Gordon-Conwell Blog

On School Bullies and Grace | Seminary Student Blogger

February 11, 2014

Tim Norton

Hot tears streamed down her face as Amy sat with her friend Megan. “I just don’t understand how anyone could be so mean!” Amy said. Megan’s face melted from concern to rage as she listened to the story. Her friend did not deserve such treatment. Life had handed her enough obstacles; she didn’t need another. Amy was partially blind but fiercely independent—a combination that resulted in more than a few “accidents” around the school. Her bruised arms, peaking from beneath her tattered second-hand clothes, betrayed her latest miscalculation. Amy was late to class—she wasn’t used to her mom’s new schedule with a third job—and decided, against her better judgment, to run. She barely noticed the water fountain before tumbling over it.

These accidents were normal for Amy. She tried to embrace them without succumbing to the suffocating shame that seemed to accompany her disability. However, Aaron, the school bully, did not allow her that opportunity. He cackled with laughter as he and his minions catcalled Amy after this latest incident. Aaron wasn’t a good student, but he made up for it with his ability to break the spirits his peers. Amy was his go-to punch line.

Megan had heard enough. She watched Aaron humiliate too many people, caught too many of Amy’s tears on her shoulder. She fantasized about ways to get even as she walked home from Amy’s house. Her dreams were shuddered as she entered her kitchen and saw Aaron, the Aaron, sitting at her kitchen table. Her eyes, filled with fury, darted to her mother for an explanation.

“Honey,” Mom said, “I have terrific news. Aaron has asked for help in his studies and I’ve decided you are to tutor him. It is no small accomplishment to admit one’s need for help. And you get to be a little gift of joy in his life!”

Put yourself in Megan’s shoes. Would you tutor this boy? I wouldn’t. I would storm across the kitchen and give him a taste of the shame and ridicule he so richly deserved. The audacity and hypocrisy of the request would overwhelm me.

I imagine this is what Jonah felt like when God told him to preach to the Ninevites (Jonah 1-3). They were violent, pagan, and cruel—nailing political enemies to the ground and flaying their skin for display. Such cruelty deserved judgment, but God offered grace to this city (Jonah 3). Jonah, much like our friend Megan, was furious at this miscarriage of justice (Jonah 4). How could God give this city a free pass? How could he tolerate their wickedness? How could he treat them with such grace?

As I read Jonah 4, I am struck by God’s patient grace not only to the Ninevites but also to Jonah. He is a man who understands and accepts God’s free, unearned grace for himself (hence the living sermon illustration of the plant) but is unwilling to accept this same unearned grace going to the Ninevites (hence his suicidal rage). Jonah’s situation is understandable. There is something in human nature that hates for good things to happen to bad people. We hate to see the murderer get away with it. We hate to see cheaters rewarded. We hate to see the school bully receive help.
As I sat with this text, I’ve noticed that Jonah and I are very similar. Deep down I feel like I deserve God’s grace more than other people. I wouldn’t speak that out loud, but that is my underlying assumption. I imagine Jonah thinking, “I’ve been a loyal prophet. I’ve lived a life of commitment to Yahweh. I’ve repented, served, and sacrificed. God can’t give me shade for more than a day? (Jonah 4:6-9) Surely I deserve to get better treatment than the Ninevites! They are getting away with murder!”

God comes to Jonah (Jonah 4:10-11) to remind him that grace is never earned. It is never deserved. He appeals to Jonah’s compassion, showing how his misunderstanding of grace has killed his godly compassion for this city. The same is true for me. The same is true for Megan. Aaron doesn’t deserve to be tutored. He doesn’t deserve grace. But, neither does Megan. Maybe, just maybe, her tutoring a school bully might just be an opportunity to earn an opportunity to invite him to change. None of that is possible without a godly compassion fueled by grace.

