Loyal Dissenters: Reading Matthew 22:21 Together

When English Baptists in the seventeenth century read Matthew 22:21, they heard Jesus establishing a limit on the authority of civil power. Caesar did have legitimate concerns in this world—collecting taxes, for example—and, in those areas, he could exercise his power as he saw fit.

Meditations on Luke: Our Given Identities

When my wife was pregnant with each of our daughters, we felt a degree of stress in coming up with names for them. For one thing, we didn’t want to offend anyone in our families of origin. Use names from only one side of the family and you may alienate folks on the other.

Connections 12.10.2017: What Would John the Baptist Say?

The other morning I got out of bed before my wife did. When she came into the den a few minutes later, she found me eating my oatmeal and watching the CBS Morning News. The first thing she said was, “Good morning!” The second thing she said was, “Has there been another one yet today?”

Connections 11.12.2017: Give It Some Thought

The story in this week’s Scripture passage reminds me of a part of the John the Baptist story. It’s the scene where “many Pharisees and Sadducees” come to John to be baptized. He doesn’t exactly affirm their decision. “You brood of vipers!” he yells. “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Mt 3:7).

Connections 01.08.2017: Going Under

I was watching a made-for-television film about Jesus. In its depiction of Jesus’ baptism, he joined John in the Jordan River. As they stood in the river, which came up to their waists, John poured water over Jesus’ head.

Connections 12.18.2016: Father of the Forerunner

Two weeks ago, I encouraged us to put ourselves in Mary’s shoes—to truly feel empathy for her when she heard the news that was both devastating and life changing. Can we do some imagining about Zechariah, too?

Formations 12.11.2016: Even in this Place?

John the Baptist heard the train coming before anyone else, but today he’s in prison. By the river he proclaimed, “Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” (Matt 3:2). Now he sends some of his disciples to find out if he got it wrong, if they should start looking for someone else.

Meditations on Mark: Prepare the Way

This is the promise John the Baptist makes in the opening chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Mark doesn’t begin with the story of Jesus’ birth. Rather, he jumps into the middle of the story with Jesus already as an adult, ready to begin his ministry. This is the urgency in Mark: The Messiah has come.

Formations 12.04.2016: Pace Yourself

I was late coming to Advent. The church of my childhood and youth never observed a season of preparation leading to Christmas day. We were left, then, to “get ready for Christmas” the same way secular people did.

Crossroads: Why We Baptize

I have loved Jesus for practically my whole life. I grew up in church, and we were there pretty much every time the church was open. At seven years old, I told Jesus that I wanted him to be my Savior and I was baptized.

An Invitation to Joy

If we relied on Mark, we would have to stretch to get a story worth a Christmas carol. Mark has no shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, no Mary, no Joseph, no manger, no wise men, no Herod.

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.

Becoming a Church

Peter Pan premieres at the box office. Eisenhower becomes President of the United States. The Korean War ends. These events all occurred in 1953, the same year that a church plant was created.

Thrive: Words of Promise – Amy Shorner-Johnson

As you look forward toward a new year, what are your hopes and dreams? While I am not a person who typically makes resolutions, I am always grateful for some time to reflect on the year.

Thrive: The Depths and Mysteries of Life – Amy Shorner-Johnson

I am always grateful for the testimony of the women who came to the tomb. This story is a powerful witness and an affirmation of the women’s part in the sharing of the good news that God gives us.

Formations 12.28.2014: Finding Life’s Purpose

Author and business consultant Keith Yamashita can still remember the first time he met Bill Thomas, a physician who hopes to change the way Americans think about aging and the elderly.

Thrive: The Gift of Acknowledgement – Amy Shorner-Johnson

During the Christmas season, we often talk about loneliness and remembering those who are marginalized, those who might also feel abandoned as they get lost or overlooked.

Thrive: Vulnerability and Risk – Amy Shorner-Johnson

Who among us hasn’t tried to push the attention away from ourselves when we are afraid? When the teacher starts calling names and the answer seems evasive? When the boss looks for someone to hold accountable?

Thrive: Love is Stronger – Amy Shorner-Johnson

Cyber Monday. Some of us have already spent some time trying to get the best deal online. Whether or not you participated in the last few days of shopping, it can be hard to avoid the hype that begins as we countdown toward what is supposed to be one of the most “wonderful times of the year.”

Crossroads: The Candle of Prophecy – Elizabeth and Zechariah

Welcome to the first week of Advent, a time of waiting and preparation as we prepare for the birth of Christ. This week you will light the first purple candle, the candle of prophecy and hope.

Thrive: Couldn’t You Stay Awake with Me? – Cynthia Insko

I love the beach. I don’t go often, but when I do, I pay close attention. Engaging my senses, I take it all in. I smell the musty, fishy breeze, taste the salty air, feel the sand between my toes.

