Formations 11.28.2021: Yet More Truth and Light

In 1620, John Robinson preached to a band of English Separatists who were about to embark upon the Mayflower to start a new life in North America.

Formations 11.21.2021: Giving Thanks by Giving Back

Today’s passage describes a ritual of thanksgiving that the Israelites are to perform once they have entered the promised land. They are to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the priest.

Formations 11.14.2021: Enough for All

Our world has striking disparities between people with enough to eat and people who go hungry. According to stats provided by the international organization Action Against Hunger, around 811 million people around the world don’t get enough to eat.

Formations 11.07.2021: God Will Take Care of You

I remember an old hymn that people rarely sing in church anymore, at least in the churches where I have worshiped. The first verse begins, “Be not dismayed whate’er betide; God will take care of you.”

Formations 10.31.2021: Rhythms of Creation

I grew up in the suburbs, but my parents both grew up in rural Kentucky, and that’s still where a lot of my cousins live. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve sitting at my Aunt Myrtle’s table.

Formations 10.24.2021: The Church

When we imagine our ideal church, maybe we think of the utopian dream church that Luke describes in Acts 4:32-37. Wouldn’t this be church at its best?

Formations 10.17.2021: Inconspicuous Giving

We love to be recognized for our good deeds, don’t we? A thank you is always appreciated, and often the only encouragement we need to keep up the good work.

Formations 10.03.2021: Good Trees and Bad Trees

Many of Jesus’ teachings use common imagery from nature or daily life. That makes them easy to picture and remember. He said that if we have even the smallest amount of faith—small as a mustard seed—we can do great things for God (Mt 17:20).

Formations 09.26.2021: Going Against the Flow

I used to think that Jesus’ command to “enter through the narrow gate” (Matt 7:13) and avoid the wide road to destruction had to do with the kinds of things I’d been brought up to believe that good Christians avoided.

Formations 09.19.2021: Loud and Clear

The term “virtue signaling” has been around for a little over a dozen years. It refers to expressing opinions or attitudes that demonstrate one’s good character or moral correctness.

Formations 09.12.2021: Deeper than the Surface

Jesus was a rebel. A radical. A revolutionary. Sometimes it’s hard to think of him that way, considering our artistic depictions of him as calm, glowing, and holy.

Formations 09.05.2021: Blessed

“Blessed” is a perspective that many today seek to embrace. The word captions photos on social media of our good-looking and well-behaved children or of our wonderful beach vacations.

Formations 08.29.2021: A Life of Blessing

I’m thinking about my dad this week…because of something he did for my daughter. My daughter needed her own car so she could drive to observe a teacher in the classroom for her education courses.

Formations 08.22.2021: God’s Perspective

If you’re like me, some days streak by, and before you know it, a week, a month, even a year has passed. Other days, though, are slow and plodding as you struggle to fill the boring minutes with something productive.

Formations 08.15.2021: Leadership

What do you do when your church’s nominating committee calls? Maybe you’re thrilled to know that others have recognized your gifts and think you have something to offer.

Formations 08.08.2021: The Most Important Lessons

Even if we were blessed to have had loving parents with the means to provide for our physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs, honesty demands that we acknowledge that they didn’t do it alone.

Formations 08.01.2021: A Time to Belong

We all want to feel that we belong. From those first moments of playground choices to school lunchroom seats to office conversations over the tops of cubicles, we are often afraid of being excluded.

Formations 07.25.2021: Come and See

It was a significant turning point in my faith when I discovered there is more than one valid, biblical model of evangelism. Growing up, my idea of what it meant to share the gospel was rooted in passages like Mark 5:19.

Formations 07.18.2021: Owning Up

As an only child, I’ll readily admit that there are some aspects of growing up that I missed out on. Some of these things I count as plusses and others I count as minuses.

Formations 07.11.2021: A Fierce Love

Before my children’s births, people told me about the fierce love of a parent. “There’s nothing like the love you’ll have for your kids.” “It’s like watching your heart walk around outside your body.” “You’ll be like a Mama Bear when it comes to your children.”

Formations 07.04.2021: Peace?

Zechariah sees a vision of four riders. Unlike Revelation’s “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” these riders work on God’s behalf, riding to and fro to patrol the face of the earth.

Formations 06.27.2021: Farewell

From May 30, 1982 ‘til September 19, 1998, Cal Ripken Jr. played 2,632 straight games for the Baltimore Orioles, far surpassing the record formerly held by the legendary Lou Gehrig.

Formations 06.20.2021: Perseverance in Preaching

Preaching isn’t an easy gig. It’s much more than speaking God’s truth. It’s living out that truth in numerous practical and not-so-practical ways each week. If you are a pastor, part of a pastor’s family, or close friends with a pastor, you know the dramatic demands on a pastor’s life.

