Gordon-Conwell Blog

Advent Devotional Day 23: He is Coming

December 25, 2017

 

2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 23 | He is Coming
 

Revelation 22:20

 

Jesus has come. He was born in Bethlehem as Mary’s son, conceived by God’s Spirit, with Joseph as his earthly father. He grew up in Nazareth and then lived in Capernaum and proclaimed the Kingdom of God throughout Galilee. He died in Jerusalem on the afternoon of Nisan 14, April 7, ad 30, a Friday. He rose from the dead on the following Sunday. He ascended to Heaven 40 days later. Jesus will come again. He promised: I am coming.

This coming is certain: Yes, I am coming. Jesus guarantees that he will come again. The specific date of this coming is unknown. Jesus promises: Yes, I am coming soon. Jesus comes soon to local churches in judgment and blessing (Rev 2:16; 3:11). He comes soon in the judgments on the world and the believers’ confrontation with evil that John’s visions describe (Rev 22:6). And he comes soon in his second visible coming when he brings the final defeat of evil and the full redemption of his people.

Jesus will come soon, “like a thief,” (Rev 16:15), suddenly and unexpec-tedly. He will come to lead his people to springs of living water and to wipe away every tear from their eyes as death, mourning, crying and pain disappear in God’s new world (Rev 7:16; 21:4).

On Christmas Day, followers of Jesus rejoice in Jesus’ first coming in the little town of Bethlehem. On Christmas Day, and on all days, we pray marana tha (1 Cor 16:22), come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20)–on the world stage, everywhere, wherever we live.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Eckhard J. Schnabel
     Mary French Rockefeller Distinguished
     Professor of New Testament

 

 

 

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Advent Devotional Day 22: Low People, High Birth

December 24, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 22 | Low People, High Birth
 

Luke 2:1-20

 

Familiarity breeds contempt. That’s what the popular saying promotes: When we’re familiar with something, we may miss what it says or lose appreciation of it. Have you been there?

A few years ago my wife, Rhonda, and I went on an anniversary cruise in the Caribbean in December. Christmas music played monotonously over the ship’s speakers. At times we’d look at each other and sarcastically hum, “Once in Royal David’s City.” We do that with repetitious, canned Christmas music. Or worse, we may roll our eyes at hearing once again, at this time of year, the reading of the account of Jesus’ birth.

What do we do when we turn to Luke 2:1-20 to read it? Can we read it again for the very first time and hear the incredible message?

God chooses the lowly. This familiar text reminds us that God chose a lowly town, Bethlehem, in which the Savior would be born. God chose a lowly place—a stable—in which Christ was born. God chose lowly people, Joseph and Mary, to be Christ’s earthly parents. God chose lowly shepherds to be the first to communicate Christ’s birth.

Why does God do this? Why does God choose the lowly?

God chooses the lowly to show his holiness. Lowly Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds talked with the holy angels. The contrast between earth and heaven highlights the fact that God is different from us—God is holy, we are not. The earth is contrasted with heaven in this passage. Lowly people are contrasted by holy beings. The contrast shows us the difference between humanity and God. To be holy is to be different, other, transcendent, perfect—He is God and we need him. We aren’t transcendent or perfect, we’re in need of a God. We are very different from God, and we need him.

What, then, is the reason that God chooses the lowly to show his holiness?

God chooses the lowly to show in his holiness that Jesus Christ is Savior to all kinds of people. The angels announced Christ’s birth and the shepherds told others. The lowly shepherds were chosen by God to show in his holiness that Jesus Christ is Savior to all kinds of people. The shepherds were told that Jesus is Savior, Christ and Lord.

Savior was a familiar title to both Jews and Gentiles. Christ was the title of the Messiah. Lord had divine connotations associated with it. Jesus is Savior to all kinds of people. The angel promised (v 10) that the news would bring joy for “all the people.” Then the chorus of angels promises that this salvation is given “to men on whom his favor rests.” This salvation is for all kinds of people. The high-born and the low-born—for all on whom God’s favor rests, those whom God chooses.

We’re those “all kinds of people,” people, aren’t we? We come from different backgrounds. We come from various kinds of families. We may come from wealth or may have had just enough, or even from homes with barely enough. But lump us all together and we’re simple people in need of a Savior. We are lowly. But God is holy.

And what did he do? In his holiness he gave Jesus Christ as Savior to us—all kinds of people.

God chooses the lowly to show in his holiness that Jesus Christ is Savior to all kinds of people.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Scott M. Gibson
     Director of the Center for Preaching;
     Haddon W. Robinson Professor of Preaching and Ministry

 

 

 

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Advent Devotional Day 21: Unlikely Witnesses

December 23, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 21 | Unlikely Witnesses
 

Luke 2:8-14

 

When a great world leader makes a visit, he or she is greeted with much fanfare by other world leaders. Red-carpet welcomes and lavish state dinners announce the important event. At this season we celebrate a birth, a visit to our world from someone whom the Christian faith declares to be far more important than any world leader—our Lord himself, Jesus. But his birth was not marked by any direct announcement to the world leaders of his day (the Roman Emperor or his regent in Israel, Herod), or to the movers and shakers of his society (the Jewish religious leaders). Instead, Luke 2:8-14 indicates that an announcement was made to some shepherds who were tending their flocks at night. This was a most unlikely announcement, and yet a most appropriate one as well.
         
