Gordon-Conwell Blog

The Folly of Forgetfulness, the Joy of Remembrance: A Prayer, Day 4 | Seminary Student Blogger

October 31, 2013

Amy Gannett

Amy is contributing a week-long series on reflection and remembrance. You can read her introduction here; day 1 here; day 2 here; day 3 here.

The Fidelity of Dawn

The dark horizon hides itself
in the blackness of the sky.

The world is concealed in night this hour,
and we watch the motionless mass once again.

We have sat awake in many midnights.

Never has this black horizon persistent.
Never has this darkness been eternal.

And in the unintentional expectations of our own minds,
our hearts respond in new awareness:

Never once have You withheld the sun.
Never once have You left us in the dark.

Every morning,
each dawn,
You are faithful.

Every midnight,
every dark hour,
You are faithful.

And in this dark hour of waiting,
we choose again to remember,
and we choose again to believe. 

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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , spiritually vital , student blogger

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The Folly of Forgetfulness, the Joy of Remembrance: A Prayer, Day 3 | Seminary Student Blogger

October 30, 2013

Amy Gannett

Amy is contributing a week-long series on reflection and remembrance. You can read her introduction here; day 1 here; day 2 here.

The Grace of Decided Impatience

We have heard the whispered promise
that You are still to come.

And we, too, have been those who
preached those promises,
claimed those confessions,
declared those decrees.

But we also confess
that as soon as the creed slipped from our lips,
we left the pews without expectation, viable hope, or any bit of impatience.

He ascended into heaven, seated at the right hand of God, the almighty Father, from where he will come to judge the living and the dead.

And so we ask, dear God, that You
would grant us the grace of
decided impatience.

Press our eyes to the horizon,
our ears to the ground.

Fix our feet in holy restlessness
and quicken them towards that which is our final Rest. 

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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , spiritually vital , student blogger

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The Folly of Forgetfulness, the Joy of Remembrance: A Prayer, Day 2 | Seminary Student Blogger

October 29, 2013

Amy Gannett

Amy is contributing a week-long series on reflection and remembrance. You can read her introduction here; day 1 here.

Grace to Believe

The orations roll off our tongues
with tradition and ease.

We believe, we do.

We believe.

… in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord …

We believe, we do.

But Sundays have a way of hastening to end,
and Monday meets us with terrors irreconcilable.

Doctors call with news that isn’t good,
Kids call with nightmares we cannot ward off,
The bank calls again and more time is not an option.

And we forget
how to believe …

…in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting …

So would You, God of our profession,
come and foster in us
the faith of remembrance,
and give us the grace
to recite the creed once again.

And to say,
we believe. 

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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , spiritually vital , student blogger

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The Folly of Forgetfulness, the Joy of Remembrance: A Prayer, Day 1 | Seminary Student Blogger

October 28, 2013

Amy Gannett

Amy is contributing a week-long series on reflection and remembrance. You can read her introduction here.

Sunday was Long Ago

Sunday morning has come and gone.
We ate our fill,
and were very proud we had cleaned our spiritual plate.

We heaped our plates with
service,
song
and solitude.

And walked out the stained-glass doors
satisfied,
gratified,
and fulfilled.

And Monday we sat down in passive wontedness,
occupied and busy and
quite unconcerned with eating again.

Like a child who picked his plate clean and refused a return visit,
we have been foolish in our spiritual feeding,
negligent with regard to our need.

And Sunday was long ago.

We cared not for the spiritual deficiency
that slowly crept through our bones
nor did we note the way our hearts
grew languidly cold.

But …

our bellies are beginning to growl.

Slowly, certainly, and somewhat begrudgingly
we are noticing our own dissatisfaction.

We have need, and our selves bear witness that
our need is none other than 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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , spiritually vital , student blogger

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Choosing to Remember: An Invitation to Reflection | Seminary Student Blogger

October 27, 2013

Amy Gannett

Amy is contributing a week-long series on reflection and remembrance. The following is her introduction.

Saturday morning was slow. It was lazy. And comfortable. And familiar.

This morning I felt the prodding of the Lord to go back through old journals, and so I compiled them, gathering them from every corner of my room:

the ones on the book shelf just a bit dusty,

the one on the coffee table all too familiar,

the ones under the bed all but forgotten.

