Connections 10.18.2020: Electoral Humility

Almost sixty years had passed since Nebuchadrezzar’s Babylonian forces sent the first group of exiles from Judah to Babylon. Almost fifty years had passed since his armies had destroyed Jerusalem…

Formations 08.30.2020: The Gift of Laughter

Infertility is no laughing matter. One of my friends suffered through years of pain, expensive infertility treatments, marital stress, and pregnancy loss before she and her husband finally agreed to take a break from trying to have a child.

Formations 05.24.2020: Receiving the Spirit

I had just finished my sermon on the Holy Spirit and the ways God empowers us to participate with God in ushering in the kingdom.

Formations 05.17.2020: The Responsibility of Power

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being an adult. My best friend and I had a favorite game to play every time we were together: we called it “apartment.”

Formations 04.26.2020: More than Hope

What do you need most right now? While we’re all in this pandemic together, our individual situations are unique. Our pain is our own. Our grief is ours to bear.

Connections 04.26.2020: What Things?

Cleopas and his companion know what has happened. They know the facts. They are talking about those facts as they trudge the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

Formations 04.19.2020: On the Threshold of Resurrection

Liminality is a word anthropologists use to describe experiences that happen on life’s borderlands. Coming from the Latin word for “threshold,” a liminal experience involves crossing from one state to another.

Connections 04.19.2020: The Empowering Christ

Today’s passage contains one of my favorite images in the New Testament. It’s not the appearance of the risen Christ. It’s not him breathing the Holy Spirit upon his disciples.

Connections 04.12.2020: The Risen Christ

I listen to a podcast called “Gone.” In each episode, hosts Richard and Molly discuss something or someone that went missing and has never been found. One of the podcast’s taglines is, “Just because something is gone, [it] doesn’t mean it can’t be found.”

Formations 04.12.2020: Giving Things Up for Lent

John places Jesus’ “cleansing of the temple” near the beginning of his Gospel rather than at the end, as the Synoptic Gospels do. In John, this symbolic act foreshadows the many controversies that Jesus will face and that will eventually end with the crucifixion.

Connections 04.05.2020: The Cross and COVID-19

When the devil tested Jesus in the wilderness, he introduced two of his three challenges with, “If you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:3, 6). In refusing the devil’s challenges, Jesus declined to prove his identity on the devil’s terms.

Formations 04.05.2020: Zeal for God’s House

I’m writing this article in a time of trauma all around the world. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has reached every continent except Antarctica. People are sick, scared, isolated, and anxious for what lies ahead.

Connections 03.29.2020: The Lord Hears Us

It’s Monday, March 16, and I’m writing this on a strange, surreal day during a strange, surreal time in the life of our country.

Formations 03.22.2020: Things or Experiences?

New research from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin suggests that some purchases are better than others at providing happiness.

Connections 03.22.2020: The Church of the Shepherd

There are local churches called The Church of the Shepherd or The Church of the Good Shepherd. Those are good names. After all, as Psalm 23 affirms, the Lord is our shepherd.

Formations 03.15.2020: God’s Law vs. God’s Love

Many memories of my life as a church member—at various churches over the years—are beautiful, positive, and sustaining. But some are difficult, burdensome, and troubling.

Formations 03.08.2020: Love Your Enemies

I’ve got to confess, it’s hard to find a good current-event angle on Jesus’ words about love and non-retaliation during an election season!

Formations 03.01.2020: Keep Still

With the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army at their backs, Moses tell the Israelites, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today….”

Connections 03.01.2020: Replacing the Plug

It’s an image most of us are familiar with: the dropping of a stone into water produces ripples, which represent the ongoing effects of an action.

Formations 02.23.2020: The First Passover

Have you ever known someone who has lost a child? Maybe you have personally suffered that loss. I have been granted the awful privilege of walking with some families through this nightmare, and I can tell you that I have seen no comparable grief.

Connections 02.23.2020: Holy Imagination

Our high school English teacher Mrs. Powers was teaching us about similes and metaphors. “’The baby is like a rose,’” she said, “is a simile.”

Formations 02.16.2020: What God Thinks of Injustice

Some of us have had our fill of biblical stories in which God uses divine power to punish humans.

Connections 02.16.2020: The Choice God Offers

In our lesson text, God seems to offer a simple choice. Choose “life and prosperity” or “death and adversity” (v. 15). Doesn’t the best choice seem obvious?

Connections 02.09.2020: Light in the Darkness

Most contemporary biblical scholars believe that Isaiah 56–66 contain the words of a prophet who preached in the tradition of the eighth-century prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem to the Jewish people after their return from exile in Babylon.

Formations 02.02.2020: Moses’ Early Life

Ever since I had children, I can’t read this old story without feeling the intense fear of a mother who is terrified for her child. In my mind, I picture her filling his belly with her breastmilk to make sure he won’t cry out in hunger on his journey.