Because shepherds were always walking in sheep waste and touching dead animals, they were always ceremonially unclean according to Jewish law. So they were never allowed to worship in the Temple, and thus occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder of the day. They were the untouchables of their society, and so the angel’s action in Luke 2 is shocking. Why make such a stunning announcement to such an unlikely audience?

But this is not all. Those to whom the angel appeared in Luke 2 do not seem to have been ordinary shepherds. We have evidence that there was a designated group of shepherds whose task was to raise the lambs that were to be sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem. These “temple shepherds” and the lambs they cared for resided in fields outside of Bethlehem. Recognizing this enables us to see the appropriateness of choosing these shepherds as the first ones to whom the announcement of Jesus’ birth was made.

These people who raised the lambs for Temple worship but were never allowed to take part in that worship, who were outcasts even though they were indispensable to Jewish religious life, were the ones the Lord chose as the first non-family members to hear about, and to behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.




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     Dr. Donald Fairbairn
     Academic Dean, Charlotte Campus;
     Robert E. Cooley Professor of Early Christianity

 

 

 

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Advent Devotional Day 20: God's Dream Come True

December 22, 2017

 

2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 20 | God's Dream Come True
 

Luke 1; John 1:14; John 3:16; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 10:5

 

We often think of Advent, the babe born in the manger from our perspective, how it affects and radically changes our lives. And rightly so! The long prophesied and awaited Savior has come to the world, to redeem his people, to save us from our sins (Luke 1). Advent answers all our problems. Yet Advent answers all of God’s problems, too. 

Ever since Eden, humankind has erected a barrier hindering and delaying God’s dream. God’s dream was to make humankind his habitation, to plant his roots permanently with us. Why? If he resides, he can have personal, intimate contact and reveal his affection for and commitment to us. It is all about relationship!

Driven by pure passion for the relationship, he relentlessly pursues a course of action to deal with the barrier. Without HIS initiative the dream would remain a dream since it could not be achieved by human effort. Thus God took the necessary step to realize and communicate his dream. When God wanted to communicate in the most effective way, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14). God comes from heaven to earth to live with the profanity of humanity. This shows how hopelessly devoted he is to the fulfillment of his dream. “God with man was pleased to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.” It is all about relationship!

Through Jesus, God longs that we see and know that HIS heart pines for relationship, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only son,” (John 3:16). Through Jesus, God’s affection, commitment and grace appeared (Titus 2:11). Moreover, God calls on Jesus, the faithful and obedient carpenter from Galilee, to repair the breach in the relationship (Heb 10:5).  He asks Jesus to do the work and pay the bill, a request that would eventually cost him his life. As a result of Jesus’ work on the cross, he removes the relational barrier. “God and sinner reconciled.” God’s dream has come true. It is all about relationship!

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Donna Petter
    
Director of the Hebrew Language Program;
     Associate Professor of Old Testament

 

 

 

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Advent Devotional Day 19: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

December 21, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 19 | Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
 

Psalm 89

 

Following the most despairing of all the psalms, Psalm 89 turns to exalted praise for the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. He is the Holy One of Israel whose unfailing love and faithfulness are the security and guarantee of his covenantal promises to his servant David and to his chosen people Israel.

The psalm then enumerates God’s irrevocable promises to love, favor, strengthen, protect and establish David’s throne forever in righteousness, justice, kindness and truth. In the fulfillment of these promises the ancients anticipated the coming of the Messiah—God’s anointed One, the firstborn, the eternal King of Kings.

However, despite the depth and strength of his conviction about God’s trustworthiness, the psalmist still anguishes over the absence and silence of God amid the devastating crisis of the exile. This sense of rejection, abandonment, and judgment by God leads to an angry indictment against God for his betrayal of David. The psalmist concludes with three accusatory questions: How long, O Lord? Who can save? Where is your steadfast love and faithfulness?

We know now that all three questions were answered in Jesus Christ: 
“…from the exile to the Christ fourteen generations,” (Matt 1:17); 
“…call his name Jesus, for he will save his people,” (Matt 1:22); 
“…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

Though God’s promises were never in doubt, the psalmist could not see that at the time. Even so, in faith he managed one final benediction: Blessed be the Lord forever.

Amid our own crises in this Advent season—for many, an unprecedented season of suffering and grief from injustice, violence, financial hardship, disease, political turmoil, international conflict and even natural disasters—let us, like the psalmist, rest in God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. Though we likewise do not yet see the fulfillment of all his promises, we can wait patiently—and confidently! For his second coming is as certain as his first.

 


 

 

    

     Dr. Edward M. Keazirian
     Director of the Greek Language Program at Hamilton;
     Assistant Professor of New Testament

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Advent Devotional Day 18: The Hope of Advent

December 20, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 18 | The Hope of Advent
 

Genesis 3:15

 

“…He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The earliest Protestants referred to Genesis 3:15 as the “first” Gospel. This verse tells us God’s decree after Adam and Eve have sinned, having believed the lies of Satan. The Fall plunged humanity into sin, and we were now covenant breakers. 
    
Most Christians are aware of the curses God gives to Adam and Eve. The pain of labor and work is just the beginning of the destruction sin brought into God’s world. The rest of Genesis, in fact, shows us the heavy toll of sin—as we witness murder, envy, greed and all manner of evils once humans are enslaved to sin. 

