Formations 10.09.2022: From the Heart

Years ago, I attended a workshop on worship renewal led by Robert Webber, who was one of the top names in that field in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Formations 10.02.2022: Earning Trust

Whom do you trust the most? How did you get to the place that you trust this person so much? Did they sweep in and make impressive claims of faithfulness?

Formations 09.18.2022: Spiritual Worship

Have you ever noticed the progression in today’s passage? Paul begins with the bottom line: Christians must worship God rightly, presenting our bodies to God as a living sacrifice (v. 1).

Formations 09.11.2022: Thank You

Some people are good at taking a compliment. They are gracious and genuinely appreciative without a hint of arrogance.

Formations 08.28.2022: Being Right

I can see the upside of being among the first followers of Christ: rubbing elbows with the likes of Peter and Paul and Mary Magdalene, witnessing the miracles, and hearing the bold preaching of the apostles.

Formations 08.21.2022: Healing Relational Rifts

I’ve lost track of how many stories I’ve heard or read in recent years about abusive pastors and churches. Sometimes it’s misappropriation of church funds. Sometimes it’s sexual abuse. Sometimes it’s something else.

Formations 08.07.2022: Hold My Communion Wine

You’ve heard and seen the jokes. Someone does something outrageous, dangerous, or stupid. Then someone else says “Hold my beer.”

Formations 07.31.2022: “Thangs Happen”

When my daughter was in the eighth grade, my wife volunteered to be a chaperone when the school choir performed in a nearby city. At one point, she reassured the choristers about all the preparations that had gone into the trip.

Formations 07.17.2022: Sibling Rivalry

Cards on the table: I’m an only child. I don’t think I’m spoiled, but if you met me, you might come to a different conclusion. I hope you wouldn’t, but you can’t help but see me differently than I see me.

Formations 07.10.2022: Vengeance

Violence begets violence. Hopefully we all understand that. But we can say at least a little bit more. According to Brazilian Catholic archbishop, Hélder Câmara, we can draw a distinction between three phases of violence.

Formations 06.26.2022: Joining the Dance

When I was in college, I fulfilled my physical education requirements by taking two semesters of Couples, Folk, and Ballroom Dancing. No, it didn’t take.

Formations 06.19.2022: Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” As a pastor, I said those words every time I baptized a new member of the Body of Christ.

Formations 06.05.2022: Low-key Jesus People

I’m an introvert. I married an introvert, and we had an introverted child. Said child is serving this summer as a children and youth intern at our church.

Formations 05.29.2022: Lavish Liturgy

Think about how John describes worship in Revelation 4–5. The worshipers wear special clothing. They play musical instruments. They burn incense, symbolic of the prayers of the saints.

Formations 05.08.2022: Praying or Posturing?

Prayer is a funny thing. Ostensibly, prayer involves communication with God. We speak to God, expressing thanksgiving, praise, and of course petitions for God’s blessings.

Formations 04.24.2022: In Praise of Doubt

Mark tells us about the women at the tomb and how the angel told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but then the story abruptly comes to an end.

Formations 04.17.2022: Views of the Tomb

It may be tough to find something new to say about this familiar passage. I wonder, though, if we don’t do a disservice to our students—and to the text—by looking for novelty rather than resting in wonder.

Formations 04.03.2022: Glory Amid Grief

I rarely think of John 11 without thinking about George. George was in pretty bad shape as long as I had known him, pretty much stuck in his house and tied to his oxygen tank.

Formations 03.27.2022: Why?

The disciples ask why a man they encounter was born blind. They entertain the idea that it is punishment for some sin his parents committed. They also raise the possibility that it was because of some sin the blind man himself committed.

Formations 03.13.2022: Breaking Bread

John 6:28-35, 41-51 Meals were always a big part of Jesus’ ministry. He famously ate with tax collectors and sinners, to the consternation of the religious authorities. He engaged in dialogue and debate around the dinner table. He taught his disciples to pray for “daily bread.” He told parables about baking bread and inviting people […]

Formations 03.06.2022: Born from Above

In the sliver of the Baptist family in which I grew up, Lent was something you brushed off your clothes. Honestly, anything past Christmas and Easter were looked upon with suspicion.

Formations 02.20.2022: Holding On

Genesis 8 describes a return to normality after a seemingly endless time buttoned up inside. Is it just me, or does that sound wonderful?

Formations 02.13.2022: The Rains Came Down and the Floods Came Up

The rains come. In obedience to God’s command, Noah enters the ark with his family and all the animals he has gathered.

Formations 01.30.2022: Bright Hope for Tomorrow

The traditional hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is on my mind. In particular, I feel drawn to the line, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine and ten thousand beside.”

Formations 01.23.2022: Let the Earth Rejoice!

Psalm 96 invites us to praise God for God’s glory, salvation, and majesty. We likely hear such an invitation to praise every time we gather for worship.

Formations 01.09.2022: Good News

“Gospel” comes from Old English god spell, “good news.” That second word, spell, is related to the word spiel. A spiel is a speech, often a sales pitch intended to persuade.

Formations 01.02.2022: Name above All Names

I’m an adjunct professor at Mercer University. That means every semester, I meet a few dozen college students, mostly first years, and set about learning their names.

Formations 12.19.2021: Angels from the Realms of Glory

Angels are everywhere. That’s not a theological statement; it’s just an observation of life in a modern, Western culture in December.

Formations 12.12.2021: God Will Be Our Shepherd

I’ve met—and am related to—a bunch of farmers and others who live in rural communities. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a shepherd.

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 11.07.2021: 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 10.17.2021: 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 10.10.2021: Extravagant Giving

In August of 1992, I was home in Michigan, preparing to return to seminary and finish my degree that December. Some may remember that this was the month that Hurricane Andrew threatened the Caribbean and the southern United States.

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 09.05.2021: 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 08.15.2021: 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 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 07.04.2021: 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 06.13.2021: #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 05.23.2021: Rekindling the Gift

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