I spent three hours in those pages, remembering and recalling and crying and blushing. I can hardly believe I once thought some of those thoughts, believed some of those beliefs, was concerned about some of those unknowns. But in those pages I also heard my own voice. The dreams are the same; the desires, familiar.

And the God who made it all happen sat back with me and savored the view:

He has been so faithful.

Page after page, with ink spilled on both sides, He has proven Himself to be the constant companion of my soul. The only One who could walk all those paths and heed all those thoughts. He alone has been the common thread in every season.

I don’t know about you, but I am quick to forget. I am slow of remembrance. I do not recall naturally, or remember unaffectedly. I have to want it, to choose it, and to make time for it.

So, I want to invite you to do just that. I want to invite you to join me in a week of reflection on the faithfulness of God. I want to invite you to pull out your journal, your photo albums, your old blog entries, and recall the faithfulness of our God. I want to invite you to pray with me concerning the folly of forgetfulness and the joy of remembrance.

So go on, grab that journal on your shelf and the one under the bed.

Because these books hold our story.

And they cry,

"But I am poor and needy;
Yet the Lord thinks upon me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God"
Psalm 40:17

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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , spiritually vital , student blogger

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Learning from Our Church Fathers: Part 11

October 24, 2013

Donald Fairbairn

This is Part 11 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; Part 6 here; Part 7 here; Part 8 here; Part 9 here; Part 10 here.

It is well known that for every person who is famously influential in history, there are many more who are influential without being well known at all. Nowhere is this truth more important than in the history of the Christian church, a history that is full of little-known stories of faithful believers who lived hidden lives that were of immense value to the progress of the Kingdom. One impressive example of such an unknown influencer is Macrina, a nun who lived in Cappadocia (central Turkey today) in the fourth century. I sometimes refer to Macrina as “the most influential Christian you’ve never heard of.”

Macrina was the oldest of 10 children born to wealthy, devoutly-Christian parents, Basil (a professor and attorney) and Emmelia. Her father betrothed Macrina at age 12 to a famed orator, but he died very suddenly before they were married. Macrina called the betrothal a marriage and resolved to spend the rest of her life alone and celibate, rather than marry someone else. In order to secure this resolution, she persuaded her mother (who was widowed by this time) to join her in establishing a nunnery that later became the pattern for all of female monasticism in the Greek Church. Macrina also founded a hospital and an organization to care for the poor, funding them with money inherited from her parents. She was so thorough in giving her wealth to the service of others that when she died at age 52, she owned nothing except the tattered garment she was wearing.

As impressive as Macrina’s life was, we might never have known about it except for one other detail. She also possessed an extraordinary combination of immense education and desire to use her knowledge for God’s glory. She dedicated herself to the education of her nine younger brothers and sisters, and two of those excelled so much under her tutelage that they were later sent abroad to obtain first-rate philosophical educations. But Macrina did not simply give her brothers their start. She also popped the bubble of pride that sprang up within them as their education progressed, and she convinced both of them to use their learning for the service of Christ.

Those two brothers are known to history as Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa. Together with their best friend, Gregory the Theologian, they are styled “the great Cappadocians,” and the three were the Greek Church’s most brilliant Trinitarian theologians in the period after the death of Athanasius. They took the mantle of leadership during the tumultuous years at the end of the Trinitarian Controversy, and they were the most influential figures on the Council of Constantinople in 381, at which what we call the Nicene Creed was ratified.

Gregory of Nyssa wrote a moving biography of his sister, in which he described her life-long ambition to be the bride of Christ, to long for him, and to serve his people. Gregory’s account means that Macrina’s life is known to us, and the story reminds us of how important and influential a single life can be. At the same time, we are reminded that there are countless more lives of faithful, ordinary Christians of which recorded history has no trace, lives that are equally valuable in their obscurity, equally worthy of celebration by God’s people. We are also reminded that we never know what the Lord is going to do with our own (usually obscure) ministries. We never know whether that person we disciple will be a new Basil the Great. Perhaps this reminder can encourage us to continue to pursue our callings faithfully, just as Macrina did.