But what early Protestants noticed is that here in Genesis 3, God already stated his purposes to restore humanity. The verdict comes to Satan, that the seed of humanity will eventually crush his head—though he will strike his heel. Strong words, but a wonderful summary of the coming of Christ. As Paul tells us in Romans, sinful humans are incapable of saving themselves. We break God’s law, not by accident, but by choice. We cannot by our own strength keep the commandments of the covenant. The hope of Adam’s seed was not in ourselves, but in the One who could finally destroy the wages of sin. 

The hope of this Advent season is the hope of all sinners—that the One who came to crush Satan and all his works is Jesus Christ.



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     Dr. Ryan Reeves
     Assistant Dean of the Jacksonville Campus;
     Associate Professor of Historical Theology

 

 

 

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Advent Devotional Day 17: Light of the World

December 19, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 17 | Light of the World
 

John 8:12

 

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’”

The “I AMs” spoken by Jesus are bold statements of faith, purpose and truth. Each declaration reveals an aspect of his role on the earth. In John 8:12, we find Jesus facing a group of scribes and Pharisees who were trying to test his wisdom. He had just settled a dark situation concerning a woman caught in adultery, leaving them unable to carry out their agenda according to the law. 

This claim of being the light of the world was made during the time of the year when the Jews celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. The lights used at night often consisted of large lamps that illuminated much of Jerusalem. The lighting of the city served as a memorial of the pillar of fire God used to lead the children of Israel in the wilderness. Many attending the feasts would have understood the reference behind the scope of Jesus’ claim (John 12:46). 

We have various forms of natural and artificial light that provide a certain amount of illumination when needed. Day or night our options consist of the sun, light fixtures, lamps and candles. All of these instruments supply limited lighting based on time and space. Jesus’ declaration to be the light of the world is unlimited and eternal. As long as he is in the world, he is the light of the world providing light in darkness (John 9:5). 

When Jesus completed his assignment on earth, he made a new declaration that we are now the light of the world (Matt 5:14). This light abiding in us brings clarity to those in dark places and goes beyond the holiday season. Let us be the lights of the world so others may come out of darkness and receive the gift of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the light of life.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Virginia Ward
     Assistant Dean of Gordon-Conwell’s Boston Campus;
     Assistant Professor of Youth and Leadership Development.

 

 

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Advent Devotional Day 16: Heaven Come Down

December 18, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 16 | Heaven Come Down
 

John 3:13

 

Nicodemus, the teacher of the law, is puzzled by Jesus’ teaching about being “born again.” He cannot understand how a grown-up can reenter his mother’s womb. He is fixated on “earthly things” instead of heavenly things, and he continues to think in terms of human abilities. To this Jesus replies that he must be born of water and Spirit. But the Spirit is not something one controls. Like the wind, it is observable, but unexplainable. 

Heaven is not the sort of place we go to on our own power. We cannot earn God’s favor. Christ ascends to heaven not simply as a human being who had what it takes, as someone we might also imitate. He can ascend because he has first descended. Christ is not just an example of the strength and achievement of a perfect human being—not even a human being empowered by God, which is as much as Nicodemus can imagine. In him we have God himself coming down to take us with him, to him. Christ is not simply a perfect human being, someone who can inspire us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. He is God himself, taking the form of a servant, descending into the depths of our brokenness, and then ascending on high, leading a host of captives in his train (Ps 68:18; Eph 4:8).

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Adonis Vidu
     Associate Professor of Theology

 

 

 

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Advent Devotional Day 15: The Universal Messiah

December 17, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 15 | The Universal Messiah
 

Luke 2:25-32

 

At the time of the birth of Jesus, many Jews were looking for solace. The Roman Empire was quite powerful and imposed an oppressive burden on the Jewish community. Life in the first century was hard for other reasons—lack of clean water, disease, high maternal mortality, and a host of other physical challenges. In this bleak context, we encounter a righteous person anticipating some relief. 

Moved by the Spirit, Simeon was in the right place at the right time. He was a watcher, but he was also a seer. In Rembrandt’s painting Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple, the seer has his eyes closed. He was waiting, because the Holy Spirit had revealed to him through divine revelation that “he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah,” (v 25-26). As he lifted the Christ child, Simeon understood that what he was witnessing was the universal embrace of a Jewish messiah. Salvation would come not only for the Jews but for the Gentiles as well. In Judaism, this idea later became known as tikkun olam—God repairing the whole world through his people. This concept is now a regular part of the Jewish prayer service. But for Simeon, his encounter with Jesus was powerful enough to mark his passing from this life into the next.

One thing that would be easy to miss from this passage is how we are encouraged to follow Simeon. There is some irony in the fact that Simeon, with his eyes closed, could see farther than we do today with global cable news and the internet. How are we watching today for God’s purposes for the nations? Are we in the right place at the right time by the leading of the Spirit? Commenting on Simeon, Church Father Origen urged fellow believers, “If you wish to hold Jesus, and to embrace him with your hands, and to be made worthy of leaving prison, you too must struggle with every effort to possess the guiding Spirit.” When we encounter people today from other countries, are we quick to dismiss them, or do we embrace them as Simeon did? Let us pray that as followers of the universal Messiah we can discern God’s plan for all nations today.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Todd M. Johnson
     Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity;

     Associate Professor of Global Christianity

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Advent Devotional Day 14: Of Magi and Kings

December 16, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 14 | Of Magi and Kings
 

Numbers 23:7, 21; 24:17

 

From Aram Balak has brought me,

the king of Moab from the eastern mountains...

The LORD their God is with them,

and the shout of a king is among them...

