Formations 07.06.2014: Showing and Telling

As our lesson writer reminds us, Christianity is a missionary religion. In Matthew 28, Jesus calls us to make disciples of all the world. The early church took up this mission, and we can read about some of their earliest efforts in the book of Acts.

Formations 06.29.2014: New Spanish King Promises Honesty, Transparency

On June 19th, Felipe VI, 46, was formally proclaimed the new King of Spain by Parliament. The proclamation ceremony is a more subdued affair, without the pomp of foreign dignitaries and elaborate ceremonies of the coronation proper that took place later that morning.

Formations 06.22.2014: Taking Time for the Pain

Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University believe a pill that wipes out bad memories could eventually become reality. In a recent study, experiments found that mice that were given fingolimid completely forgot about previous experiences that had brought them physical pain.

Formations 06.15.2014: Sin and Forgiveness

My Sunday school class was recently discussing sin. (Most of us were against it.) In particular, a comment was made about the fact that we don’t seem to hear as much preaching about sin as was perhaps the norm when most of us were growing up.

Formations 06.08.2014: We Will Always Remember

Three years ago, the deadliest U.S. tornado since 1947 slammed into Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 and injuring 1,100. It destroyed or damaged 7,500 homes and displaced 9,200 people. Last month, on the third anniversary of this devastating tragedy, the people of Joplin said “thank you.”

Formations 06.01.2014: We Begin with Praise

Psalm 145:1-13a Many of us first learned to pray by memorizing brief prayer texts, usually in poetic form: “Now I lay me down to sleep…” “God is great, God is good….” Our parents may not have given much thought to teaching us these prayers. Whether they knew it or not, however, they were exposing us […]

Formations 05.25.2014: Human Libraries Combat Prejudice

The Main Branch of the Long Beach (CA) Library will feature a “Human Library” event on May 31. Such events were first created in Copenhagen in 2000 by Stop the Violence, a team of five activists who were disturbed by the stabbing of a friend and wanted to do something about it.

Formations 05.18.2014: A Reluctant Prophet

In the Old Testament, obedience ranks high on the list of things God expects from God’s people. Granted, the Bible is clear that there are also other, nobler responses to God: love, adoration, faith, etc. But these things count for little if we are unwilling simply to do as God says.

Formations 05.11.2014: In the Belly of the Beast

As children, we may have been fascinated with the great fish (usually depicted as a whale) that swallowed Jonah and later spit him out on the shore. To our young, impressionable minds, the whole thing must have sounded like a harrowing adventure.

Formations 05.04.2014: President Condemns Deserting Ferry Crew

The world continues to grieve with the people of South Korea after the sinking of the Sewol ferry last month. Adding to the grief is the knowledge that the inaction of the captain and crew likely contributed to the tragedy.

Formations 04.27.2014: Go and Tell

The Gospel of Matthew ends with two unique passages. In the first, Jesus’ opponents attempt to invalidate the reports of his resurrection by bribing the soldiers who stood guard at the tomb. In the second, Jesus meets with his disciples in Galilee and gives them his Great Commission to make disciples in all the world.

Formations 04.20.2014: TV Show Asks Us to Consider the Possibility of Resurrection

ABC’s mid-season replacement series Resurrection invites viewers to consider what would happen if their loved ones came back from the dead. The series premiere introduces us to Jacob, an eight-year-old boy who wakes up in a field in China after having died thirty-two years previously.

Formations 04.13.2014: The Way to Calvary

Although we think of the Sunday before Easter as Palm Sunday, it has another name that is equally valid: Passion Sunday. Churches that follow a lectionary traditionally read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death on this day as they embark upon Holy Week’s solemn commemoration of the events leading up to Jesus’ death.

Formations 04.06.2014: Hopeful Waiting

I’m writing this article the day after teaching my Mercer University students about the Babylonian exile and its place in biblical history. It is nearly impossible to overstate the influence of this literally world-changing event.

Formations 03.30.2014: Seeking Wisdom

Along with reading and math, students at Seattle’s John Muir Elementary School are studying philosophy. Recent grant money has allowed Jana Mohr Lone of the University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children to establish a year-round philosopher-in-residence at the school to help children try to answer some of life’s biggest questions.

Formations 03.23.2014: Slavery, Then and Now

Seventh-graders at Iowa City, Iowa’s South East Junior High School hosted a charity basketball tournament earlier this month to raise awareness about modern slavery. The fundraiser, called Hoops for Hopes, was dedicated to educating the public about the issue.

Formations 03.16.2014: Judgment and Grace

Noah, a movie starring Russell Crowe and based on the account of Noah’s flood in the book of Genesis, is scheduled to open on March 28. Like every other biblical movie ever made, it is likely to take liberties, both large and small, with the actual Scripture text. Some Christians will no doubt reject the movie on those grounds.

Formations 03.09.2014: The Wonders of the Universe

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will host a new version of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. The first episode of this science miniseries debuts tonight (March 9) on the National Geographic Channel.

Formations 03.02.2014: First Things First

The Didascalia is an ancient manual of church order. According to one of its provisions, before the church celebrates the Eucharist, the deacon recites the passage from Matthew in which Jesus commands those who know of any relational rift with a brother and sister to leave their gift at the altar and first be reconciled with that member of the community.

Formations 02.23.14: Leniency or Law?

The command seems simple enough: “Do not commit adultery” (Exod 20:14). This fundamental moral principle, enshrined not only in Scripture but in virtually every human culture on the face of the earth, would seem like a no-brainer. Be faithful to your spouse, and don’t tempt anyone else to be unfaithful to theirs.

Formations 02.16.2014: Our Deepest Need

I was struck by the subtitle of an article I recently encountered on psychosomatic illnesses. The article, by Roanne FitzGibbon, is titled “Psychosomatic Symptoms: You May Be Healthier than You Think.” The point of the article is that psychosomatic symptoms are a real thing. It isn’t just “in your head.”

Formations 2.09.2014: God’s Standards

The Pharisees were not the bad guys. Not in the first century; not today. The Pharisees were earnest folk who tried to live by the teachings of Scripture as best they knew how. They studied the Bible with both rigor and devotion, and most first-century Jews admired them for it.

Formations 02.02.2014: From Repentance to Remembrance

The mom had had enough of her teenaged son’s irresponsible behavior. In her frustration, she remarked that the two of them needed to have a “come to Jesus meeting.” Her son, not understanding the words but catching his mom’s tone quite accurately, commented, “I don’t think Jesus wants to go to that meeting.”

Formations 01.26.2014: Putting God in a Box

We’ve all heard the expression “putting God in a box.” When people fail to consider that God might not think or act exactly like they do (or would do if they were God), they might be said to put God in a box. They’ve got God figured out, thank you very much, and there’s no point upsetting their neat little theological system by asking them to imagine a God who might surprise them.

Formations 01.19.2014: Can You Hear Me Now?

My wife’s family lives out in the country in southern Kentucky. The terrain there is not as hilly as in other parts of the state, but I don’t think it’s for lack of trying. There are a lot of old country roads with twists and turns and dips and crests.

Formations 01.12.2014: Promises

How are your New Year’s resolutions coming? Are you off to a solid start, hopeful you’ll make real progress in the next twelve months? Have you already started to backslide? We make many promises to ourselves around the turn of the year.

Formations 01.05.2014: Public & Private Prayer

When I was a pastor, I was called upon to pray at many kinds of public gatherings, from Sunday school class parties to softball games to practically anything else. Have you ever prayed at the dedication of a new dry cleaning business? I have!