God’s grace fuels our compassion. He then uses compassionate people to show his grace to others. It was compassionate Christians who nursed victims of the plague and encouraged potential martyrs during the first century—acts which profoundly impacted the influence of the gospel. More than that, it was a compassionate Jesus Christ who looked at helplessly sinful humanity and brought social justice, godly teaching, and an atoning, reconciling death on the cross. Humanity deserved none of that.

Do you have Aarons in your life, people you have trouble showing anything but rage/frustration for? I know I do. Perhaps you can join me in praying that God’s grace would transform your heart for those people—that it would fuel your compassion. After all, compassion is the forerunner to gracious ministry and that is exactly what we are at Gordon-Conwell to learn. 

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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , student blogger

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On Church and Military Hospitals | Seminary Student Blogger

November 05, 2013

Tim Norton

I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of the Church lately. What is the Church’s role in society today? What is its primary posture towards culture? I think we all know that there are some hot topics floating around that tend to spark debate in this conversation. As I ponder these types of questions, one image keeps running through my brain: The Church should be like a military hospital.

A hospital is known for caring for sick and wounded people. Now, imagine a hospital located near a battlefield. It will service a lot of sick and wounded people. Now, a solider who is wounded in battle does everything in his power to protect his wound from exposure. The battlefield is no place to be wounded. Soldiers have to cover and hide wounds in order to survive, so they wrap, superglue, cover and patch every wound they incur. Only until a solder comes into the hospital is it acceptable to uncover his wounds. It is the job of the doctors and nurses to gain enough of a soldier’s trust to expose his wounds in complete vulnerability. Then, it is the job of the doctors and nurses heal that solider. And so, doctors and nurses expect to see wounds. They aren’t surprised by them. Imagine a solider coming in with a gunshot to the leg and the ER nurse first lectures the kid for allowing himself to get shot. Is that going to happen? No. Step one is heal the wound, not shame the soldier. Then, after he’s healed, step two is tell the kid not to get shot again.

I think the Church, the Body of Christ, is designed to be a hospital for hurts, wounds, sin, habits, etc. We are designed to administer grace. Too often I send a mixed message because I’ve fallen into the false teaching of moving beyond my own need for grace. Theologically I still believe in it, but I switch my focus from my constant need for grace. I want to improve to the point that I don’t need grace and so I hold others to that standard as well. I’m like a doctor who wants to move beyond the need to use medicine. That’s just not right. To be sure, I don’t think the Church should condone sin any more than a hospital endorses battle-wounds; however, we shouldn’t be surprised when faced with sinners. After all, Scripture presents the overabundance of grace through Christ. God’s grace is poured on us like Niagara Falls would fill a paper cup.

The question is, then, how do we become a place known for grace? How do we become a place that doesn’t endorse sin but also isn’t so repulsed by it that we don’t offer grace through Christ. After all, healing and transformation come after and through grace, not before. A military hospital should expect hurt soldiers to walk through their doors. Churches should expect sinners to do the same. How do we change the current perception of the Church? I don’t know. But I know I want to be in a Church that is like a military hospital. It’s the kind of Church I need. It’s the kind of Church the world needs.

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 , biblically-grounded , equipping leaders for the church and society , student blogger

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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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Dear First Years | Seminary Student Blogger

September 10, 2013

Tim Norton

Happy first week of classes! After a brief summer sabbatical, it is time to start blogging again. My name is Tim and I am a 3rd year M.Div. student, which essentially means that this blog is part of a carefully crafted scheme to avoid studying for my language competency exams coming later this week. Being a 3rd year also means that I am officially in my last year as an M.Div. student. Accordingly, I feel it is my obligation to start off this year with some thoughts that might serve the incoming first years well.