Formations 06.13.2021: #Exvangelical

As I write this week’s reflection, the hashtag #exvangelical is trending on social media. As you might guess, an “exvangelical” is an ex-evangelical, someone who grew up in a particular kind of Christian community—Protestant, conservative, most likely white—but has since left the fold.

Formations 06.06.2021: Conversion, Dramatic or Otherwise

“I used to drink, get into fights, and run around with loose women. But then, at the age of ten, I surrendered my life to Christ….”

Formations 05.30.2021: Using Our Gifts

Every single person—created by God in the image of God—is exceptionally unique. There is no other creature who is uniquely me or uniquely you.

Formations 05.23.2021: Rekindling the Gift

What have you done with yourself during the pandemic? If your answer is, “I stayed afloat,” that’s perfectly okay!

Formations 05.16.2021: Louder than Words

Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have quipped, “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

Formations 05.09.2021: Compassionate Healing

If you or a loved one has suffered in any way—due to illness, disease, accident, job loss, failure, etc.—you have longed for compassionate healing.

Formations 05.02.2021: Our Demon-Haunted World

We modern Americans have outgrown belief in demons. To borrow a phrase from physicist Carl Sagan, we no longer inhabit a “demon-haunted world.” We no longer have room in our worldviews for invisible forces of chaos.

Formations 04.25.2021: How Much Farther?

“How much farther?” What child hasn’t asked that question on a trip? What parent hasn’t dreaded that question, knowing that the trip has barely started?

Formations 04.18.2021: The Breaking of the Bread

Gatherings with friends and family vary widely depending on who shows up. But they all have one thing in common: food.

Formations 04.11.2021: Who We’re Looking For

It used to bother me that, so many times in the Gospels’ Easter stories, Jesus’ followers don’t recognize him after the resurrection. To be honest, I suppose that still bothers me.

Formations 04.04.2021: Change of Plans

Have you ever put a lot of effort into a task and then not gotten to do it? Maybe you did a ton of research.

Formations 03.28.2021: God’s Son Is Revealed

This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Have you ever experienced devastating disappointment—a letdown so overwhelming that your sadness felt insurmountable?

Formations 03.21.2021: A Suffering Messiah?

“You keep using that word,” Inigo Montoya tells Vizzini in the 1987 comedy The Princess Bride. “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Formations 03.14.2021: Pressing On

I’ve always imagined Jesus as fairly unflappable. He always seems to know the right thing to say.

Formations 03.07.2021: The Kingdom Grows

My daughter Samantha is sixteen, and my daughter Natalie is nearly fourteen. Looking at them now as they threaten to overtake my height by a couple of inches, it’s hard to picture them being small enough to carry around—much less being embryos growing inside my body.

Formations 02.28.2021: Let Anyone with Ears to Hear Listen

The other three Gospels have the decency to postpone overt reference to the plot to kill Jesus until about the halfway point. Mark, however, is famous for never beating around the bush.

Formations 02.21.2021: Not Me!

I admit it: I’m a sucker for Family Circus comic strips. Yes, they’re corny. Yes, they repeat the same gags over and over again.

Formations 02.14.2021: Temptations

When I was a teenager, my church youth group leaders spent a lot of time talking to us about temptation. Specifically, they warned us not to get ourselves into situations that would tempt us.

Formations 02.07.2021: Helpmate?

In the second movement of the Genesis 2 creation story, God takes note that the man is alone and takes measures to correct that situation.

Formations 01.31.2021: A God Who Speaks My Language

When I teach Old Testament, I ask my students whom they would cast as God in the six-day creation story in Genesis 1. The answers are usually actors with a deep, commanding voice.

Formations 01.24.2021: The Works of God’s Hands

The writer of Revelation, whom we know was a man named John, gives a glorious depiction of heavenly worship in chapter 4. The images are strange to us—jasper and carnelian, an emerald-like rainbow…

Formations 01.17.2021: A Christ of Cosmic Proportions

There is a Latin aphorism from the earliest centuries of the church that has always resonated with me: lex orandi, lex credendi, “the rule of prayer is the rule of belief.” In a nutshell, this aphorism says that there is a deep connection between liturgy and faith.

Formations 01.10.2021: We Are God’s Workmanship

I grew up on Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Formations 01.03.2021: The Works of God’s Hands

On December 21, stargazers got a rare treat. For the first time since March 4, 1226, Jupiter and Saturn came close enough to each other at night that they appeared as one giant star.

Formations 12.27.2020: Blue Christmas

It’s always good to remember that the Christmas season isn’t always joyful for some of us. Those folks ringing the bells and collecting donations outside your favorite grocery store?