Connections 08.21.2016: Places in our Hearts

Robert Benton’s 1984 film Places in the Heart takes place in 1935 Waxahachie, Texas. Royce and Edna Spalding own a cotton farm. Royce is also the local sheriff.

A Prayer about the Genome

O God, We praise you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
We praise you for the human genome.

Connections 08.07.2016: Safe in God’s Love

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor recessions, nor politics, nor presidential elections, nor terrorism, nor racism, nor sexism, nor homophobia, nor the internet, nor arrogance, nor ignorance…

A Prayer for Discourse

O God,
We are in the midst of a presidential election season.
It’s been ugly. We expect it to get uglier.

Connections 07.24.2016: Hope Called and Love Answered

I remember an old Gospel song: “Justice Called and Mercy Answered.” Were I to write a song based on Romans 5:1-11, I’d call it “Hope Called and Love Answered.”

A Prayer about Violence

O God,
Our society is so violent. Why are people so afraid? Why do they assume the worst of others and see them as threats?

Connections 07.10.2016: Privilege

We hear a lot of talk these days about privilege. Since I’m one of the privileged, I try to take such talk to heart. I try to be aware of my privileged status and of the pitfalls and advantages that accompany it.

Connections 06.26.2016: We Know

At one point in his 1971 song “Ain’t No Sunshine,” singer/songwriter Bill Withers says the phrase “I know” twenty-six times in a row. He says he intended to write other lyrics, but the veteran musicians playing on his debut album talked him into leaving it as it was.

Connections 06.12.2016: Them and Us

Judgment is real and necessary, but it’s nothing to be happy about.
God’s not happy about it. We shouldn’t be happy about it.

Connections 05.29.2016: What Zacchaeus Saw

Most people, if given the choice between being physically tall or financially and socially big, would go with the power. So Zacchaeus was big in the ways that most folks regard as important.

Connections 05.15.2016: It’s Hard to Be Humble

My father, the late great Champ Ruffin, would sometimes say, “You know, it’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” He was kidding. I think. I noticed he never said it when Mama was around.

Connections 05.01.2016: The Least We Can Do

I was serving as Interim Pastor of a small church that was blessed to have a very good pianist. She had to be away one Sunday, and a young church member filled in. After the worship service, I was telling the fill-in how grateful I was for her service. She gave me a funny look and said, “Mike, you don’t need to thank me. It’s my church, too.”

Nicodemusly

So in Zimglish, “nicodemusly” means “to do something secretly, under cover of darkness.” This, of course, got me to thinking about other possibilities. Allow me to share some I came up with.

Connections 04.17.2016: Coming and Going

There’s a lot of coming and going in this story. Jesus comes by boat to the land of the Gerasenes. As soon as he steps ashore, a demon-afflicted man comes to him.

Connections 04.03.2016: Free Indeed

Something about this story bothers me. Now, I know that slavery was an accepted part of first century Roman culture. But I also know that for a human being to own a human being violates the humanity of both.

Connections 03.20.2016: Good Intentions

I believe Peter, who could be the patron saint of those who mean it until it matters, was serious when he told Jesus he’d never desert him and wouldn’t deny him even if it cost him his life….I have a theory about what happened.

Rejoicing in Heaven?

I had a really neat—and that’s not a term I use very often—experience a few Sundays ago. I’ve been the fill-in preacher at The Rock Baptist Church in The Rock, Georgia for a few months.

Connections 03.06.2016: Powerful Faith

I’ve kept a prayer journal for years. Somewhere along the way, I started writing down the Jesus Prayer as the first line of my daily entry: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

A Prayer for Freedom

O God,
We thank you that in Christ, we are free under grace.

Connections 02.21.2016: Day of Atonement

We all know what a “cover-up” is. We also know it’s not a good thing. How many times have we learned of a crime only after the cover-up falls apart?

Connections 02.07.2016: Passover

The story of the institution of Passover is about the present, the future, and the past. The narrative opens with “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt . . .” (v. 1). God then proceeds to give them instructions for the Passover observance.

Live Forever

Glenn Frey will live for as long as the world continues. That’s because he will live on in his songs. Now, before some of y’all get your halos twisted in a knot, let me say that I do believe in everlasting life.

Connections 01.24.2016: A Wedding in Cana

Jesus didn’t make it a regular practice, so far as we know, to protect people from party disasters. Still, John viewed this miracle as so important that he put it right up front in his story of Jesus and went out of his way to point out that it was Jesus’ first miracle.

Connections 01.10.2016: The Most Beautiful Bride

I imagine you’ve heard of a hopeless romantic. I’m not one of those. I’m a hopeful romantic. I believe that hope leads to love and that love leads to hope. I believe that love changes the way we see those we love.

Telling the Truth

I’ve been thinking about truth telling. Our son is a writer. He’s also a cicerone. A cicerone is to beer as a sommelier is to wine. So Joshua is a certified, card-carrying beer expert. When it comes to beer, he really knows his stuff.

