April 09, 2013
During the Reformation, Martin Luther was warned that if he started one new church he would start a thousand.
Thankfully, Luther ignored the warning and the protestant Church was born, but sadly the rest of that prophesy also came true.
As Christians we have a nasty habit of dividing. The last figure I heard (from our very own Todd Johnson, no less) is that there are now around 58,000 Christian denominations around the world.
Of course, as Luther demonstrated, there is a time for unity and a time for disunity.
The real difficulty comes in telling the time.
In class on Monday, I heard the history of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In 1969, Harold J. Ockenga, Billy Graham and some other Neo-Evangelicals set up a school that would provide a third way between the Liberals on one side who so absorbed the culture around them as to be indistinguishable, and the Fundamentalist on the other side who so feared culture that they withdrew altogether.
They divided, and they united.
The school, as I understand it, was set up to unite Evangelicals around the truth of the Bible and to prepare them to serve faithfully in churches whatever their denomination and to engage in the culture wherever they were sent.
To that end, Gordon-Conwell doesn’t really exist to serve any particular denomination or any particular church. Instead, it exists simply serve the Church and the Gospel.
Of course I say “simply,” but refusing to be denominational or to align itself with any group more specific than “evangelical” is anything but simple. There are and always will be enormous pressures upon Gordon-Conwell to go one way or another.
And so I fear for Gordon-Conwell and I’m also thankful for it.
In one month’s time (and after a lot of long nights!), I will graduate from Gordon-Conwell.
I will be sad to leave this wonderful and special place.
I only pray that by God’s grace it will remain firmly grounded on God’s Word, serving his Church and for his Glory.
If we do that then we will divide from some and unite with others, perhaps that’s just the way it has to be.
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.
April 04, 2013
“Imagine God thinking about you. What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?”
—Dr. David Benner, Surrender to Love
How do you answer this question? Seriously though. As seminarians, most of us know of God’s love from a theological standpoint. It’s an objective truth to be believed (and rightly so). This question isn’t about that. It’s attacking the heart. Take a minute to pause and think. Now, give me your best, non-Sunday School, non-seminarian, non-intellectualized answer. What’s your gut feeling? What’s your emotional reaction to this question? What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?
As you might’ve guessed, I’m reading this book called Surrender to Love by David Benner. Now look, I realize that such a book title immediately puts my “man card” in question. Surrender to love. It sounds like a Nicholas Sparks novel. While it’s true that this book uses “gooey” words way more than I’d like, it’s also true that Dr. David Benner knows what he’s talking about—and what he’s talking about is directly aimed at people like me. You see, deep down I assume that God’s initial response to me is mostly disappointment. Sure he loves me, but man he does that in spite of his disappointment over my sin. His love barely peaks through the cracks of the blanket of my mess-ups. I am encouraged to accept God’s love and I think, “Well if I can just stop hurting God, stop disappointing him so much, I’ll be able to feel is love more. So, I better get my life together because I know this love of God thing is a big deal.”
Benner challenges his readers that God’s primary response is one of love. This perfect love is the only motivation that will result in lasting obedience. It is the only motivation that will invite surrender and devotion. It’s all too easy to be obedient by a subtle works—righteousness, wrapping it in spiritual language to continue the deception. For those of us in the latter camp, it’s very difficult to change our perception of the Lord. How do I trust perfect love? Better yet, how do I experience it? Because, really, we can intellectually know something all we want, but it won’t affect change until we experience it.
What if we were absolutely convinced of God’s love, not just theologically, not just experientially, but both? What if our identity was rooted on being the object of God’s ruthless affection? Yes, God’s justice and wrath and holiness cannot be neglected. But it is the just, holy YHWH that sends his son as the biggest gesture of love in all of human history. And none of us did a dang thing to earn it. Nothing. Period. I find it’s easier to accept that in reference to salvation and much harder to accept it in terms of living out that salvation. But it’s true. I still haven’t done anything to earn God’s love.
Benner’s suggestion? Meditate on God’s love as presented in the Scriptures. This isn’t earth-shattering news. And so I offer to you what I’ve been doing for the past several days. Read these Psalms, take special note of the imagery of God’s relation to us and then daydream about it. Let your mind turn it over and over. After all, the mind isn’t renewed in an instant. It takes dedicated time of meditation on the Word of God.
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.
April 02, 2013
We watched Thee here among us
Tender hands and thunderous eyes
Healed our every darkness
Which brought Thee to demise.
Thou spotless lamb among us
No wrong committed thus
We watched Thee hang and die there
So lost upon the cross.
The Father from above us
Was pleased to have Thee crushed
For me to breath eternal
And turn my accusers hushed.
Thou gracious Christ among us
Oh what joy when Thou rose
What glorious Death begotten
Defeat brought to Thy foes.
Hail Eternal King inside us
Breathing life into our bones
We’ll sing Thy song forever
No more our sorrow moans.
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.
April 01, 2013
Amy is contributing a series of Lenten prayers leading up to the celebration of Easter. You can read her introduction here; day 1 here; day 2 here; day 3 here; day 4 here; day 5 here; day 6 here; day 7 here; day 8 here.
It's only been one day. And we have already forgotten.
We ate our feasts and found our eggs and wore our best pastels. But now there only remains the Easter candy we bought on sale and cold ham in the refrigerator. We've hung up our dresses and tucked our Bibles away again. We'll wear them each again, we're sure. Just when is still unknown.
And that reality makes Your works all the more shattering: "You are the light of the World."
This pitiful people, this sinful bunch of forgetful hearts and unfaithful hands. You said we were likened to a city on a hill. A city - great and immoveable, full of life and motion, giving light to the surrounding hills in the deadness of night. You say we cannot be hidden.
You say "cannot" where we say "inevitable" because we see our depravity and You see Your grace.
This, too, we have forgotten.
So be our Light, God of all. Illuminate the darkened crevices of our city; give light to every inner cavity we can name, and especially those we cannot.
Enlighten us in Your holy way and let us remember the light-life of our resurrection God in us.
We pray in the name of the Easter God.
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.