I see him, but not now;

I behold him, but not near.

a star shall come out of Jacob,

and a scepter shall rise out of Israel...


It was some while after the Exodus. Balaam, a magos from the east, was summoned into the courts of Balak in Transjordan to curse Israel. God had Balaam bless Israel instead, and had him see the vision of a star come out of Jacob, a scepter–a king–rise out of Israel!
 
A thousand years and more later, the star of the vision surfaced in the night sky and led three magi from the East to step into the courts of Herod asking where the holder of the scepter of Israel was born. And Herod, being of Transjordanian origin, had all the reason to take such news a threat to his claim to the throne in the Jewish state, and ordered the massacre of the newborns.
 
Balaam and magi, Balak and Herod—what an unlikely band of heralds. As if the prophecies of Isaiah or Micah were not sufficient, or the witness of David in the Psalms not ample, God has the pagan magi join in bearing witness to the coming of Jesus, and the stage is set when the heinous schemes of the worldly kings are put into action.
 
God’s light shone when the darkness deemed impenetrable. His words carried through even when ears did not lend to hearing. Jesus is come to his people, “and the shout of a king is among them.”

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Seong Hyun Park
     Dean of the Boston Campus;
     Assistant Professor of Old Testament

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Advent Devotional Day 13: Our Genealogy in Christ

December 15, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 13 | Our Genealogy in Christ
 

Luke 3:21-37

 

When reading through the Bible, many likely skip over the sections in our passage today: the genealogy of Jesus. Generations upon generations—so many unusual, even odd names. Why are all these names even included? Remarkably, these detailed lists of ancestors were recorded by virtually every family in Israel. They functioned as legal documents, providing evidence of a person’s authentic status as a true Jew, all the more important after the exile when mixed marriages created ambiguity of lineage. However, far more significant was the sense that these documents validated their family’s connection to the past, thus providing understanding of one’s present identity.

How different our perception of our historical significance is today.  Contemporary studies suggest families are being replaced by communities of friends, with those communities being neither stable nor long-lasting. Not so with the Scriptures, where one’s lineage is critical in defining a great deal of one’s identity. This reality has not ceased in our time, although it may be consistently denied. 

Why is this genealogy of Jesus so important in Luke’s gospel? It is the museum of human history for Luke. It reveals (confirms) Jesus was the son of Adam and also the Son of God. It reminds us that Jesus really is fully human and fully divine. It is also our genealogy if we are “in Christ.” Though we are fully human, and not divine, nonetheless this is our story and our lineage by faith. We have been ingrafted into the very family of God when the Spirit of God works in our hearts to embrace Jesus. Our adoption is good news indeed.  

Years ago, I remember flying into Johannesburg, South Africa. Sitting beside me was an African American friend of mine, tears running down his face as he visited the continent of Africa for the first time. He was overwhelmed by the sense of loss—most acutely the loss of knowing where he had come from and the tragic break in his family line due to the history of the slave trade. However, they were also tears of joy as he sensed a “coming home” to a place where his genealogy might have been rooted. May you have that sense of “coming home” this Advent season as you discover your true lineage in Christ.




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     Dr. Richard Lints
     Vice President for Academic Affairs;
    
Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Theology

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Advent Devotional Day 12: When Mary Encountered the Angel

December 14, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 12 | When Mary Encountered the Angel
 

Luke 1:26-38

 

According to Luke 1:26-28, when the angel Gabriel came to announce to Mary that she was going to give birth to Jesus, she was greatly troubled. Unprepared for such an encounter with God’s messenger, she was obviously overwhelmed by something as physically impossible and as socially scandalous as this. Then she began to ask one question after another.

This is an all too human response. Encountering God and hearing his calling, we are sometimes confused and even shocked, and want to do exactly what Mary did: bring our questions to God. But we sometimes hesitate to ask God a question, because that sounds challenging and like an act of disobedience. You know what? It is all right to ask God questions. As a loving heavenly father, God is patient with us, and always walks with us in our struggle. When Mary asked questions, the angel explained all she needed to know. 

But Mary asked her questions in great faith and humility. And she truly believed what the angel said: “For with God nothing will be impossible,” (Luke 1:37). And her answer is equally memorable: “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word,” (Luke 1:38). Mary might not get all the answers for her questions, and she might still wonder what would exactly happen. But she knows who God is, and she is very clear about her own identity and her relationship with God. The only ultimate goal of a handmaid’s life is to serve her master. Once she puts her life under the control of her master, everything will be all right eventually. And the result is Mary’s unshakable trust in God’s promise and total surrender of herself to God.

In our Christian life, we often find ourselves in Mary’s position. In the season of Advent, may Mary’s encounter with the angel set an example for us. May we also answer to God’s call on our life in the same fashion.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Xiyi (Kevin) Yao
     Chair, Mission Oversight Team;

     Associate Professor of World Christianity and Asian Studies

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Advent Devotional Day 11: Time to Stop Talking

December 13, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 11 | Time to Stop Talking
 

Job 38

 

The book of Job is full of speech. Most of it, of course, consists in the seemingly endless dialogues between Job and his friends in chapters 3-37. Job, understandably, laments his lot in life. His friends first insinuate, then openly state, that he must have sinned to deserve such a fate. Job replies that he hasn’t sinned, certainly not in such a way as to deserve this, and that they are proving pretty poor comforters with their continued accusations. The reader might imagine relief is finally in sight in 31:40, “The words of Job are ended.” But young Elihu feels he has to speak, too, and proceeds to talk with abandon for another six chapters. At last, as we hit the end of chapter 37, the speakers run out of words.