  1. Greek: At this point, most of you first year M.Div. kids have realized that Greek is graded on a 6-point scale. You may have THOUGHT that Spiritual Formation with Dr. Kang was going to be the most formative class for your prayer life. You thought wrong. That 6-point scale is going to come up more than a few times in your prayer time. I'm kidding; the 6-point scale seems intimidating at first, but you will be more than prepared to handle it. I promise! You are going to be fine! Take a breath and get down to business :)
  2. Hebrew: Hebrew is a direct result of the Fall. We can all collectively thank Alexander the Great for making sure that at least half of God's Word was written in a tolerable language.
  3. Hebrew revisited: ...fine. I'm kidding again. Hebrew isn't THAT bad. In fact, there is no feeling quite like translating Hebrew. You just feel like a boss when it starts to click. The languages can be particularly intimidating to those (like me) who didn’t major in anything remotely close to biblical studies in undergrad (music theatre for me). You will get them. Enjoy the privilege of learning the original languages of Scripture!
  4. The Bubble: You now reside on the "Holy Hill" of Gordon-Conwell. Be sure to get off campus and interact with normal people every now and again. After all, it is to just such people that you are called to minister. Just remember that the average person doesn't speak Seminarian. So if you can't have a conversation without dropping cool-kid phrases like "Actually, Matthew is leveraging a common hermeneutical principal by employing typological lenses with reference to prophetical literature, thereby creating multiple layers of interpretive fruit"...the average person will ignore you, or hate you, or both.
  5. Electives: Don't blow them on a "maybe this could be cool" kind of course. If you aren't positive that this is THE class for you and your future ministry, save that elective until you are sure. Worst-case scenario is having a ton of electives your last year and having the unfortunate *cough* need to fill them with independent studies (*hint*).
  6. Audits: Use them.
  7. Pass/Fails: Use these too. There are several philosophies of leveraging the pass/fail. Ask around. My thoughts are to wait until you have a particularly slammed semester to do so to loosen the workload on an assignment heavy course.
  8. Reading Weeks: I have dedicated an entire blog post to strategizing for these guys. Check it out here.
  9. Calling: Remember why you came to seminary. Chances are you feel an affinity if not an outright calling to a ministry of some type. When you get bogged down, just keep in mind why you are working so hard. Let your calling encourage you without burdening you.
  10. Rest: You are not a machine. Ministry is not about who can handle the most work. Remember your identity is first and foremost a beloved child of God. Take time to rest (Sabbath anyone?) in this. The habits you form here will be the habits you have after graduating.

I think that’ll get you started. I look forward to meeting all of you! I’m the loud one during lunch and dinner, so feel free to stop by.

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 , student life

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On Risking the Man Card and Surrendering to Love | Seminary Student Blogger

April 04, 2013

Tim Norton 

“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.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.” 
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

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 , biblically-grounded , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

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Psalm 23 was one of the first I memorized as a child. Although the one I remember used a lot of "Thou" instead of "You". Also, I remember it being "tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death". Anyways, minor differences. Same meaning. Good one all the same.
Ways to Grow Eyelashes 5:54PM 06/10/13
thanks for sharing
Meditation 2:31AM 06/10/13
Psalm 23 is really excellent. Specially, I like following line: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Self Book Publishing 3:36AM 05/29/13
That perfect love for God really is enlightening and it sheds Gods grace upon each of us. We truly are loved by our God and the only way we have that knowledge brought to our consciousness is if we have the perfect love back at God. Great article Tim, keep the Faith, God loves you.
Melissa J. 5:55PM 04/06/13

On Egyptians, Idiots, and Humility | Seminary Student Blogger

March 12, 2013

Tim Norton

Dear prospective (and current) student,

If I remember correctly, we have an Open House of sorts for prospective students this week. Hi. I’m Tim. What up?! I’d imagine you are sitting there thinking to yourself, “I have pulled up Gordon-Conwell’s blog hoping to find a glimpse of student life. I wonder what deeply profound insights this Tim guy has to offer.” Answer? None. Absolutely none. Let’s just get that out of the way first. I got nothin’ and I’m sorry you’re stuck with me. That said, I have a story for you, one that I think you might find helpful. It’s one of those “don’t do what I did” kinds of stories (and let’s be real, those are some of the best kinds of stories).

