Connections 09.29.2019: Seeing the Big Picture

Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel offered to sell the prophet a piece of family land out around Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth, which was just a few miles from Jerusalem. It was a bad deal.

Connections 09.22.2019: God’s Grief

When you go through something that seems terrible and senseless, how do you try to explain it? Many people who face a personal crisis believe that God is punishing or testing them.

Connections 09.15.2019: Don’t Be Foolish

Whenever I see a news story about a complicated cybercrime or some other elaborate scheme, I think, “If those people would use their ingenuity and creativity for good, they could help make this a better world.”

Connections 09.08.2019: Grace Greater than our Self-Evaluation

God goes to a lot of trouble to make sure we know about God’s grace and mercy. In this week’s lesson text, God sends the prophet Jeremiah to watch a potter at work.

Connections 09.01.2019: God’s Astonishment

As an independent editing contractor, I have a more flexible schedule than my husband and children. While they are (mostly) willing to help when time allows, household management falls largely on my shoulders.

Connections 08.25.2019: From Looking Down to Looking Out

Because of a back problem, the woman had been bent over for eighteen years. She had spent almost two decades looking at the ground and at people’s feet.

Connections 08.18.2019: Division

Jesus says that his coming causes division. He highlights the divisions that occur in families. By the time Luke’s Gospel was written, such division over Jesus was certainly happening in families.

Connections 08.11.2019: From Indifference to Readiness

What does it mean to be indifferent to something? In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, synonyms for “indifferent” are apathetic, complacent, disinterested, incurious, nonchalant, and unconcerned.

Connections 08.04.2019: Greed (Which Is Idolatry)

There’s a scene in the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life in which George Bailey asks Clarence the angel if he has any money. Clarence says, “No, we don’t use money in heaven.” George replies, “Well, it comes in real handy down here, bud!”

Connections 07.28.2019: God Offers Hope

Yesterday, my husband and I saw a local community theatre production of the haunting musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Based on the animated Disney movie, it features the same songs and several new ones.

Connections 07.21.2019: Starving for the Word of the Lord

Vacation Bible School (VBS) season is winding down. I grew up in the era when VBS food consisted of cookies and Kool-Aid.

Connections 07.14.2019: God and Country

What were you doing on July 4? Did you celebrate Independence Day, and if so, how? My family and I enjoyed our usual festivities for July 4, spending the day with our friends by their pool, eating burgers and hot dogs.

Connections 07.07.2019: Our Faith, Their Health

Naaman was the general in charge of Syria’s army. He was important and powerful. He also had a disease. Because Naaman was important and powerful, he had servants.

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 11.25.2018: Because Christ Reigns

As you probably know, we had an election back on November 6. As of this writing, they’re still counting votes here in Georgia and in several other states. As the process stretches on, one can detect a touch of holiday rancor in the air.

Connections 11.18.2018: Insight for Divisive Times

The United States political and religious climate is nothing short of divisive, often in devastating ways. Within my own extended family, there have been threats of withholding contact due to political and religious differences. One person asked how the other could claim to be a Christian while holding a particular point of view.

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.