It is at that point that God speaks to Job. When Job’s words are spent, God declares his sovereign and ineffable reign over the world—a world he has created, and which he cares for in ways Job could never imagine. But even as God shrinks Job down to size, he secretly ennobles Job by the mere fact that he speaks with him. He cares for the stars and the rock badgers and the ostriches…and he cares for Job as well.

God’s Word came to Job, and God’s Word has come to the world at large in the person of Jesus. Things have not changed much since Job’s time, even if the mode of communication has. Through our texts and our emails and our phone calls, we talk and we talk and we talk; we rest, and then we talk some more. 

May God grant us the grace to someday speak our way to silence, so we can at last hear his Word.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Sean McDonough
     Professor of New Testament

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Advent Devotional Day 10: What's in a Name?

December 12, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 10 | What's in a Name?
 

Matthew 1:18-25

 

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins,” (v 18).

When Juliet was informed that her beloved Romeo came from the despised Montague clan, she downplayed the significance of names, replying, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But Juliet isn’t the angel of the Lord! The angel said to Joseph in a dream, “You shall call his name Jesus,” (v 21), “they shall call his name Immanuel” (v 23). So Joseph “called his name Jesus” (v 25). 

Why make such a big deal out of a name? Because names are summaries of character and prophecies of destiny, and the name Jesus is the perfect appellation for the person and work of Christ. Derived from the Hebrew name “Yehoshua” (Joshua), his name means “God is salvation.” Matthew emphasizes this because Jesus will save his people from their sins. At this early stage in the story of Christ—the first chapter of Matthew—we don’t yet know how Jesus will do this, but by the end of the story it becomes clear. At the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that his blood “is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins,” (Matt 26:28). 

Like a sacrificial lamb in the Old Testament, he offered his own body as a substitution for us, thanks be to God. 

Has he saved you? Thank him.

Has he saved your neighbors and family? Tell them about Jesus. 

Are you not yet saved? Believe in him.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Jeffrey Arthurs
     Professor of Preaching and Communication

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Advent Devotional Day 9: The King of Kings has Come

December 11, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 9 | The King of Kings Has Come
 

Matthew 1:1

 

The New Testament opens with the profound declaration that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of David, son of Abraham. His arrival signals that the time of waiting is now over. Israel’s Messiah has come. 

Matthew rehearses the story of Israel through a series of 14 generations, swiftly moving from Abraham to David, from David to the deportation, and from the deportation to the birth of the Messiah. Important leaders and kings are recalled, yet Matthew does not linger on them. The brevity of their lives serves as a reminder that they are not the goal of this story, and they are surely not the focus of this gospel. On the contrary, the plethora of kings in the Old Testament builds to a crescendo, leading to the inescapable conclusion that no king could be found among David’s descendants who was worthy to reign over God’s everlasting Kingdom. And so Israel must wait. 

By drawing us back to reflect upon Israel’s story, Matthew reminds us in his opening chapter that the long expected righteous Davidic King has now arrived. No king had been able to bring salvation to Israel, for the solution to Israel’s story—and to the human story—was not political but spiritual. It was not external but internal. People needed to be saved from their sins, as Matthew the “tax collector” discovered when Jesus called him, saying, “Follow me!” The King has now arrived, and he bids us, “Come follow me.” 

Let us lift our eyes this day to behold the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior. He is the goal of Israel’s story, and he is the answer to the human story. His name is Jesus, the Messiah. He is the one who reigns on high. He is the one who proclaims that the Kingdom of God is at hand. He is “Jesus, the Messiah, Son of David, son of Abraham.” Come, let us bow down and worship. The long-expected King has arrived.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Carol Kaminski
     Professor of Old Testament

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Advent Devotional Day 8: Christ, Our Warrior?!

December 10, 2017

2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 8 | Christ, Our Warrior?!
 

Zephaniah 3:14-20

 

We don’t normally associate Christmas with soldiers.

About the only soldier I associate with Christmas has been G.I. Joe. He was usually at the top of my gift list growing up. I’ll never forget when I got the Astronaut G.I. Joe, complete with a Mercury space capsule!

Somehow soldiers, warfare and fighting seem totally contrary to the spirit of Christmas. The Christmas motto is “peace on earth,” not “death to our enemies.” Christ came as “Prince of Peace,” not as “Jesus the Barbarian.” It’s all about a cute, cuddly baby in a manger, not some fearsome, ferocious conqueror on a stallion.

At least that’s what we’ve wrapped up Christmas to look like, all precious and prettified, but not totally true to the prophets who foretold what the coming of Christ at Christmas is truly all about. Certainly Zephaniah talks about some of the themes that we usually associate with Christmas: rejoicing and singing because “the LORD, the king of Israel, is with you” (v 15). God fully entered our human experience in the birth of Jesus, Immanuel –“God with us.”

This promise is so profound that in verse 17 the prophet restates it: “The LORD your God is with you.” But then Zephaniah slips in a phrase that seems very un-Christmassy: “a warrior who gives victory.”  The Hebrew word translated “warrior” is gibor, which has the idea of strength, greatness, prevailing and might, and is often used of the great warrior-kings of Israel, especially David.

