Connections 05.24.2020: Let Us Pray

Jesus’ followers had watched him ascend to heaven. Before he ascended, he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. As they gathered to wait, they “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer…” (v. 14a).

Connections 05.17.2020: Proclamation

This Sunday is the sixth Sunday of Easter. Observing Eastertide, the fifty-day period that begins on Easter Sunday and ends on Pentecost Sunday, is a good way to remind ourselves of the ongoing reality, power, and effect of Jesus’ resurrection.

Connections 05.03.2020: Community from a Distance

We’ve been doing something counter-intuitive during these days of the COVID-19 pandemic: building community by staying apart. In our current situation, we love our neighbors by staying away from them.

Connections 04.26.2020: What Things?

Cleopas and his companion know what has happened. They know the facts. They are talking about those facts as they trudge the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

Connections 04.12.2020: The Risen Christ

I listen to a podcast called “Gone.” In each episode, hosts Richard and Molly discuss something or someone that went missing and has never been found. One of the podcast’s taglines is, “Just because something is gone, [it] doesn’t mean it can’t be found.”

Connections 04.05.2020: The Cross and COVID-19

When the devil tested Jesus in the wilderness, he introduced two of his three challenges with, “If you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:3, 6). In refusing the devil’s challenges, Jesus declined to prove his identity on the devil’s terms.

Connections 03.22.2020: The Church of the Shepherd

There are local churches called The Church of the Shepherd or The Church of the Good Shepherd. Those are good names. After all, as Psalm 23 affirms, the Lord is our shepherd.

Connections 03.15.2020: Rebellious Creatures

Machines with artificial intelligence turning against the people who made them is a recurring theme in works of science fiction. One example is the 2004-08 Battlestar Galactica television series.

Connections 03.01.2020: Replacing the Plug

It’s an image most of us are familiar with: the dropping of a stone into water produces ripples, which represent the ongoing effects of an action.

Connections 02.23.2020: Holy Imagination

Our high school English teacher Mrs. Powers was teaching us about similes and metaphors. “’The baby is like a rose,’” she said, “is a simile.”

Connections 02.09.2020: Light in the Darkness

Most contemporary biblical scholars believe that Isaiah 56–66 contain the words of a prophet who preached in the tradition of the eighth-century prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem to the Jewish people after their return from exile in Babylon.

Connections 02.02.2020: Abiding Principles

A long time ago, in a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary far, far away, I heard a chapel speaker say something like this: “We don’t read a manual on how to operate a vacuum cleaner as poetry, so why would we read Genesis 1 as a manual on how God created the universe?”

Connections 01.19.2020: Team Players

Another college football season is behind us. I hope your team had a good year. I watch a lot of college football.

Connections 01.12.2020: Too Small for Walls

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. closed its doors on December 31, 2019 after eleven years of operation. I hated to see this happen.

Connections 12.29.2019: Infant Jesus vs. the Empire

This week’s lesson text makes at least three main points. First, God guides Joseph to protect the Christ child. Second, what happens to and around Jesus fulfills Scripture. Third, Jesus’ experience reflects Moses’ experience.

Connections 12.22.2019: A Righteous Man

Our lesson text says that Joseph was “a righteous man” (v. 19). We could use more righteous men these days. I say that as a man. I’m allowed to talk about my own kind.

Connections 12.08.2019: Privilege

Advent is a good time to consider our privilege and what we need to do about it. This week’s lesson text features John the Baptist.

Connections 12.01.2019: Being Alert

This week we begin a unit called “Advent and Christmas Goals.” Our lesson text calls us to be ready for Jesus to come again.

Connections 11.17.2019: Keep On Keeping On

I was born and raised in Barnesville, Georgia, which was (and is) about forty miles from the Smyth & Helwys and NextSunday Resources world headquarters here in Macon.

Connections 11.10.2019: Getting and Being Ready

I try not to think too much about “the real meaning of Christmas”—the incarnation event, the Word made flesh, the baby in the manger—until just after the fourth Sunday of Advent. Don’t freak out on me.

Connections 10.27.2019: Too Good for Our Own Good

If you are of my generation, you probably know the song “Spirit in the Sky.” You may know it even if you aren’t of my generation. It’s been used in lots of movies, television shows, and commercials.

Connections 10.20.2019: Prayed Up

Have you heard the one about the church member who prayed such long prayers that his fellow members cringed when the pastor called on him to pray? They dreaded hearing his prayers drag on for five minutes or longer, which they always did.

Connections 10.06.2019: The Least We Can Do

My Good Wife likes yellow roses, so every now and then I buy some for her. One time, I posted a picture on Facebook of some roses I had given her.

Dead Skunk (Possum, Squirrel, Armadillo) in the Middle of the Road

I tend not to notice roadkill until it’s too late. I’ll be driving merrily along, and I’ll feel that little bump from running over something that’s already dead. If my Good Wife is a passenger in the car I’m driving, she’ll cringe when I run over a dead animal.