The Setting: I saw an email from registration at 3pm on Thursday letting me know that the course schedule was released for the next four semesters. I have OT Interpretation from 2 to 5pm on Thursdays and I found it VERY difficult to remain focused for the next 2 hours because my spreadsheet of possible class schedules was screaming my name. I refuse to comment on how much of my screen was notes for class and how much was the new course schedules. You can’t prove I wasn’t taking notes. Don’t try. ☺ To prove that I wasn’t a complete slacker that class, I offer the following insight from class: “Plunder the Egyptians!” Out of context, this is quite a weird phrase. In context, though, it was and is a profound antidote to one of most subtle ways my pride has hurt my education at Gordon-Conwell.

The Story: You see, I believe a lie about the educational process. I never vocalized the belief ,but it surfaces in my attitudes and convictions. To put it bluntly, my theory is: If you disagree with me, you are obviously an idiot.

Here’s the thing. I’m pretty smart and awfully sure I’m right about 95% of the time. It’s easy for me to assume that “if you would just see it my way, you’d get it” because, after all, I’m right. Don’t you agree? Oh you don’t? Ouch. How sad for you.

I doubt many of you would fail to see the pride oozing from those statements. Sadly, those statements are true of me and they surface in the subtle ways I react to anything I disagree with. When I first came to campus, I saw students passionately discussion pedo- and credo-baptism, women in ministry, Arminian vs. Calvin and I thought to myself “silly seminarians, fights are for heathens” as if I had outgrown my need for discourse. Later, I began to read of divergent views on creation, different hermeneutical lenses, and even picked up some of the conversations from BTI classes and scoffed at the comments offered by professors, authors, and students on these issues. How could they miss the beauty of the Gospel (or Reformed theology, or historical-critical interpretation, etc.)? It’s so clear to me! How could they fail to see it how I saw it? Later still, I remember reading a blog on this very site that offered an opinion on church planting different from mine and I thought to myself, “They just don’t get it! What is wrong with them? I am going to write a rebuttal post immediately and demand they post it.” Just this week I was tempted to throw out an author’s entire thesis because I was mad that he took his application a little too far.

And now we come to the problem with my theory: the vast majority of people who disagree around here are actually much smarter than me, having something to offer, but my pride keeps me from learning from them. Pride is competitive. Pride must win, often violently. My pride feels threatened by anyone who disagrees with me and seeks to destroy their credibility to maintain control. My pride demands I attack opposition rather than meticulously dissect it for jewels. This goes way outside of theological education, of course, but for this post I’m keeping it to that discussion.

Should you come to Gordon-Conwell, dear prospective student, you will find yourself in a similar situation as me and must choose how to react. A very smart person is going to disagree with you. Period. When that moment comes, it’s too easy to write off the argument as silly and fail to ask what can be learned from them. It’s a cop-out to fail to completey engage all sides of their reasoning because one piece fails to prove holistically convincing. Dr. Petter’s advice to plunder the Egyptians is advice to take what you can from those who oppose you (restricted only to the context of academic discourse) and leverage it for your continued growth. She meant to engage in those who disagree with us, learn from them, and use what we learn to propel the Gospel. While her comment was originally aimed at engaging secular approaches to biblical studies, I think this posture of humility is important even among denominational differences. You may be more reformed than John Piper but you can learn from an Arminian professor. You may blatantly disagree with a Harvard professor of miracles and supernatural phenomenon, but there is wisdom in learning what we can from such a professor and resolving to disagree with the rest. You may think it’s unnecessary to have a conversation about these differences, but you are missing out on an opportunity to grow in your understanding of the Gospel and Christian life. I am awful at this and it is because of pride. I am lazy. I cop-out. And, I need to quit.

So, dearest prospective student contemplating Gordon-Conwell, know this: you are very smart and you have great reasons for thinking about things in the manner that you do, but there are very smart people worth learning from who disagree with you. Don’t be like me and write them off because they happen to not fall into your denomination. This is one of the greatest treasures of Gordon-Conwell. You are surrounded by different cultures, different denominations, and different life stories on campus. It goes without saying that the campus is set in a community was vastly different views on life. Have a conversation. You will not be asked to change your beliefs (In fact, you’ll be encouraged to keep them.) But you will absolutely be challenged to fully engage, learn from, and (when necessary) respectfully rebut those who disagree with you. It’s incredible. Get ready.