The implication is clear, if somewhat uncomfortable. The birth of Jesus is a declaration of war, God’s invasion of a planet in rebellion. The first Christmas was D-Day, with Christ the first soldier to hit the beach. If Jesus had not come as a warrior, he could never claim the title Prince of Peace. If Christ is no soldier, he is no savior.

Lord, as we remember your birth and look ahead to your return, we acknowledge that you come as an all-conquering warrior. May our response be unconditional surrender of all that we have and are to you, that your kingdom may come and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.




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     Dr. David Currie
     Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program & the Ockenga Institute;

     Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology

 

 

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Advent Devotional Day 7: The King Has Come

December 09, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 7 | The King Has Come
 

Zechariah 9:9-13

 

Maybe we can relate with this oft-told story: A mother prepared tirelessly for Christmas—roasting, scrubbing, shopping and wrapping presents. Her young daughter, electrified by the extravagances around her, was misbehaving. So wrapped up in Christmas festivities, this mother had reached her wit’s end. The mother lost her temper and sent the daughter to her room.

After a while, the mother felt remorse over her harshness. Peeking into her daughter’s room, she heard her daughter say this prayer: “And forgive us our Christmases, as we forgive those who Christmas against us.” Sometimes we get Christmas wrong! In our passage today, the Jews got Christmas wrong, too, but in a different way.

Zechariah, the Old Testament prophet, wrote his book roughly 500 years before the coming of Jesus. In Zechariah 9, we read about a prophecy concerning the King of the world. Zechariah tells God’s people in verse nine to “rejoice greatly” because “your king comes to you.” This should have been great news. The Jewish people had been waiting for a king and a deliverer.

Have you ever received a disappointing Christmas gift? The “problem” with Zechariah’s prophecy for the Jews was that they expected a different type of king. What did Zechariah prophesy? This king would be righteous and humble (v 9), peaceful (v 10), and bringing salvation (v 10). These very attributes of Jesus Christ were antithetical to the Jewish expectations of kingship.

To prepare the way for peace, God will take away all instruments of war: the chariot, war-horses, the battle bow (v 10) (a.k.a. tanks, rifles and nuclear weapons in modern terms). The Savior King will establish a kingdom of peace. Can we imagine a peaceful world—even peace in the Middle East and North Korea? God promises that day will come. King Jesus has come and he brings salvation and peace.

 


 

 

      Dr. Matthew D. Kim
      Associate Professor of Preaching and Ministry

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Advent Devotional Day 6: Love and Truth Meet Together

December 08, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 6 | Love and Truth Meet Together
 

Psalm 85:10-13


Commentators believe that Psalm 85 describes the return of the people of Israel from captivity in Babylon. While the people found a land that had been destroyed, verses 10-13 capture their confession of faith that God’s salvation is near. These verses are fulfilled in Jesus. They remind us that Jesus is much more than a baby in a manger.  

In verse 10, the psalmist presents two dichotomies: love and truth and righteousness and peace. As humans, we struggle to remain steadfastly committed to a relationship when truth and righteousness are violated. We firmly and righteously condemn. But God remains steadfastly and lovingly committed to us without violating his essential attributes of truth and righteousness. In Jesus, these dichotomies are resolved. While some people look at a manger scene and see a baby, Christians see the unexpected resolution of what continues to plague us: the truth of our sin, brokenness and alienation from God and others, and God’s surprising unwavering love (hesed) for us. Through Jesus’ coming and death on the cross, God remains true to his righteousness while ushering in peace (shalom) and bridging the colossal gulf between us. Jesus is much more than a baby in a manger. 

The result of this resolution of dichotomies is that truth and righteousness will permeate the whole earth, from ground to sky (v 11) because God is surrounded by the force field of righteousness (v 13). He will give us what is good and our land will yield its harvest (v 12). “Creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God,” (Rom 8:21). Jesus mediates peace between heaven and earth. At Advent, we proclaim that Jesus is so much more than a baby in a manger.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Karen Mason
     Associate Professor of Counseling and Psychology

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Advent Devotional Day 5: Christ, the Servant King

December 07, 2017


2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 5 | Christ, the Servant King

Ezekiel 34:20-24

 

We sometimes hear that religion and politics must be kept separate. It is a principle that undergirds much public discourse in the United States. It is a conviction also of many within the American church, who suppose that scriptural teaching should not be brought to bear upon questions of politics. This is not a biblical conviction, however, as many of the inspired authors of Scripture invoked the truths of God to criticize or condemn contemporary political policies and practices. Many Messianic passages in the Old Testament depict the coming of the Son of David as a decidedly political event with consequences not only for our souls, but also for our politics and the shape of human society.  

One such passage is Ezekiel 34:20-24.  At the beginning of the chapter, the Lord excoriates the political leadership of Israel:

 

Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them (v 2-4).


Later we read a word of hope that God would one day reverse the circumstances that reigned in Israel at that time: “I will rescue my flock…And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them” (v 23). The Messiah will be the servant of others!

Abusive and self-serving governance has characterized many political leaders and institutions down to our own day. No small part of the hope of Christmas is that through the Messiah, God will firmly establish his own rule over the world, a rule that ministers to the weak and provides for every need in human society (Rev 22:1-5).




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      Dr. Gerry Wheaton
      Assistant Professor of New Testament

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Advent Devotional Day 4: The Lessons of St. Nicholas

December 06, 2017

 

2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 4 | The Lessons of St. Nicholas

 

“…the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” (Clement Clarke Moore c.a. 1822)

We’ve no doubt all heard the famous poem attributed to the late Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, former Professor of Greek and Oriental Literature at New York’s General Theological Seminary, entitled “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Supposedly written as a holiday bedtime story for his own children (he had nine of them), the simple little ditty forever evokes our popular images of Santa Claus, the “jolly old elf,” complete with his white beard, rosy cheeks, plump belly and “bundle of toys.”

