Formations 09.29.2019: Living in God’s Son

I began attending church as a baby, so I was encouraged from a very young age to invite Jesus into my heart. Well-meaning Sunday school teachers and preachers told me that if I did this, Jesus would become my Savior, living inside of me.

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.

Formations 09.15.2019: Kindness for Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn Skidmore was a high school senior, less a month away from graduating, when she was killed in an automobile accident this past April. Obviously, her family and loved ones were devastated by the loss, and her classmates at Jones County High School in Georgia decided to honor her memory in a way that seemed especially fitting.

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.”

Formations 09.08.2019: A Light in the Darkness

I have consciously been on my faith journey since I was about ten years old. Before that, as far back as I remember, my religious upbringing consisted of church three times a week and prayers before meals and bedtime.

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.

Formations 09.01.2019: “It Wasn’t My Fault!”

If you struggle to own up to your mistakes, psychological studies indicate you are not alone. Researchers with PsychTests recently analyzed data from over 4,700 people who took their Self-Esteem Test and compared two groups.

Formations 08.25.2019: Strike While the Iron Is Hot

On our recent vacation to Saint Augustine, my family and I enjoyed learning about life in colonial times from a historical interpreter. As part of his tour of Saint Augustine’s Colonial Quarter, he took us to the blacksmith’s shop.

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.

Formations 08.18.2019: A Constant Search for Wisdom

Over the summer, my daughters and I have been sorting through the junk stockpiled in our unfinished basement and searching for the treasures. One of those treasures is a huge plastic bin filled with my high school memorabilia.

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.

Formations 08.11.2019: The Best Laid Plans

There’s an old quip that if you want to make God laugh, all you have to do is show God your planner. When we say something like that, I hope we understand that God isn’t out to get us.

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.

Formations 08.04.2019: What Is the Problem?

Nehemiah continues the themes that thread through Joshua. Where earlier Israelites had rejoiced at the failure of Gilead’s walls, these exiles returning to Jerusalem mourn at the sight of the city’s walls in ruin.

Formations 07.28.2019: I Pledge Allegiance

The American Pledge of Allegiance is a product of the 1890s, written by a young socialist pastor named Francis Bellamy in a time when big business was ushering in an age of materialism.

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.

Formations 07.21.2019: God’s Promises

Like the story of Jericho, Joshua’s speech demands responsibility, creativity, and humility. There are too many layers for anything less. Here, Joshua speaks of God.

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.

Formations 07.07.2019: The Battle of Jericho

At this year’s Tony awards, the musical Hadestown won the award for best new musical. It retells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice as if it took place in some kind of depression-era, post-apocalyptic company town.

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.

Formations 06.30.2019: Doing Hard Things

On the fourth anniversary of the fatal racially-motivated shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a film about the attack hit theaters.

Formations 06.23.2019: The Kingdom Has Come

The novel Slaughterhouse-Five offers two stories about Billy Pilgrim’s life. In the first, Kurt Vonnegut tells of Pilgrim’s, and his own, experience as a soldier in World War II.

Connections 06.23.2019: Christian Clothes

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

Formations 06.16.2019: Choose Your Next Words Carefully

I am an adjunct university professor, which means I assign research papers. I am also an editor, which means I often regret assigning research papers.

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.

Formations 06.09.2019: “I Will Send the Spirit”

In the 1992 song “Anthem,” Leonard Cohen offered these now classic words: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” The insight comes lyrically through the acknowledgment of liminal spaces—birdsong in the morning or peacetime between war.

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.

Formations 06.02.2019: God Made Us for a Purpose

When my daughter was three or four, she became fascinated with our church’s music minister and his “batond.” She had a little yellow fairy wand that she loved to wave around while she sang.

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?

Formations 05.26.2019: Timothy and Epaphroditus

In the last two years of his life, my grandfather Bill and I often talked about the last verse in the book of Judges.

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.

Formations 05.19.2019: Teamwork

My campus ministers in college were a husband-and-wife team who shared between them responsibilities for the spiritual care of students on two campuses in neighboring cities.

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.

Formations 05.12.2019: Jason and the Others

In this stage on Paul’s journey toward preaching in Rome, we encounter a verse that questions the arc of Luke’s two-volume history.

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.

Formations 05.05.2019: The Power of Encouragement

Seventeen teachers in Houston County, Georgia picked a student who inspires them and took the time to say “thank you.”

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.

Formations 04.28.2019: Witnesses to the Resurrection

I’ve noticed that Easter brings my attention to the place I call home. Often, it has been the geography of my particular neighborhood.

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.

Formations 04.21.2019: Go and Tell

I believe in evangelism; I’m just not very good at it. I might attribute my aversion to sharing the gospel to my introverted nature or to my general Midwestern hesitance to open up about the things that matter most to me.

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.

Formations 04.07.2019: The Greatest in the Kingdom

I spent a semester as Dr. David Garland’s teaching assistant when we were both at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Garland was a master of the pithy comment.

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.

Formations 03.24.2019: Lead Us Not Into Temptation

I didn’t know there was a TV show called Temptation Island until I started researching for this article. The premise of the show is to put four unmarried couples who are “at a crossroads in their relationship” in an island paradise.

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.

Formations 03.10.2019: Renaissance

Five years ago, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. At that time, the city’s debt topped $18 billion.