Formations 03.10.2024: Places to Be

Psalm 95 invites us to imagine a grand pilgrimage, with throngs of worshipers coming to kneel before God.

Connections 03.10.2024: If You Think This is Bad…

Sometimes in the Bible, God’s people seem all too human. We can easily relate to their frustrations and their failures, their reactivity and their resistance.

Formations 03.03.2024: The Purpose of Fasting

Our lesson contains three very different passages about fasting. In Mark, John’s disciples and some Pharisees are fasting, but Jesus’s disciples aren’t.

Connections 03.03.2024: More than Words

I don’t think it’s a good thing that the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the Ten Commandments is the recent history of confrontation surrounding it.

Formations 02.25.2024: A Little Bit Too Amazing

It can be hard to get past the idea that people must pay for what they’ve done. I’m not thinking about the legal system.

Connections 02.25.2024: Hoping against Hope

Just as pastors and Bible teachers do today, Paul used stories from the past to explain faith and salvation to the early Roman believers.

Formations 02.18.2024: The Miracle of Repentance

The last time Formations ran a unit on the book of Jonah, the lesson writer received two letters in the same week.

Connections 02.18.2024: Adjusting Expectations

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t tend to read the New Testament epistles as sources of wonder. The Old Testament, yes!

Formations 02.11.2024: Jonah’s Prayer

While none of us have been swallowed by an enormous sea creature (at least I hope not!), most of us have been through experiences where we felt stuck in darkness.

Connections 02.11.2024: What’s the Big Secret?

On the Sunday before Lent—the season when, with Jesus, we will turn our attention to the coming crucifixion and resurrection—we pause with the disciples and pay attention.

Formations 02.04.2024: Worth the Effort

In the past few years, I’ve heard more and more about families split apart because some family members see the world differently from other family members.

Connections 02.04.2024: True Healing

The issue of healing may be one of the biggest hindrances to faith. I know it’s been a struggle for me over the years.

Formations 01.28.2024: Yes, You

Jesus set apart the Twelve to be his messengers, sent with a message. Matthew and Luke call the Twelve “apostles.”

Connections 01.28.2024: Stumbling Blocks and Building Blocks

Sometimes I forget how unusual churches are. We have people of all ages and abilities.

Formations 01.21.2024: The Gospel of Faithful Reliance

According to Harvard Divinity School, the prosperity gospel “emphasizes believers’ abilities to transcend poverty and/or illness through devotion and positive confession.”

Connections 01.21.2024: The Time is Short

This holiday season was a first in my family: this is my older son’s first year at college, so this was the first Christmas when we’ve had a child come home for a little while and then go away again.

Formations 01.14.2024: The Year of the Lord’s Favor

Last week we looked at the first words that Jesus spoke in the Gospel of Mark. This week, we turn to the Gospel of Luke.

Connections 01.14.2024: The Magnificence of Humanity

Wherever you happen to go—church, the store, a neighborhood walk, or even just your home—notice other people.

Formations 01.07.2024: The Gospel in One Sentence

I have a minister friend who likes to ask thought-provoking questions on social media. A while back, he asked a question that all Christians ought to ponder.

Connections 01.07.2024: What Have You Heard?

When I was in high school it was normal for churches to send teams out “on visitation”—dropping in unannounced on new folks.

Formations 12.31.2023: Entering the New Year

Tonight, people all over the world will gather for New Year’s Eve. Traditions of welcoming the new year vary, but they usually involve eager anticipation.

Connections 12.31.2023: Not “The End”

The post-Christmas letdown can be a relief or a disappointment—or both.

Formations 12.24.2023: The Problem with Mighty Kings

I’m afraid I’m going to have to offend some of you with what I’m about to share, but it can’t be helped. Are you ready?

Connections 12.24.2023: The Light of Christ

On Christmas Eve, many churches hold candlelight services to help people claim the promise of the Christ child amid the busy holiday rush.

Formations 12.17.2023: Leading the Flock

The little that I know about shepherds came from reading books. I’m a city kid, through and through.

Connections 12.17.2023: A Blessing from the Lord

Recently our teenaged son experienced a rite of passage: we introduced him to one of our generation’s cultural icons, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Formations 12.10.2023: A More Intentional Advent

When my daughters were small, the Advent season carried a spirit of gleeful anticipation. They couldn’t wait for Christmas!

Connections 12.10.2023: Who Needs Good News?

Advent catches me off-guard every year with the reminder that God may be “in his heaven” but all is not, in fact, right with the world.

Connections 12.03.2023: Mental Health

I had a phone call with my cousin and lifelong best friend last night. We discussed personal struggles and mental health issues.

Formations 12.03.2023: A Kingdom of Peace and Justice

Isaiah 9 expresses a great sigh of relief on the part of the beleaguered people of Judah.

Connections 11.26.2023: Grace and Goodness

It’s Thanksgiving week, which means many of us will gather with some of the people we love best in the world, and we’ll eat amazing favorite foods, and we’ll share the things we’re grateful for, and we’ll celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season.

Formations 11.26.2023: Mountaintop Experiences

The Bible never uses the exact wording of a “mountaintop experience,” but it is certainly the origin of that expression.

Formations 11.19.2023: Completing the Work

I’ve never been a member of a church that built a new facility. But I have been a member of a church that renovated older buildings.

Connections 11.19.2023: Peace and Security

Most of us don’t know very much about the ancient history of the region that many faith groups consider to be holy land.

Formations 11.12.2023: Bigger than Us

In the Middle Ages, the building of cathedrals represented both a profound expression of faith and a channel for the creative energies of countless artisans.

Connections 11.12.2023: Just Be Nice

Anyone who has been around small children probably speaks a familiar refrain: “Be nice.”

Formations 11.05.2023: Lavish Symbols

Robert Webber was a minister and academic who often led seminars for churches navigating the landmines of worship renewal.

Connections 11.05.2023: Recipe for a Saint

The first Sunday in November is often observed as All Saints’ Day.

Connections 10.29.2023: The Bible and the Newspaper

In 1963, Time magazine published a short article about the retirement of the theologian and professor Karl Barth.

Formations 10.29.2023: Our True Sacrifice

Some of today’s lesson text deals with animal sacrifices to God, a practice we (hopefully) no longer do.

Formations 10.22.2023: Seeing Each Other

How do you react when you encounter someone on the street asking for money? What if that person is a “regular.”

Connections 10.22.2023: What We Owe

My husband and I have decided to buy a used car from a friend for our daughter to use. The friend is offering us a deal we can’t refuse for a vehicle that should last at least a couple of years.

Formations 10.15.2023: “The Lord Indeed Is God”

In the fourth century, the Arian bishop Ulfilas translated the Bible into the Gothic language.

Connections 10.08.2023: Regrets, I Have (More Than) a Few

Yesterday I let my fifteen-year-old son connect his phone to my car’s audio system so we could listen to his playlist on the way to the orthodontist.

Formations 10.01.2023: Speak of the Devil

First Peter ends with a series of parting instructions regarding mutual love, hospitality, humility, stewardship of spiritual gifts, and accepting the authority of church elders.

Connections 10.01.2023: The Guest List

Verse 31 of our passage, which is the “Verse to Remember” for today’s study, is one of those difficult sayings of Jesus that bewilder us: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Connections 09.24.2023: What’s Your Problem?

In general, it is not a good idea to base complex theological understandings on snippets and sound bites.

Formations 09.24.2023: Your Life Speaks

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