 

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 , current students , faculty blogger , future students , thoughtfully evangelical

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Thank you for writing on the life of Macrina. I shared about her life last year at a youth camp in Germany at a workshop I gave. I was blessed to "get to know her" at a History of Christianity course with Professors Justo Gonzalez and his wife Ms Gonsalus. Leaders are said to be influencers, and Macrina certainly was one of them. It was also important for me to see how Christians in all phases of their history have found ways out of the status quo to be able to express their love toward God and their neighbor. Though previously I had looked down on monasteries, I learned that this was a way in which Macrina could fulfill her calling. Like the apostle Paul, celibacy and a life of service were complimentary. Thank you and God bless you.
Jude Enxuto 12:57PM 11/07/13

Trusting Jesus With Seminary | Seminary Guest Blogger

October 22, 2013

Josh Kluth

I used to think life transitions were moments that connected the different stages of life. These life stages include the different social statuses that define many: student, single, married, divorced, employee, enlisted, parent, grandparent, retiree, etc. Or life stages could be identified as emotional seasons of difficulty, joy, maturation or loneliness. However we define them, transitions are like bridges that connect the peninsula to the mainland. The point is to get over them and on to “real life.” The older I have gotten, the more difficult it has become to identify a period of transition from the main road. At times, I wonder if we can even identify the main road.

For some, life seems to be a never-ending connection of transitions that we trust are heading somewhere. However, I’m not so convinced there is a point of arrival at having “made it” this side of the New Heavens and New Earth. After all, what does “making it” look like? Retirement? House paid off? White picket fence and the 2.5 healthy (and perfectly polite) kids? Which of these are the main road and which are the isolated transition points? My wife and my journey to Gordon-Conwell has illustrated this for us.

I first heard of Gordon-Conwell as a junior in college from a mentor of mine who was an alumnus. Curious as to what seminary was all about, I sent off an inquiry and received a packet in the mail describing the different programs. Sheer curiosity. That was 10 years ago. I got a job after college, served in ministry, got married, tried to find better jobs, switched careers, etc. In fact, my wife remembers me telling her that I was determined not to pursue a life in full-time ministry. Seminary wasn’t a consideration. And yet, through a long process of being led by the Lord, encouraged by friends, miraculous provisions in finances, scholarship opportunities and Semlink distance classes, we came to Gordon-Conwell. We left our home in the Pacific Northwest and arrived in the dead of winter in January 2013 just in time to be greeted by Hurricane Nemo. And to be honest, the transition hasn’t been all that easy. Moreover, it hasn’t been altogether clear where God is taking us in the future. However, we feel confident that God’s orchestration has led us to this moment.

We aren’t confident of how to distinguish between a life transition and a life stage. But we are confident that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. As pilgrims in this world, we are confident that life itself may continue to produce transitions. As people being conformed constantly to the image of Christ, we are determined to transition well until the day he takes us home to glory. But for the time being, we are here at Gordon-Conwell determined to lean on Jesus. He is the gate, but he is the way. He is not just the beginning point. He is not a life stage and he is not a transition. There is just no getting over him.

Josh and his wife, Tara, are from Washington State. Josh is pursuing an MAR and MATH while Tara works as a hairdresser in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Together, they are most captivated by the story in which God has placed them in this fascinatingly bizarre world that spins across this universe. In the midst of it all, they are stabilized by what Sally Lloyd-Jones describes as “God’s 'Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love' in Jesus" (Jesus Storybook Bible).

Tags: Author: Josh Kluth , current students , equipping leaders for the church and society , future students , guest post

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The Foxes and The Hunt | Seminary Student Blogger

October 17, 2013

Melissa Zaldivar

I was listening to Audrey Assad’s latest album recently when I heard the words that sparked a hunt in my heart:

“And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy.”

While Audrey is one of the most profound lyricists of our generation, I was haunted by that line, the way that poetry of the Old Testament hangs in the air and I am often left in awe of its beauty. I knew that this line had to be Scripture.

I opened up my Bible and sure enough, there are a number of times that our furry little foes pop up in the entire breadth of the canon. Most of them are in the Old Testament, which is where Audrey’s reference comes from. It’s in Song of Solomon, where the writer admonishes, “Catch the little foxes that spoil the vineyards” (2:15).

Catching foxes is a curious turn of phrase. And one that resonates with me because I work in Hamilton, Massachusetts, just a few miles from campus at a historic Hunt Club. Now, being from California, where being a fox might even be a good thing, the New England culture has been mostly new for me. I’ve never seen a lacrosse game, I’ve never known anyone on a rowing team. And until I started working at the Club, I’d never seen polo played before unless it involved Marco in the swimming pool.