Based on convoluted versions of Norse and British folklore, the latter producing “Father Christmas,” and the ancient Dutch story of “Sinterklass” (Saint Nicholas), the contemporary version of Santa Claus is sadly quite wide of the mark. Of course, if you had grown up in an Eastern European household as a child, you would know that today, December 6, is actually the day when children receive gifts in honor of the 4th Century Bishop of Myra, the actual Saint Nicholas, not Christmas Day.

The Bishop, it is said, was born into a wealthy aristocratic family, and upon receipt of his inheritance considered quite literally the words of Jesus: “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me,” (Matt 19:21). Legend has it that in response to God’s grace, he did just that, and gave his wealth not only to the poor, but uniquely to poor children, especially young girls who would have otherwise experienced lives of destitution and exploitation. He was indeed a saint if ever there was one.1

So how did we go from celebrating the benevolence of St. Nicholas on his traditional feast day (December 6) to Christmas Day? The answer, it would seem, rests with none other than Martin Luther, the progenitor of the Reformation itself, the 500th anniversary of which we celebrated earlier this year. As legend has it, Luther found the veneration of saints to be unhelpful and a distraction to the proper worship of Christ alone. So he sought to redirect the popular tradition of exchanging gifts on the feast of St. Nicholas to the feast of the “Christkind” (the Christ child), a.k.a. Christmas.

In some respects, it wasn’t a bad idea. Surely we should focus our attention on the work of Christ and not the work of others. But in two very important ways, it turns out to have been folly. First, it backfired quite spectacularly. Instead of turning our attention to the great gift-giver himself, Jesus Christ, gift-giving in the form of crass consumerism has appropriated one of our highest holidays. Luther would be nothing less than scandalized to see what has become of Christmas. Second, we lost the truly inspirational story of the real St. Nicholas, whose retelling may inspire us to follow his example and use our material goods to bless the lives of others, in devotion and in response to the grace of the “Christkind.”


1http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/


 

 

     Dr. Ken Barnes
     Director of the Mockler Center;
     Mockler-Phillips Associate Professor of
     Workplace Theology and Business Ethics

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Advent Devotional Day 3: The Eternal Bridge: From Creation to Incarnation

December 05, 2017

 

2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 3 | The Eternal Bridge: From Creation to Incarnation
 

John 1:1-18

 

Much of my time in ministry has been spent in post-communist Eastern Europe. One of the most impactful parts of that ministry is a regular column entitled Time and Eternity, published in a widely read secular periodical. 

Here in the distinctly theological introduction of the Gospel of John we see how the omnipotent God built a bridge between Eternity and Time. This prologue might have been an early Christian hymn glorifying Christ, the Eternal Word (Logos), who came to the world for our salvation.
 
Students sometimes ask why there is no Christmas story in the Gospel of John—no genealogy, no Bethlehem, no Joseph and Mary, no singing angels, no flight to Egypt. John is definitely different from the first three Gospels. 

John is not as much interested in the earthly background of Jesus and the circumstances of his birth, but more in his status before he became man. Christ, the creative Logos (Word), who eternally dwelt with God and was divine, was also the agent of creation of the universe (v 1-3).

Christ, the Word, was also the source of life and a light offered to the world (v 4-5). Notice in the following analytical chart the repeated or equivalent terms placed one below another, bringing out the relationships, progression and poetic beauty of the verses.

(v 4-5) 
In Him was LIFE
and the LIFE was the LIGHT of men
and the LIGHT shines in the DARKNESS
and the DARKNESS…

(v 10) 
HE was in the WORLD
And the WORLD was made
through HIM and the WORLD
knew HIM not.

The eternal divine Word (Logos) became human flesh (carne) and dwelt among us (v 14). This is the climax of John’s equivalent of the Christmas story.

 



 

     Dr. Peter Kuzmič
     Paul E. and Eva B. Toms Distinguished Professor of

     World Missions and European Studies

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Advent Devotional Day 2: Glorious Resurrection Hope

December 04, 2017

  

2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional
 
Day 2 | Glorious Resurrection Hope
 

1 Corinthians 15:1-20

 

We enter the Advent season—a time of joy, a time of waiting, a time of reflection. With all of God’s people, we remember the coming of Jesus Christ to earth. And we anticipate his return at the end of this age, and all that we have been promised by our risen Lord.

During the Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the very Word of God who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), we are reminded that Jesus comes to earth not only to demonstrate to human beings what God is like, but to die for our sins. Through Jesus Christ, God takes on human form. Through his death, our sins can be forgiven. And in his resurrection, we see the first-fruits of what is promised to all of God’s people—that nothing, not even death, can separate us from fellowship with our risen Lord and Savior.

We live in a hopeless, angry world that is in many ways like the world into which Jesus was born. We may know more and be better off materially, but humanity continues to repeat its foolish ways no matter how smart we seem. True wisdom is found in welcoming Jesus, and living “in him.” When we live in union with Christ we come to understand that we live as citizens of a future Kingdom. And we wait with confident hope that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

 


 

 

 

   Dr. Robert J. Mayer
    Senior Librarian and Assistant Professor of
    Theological Bibliography

 

 

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Advent Devotional Day 1: Comfort in Turbulent Times

December 03, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 1 | Comfort in Turbulent Times

Isaiah 40:1-11
 

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (v 1).