Connections 09.29.2019: Seeing the Big Picture

Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel offered to sell the prophet a piece of family land out around Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth, which was just a few miles from Jerusalem. It was a bad deal.

Connections 09.15.2019: Don’t Be Foolish

Whenever I see a news story about a complicated cybercrime or some other elaborate scheme, I think, “If those people would use their ingenuity and creativity for good, they could help make this a better world.”

Connections 09.08.2019: Grace Greater than our Self-Evaluation

God goes to a lot of trouble to make sure we know about God’s grace and mercy. In this week’s lesson text, God sends the prophet Jeremiah to watch a potter at work.

Connections 08.25.2019: From Looking Down to Looking Out

Because of a back problem, the woman had been bent over for eighteen years. She had spent almost two decades looking at the ground and at people’s feet.

Connections 08.18.2019: Division

Jesus says that his coming causes division. He highlights the divisions that occur in families. By the time Luke’s Gospel was written, such division over Jesus was certainly happening in families.

Connections 08.04.2019: Greed (Which Is Idolatry)

There’s a scene in the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life in which George Bailey asks Clarence the angel if he has any money. Clarence says, “No, we don’t use money in heaven.” George replies, “Well, it comes in real handy down here, bud!”

Connections 07.21.2019: Starving for the Word of the Lord

Vacation Bible School (VBS) season is winding down. I grew up in the era when VBS food consisted of cookies and Kool-Aid.

Connections 07.07.2019: Our Faith, Their Health

Naaman was the general in charge of Syria’s army. He was important and powerful. He also had a disease. Because Naaman was important and powerful, he had servants.

Connections 06.23.2019: Christian Clothes

Some people try to express their convictions and commitments through their clothing.

Connections 06.09.2019: All Flesh

When the Holy Spirit fell on the gathered believers on the day of Pentecost, they began to speak in the languages of the people who had come to Jerusalem from many other countries for the festival.

Connections 05.26.2019: Seeing and Being Seen

Darkness can be frightening because it can keep us from seeing things that are there. That’s why if we get up in the middle of the night and don’t turn on a light, we might stub a toe on a piece of furniture.

Connections 05.12.2019: There’s Someplace Like Home

I was sitting at a table with other ministers. We were at a workshop, and the leader had asked us to discuss issues we were struggling to come to terms with.

Connections 04.28.2019: Living in the Center

This Sunday we’ll study the final lesson in a unit entitled “Easter at the Center.” The unit title reflects two truths, one simple and one profound.

Connections 04.14.2019: From the Colt’s Journal

Nobody asked me if I wanted to participate. But I was used to such treatment. I was hanging out, munching some grain, minding my own business, when two fellows came along and took me.

Connections 03.31.2019: Gratitude Plus Responsibility

We have a five-week-old granddaughter. She gets fed every few hours. She doesn’t have to do anything for her food. It just shows up. She partakes, burps, and goes back to sleep.

Connections 03.17.2019: If They Only Knew

The opening verse of Genesis 15 intrigues me: “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’”

Connections 03.03.2019: Something About Her

I was attending a conference for pastors. My wife accompanied me so she could visit some family members who lived near the host college, shop in the quaint college town, and (I think, hope, and believe) spend some time with me.

Connections 02.17.2019: “To Infinity…and Beyond!”

“To infinity…and beyond!” is the catchphrase of the Toy Story movies’ character Buzz Lightyear. The statement is nonsense. For one thing, infinity isn’t something you can go to.

Connections 02.03.2019: The Greatest of These is Charity

Modern English versions of the Bible use “love” to translate the key word agape in 1 Corinthians 13. That is indeed what it means. The correct translation isn’t without problems, though. I might say, “I love the Atlanta Braves.”

Connections 01.20.2019: The Best Is Yet to Come

“Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now” (v. 10). That’s what the steward of the wedding feast, who has just tasted the water that Jesus turned into wine, says to the bridegroom.

Connections 01.06.2019: Perspective

On Christmas Eve in 1968, the Apollo 8 spacecraft was orbiting the moon. The three astronauts inside the craft— Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders—were the first human beings to travel to the moon and back. I was only ten years old, but I vividly remember the chills I experienced when the astronauts read the opening verses of the Genesis 1 creation poem as they beamed footage of the lunar surface back to Earth.

Connections 12.23.2018: Peace for a Day

It happened over forty-five years ago, but I still cringe when I think about it. As you may know, some teenagers can occasionally be a little dramatic. I was not immune.

Connections 12.09.2018: Advent Fussing

It was 1977. I was a college student, and I’d been invited to preach at my home church on a Sunday night. As I walked in the front door, I encountered my first cousin’s husband. The following conversation took place.

Two Advent Hymns

At this time of year, we look forward to Advent worship. A few years ago, I realized that we might benefit from some additional Advent hymns, so I wrote a couple and set them to the tunes of well-known Christmas hymns. If you think your church’s Advent worship might be enhanced by them, I’d be honored for you to sing them.