The logo at the Club is a simple, yet profound one. It’s the image of a fox with a horn above it. It’s on the Club flag that flies over the clubhouse and on the divot repair tools on the golf course, and it’s embroidered on every staff shirt just above the heart. Because of how long I’ve worked at the club and because we get new shirts every year, I’ve got more shirts and jackets and hats and even belts with that logo than most people I know.

We wear the logo of the huntsman. This history dates back to the late 1800s when fox hunting was all the rage, and while we do not actually hunt foxes today (but rather the more humane fox scent), it is a tradition. I walk up the hill to work in the little golf shop at the Club as up to a dozen gigantic horses and nearly 40 hunting hounds weave along the bridle paths.

In an effort to understand Audrey and to get a better feel for the historical sport, I did a little research into the origins of fox hunting. Originally, it was a form of pest-control. Foxes have been known in literature and society for hundreds of years as sneaky, thieving creatures. Because they used to come to farms and kill chickens or steal food, farmers started to hunt them. Now, years later, we still honor the tradition of the hunt.

Gordon-Conwell is situated on a hill that was once owned by a member of the Club and is a part of the historic route that the hunters used to take. Every year, they take a ride with the hounds through our Hamilton campus. Children who live here come to see them go by as the riders wave. As they passed through this year, I couldn’t help but take notice of the incredible spiritual implications.

Foxes come to thieve and destroy. Jesus called Herod a fox, knowing that he was deceptive. And in Song of Solomon, chasing away the foxes was an active form of defending the vineyard. How fitting it is that our campus, where we defend the faith and fight against heresy and deception, is on the grounds of the historic hunt. How interesting it is that nearly every day, I put on the logo of the huntsman over my heart.

As we go about our studies, we not only increase in knowledge of the truth, but we are given the task of seeking out and chasing away the foxes—those things that get a foothold and ruin our lives, our marriages, our friendships, our trust in God. We are not simply students. We are the huntsman, still defending ourselves and chasing away foxes on this traditional plot of hunting ground.

For they will not steal our joy.

Melissa Zaldivar is an MATH student from California. She loves golf, theology, Jewish holidays, people falling in love, Jonathan Edwards, chocolate chip cookies, her adorable niece and telling stories. When she's not filming and photographing weddings, you can find her reading news articles, watching Parks and Recreation or playing Super Smash Bros.
 

 

 

Tags: Author: Melissa Zaldivar , biblically-grounded , spiritually vital , student blogger

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Brokenness & Leadership: Not “In Spite,” But “Because” | Seminary Student Blogger

October 15, 2013

Joelinda Coichy

Lately, I have been recognizing the profound link between brokenness and leadership and it has been blowing me up—in a completely good, leadership-style-transforming way. But before this idea was good-blowing-me-up, something else was wrecking me—in a completely heart-breaking and shake-your-fists-at-God way.

God repeatedly, intentionally, aggressively closed some doors in my life that I REALLY wanted open. And I was wrecked. I spent the better part of a couple weeks crying to God from the deep disappointment and despair lodged in my heart.

Ever noticed how even when you hurt, life marches on? Well, in addition to being a full-time seminarian, I'm a Student Ministries Director at a brand new church campus plant, and there was no time to stop and wallow in my hurt. So I bumbled and cried as I worked.

In the midst of all this, my boss asked me to pray before a team meeting. That day, the Holy Spirit was powerfully present through my prayer in a way that surprised and moved me, and then I realized that He was there not in spite of my brokenness but because of it. And that was when this idea sprouted in my heart: personal brokenness is essential for effective leadership.

I am not talking about brokenness for X,Y,Z injustice in the world (though having one of these is important). Neither am I talking about brokenness in the form of a deep unconfessed, festering sin or a long-standing addiction (though one of these things can be the root cause of the brokenness I am talking about).

When I say “personal brokenness,” I mean a vibrant and sincere awareness of the heart-wounds nearest and dearest to us that no matter how hard we stuff, ignore and deny, just reappear in the form of fresh lacerations for which there is no balm except the breath of God.

I am learning that for effective (read: compassionate, sincere, powerful) leadership, there has to be something personal that you are on your face in prayer and pleading with God about. You may not feel the hurt of that brokenness forever—but that is certainly where effective ministry must start.