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.
 

 

 

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Dentist Chair Confession | Seminary Student Blogger

February 14, 2013

Tim Norton

Here’s the deal. My brother is a physical therapist and my sister-in-law is a dentist. Yeah. Top that. Me? I’m a walking tax write-off. As a future pastor, I may not be rolling in the dough later in life but I’ll always be able to play the tax card. It’s my ace in the hole. *sigh* But I digress—having doctors for siblings isn’t so bad. It’s kind of fun to say “Oh, Dr. Norton? I’m his/her little brother…Why yes he/she is wonderful!...Yes, I’m terribly proud of them…What procedure are you seeing them for?...Oh wow!...Funny that you mention it, I think that’s the class he/she had to repeat a few times. Hopefully they get it right this time!...I’m sure it’ll be fine…Besides, that classroom case was bogus. There’s no way to prove that amputation was the his/her fault…Take care!”

Ah yes. The joys of being a little brother. So, this Christmas, my sister-in-law discovered it had been a little bit since I had been to a dentist. And by a little bit, I mean three years. It went down like this.

Me: I know, I know. It’s bad. But I didn’t have dental insurance for a while so I didn’t want to go.
Sister-in-law: Tim, you were only out of insurance for a year.
Me: Right.
Sister-in-law: What’d you do the two years after that?
Me: …um. Well… um… you see…

Family. They have an uncanny way of seeing right through you. Gotta love ‘em for it. Truth was that I didn’t go to the dentist for the first year because of insurance. I didn’t go the second year because I was lazy. I didn’t go the third year because I was too embarrassed. And now my whole family knew, which made me even more embarrassed! At this point I had no choice but to schedule an appointment with none other than Norton DMD herself. I tried to warn her that it was probably gonna be bad. She assured me everything was going to be fine…

I don’t want to talk about how many cavities I had. It was gross. Not only that, my top two wisdom teeth grew in and my bottom two decided they wanted to do a rendition cirque-de-inside-Tim’s-mouth by impacting, twisting inward, and bullying my molars. Poor molars. So, what started as a routine visit to the dentist became a 6-hour appointment across two visits. 6 hours in the same chair gives you a lot of time to think. And you know what I realized? My pride kept me from doing the very thing that I knew I needed to do. Exposing my teeth to my sister-in-law hurt my ego more than anything. It was ego that kept me from getting an appointment sooner.

I don’t wanna project on anyone (ok let’s be real, I really do love projecting) but I’m pretty sure we can all relate. Somewhere deep down there is a part of us that wants to manage our less favorable, even sinful parts of our life. We want to run a good PR campaign for ourselves. We don’t want to expose ourselves to the very people who can help us get better. I think that’s why confession is such a big deal. Confession is a pride killer. Confession is the opposite of sin management. Confession sucks. But confession is important. To be sure, I’m not saying you need to post a Facebook status about your every shortcoming. Please don’t be that person. (Seriously, don’t be that person.) But I challenge you to have someone in your life that really knows you, someone that you can expose some of the things lurking beneath the surface. From my experience, it’s much easier to experience God’s grace and forgiveness after confiding in someone and hearing their grace and truth-filled response.

This isn’t anything new. After committing the first sin ever, Adam and Eve were more interested in sin management than confession:

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.””
(Genesis 3:8–10 NIV emphasis mine)

Don’t miss this. Adam and Eve’s first reaction after sinning is to attempt to hide the nakedness. The shame of nakedness is overwhelming. They try and hide who they are in their fallen and broken state. They can’t undo what they’ve done and, rather than confess it, they attempt to “fix” themselves without letting anyone (in this case God) know about it. However many millions/billions of years later (or thousands depending on your point of view), I’m doing the same thing.

