Connections 06.30.2019: Set Free for Freedom

From the time children are old enough to understand the word “no,” they rebel against the limitations of rules. My younger daughter, Natalie, was curious and sneaky at age one.

Connections 06.23.2019: Christian Clothes

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

Connections 06.16.2019: Great Responsibility

“With great power comes great responsibility.” In Stan Lee’s original 1962 comic book Amazing Fantasy #15, a slightly varied form of this sentence appears as a caption below the last panel. In the 2002 Spider-Man film, Peter Parker hears these words from his beloved Uncle Ben.

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 06.02.2019: More Important than Knowing the End

People have always wanted to know when “the end” will be. How much longer will the earth last? What age will I be when I die? When will God solve this problem for me? What’s the date of Jesus’ return?

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 05.19.2019: “The Second Death”

This passage offers some of the most hopeful promises in the Bible. In the first part, death is overcome! In the second part, God rebuilds Jerusalem as a place of hope and strength and newness.

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 05.05.2019: Every Creature, and All that Is in Them

The vivid descriptions in the book of Revelation are both beautiful and haunting. Centuries of biblical scholars and interpreters have taken a stab at explaining the meanings behind John’s visions.

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 04.21.2019: Leaving the Tomb Behind

When a loved one dies, their absence is so intense that it can feel like a presence. Somehow, the space their body used to take up still seems to hold them.

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 04.07.2019: Looking for Jesus

Jesus’ last days are filled with longing, heavy with sadness, and intense with foreboding. He reveals over and over again that he knows what awaits him in Jerusalem.

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 03.24.2019: An Invitation

In the New Revised Standard Version, the title for this section of Scripture is “An Invitation to Abundant Life.” In some Christian traditions, the main focus is the afterlife.

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 03.10.2019: Remembrance, Gratitude, and Celebration

In our Scripture passage from Deuteronomy 26, we learn about three ways God wants us to respond to the gifts God gives: remembrance, gratitude, and celebration.

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 02.24.2019: Life after Death

Who among us has not wondered about the afterlife? Especially when someone we know dies, we cling to the few descriptions the Bible gives us about what we imagine as “heaven.” God is usually depicted as speaking from heaven, as in Psalm 33:13.

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 02.10.2019: A Mature Belief

Like Paul, I have grown as a believer—though maybe in a less dramatic fashion. I was born into the church and attended faithfully throughout my childhood and young adult years. Though I faced plenty of doubt and uncertainty about the things I learned, I can look back now and realize that I was devoutly Christian.

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 01.27.2019: Fulfilling the Prophecies

During his traveling ministry, there were few places where Jesus encountered no one who questioned him, doubted his claims, or requested proof that he was actually who he said he was. According to the Bible, no place was worse about this than his own hometown.

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 01.13.2019: Humility

John the Baptist was a celebrity. He had all the right factors to create interest and even obsession among the people who had encountered him or even just heard of him. Young. Strong. Eccentric. Intriguing. Tantalizing.

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 12.30.2018: Growing Up

My younger daughter Natalie will be 12 years old in March. It’s a delicate age. She is just crossing the threshold into puberty, clinging to the joys of childhood while also confronting body changes and swinging emotions.

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 12.16.2018: The Lord Is in Our Midst!

How’s your Advent going? By this point, about a week before Christmas, many of us usually feel weary. We haven’t had time to wait for Christ because we’ve been so busy with the trappings of this season—decorating, planning meals, attending parties, cleaning house for guests, preparing for family gatherings, and more.

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.

Connections 12.02.2018: The Promise of the Righteous Branch

God said, “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (v. 15). Is it any wonder that, as the day of Jesus’ birth approached, people expected him to be a king who would rule with might and power? Their Scriptures were full of promises like this one from God.

Connections 11.11.2018: Heaven’s Head Table

When we all get to heaven and sit down for the homecoming banquet (I hope there’s fried chicken, because you know it would be the best fried chicken), I suspect we’ll be surprised at who is sitting at the head table. I further suspect that those sitting there will be more surprised than anybody else.

