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 05.22.2022: Our Adoption

A solid foundation of trust and security is essential to healthy child development. Research indicates that the first three years of life are the most fertile for building this foundation.

Formations 05.15.2022: Doing Our Part

Nearly 200 years ago, Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard famously suggested that the institutional church has misunderstood what happens during worship. On the analogy of the theater, he says, we assume that the clergy on the platform are the performers.

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 05.01.2022: Together and in Private

A few years ago I went with my parents and daughters to Amelia Island, Florida. It was a difficult time for my family, as my husband and I had separated and none of us knew what should happen next.

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 04.10.2022: The Triumphal Entry

We’ve come to Palm Sunday, a day of celebration. In some churches, people spread palm leaves on their sanctuary floors to honor the day Jesus came to Jerusalem for the last time.

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 03.20.2022: The Adulteress

If we want to understand just how revolutionary Jesus was, we can look at his treatment of women. In his time, women were excluded from most of the societal positions that gave men prominence, financial security, dignity, authority, and good reputations.

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 02.27.2022: The Rainbow

Rainbows are rare enough that their appearance feels magical. When we see a rainbow, we exclaim and point, and then we fall quiet and reflect. We stand on the ground and look up, marveling.

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 02.06.2022: The Real Story of Noah’s Ark

During their early years, whenever my kids needed a doctor’s visit, their favorite exam room was the Noah’s Ark room. Its focal wall boasted a beautiful mural of the delightful image many of us bring to mind when we think of that story.

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 01.16.2022: Our God Reigns!

Just a couple of days into the new year, a friend posted this on social media: “I have no faith left in humans to do anything but serve themselves.”

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 12.26.2021: The Word Became Flesh

Our favorite Christmas Bible stories usually involve angels, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, a stable behind an inn, animals, a tiny baby in a feeding trough, and wise men visiting from afar. This passage in the Gospel of John has none of those, and yet it is probably the most important Christmas story of all.

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 12.05.2021: The Lord Looks on the Heart

What is God doing here? God has sent the prophet Samuel to anoint the new king of Israel. The king will be a son of Jesse from Bethlehem. When Samuel sees Jesse’s son Eliab, he’s ready to call off the search.

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 10.10.2021: 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 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.