Because when you are on your face before God, not only praying but also crying because it hurts and you don't have enough, grace prevails in your life. And when you are on your face limp from hurting before God, and yet there are people entrusted to your care, the Holy Spirit moves…in spite of your brokenness!

And when the Spirit moves, all (you included) meet God, you are surprised, and then you remember and relive the vital truth you forgot in the midst of all your reading, preparing and duck-aligning: the heart of the gospel is hope because of a broken (and resurrected) Body.

So, don't run from that persistent hurt—it is likely the very location of God's greatest work in and through you!

Joelinda is a second year M.Div. candidate. She currently serves as the Student Ministries Director at Grace Chapel’s Watertown campus. She is a lover of all things beautiful including theater, fall days in New England, chick flicks and the mountains. She counts bargain-hunting her sport and enjoys singing loudly while driving. Above all, Joelinda’s passion is to build relationships that help others understand the transformative power of the gospel.

Tags: Author: Joelinda Coichy , equipping leaders for the church and society , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

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So true - thank you Joelinda. I recently read Sally Lloyd-Jones' children's Bible story about Naaman. In it she says "Naaman wanted to be healed and all he needed was nothing - the one thing he didn't have." Why is it so hard for us to accept our brokenness? Thank you for this reminder that it is the heart of the Gospel and the place where we meet, and are empowered by, Him!
Deedee Morton 11:11AM 10/25/13

A Prayer to be Learning Ones | Seminary Student Blogger

October 10, 2013

Amy Gannett

We are the learning ones, by Your gracious calling.

Here, we open our minds to be filled with
knowledge and wisdom,
truth and theories,
facts and opinions.

Our ears have been open to the words of the studied, and quickly our tongues begin to turn out phrases, too:

We believe this and not that.
This is true, that is not.

More than that, we are among those who are called to the same task.
And in this community of the learning, we have come to stake the ground:

Calvinists and Armenians,
Baptists and Presbyterians,
Preachers and Professors.

But as we do,
as we read,
and then as we begin to write,

Would You grant us the grace of pause.

Would You keep us from hard lines in gray territory.
Would You keep us from hard hearts in teachable moments.
Would You keep us from dismissing truth by naming it crude, harsh or immodest.

Would You give us the grace to truly be the learning ones,
And to rightly fill out our name.

Even as You fill out Yours, good Teacher.
Let us learn to yield to Your Spirit.

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 , current students , future students , spiritually vital , student blogger

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A Goodly Day | Seminary Student Blogger

October 08, 2013

Kate Hightower

I am ever in a sea of darkness
Death is always close at hand
And I’ve only lived to serve it,
It’s wish been my demand.
But still Thy whisper entices
My King on High bethroned.
No more my own devices
Now only Thine I know.

Today Thy glory shines.
Today enshrined in Thy state
Thy Mission of Love accomplished
Now we’re only left to wait.

Three days hence you set your promise
In three days the blood washed clean
We praise Thy victory forever
And from death
At last
I’m free.

No more my shroud of darkness
I am now bathed in Thy light.
To Thee my all and always
My One
My Lord
My Christ.

Kate Hightower is writing to you from the middle of her Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Thought pursuit at Gordon-Conwell—Jacksonville, where she is also a Byington Scholar. She’s an avid Bob Dylan fan, and can always be counted upon for decadent French cooking. And she’s madly in love with her giant, brilliant golden retriever, Stella.

 

 

 

Tags: Author: Kate Hightower , spiritually vital , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

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An Actor’s Faith: What Are You Really Working Toward? | Seminary Student Blogger

October 03, 2013

Tim Norton

Dear Fellow Seminarian,

Why are you at seminary? What is your objective? Are you acting like it or do your actions suggest a different priority? Let me explain.

I was assigned a best friend during my first semester of the music theatre program at Florida State.

No joke. I was assigned a best friend.

Now this isn't like your mom putting together amazing goody bags so kids would come to your birthday party (although...you put together a nice goody bag and miracles do happen). After a few weeks of observation and analysis, my professors paired every student with another from class as "best friends." We were to build a relationship with said best friend over the course of the semester and complete all scene work together until Christmas. I realize now that my best friend was also a pillar of consistency in a class designed to make you feel like a complete failure by finals week, thereby enabling you to start from scratch, without any preconceived notions, in January. My best friend, of course, was Mike the hockey player. Our first task was an "open scene," or, as I like to call it, "actor psychological trench warfare."