I have a wardrobe full of sewn-together leaves designed to hide my nakedness from God, myself and others. Though I cognitively know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I still am inclined to hide my sin rather than confess it. I desperately try and manage a carefully crafted public image at the expensive of receiving the help I need.

After exposing the fullness of their sins, God explains to Adam and Eve the consequences of their actions. Notice, though, that God is also very gracious in the scenario. Yes, there are natural consequences, but God also makes clothes to cover their nakedness.

Now, you may say to yourself, “Psh! I privately confess my sins to God. I don’t need to tell anyone else about it.” Guess what? That’s pride. We are designed to function relationally. We experience the grace of God relationally. We experience the forgiveness of God relationally. Suck it up and try it. Try it in the next 2 weeks. Grab a trusted friend or mentor and have a difficult conversation. It may be about as fun as sitting in a dentist chair for 6 hours. Truth be told, it may be worse than that for a time. But there is nothing that compares to the freedom of being known fully and loved anyway.

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.
 

 

 

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A great illustration with just the right amount of Tim flare to spice it up! Thanks for fonding the truth even in the dentist's chair!
Philip Long 6:29PM 02/14/13

Reading Week Survival Guide | Seminary Student Blogger

November 20, 2012

Tim Norton

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

If You Can't Say Anything Nice... | Seminary Student Blogger

October 16, 2012

Tim Norton

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” My mom absolutely drilled this into my head as a child. There is no point in being mean. In fact, being mean is bad. Don’t do it. If you have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut. Right? Maybe it’s not as black and white. Before I go on, let’s make one thing clear. Momma always has and always will be smarter than me. Period. First rule of happiness in the South is to develop an instinctive “Yes ma’am” response. The older I get, the smarter I realize my mom is. While I fully recognize my mom as smarter than me, she might’ve missed it on this particular parable.

I’m reading a book called Incarnate Leadership in my directed study with Dr. Singleton. (Sidenote: Dr. Singleton is a BALLER! I highly recommend his classes.) The book suggests that our model for leadership should derive from Kingdom principles as modeled by Jesus Christ in “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV11)

What does this have to do with being nice or shutting up? Jesus came “full of grace and truth.” Unpacking that phrase makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because I believe Christians should model “full of grace and truth” and I’m terrible at it. I’m much better at saying nice things or saying nothing than I am at being full of both grace and truth. When I read “full of grace and truth,” I think to myself “FULL of grace and the truth…only when absolutely necessary.” Let me give you an example:

This summer I took two preaching classes. In each class, peer critiques follow each sermon presented. In the back of my mind, all I could think about was “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” So if my friend preached a poorly organized or confusing sermon, I complemented his “conversational tone” and left the rest up to the Holy Spirit. Is that helpful? It’s nice. It’s very nice. But is it what Jesus asked of us as fellow Christians? How am I showing love by not helping my friend improve? Why is it that I assume a critique is somehow less gracious or loving than a compliment? When did “nice” become the filter for truth?

As Christian leaders, we need to be able to speak the truth. If the person applying for worship leader cannot play guitar to save his life…he needs to know it. If a student fails an exam…she should receive an “F.” It’s not mean. It’s the truth. Jesus came full of truth. Not just partly true, sometimes true, true when it made people feel good. He was full of truth. I’m not good at that.

The flipside, of course, is that some people are really good at being truthful every moment of every day. “I’m just a blunt person,” some of them say. Rock on! I commend you for your honesty. But is your fullness of truth paired with a fullness of grace? When you communicate truth, is it presented in a gracious way? Do you tell the worship leader who can’t play the guitar well “Wow, dude you suck! I’m impressed with how bad you are. Seriously, get off the stage. There is no way I’m hiring you.” That may be true, but it’s graceless.

Finding that balance between fullness of grace and fullness of truth is difficult. I tend to mess up on leaving out the truth—others likely air on the side of gracelessness. Jesus modeled a life and leadership full of both grace and truth. I am challenged to find that balance. It’s hard, but oh man is it important.