Thrive: When Did We See You? – Cynthia Insko

Back in 1994, I received an invitation that changed my life. I was serving as campus minister in a city that housed a cutting-edge research clinic for the treatment of AIDS.

Thrive: Is it Fair? – Cynthia Insko

I have three children. It’s very important to me to avoid favoritism and treat each fairly. For example, when the last brownie is left in the pan, I meticulously cut it in three equal parts.

Thrive: Are You Ready? – Cynthia Insko

Each Sunday at the threshold of our Godly Play children’s worship classroom our doorkeeper bends down, looks each child in the eye, calls her by name and asks, “Are you ready?” Answering “Yes,” one by one the children enter our sacred space.

Thrive: Insisting on Titles – Katie McKown

Most of us understand it’s impolite to blatantly brag. We might want to do it, but we know culture frowns upon it; however if we’re keen enough we’ll find a way.

Thrive: We Work – Katie McKown

It is a famed pastime to predict when Jesus will return. Who knows when Jesus will return? Scripture tells us “only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) Perhaps then we should shift attention from when Jesus will return to how to live while we wait “for [we] do not know on what day [our] Lord is coming.”

Thrive: A Gathering God – Katie McKown

I pastor a congregation of farmers and gardeners, and as a result, I have corralled cows on a four-wheeler. A calf has borne my name. I have learned about turkeys, chickens, goats, horses, and cows.

Thrive: KEEP OUT – Katie McKown

As a girl I posted a friendly little sign on my door: “This is Katie’s Room. KEEP OUT!” On occasion I deigned to let my brother in to play with me, but whenever we had a spat, I would lock the door to underline the point: KEEP OUT.

Thrive: Loving – Allison Kentle

Love God with all that you are and love others as you love yourself. Having this kind of love takes courage. Living out this kind of love means that I am no longer the center.

Why I am a Baptist: A Way of Living in the World (Part 3) – Daniel Vestal

Finally, being Baptist is a way of confronting culture, interacting with society, and relating to people, that is, a way of living in the world. For Baptists, an individual Christian and a congregation of Christians are to be in the world but not be of the world.

Thrive: Questions – Allison Kentle

The tension could be cut with a knife, questions flying all over the place. Matthew 21-22 make it pretty clear that Jesus and the religious leaders are not BFFs, for these chapters are filled with questions.

Thrive: The Temple – Allison Kentle

Lately, my heart has been aching. I have walked through life in the brokenness of the inner city. I have seen the way poverty, pain, and lack of equal opportunities shatter the dreams of teens.

Thrive: Jesus Curses – Allison Kentle

When I try to imagine Jesus, I typically think of words like strong, humble, confident, devoted, brave, and loving. It seems strange to think of Jesus with four letter words dripping from his lips.

Thrive: Two Sons – Allison Kentle

Can you just picture the scene one Saturday morning? Everyone is in the kitchen. One teen is sitting on the counter, pop tart in one hand, texting with the other hand. The other sits at the kitchen counter eating a bowl of cereal, headphones on.

Thrive: The Request – Valerie Burton

The mother of James and John may have been the first “helicopter parent,” one hovering a little too closely to her children as they climbed the ladder of discipleship.

Why I am a Baptist: A Way of Doing Church (Part 2) – Daniel Vestal

Being a Baptist is also a way of doing church, that is, a way of functioning in a community of faith and living in relationship with other Christians. For Baptists, a congregation is a people gathered voluntarily and willingly.

Thrive: The Generous One – Valerie Burton

Living with children has turned me into a champion negotiator. They will bargain with me as long as I will let them. It has been assumed from the earliest practices of religion that humans could bargain with the gods to get what they want.

Thrive: Easier for a Camel – Valerie Burton

Most days, I believe it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one of his disciples to interpret Jesus’ teaching. Why were they so caught off guard by this quip from Jesus that has become one of his most familiar sayings?

Thrive: Jesus Blesses Little Children – Valerie Burton

The bedtime rituals at our house include brushing teeth and laying out clothes for the next day. Then we read, pray, and just when we think we are done, there comes the request for just one more drink of water.

Why I Am a Baptist: A Way of Being Christian (Part 1) – Daniel Vestal

Several years ago I took a mission trip outside the United States. In a casual conversation a young man asked me what I believed about God. Part of my response was, “I am Christian.” As the conversation progressed, it became clear that the word “Christian” has all kinds of implications.

Thrive: Surely Seven Is Enough – Lauren Brewer Bass

One year, with Ash Wednesday approaching, I found myself stewing about words spoken to me by a friend (who is now my husband). He casually mentioned to me that I liked to hold grudges. (Um, what?)

Thrive: Be on the Lookout – Lauren Brewer Bass

And he was transfigured before them . . . Just like that. He was the person they traveled with every day (and if you have ever traveled with someone for any length of time you know that you get quite acquainted with their look, their smells, their quirks).