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 09.25.2022: Faith’s Foundation

I grew up in a small Southern Baptist church that felt like a safe place to ask questions, express doubts, and wonder about the Christian faith. Even so, our leaders encouraged a firm foundation.

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 09.04.2022: Spiritual Gifts

Have you ever taken a spiritual gift inventory? Some churches or ministry events offer these to help people determine the ways God has gifted them.

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 08.14.2022: A Humble Witness

Over the years, I’ve encountered many different types of witnesses for Christ. There was the screaming street preacher who promised eternal torment if we didn’t repent.

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 07.24.2022: Judah’s Repentance

Today we have another biblical story about people who make morally corrupt choices. Similar to his brother Reuben, Judah tends to look out for himself above anyone else.

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 07.03.2022: Remembering Reuben

Most of us hope to leave a legacy of goodness—love, kindness, generosity, service, strength, devotion. We certainly make mistakes as we live our daily lives, but our goal is to recognize our failures and make amends.

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 06.12.2022: A Prepared Place

Death is part of life. It seems ironic, but we all know it’s true. For me today, this truth hits my spirit hard. I woke up this morning to a devastating text message about a longtime friend—she was killed yesterday by a van driver as she bicycled in her rural town.

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 05.22.2022: 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.