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.
 

 

 

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On Green Ribbons and Worship | Seminary Student Blogger

September 13, 2012

Tim Norton

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

On McDonald’s and Quiet Time | Seminary Student Blogger

August 23, 2012

Tim Norton

Just a few short miles from the campus of Gordon-Conwell lies a veritable oasis. Its golden arches welcome all visitors into the land of full stomachs and empty calories, of french fries and burgers, of happy meals and one seriously creepy clown. America may run on Dunkin but it needs to run because of…you guessed it…McDonald’s. Oh yes. Mickie-D’s my friends. I’m hungry just thinking about it. Now at this point, you probably have reacted in one of two ways:

  1. Gross. McDonald’s is awful. I no longer want to listen to anything Tim has to say.
  2. McDonald’s! I may not admit it often, but I secretly love that place. I just wish I knew someone in whom I could confide, ya know someone who’s willing to split an order of fries with me.

To those of you in group 1, I ask you to indulge me for just a few minutes. Group 2 people…Hi, I’m Tim…let’s be best friends. Now, while I would love to discuss the finer points of McDonald’s cuisine, I am actually here in promotion of McDonald’s as an educational facility.

McDonald’s has been an institution of learning for me from an early age. At my 2nd birthday party (which took place at McDonald’s) I learned the value of being assertive after demanding that the employees change the rules of their scheduled game for me and my party guests. It worked and my mom blames this incident for my stubbornness. By middle school, I had learned the need for clear communication and healthy conflict management through various incorrect orders. In high school, I learned the simple truth of the importance of breath mints while failing to convince a high school teacher I did not, in fact, skip out on the cafeteria lunch to grab a double quarter-pounder off campus. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned through McDonald’s, though, is in regards to relationships.

Meet my roommate Dave. Dave is definitely a fellow McDonald’s enthusiast. His favorite combo is a number 1, but he saves it for special occasions to save money. As his roommate, I have the privilege of knowing and communicating with Dave on a deeper level than your average student at Gordon-Conwell. We definitely share moments of deep conversation. But ya know what? Those moments aren’t manufactured; they are rarely planned. They usually stem from the random moments of life we share together. They are a byproduct of the car rides to church, the “how was your day?” conversations, and the trips to McDonald’s. Think about it. If I came in from class and said to Dave, “Hi Dave. I just got back from class. Please tell me your life story, hurts, hang-ups, desires, dreams, struggles, and secrets so that we can be close friends and share godly man-time/intimacy.” I would be a class-5 Creeper! But if I said “Hey Dave, let’s go grab some McDonald’s…” who knows what conversations would take place. We plan the time to spend together and let the rest stem from it. Our deep conversations branch off from “normal” conversations. Our moments of bonding grow from moments at McDonald’s. We plan for moments of quality time; however, we do not force artificial moments of deeper connection. I call this the McDonald’s Principle of Relational Interaction.

Earlier this summer, I realized I needed to apply the McDonald’s Principle to my relationship with God. I noticed I would get a little frustrated when I spent a few minutes praying and didn’t have a grand emotional catharsis of divine experience. I would be disappointed that I didn’t have anything exciting to discuss in my prayer time. I didn’t have a big crisis. I didn’t have a giant revelation. I heard other people talking about their incredible moments of intimacy with God and I wanted them too. I felt like my quiet time was a little bland, so I tried to force those moments of exceptional intimacy. I focused my mind and attempted to force my emotions into overdrive in hopes of creating what I wanted out of quiet time. I would try to manufacture these epic times of awesome prayer when all I really needed to do was honestly communicate with God and remain open to the intimacy. Ever answer the question, “How was your day?” when talking to God? Don’t you think a loving father would be interested in talking with you about just that? It might not be the most heart-pounding, awe-filled prayer you’ve ever prayed, but it just might lead to more honest communication and the intimacy you desired in the first place.

