive history, not simply as a body of moral principles. We might not all agree on what this means. The Gospel is not just a matter of moral information. Every text of the Bible is part of the big story of salvation and attest to God's saving purposes in Jesus Christ. In terms of how we get there in preaching we might not all agree. We read the Scripture Christologically. How do we preach Christ from every text of Scripture? We need to get to Christ in every text. How do we do that?

There are many different ways to preach Christ besides simple typology. On the road to Emmaus Jesus reads all of Scripture Christologically, pointing to Him, all the Scriptures testify about Christ (more verses on this). The Scriptures are a gift. We proclaim Jesus, not just Scripture. In exegesis we find the main idea, but the main idea is not the big idea. There are microcontexts and a macrocontext (the implications of the Gospel). We often emphasis the microcontext over the macro and this is unfortunate. We need to use this hermeneutic as preachers of the Gospel.

Some places to go that will help us in this manner: Greg Beale's (not exact title) "The Old Testament in light of the New Testament," The Bible Speaks Today Commentary (he uses this commentary series for preaching preparation), Ed Clowney's "The Unfolding Mystery," DeGraaf's "Promise and Deliverance." Stephen lifts up Tim Keller as one who does this well.

Gospel Centered Preaching Through Theme Resolution: A category to preach in this manner is those things that are RESOLVED in Christ. Only Jesus resolves redemptive themes. In the OT the plot thickens, there are unreconcilable tension within the plot that is unsolvable until Christ comes. The theme in any good story is not resolved at the beginning, but at the end. Here are two broad themes RESOLVED in Christ (i.e. examples):

1) Kingdom/Kingship. The theme of God's sovereign rule as the monarch is all throughout the OT. The freedom and glory of God's kingdom is lost when Adam sins. Jesus resolves this loss and redeems it! The only person who can resolve this is God himself. The OT speaks often of a messianic ruler who will come. Kingdom is a major theme. It is not fulfilled until Jesus. The tension introduced in the OT is resolved in the NT through Jesus.

2) Grace/Law in the covenant. Before the Law is given, God delivers. The Law is not a means of salvation but as evidence of your salvation. He delivered the Israelites in the exodus before they did anything! How does God's holiness and mercy relate? Only in the cross are both the law of God and the love of God fulfilled for eternity, we cannot resolve this tension before Jesus. How can a holy God relate to one who is so unholy? In Christ as the suffering servant. Grace comes first and law follows as a response. We must read law based verses (moral emphasis) redemptively or we will be crushed. It will encourage us however if we read it through the lens of the one man who has fulfilled everything that we can not! Jesus Christ fulfilled the law perfectly and now we have the ability to receive it and obey it.

Gospel Centered Preaching Through Law Reception: We must address the heart to be motivated and compelled by the love of God. We must look at Jesus' generosity and find ourselves compelled to obey the law. Jesus gives us the ability to receive the law and to obey. God knows that we can't obey and that's why we need a savior.

Gospel Centered Preaching Through Story Completion: If we look at the theme of sonship, we see it transcend through the OT into the fulfillment in the NT, both in Jesus and our adoption. Jesus completes this incomplete story of sonship in the OT. Adam is the son of God, Israel is the son of God, but they all fail as sons of God, they are incomplete until we find Jesus, the stories point forward.

Gospel Centered Preaching Through Symbol Fulfillment: Only Christ can fulfill symbols. The blood of the OT sacrifices point to the blood of Christ in the NT. When water bursts forth from the rock we relate that to references of Jesus speaking about being the living water, "I am the living water." We have the temple in the OT and Jesus is the new temple, he is the perfect temple, that tabernacles among us.

We need to seek these categories, looking at this macrocontext for situation how Jesus fulfills and completes everything. Jesus is the resolution for everyone, He is our answer, and this is what we preach, the redemptive reality of Jesus Christ!

Prayer

JT Holderman is pursuing a Th.M. in Homiletics here at Gordon-Conwell. He earned his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2012. JT is currently in the ordination process of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with hopes of taking a call as a pastor in the coming year. His journey to Gordon-Conwell began when he sensed a deeper need for clear Biblical teaching in preaching to prepare him for ministry. He hails from Seattle, WA by way of Idaho and New Jersey. JT blogs at Praise and is an avid Mountain Biker and Bodyboarder.

 

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To Escape this Fleshly Mortality: A Prayer | Seminary Student Blogger

September 05, 2012

Our holy God,
It is here we find ourselves yet again.

Here - where words have run dry, where speech is quenched, where silence is most becoming of our beings.

Yes, here we are.

There is shame in our countenance. Bitterness in our look. Because we seek to meet You in the grandness of Your Spirit, and we cannot seem to escape this fleshly mortality.

For this we weep.

Sitting as still as we can contrive and peering into the blackness of our clenched eye lids, each tear does no more than remind us that we are, indeed, flesh.

Flesh that strains, flesh that yearns, flesh that craves and needs and aches.

We are flesh constrained and contained
built and torn
growing but never out-grown.

Physicians, our experts in flesh, poke and prod our human mass without care for her form, and with questions devoid of awe.

They strip us down to examine and laugh dismissively at our inclination to the dignity of modesty.

And so we cover...
our flesh
our secret
our weakness
our shame.

For this, too, we weep.

And here we have come for respite.

Here, with You grand God of the heavens, we seek salvation from this body of death.

...

What is this, Your answer?

What bizarre Salvation - a Man? A Son?

Salvation of Flesh and Mortality?

Flesh that strains, flesh that yearns, flesh that craves and needs and aches?

Salvation looking so much like ourselves, like the host of our shame.

In the place we have chosen silence, You sent a Word.

In the place we seek escape from body, Your Word became Flesh.

Your grand way of holiness is this: Your flesh reconciles us to our own,

And in Your final phrase, "It is finished" we are restored to phrase of the dawn, "It is good."

...

So.

Here we are yet again.

We come with eyes peeking open, surveying the bodies You have crafted:

Flesh that strains, flesh that yearns, flesh that craves and needs and aches.

And we ask for the courage to believe You in Your incarnational way.

We ask to desire salvation through Your flesh rather than salvation from ours.

We ask for resurrection faith, that can see past the grave and decay and can see Your glorified flesh.

And we ask for hope to believe the like for ours.

Until all is redeemed...

even our dim thoughts of flesh,

we will pray in the name of the Holy Fleshy One,

Even Jesus.

Amen

Tags: Author: Amy Gilbaugh , spiritually vital , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

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What a gift for the Church. Thank you, Amy.
Megan 10:56AM 09/05/12

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