Connections 11.04.2018: Jesus Drops the Mic

According to my findings after a Google search, the term “mic drop” originated in the 1980s when entertainers would try to better each other. As one performer finished his rap or comedy sketch or speech, he’d drop the microphone as if to say, “You can’t top that.”

Connections 10.28.2018: Risky Business

I have long wished that the book of Job ended at 42:6. I recognize that would be somewhat unsatisfying, as it would leave Job in his situation of great loss. But it would also leave him having experienced God personally without being materially rewarded for his faithfulness.

Connections 10.21.2018: Job Hears the Voice of God

So far in this unit of lessons, we’ve suffered with Job (Job 1–2) and then listened to him confess both his confidence in God (23:1-7) and his uncertainty about God (23:8-17). If we’ve read between the lesson texts, we have also witnessed his three friends comfort him and condemn him.

Connections 10.14.2018: Humble Confidence

Job makes two very different assertions in this week’s lesson text. He first asserts that if he could just find God and lay his case before God, God would have to agree that he has done nothing to deserve the calamities that have befallen him.

Connections 10.07.2018: The Problem of Job

What do we do with Job? For centuries, biblical scholars, critics, interpreters, and also the average person—not so different from you and me—have tried to answer that question. Job is fairly unique in the Bible.

Connections 09.30.2018: A Community of Prayer

For a long time, I thought and taught that prayer is an important part of the Christian life. Somewhere along the way, I decided that in fact the Christian life is a life of prayer. How did I arrive at that conclusion? Like many realizations, it came over time.

Connections 09.23.2018: Real Wisdom Indeed

My maternal grandmother died suddenly in 2012. She was eighty-two and had lived a good, long life full of blessings along with heartaches, but we still weren’t expecting her to die, and her passing hurt us all deeply.

Connections 09.16.2018: The Danger of the Tongue

The pastor of my growing up years, the legendary Preacher Bill Coleman, liked to brag back in the 1970s that he hadn’t spoken at a Wednesday night prayer meeting in several years. The reason was that anyone who wanted to speak could sign up to do so.

Connections 09.09.2018: More than Thoughts and Prayers

Over the past few years, numerous tragedies across the globe have torn at our hearts. From school shootings to natural disasters to war violence, we hear about specific events and feel helpless. We may cry. We may get angry. We may look the other way. All of these reactions indicate how helpless we feel to make things right.

Connections 09.02.2018: Authenticity

I’m writing these words on the day Aretha Franklin died (August 16). She recorded many hits, but her signature song is “Respect” (1967), which was written by Otis Redding.

Connections 08.26.2018: “This Teaching Is Difficult”

This may be an unorthodox thing to say, but I love it when the disciples are confused, troubled, uncertain, or skeptical. The disciples—even the “extended family” of followers beyond the steady group of twelve men—were always the people closest to Jesus.

Connections 08.12.2018: Watching for Morning

Time moves slower at night. As infants, my daughters always slept restlessly. I would nurse them to sleep (it was the only way they’d give in), and then my husband or I would carry them to bed, lower them into the crib, and back away with a degree of stealth worthy of any secret agent.

Connections 08.05.2018: The Best Bread

My childhood friend Cal and I spent a lot of time at each other’s houses. That meant we often ate lunch at each other’s houses too. The only thing I remember about eating at his house was that they had Tang, which I thought was cool because (a) astronauts drank it (according to the commercials—Tang commercials, not NASA ones) and (b) we didn’t have it at our house.

Connections 07.29.2018: Will this Be on the Test?

We can’t help being fascinated by stories like David’s. A handsome, admired man with a bright future, beloved of God, giant slayer, powerful leader, conqueror of Saul, adored friend of Jonathan.

Connections 07.22.2018: Preachers in High Places

King David wanted to build a house for the Lord, which means he wanted to build a temple. What could be wrong with that? After all, as David observed as he discussed the idea with the prophet Nathan, it hardly seemed right that David had a fine house to live in while the Lord had only a tent (fine tent though it was).

Connections 07.15.2018: Containing Your Excitement

I grew up in the so-called Bible Belt, that strip of the South where church is king and good religious folks are expected to adhere to a certain set of standards. In many churches, dancing was (and in some places still is) forbidden.