Relational interactions can’t be uniformly intense gut-wrenching, soul-piercing experiences. Those interactions are incredible and necessary and we must remain open to them, but for me at least, they aren’t the norm. I’ve found that those moments will come over time if I set aside consistent and honest quality time with the Lord. Not every prayer will be earth shattering. Some days are the equivalent to a trip to McDonald’s. And ya know what? I’ve come to love and cherish both types of interactions with my Lord and Heavenly Father.

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.
 

 

 

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Happily I am in group 2, and yes, McDonald's is one of the reasons I exercise. Thanks for the thoughts Tim. Will be off to pray now and after that we'll have to hit up McDonald's sometime.
Erik L 4:58PM 08/30/12

On Tights and Obedience: Part 2 | Seminary Student Blogger

July 19, 2012

This is part 2 of Tim's series on his journey to seminary. You can read part 1 here.

Tim Norton

So there I was, confronted by the choice to either ignore God and pursue music theatre or obey and give it up. I was not a happy camper. After I got over my prideful pity party, I obeyed and took an internship with a campus ministry. It wasn’t comfortable. Only this time it wasn’t physical discomfort; it was spiritual. Obeying God and following him into ministry required the death of a lot of my pride. I wanted to make it in show business, man! But, God was calling me elsewhere. Obedience wasn’t comfortable.

Round three. Seminary. Somehow, I had built the expectation that seminary was going to be academically intense, but more-or-less…you guessed it…comfortable. I mean come on, how bad can three years of studying the Bible be? I’m basically going on a three-year retreat. Those things are NEVER uncomfortable. Right? OK fine, change is a little unsettling. But that’s it. Once I get through that, I’m golden. Yea. Not so much.

Once the novelty of a new home, new degree, new everything wore off, God allowed the real discomfort of seminary to set in. And I was blindsided by it. Coming into an environment of solid, healthy Christian community, I realized that I had lived most of my life in survival mode. I gritted my teeth through the good, bad, ugly, and painful moments of life and just kept plowing through. Imagine a soldier on the battlefield: When the war is raging, you don’t have time to be injured. You wrap your wound and keep fighting, unaware of how bad it really is. Only when you get into the sterile, safe environment of a hospital can you expose your wounds and deal with them properly. Seminary was like this for me. It continues to be like this for me. I had issues that I didn’t even know about and God began to expose them and invite me to deal with them once I came to seminary. Several of my friends here have gone through similar experiences and none of us found it very comfortable.

But ya know what? Looking back, I’ve come to realize that it is the uncomfortable moments of life that have been the most important. It is to such times of discomfort that I can look and measure my growth as a Christian. The Bible offers countless stories like this. Abraham wasn’t comfortable when God called him to sacrifice Isaac. Moses wasn’t terribly comfortable confronting Pharaoh at first. Jesus most assuredly wasn’t comfortable when faced with his crucifixion. The calling of God is more important than our comfort.

What uncomfortable situations have you been in? Are you in one now? To be sure, not all discomfort falls into the category that I’m talking about, but maybe yours does. Maybe God is calling you to do, say, or pursue something that isn’t very comfortable. Maybe God is calling you to NOT do, say, or pursue something – that’s usually more uncomfortable. It might not be anything huge like a career shift. Maybe God is prompting you to take a friend to lunch, to open up to a mentor, confess a sin, or set aside a consistent time of prayer. Regardless, obedience doesn’t always feel like a warm hug surrounded by springtime and roses. Sometimes it’s about as comfortable as wearing tights for six hours past “too long”. But it’s always for the best.

And that, my friends, is why I appreciate tights. They aren’t comfortable and I’m VERY grateful I don’t have to wear them anymore. (Seriously – so grateful.) But, they were my first lesson in obedience through discomfort, a lesson I will never forget.

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.
 

 

 

 

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I LOVE YOUR POST! I'll be moving to a new place soon too, and this is a prompt reminder that obedience sometimes requires us to be uncomfortable, to put to death our own pride and control. :)
Celine Ma 11:03AM 07/24/12

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