The people of Israel were facing turbulent times. Not only was their society wreaked by injustices and immorality, but their very existence as a nation was threatened by exile. Many felt God was nowhere to be found or simply didn’t care for their condition.

Into this context Isaiah speaks the powerful words of comfort that many of us connect with through Handel’s “Messiah.”  Handel’s music beautifully captures the spirit of consolation in which Jerusalem is reminded, “That her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (v 2).

All of the sin, injustices and disregard of God have been paid for by a gracious God.

Down through the ages Christians have understood a double reference in this magnificent chapter. Not only is it about comfort and forgiveness for Israel, but a comfort and forgiveness for all the world through one who would come to fulfill the promises revealed throughout the Old Testament. Good news is pronounced to Zion and to us, for “here is your God” (v 9), one in whom “the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together” (v 5).

This one who would come and has come (the Messiah) is described as the Sovereign Lord who comes with power and rules with a mighty arm (v 10). But along with his great power over the universe, “He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (v 11). The all-powerful Redeemer is one who is simultaneously far beyond us and right here with us, bringing comfort and hope in the most turbulent, challenging times.

As recipients of that comfort, hope and forgiveness, we too can proclaim to a chaotic stress-filled world, your “hard service has been completed; your sin has been paid for.” In this Advent period, may we “Lift up [our] voice with a shout… do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah [and the whole world], ‘Here is your God!’” (v 9).

 


 

 

 

      Dr. Dennis P. Hollinger
      President & Colman M. Mockler
      Professor of Christian Ethics

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Racial Reconciliation Series: Can We All Get Along?

December 01, 2017

As part of the release of fall 2017 edition of Contact Magazine, the Office Hours Faculty Blog is proud to present the concluding article of a 6-week series on racial reconciliation featuring articles written by experts, scholars and ministry leaders from Gordon-Conwell. The weekly release each Friday has included articles A Conversation with Dr. Emmett G. Price III, Beyond Colorblind, Ministering to Families in the Urban ContextHow Do We Learn to Love Our NeighborRacial Reconciliation: My Personal Experience and Can We All Get Along.

"Can We All Get Along?"

Dr. Jacqueline T. Dyer

I remember that question, “Can we all get along?” asked by Rodney King, the African American man who was savagely beaten by four police officers after a car chase. The officers were eventually charged for their use of force. Despite video evidence, three of the four white policemen were acquitted. The subsequent anger and violence that erupted lasted for days. At some point during the course of the Los Angeles riots, Rodney King pleaded for peace.

His question is a complicated one to ask, especially in connection to racial reconciliation in the United States. The hurt borne of a history of brutal slavery and ongoing inequities remains a festering wound under an uneven surface. When the hurt place is touched—or squeezed, as happened after that fateful verdict in 1992—a lot of mess comes oozing out. The mess does not reveal any new issues. It only reveals what is often veiled by efforts to minimize or hide some grim realities.

Race issues are not easily addressed on a good day in the United States. They are frequently convoluted by the fact that we are marred by sin and all that sin relentlessly demands. For instance, sin demands that we maintain prideful immobility if faced with fixing a wrong we do not feel we created. We experience fatigue at the thought of having to extend ourselves “one more time.” However, we who are people of the Triune God do not have the luxury of maintaining such resistance for long. Jesus shreds that resistance by giving us the mandate to be reconciled in all our relationships, both vertically, with God, and horizontally, with others. Matthew 5:23-24 reminds us that we cannot come to God with our offerings without being reconciled, even if the issue originates with our neighbor. We cannot claim to be too tired to improve our relationships. The responsibility to act rests with us.

So what gets in our way? It could be said that we “get in our own way.” We tend to want what we want, the way we want it. This often includes the choice of which relationships we reconcile, and who we call neighbor. Conversely that means deciding who does not receive our affections. Such preferences originate from our limitations. Yet all indicators of our faith tell us picking neighbors is not an option. 

Christians have the ultimate manual, replete with information for how to behave and interact, that guides our lives. When it comes to how we learn to love our neighbors, the issue is not the absence of knowledge. The issue is our starting point and how we proceed from there. I believe we first need to recognize the true Source of love in our lives. We learn to love others as we experience God’s love for us.

Can we all get along? Our Love connection teaches us that we cannot remain passive or disaffected by our neighbors, nor about our interactions with them. God’s love moves us beyond ourselves toward a strength and courage gained through humility in Christ. We first learn to love from God; and God enables us to extend love to others. This is how we learn to truly love all our neighbors.

 

Dr. Jacqueline T. Dyer is Assistant Professor of Counseling, Director of Counseling and Academic Support Initiatives and teaches at the seminary’s Boston Campus. She holds a Ph.D. from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, and an M.A in Urban Ministry Leadership from Gordon-Conwell. She formerly was Assistant Professor and Field Coordinator at Eastern Nazarene College, and an Adjunct Professor at Simmons, Salem State and Wheelock Colleges of Social Work. She has served in clinical and supervisory positions at Family Intervention Team, Abundant Life Counseling Center, Roxbury Preparatory and Edward Brooke Charter Schools, Cambridge Public Schools and Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership. In addition, she is on the leadership team for Clergy Women United of the Black Ministerial Alliance.

 

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