The assignment is simple.

"Here's a sheet of paper with 10 lines of arbitrary dialogue,” our prof explained. "You have no back story, no character information. You may create the circumstances as you wish. We'll start scene showings next week."

Mike the hockey player and I began brainstorming immediately. Typical freshman, we were eager to show off and entirely ignorant of just how bad we really were. Our plan was beautiful in its simplicity. "You see most people in this situation panic and swing for the fence" we thought. "They come up with an elaborate story that's entirely too complex." The details of who came up with our golden idea are unclear. So, for the sake of fairness, let's give Mike the credit.

Mike: Dude, I've got it.
Tim: What?
Mike: I've got it.
Tim: What is it?
Mike: You have to pee.
Tim: Nah, I'm good man—what are you, my mother? What's your idea?
Mike: No. Dude, you have to pee.
Tim: I have to pee?
Mike: You have to--
Tim (catching on): I HAVE TO PEE!

I'm pretty sure Edison would've been jealous of our genius. I had to pee. It was perfect. Our scene would be set in a typical room, between two friends, one of them leaving to pee, the other preventing him from leaving. I would be the pee-er; Mike would be the preventer. Summon Her Majesty the Queen! Move over Bill Shakespeare! Tim and Mike the hockey player are creating the scene of a lifetime! We basked in our brilliance, imagining the glorious feedback we'd receive from our adoring yet ever so slightly jealous peers. Life was good.

Fast-forward one week, Mike and I are ready for action. I chug a little bit of water before the performance just to get my head in the game. I dazzle the audience with my best pee dance moves while Mike systematically blocks my exit to the bathroom. Everything runs exactly as we had rehearsed. Ready for applause, we walk back to our professor and peers for feedback.

The ever glamorous and even more brilliant professor Jean says, "Tim, what do you normally do when you have to pee?" I stand in silence, nodding slightly as if admiring the profoundness of the question. "Tim, what do you normally do when you have to pee?" Jean repeated. I skillfully reply, “Uh…well, I normally just walk to a bathroom and...ya know...pee." "Good," she said. "Do it again and show me. What do you do when you have to pee?"

We restart the scene. Suddenly, right as I was beginning my meticulously rehearsed pee dance, a voice cried out from the audience, almost reverberating off the black walls of the rehearsal space. "BS," Professor Jean delightedly exclaimed from the audience. She was smiling as she repeated herself, "BS."

...except she didn't use abbreviations.

"Tim, what do you normally do when you have to pee?"

This question again?? I thought we went through this before. I reply, “Well…"

Prof. Jean: "You just go pee, right?"
Me: "Right."
Prof. Jean: "So go. Right now. Show me what it looks like for you to walk to the bathroom."

I cautiously start walking away, unsure of what is going to happen next.

Prof. Jean: "Good Tim. Now why didn't you do that in the scene?"
Me: "I'm not sure what you..."
Prof. Jean: "Why didn't you walk like that in the scene?"
Me: "Oh, well, I wanted to show that I had to pee."
Prof. Jean: "Ah, you wanted to show me you had to pee."
Me: "Yeah."

And there was the problem. My over-rehearsed, overplayed and overacted bathroom dance looked absolutely ridiculous because it was dishonest. Rather than pulling the audience into the world we created, I slapped ‘em all with the reality of a novice actor who is desperate to do the assignment right. You know what the worst part is? I thought I was being honest. I convinced myself that I was truly fighting for my objective of "get to the bathroom at all costs." My actions, on the other hand, suggested that my actual objective was to "get my class and professor to see that I had to pee."

That's the thing with objectives. It's possible tell yourself that you are fighting for Objective A. But until someone comes along and calls BS, you have no clue that what you're actually doing is fighting for Objective B. In other words, instead of "fighting to pee," you are fighting to "make it look like your objective is to pee."