Uniform 12.27.2015: A Generous Gift

I have a confession to make. There was a time when I thought Christmas was about me. Now, don’t think I was worse than I was. I knew that Christmas was really about the birth of Jesus.

Christmas Time

When I was a child, I was very confused by the tense of the verb “to be” used in the Christmas hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful.” We’d sing, “With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Uniform 12.13.2015: Acceptable Offerings

I was the young new pastor at the church. As I walked around the offices, I noticed that every room had a different color carpet, that a lot of it was ugly, and that none of it was what you’d call “nice.”

Uniform 11.29.2015: Teaching God’s Word

When Paul’s missionary partners Timothy and Silas arrived in Corinth, they found him “occupied with the word” (v. 5; NRSV supplies “proclaiming,” which is not in the Greek text). What was he doing with the word with which he was occupied?

A Prayer for the Gullible

O God, Sometimes I am going to be gullible. Sometimes I am going to be too trusting so that I too easily believe what someone tells me. I suppose I should ask you to keep me from being gullible. But something else seems more important.

Uniform 11.15.2015: From Derbe to Philippi

The late comedian Mitch Hedberg talked about people who helped their friends move. “I like to help my friends stay,” he deadpanned. I think that one of the basic questions of the Christian life, not to mention of human existence, is whether we should go or stay.

A Prayer for Adversaries

O God, Thank you for the relationships we have with some and for the connections we have with all. Thank you for the people who are our adversaries.

Uniform 11.01.16: God Releases the Captive

Peter was in jail, bound by chains, surrounded by guards, and in danger of being executed. He was in those dire circumstances because of his faithfulness to Christ. Many Christians around the world experience persecution because of their faith.

Reading through the Lens of Jesus

Jesus opens up the depth of meaning in the Scriptures so that we can find depth of meaning in our lives and in our discipleship. In relationship with Jesus we become participants in the kingdom of God.

Uniform 10.18.15: Peter Takes a Risk

Sometime back in the mid-1960s, a friend of mine invited me to accompany his mother and him on a trip to one of the beautiful state parks in our state. The main event on our itinerary was swimming in the park’s lake.

Uniform 10.04.2015: The Spirit Is Not for Sale

“Simony” isn’t a word that we hear every day. As a matter of fact, I might never have heard it had I not taken Church History in seminary—or if I didn’t watch “Jeopardy.” Simony is the buying and selling of church offices.

Uniform 09.20.2015: Witnessing to the Truth

As you read this week’s text, you may think, as I did, that it offers an opportunity to talk about the jailing of Rowan County (Kentucky) clerk Kim Davis, who was found to be in contempt of court for refusing to issue any marriage licenses because of her opposition to same-sex marriage.

A Prayer for Refugees

O God, It must break your heart to see so many of your children so desperate to flee their homeland that they put their lives and the lives of their children at such risk.

Uniform 09.06.2015: Praying for One Another

In a song of my generation, the singer pleads, “Tell me what you want and I’ll give you what you need.” I’ve learned over the years that my prayers often go like that—I ask God for what I want and God gives me what I need.

You Are Where You Are

In last month’s Kaleidoscope post, I listed several presuppositions for approaching our study of the Bible as if we are looking through a kaleidoscope. This month I’d like to think about the first presupposition: each one of us stands in a unique place.

Uniform 08.23.2015: God Demands Justice

For centuries they preached that worship rituals were invalid unless accompanied by proper concern for other people, and especially for the most vulnerable in the society.

Uniform 08.09.2015: A Choice to Be Just

In the 1984 film Mass Appeal, the older priest is a “Don’t rock the boat” sort while the younger man fervently believes that the boat really needs to be rocked–if not sunk.

Connections is Coming!

Beginning with the January–April 2016 trimester, the Uniform Bible Study series will become Connections. You may wonder what will change besides the name. Well, not much—at least not right away.

Kaleidoscope

Most of us probably had at least one kaleidoscope during our childhood and so we know what one looks like and what it does. It’s a tube with a lens at one end through which someone looks, telescope-style.

Uniform 07.26.2015: The Last Word is “Grace”

Most of Micah’s message is about justice and judgment; as God’s prophet, he hammers away at the need for the people of eighth century Israel to acknowledge and repent of their sins.

Uniform 07.12.2015: No Tolerance for Corrupt Leaders and Prophets

In a 1963 episode of The Andy Griffith Show entitled “Opie and the Spoiled Kid,” Opie’s friend Arnold kept getting into trouble. Andy finally confiscated the boy’s bicycle due to violations of Mayberry’s no riding bikes on the sidewalk ordinance.

Uniform 06.28.2015: No Rest for the Greedy or the Needy

One reason that Israel was commanded to keep the Sabbath was out of a sense of empathy for those who were most tied to their labor, who were most dependent on those who were wealthier than they were.

Ecumenical PB&J

I have often joked that I was Baptist before I was Christian—but it’s not entirely a joke. To me, it all comes down to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.