Connections 02.02.2020: Abiding Principles

A long time ago, in a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary far, far away, I heard a chapel speaker say something like this: “We don’t read a manual on how to operate a vacuum cleaner as poetry, so why would we read Genesis 1 as a manual on how God created the universe?”

Formations 01.26.2020: Caring about the Right Thing

There’s a Greek word in Philippians 2 that is hard to translate simply. In verse 2, Paul writes, “Be of the same mind.” A more literal translation would be “Think the same thing,” but even that isn’t quite right.

Connections 01.26.2020: Unifying Grace

Division within a church is incredibly painful. I know this from experience. Maybe you do too. I was part of a church fellowship for ten years before deciding to leave because the divisions were so disruptive.

Formations 01.19.2020: The Wisdom of God

Have you noticed that the message of the cross doesn’t make a lot of sense? At least, it doesn’t easily line up with things that we have heard all our lives. “Look out for Number One.”

Connections 01.19.2020: Team Players

Another college football season is behind us. I hope your team had a good year. I watch a lot of college football.

Connections 01.12.2020: Too Small for Walls

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. closed its doors on December 31, 2019 after eleven years of operation. I hated to see this happen.

Formations 01.12.2020: Cultural Awareness

During my sophomore year of college at Mercer University, I served as a teaching assistant for the freshman experience class. First-year students took this class to establish an initial community of friends and begin exploring different ways of thinking and looking at the world.

Formations 01.05.2020: Dangerous Prayers

I’ve led a fair number of prayer meetings in my time. We all know the drill: you remind those present of matters of concern to the fellowship. Maybe you ask for updates from folks who have more up-to-date information.

Connections 01.05.2020: Heirs of God

The physical tradition of inheritance seems to be fading in our modern times. Over the centuries, it mattered greatly who was the main heir (usually a couple’s oldest child).

Formations 12.29.2019: I Love to Tell the Story

I love the music ministry at my church. Our music minister is an accomplished choral director with a PhD, our accompanist is a highly trained organist and music scholar in her own right, and the church’s musical offerings are always top-notch.

Connections 12.29.2019: Infant Jesus vs. the Empire

This week’s lesson text makes at least three main points. First, God guides Joseph to protect the Christ child. Second, what happens to and around Jesus fulfills Scripture. Third, Jesus’ experience reflects Moses’ experience.

Formations 12.22.2019: A Shepherd’s Perspective

My beloved pastor at the church where I grew up asks church members (both past and current) to submit devotionals for an Advent booklet he compiles each year. Inspired by Luke’s account of the shepherds, I wrote the following story for the 2015 booklet.

Connections 12.22.2019: A Righteous Man

Our lesson text says that Joseph was “a righteous man” (v. 19). We could use more righteous men these days. I say that as a man. I’m allowed to talk about my own kind.

Connections 12.15.2019: Orientation

Picture John the Baptist, leaning against a prison wall. For many months, he has worked tirelessly, pleading with people to repent and prepare for the One who is to come.

Formations 12.08.2019: Happy Holidays

How many traditions can you name surrounding the birth of Jesus? Some of these traditions are purely secular; others are deeply religious.

Connections 12.01.2019: Being Alert

This week we begin a unit called “Advent and Christmas Goals.” Our lesson text calls us to be ready for Jesus to come again.

Formations 12.01.2019: A Frightening Call

Some things haven’t changed since biblical times. For a couple (especially a Christian couple) who is in a relationship but not yet married, the potential for pregnancy can be frightening and even shameful.

Formations 11.24.2019: The Other Side of Sorrow

How could we not conclude a unit on life after death with a vision of heavenly bliss? In Revelation 7, John describes a great multitude gathered around God’s throne.

Connections 11.24.2019: Prayerful Hopes

Since my daughters were very small, I have written them several letters per year in special journals that I bought for them. The earliest entries detail their milestones (“You crawled toward the remote control today” or “You slept in your big-girl bed all night without waking us up”).

Connections 11.17.2019: Keep On Keeping On

I was born and raised in Barnesville, Georgia, which was (and is) about forty miles from the Smyth & Helwys and NextSunday Resources world headquarters here in Macon.

Formations 11.10.2019: Resurrection Hope

Many Americans observe Halloween by focusing on costumes, decorations, and candy for the kids. Some of us don’t know the origins of the day or the one that follows on November 1, All Saints’ Day.

Formations 11.03.2019: The Day of the Dead

The Mexican Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead coincides with Halloween on our calendars, but the two are not the same.

Connections 11.03.2019: A Just and Merciful God

I’m one of those people who has a hard time reading about the judgment of God. There’s plenty of it in the Old Testament, but I tend to think of the New Testament as being more about mercy.