As a seminarian, I find myself fighting a similar battle. I find myself less focused on preparing for future ministry than about my academic success. I get so bogged down in the whirlpool of exegesis, reading logs and theological reflections that I forget this isn’t just graduate school. To be sure, it is school. It is tough! And, it should be. But my primary objective isn’t fulfilled in the classroom. The classroom is a preparation for my future ministry to this world. That changes my approach to learning. If my primary concern is future ministry preparation, it won’t be as difficult to put down the books and spend time with the Lord. If my primary concern is future ministry, healthy living habits (like sleep and exercise) become a priority. If my primary concern is future ministry, character formation will trump academic success in my list of objectives. I am the WORST at forgetting this. My objective at Gordon-Conwell, if I’m honest, has been academic success and it has infected my preaching, my prayer life and my relationships.

What is your objective at seminary? I dare you to take a minute and evaluate if your life implies that objective, or perhaps a different one.

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 , future students , student blogger

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Learning from Our Church Fathers: Part 10

October 01, 2013

Donald Fairbairn

This is Part 10 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; Part 6 here; Part 7 here; Part 8 here; Part 9 here.

One of the things about the early church that troubles evangelicals the most is that the fathers seemed to advocate what we would call “works righteousness.” Why, we ask, did no one in the early church understand justification by faith correctly? One of the ways of answering this question is to say that they did understand justification by faith, or at least some of them did, but they did not express it the same way we do. Recently I’ve been studying the way the fifth-century Egyptian church father Cyril of Alexandria’s understood justification, and his way of articulating that great truth may have a lot to teach us today.

Justification is an ever-present theme in Cyril’s biblical commentaries (regardless of what book of the Bible he is commenting on), and there are two major differences between the way he describes justification and the way we often describe it in evangelicalism today. First, Cyril treats justification not in a forensic or legal framework, but in a participatory one. Think about how often we use either courtroom imagery or the idea of “exchanges” to describe justification. We imagine a situation in which a sinner is declared guilty but someone else—Christ—pays the penalty owed for the sin, or we talk about Christ taking our sin upon himself so that his righteousness could be given to us (“imputed,” we say, using the language of Romans 4) in exchange. And of course, these images are perfectly appropriate. But what Cyril focuses on that we often miss is the participatory framework that undergirds the legal imagery. Christ is the only one who is truly righteous, the only one who is righteous in and of himself. When we are united to him, then in him we receive his own righteousness. It is not just that God credits Christ’s righteousness to us, although that is also true. Even more fundamentally, Christ’s righteousness becomes our precisely because we are in him, we are united to him through the Holy Spirit.

The second way in which Cyril’s understanding of justification differs from ours is that he makes basically no distinction between justification and sanctification. We often argue that sanctification is the outworking of justification—once a believer has been declared righteous (justification), he or she becomes progressively more and more actually righteous and holy (sanctification). By distinguishing between these, we seek to combat the perceived mistake of Medieval Roman Catholicism by which it allegedly collapsed justification into sanctification. It may seem to us that Cyril is doing the same thing we think Medieval Roman Catholicism was doing, but he isn’t. Rather, the reason he makes no distinction between justification and sanctification is that he sees both of these as taking place at the beginning of faith and as being directly tied to the righteousness of Christ. Just as Christ is the only righteous one, so he is the only one who is holy in and of himself. When we are united to him, then in him we are holy (that is, sanctified), just as we are righteous in him.

It should be clear that Cyril’s understanding of justification is similar to ours, albeit expressed rather differently. More important, it should be apparent that his way of stating this central truth places even more emphasis on Christ than the way we express the truth of justification. The crucial point is not that faith alone justifies, as if any kind of faith in anyone or anything could justify a person. Rather, it is that Christ justifies us when we trust in him. Because he alone is righteous and holy, the only way we can be credited with righteousness is to be in him, to be united to him by the Holy Spirit.

We live in an age which places all of its emphasis on us, and in religion, that emphasis translates into the idea that if a person believes in something—in anything—then that person is “saved” or “fulfilled” or whatever. Our culture believes that the act of believing is what is important, not the content of what one believes. Christianity teaches otherwise: what ultimately matters is not so much whether one believes, but in whom one trusts. Perhaps Cyril’s way of describing justification can be useful to us as we try to explain this great truth of our faith to a society that thinks everything is about us. It isn’t. It’s all about Christ, the Son of God, the only holy and righteous one. Only in him can we become righteous before his Father.

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 , current students , faculty blogger , future students , thoughtfully evangelical

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