Connections 09.09.2018: More than Thoughts and Prayers

Over the past few years, numerous tragedies across the globe have torn at our hearts. From school shootings to natural disasters to war violence, we hear about specific events and feel helpless. We may cry. We may get angry. We may look the other way. All of these reactions indicate how helpless we feel to make things right.

Spiritual but Not Religious

Many would say, to use a modern phrase, that Lincoln was “spiritual but not religious.” Such a posture should be celebrated as an expression of heartfelt belief and longing, but it should also be considered with a word of caution.

Responding to the Apollo 13 Miracle

We hear a lot about miracles today, and there is a large volume of work addressing the subject—more than I could address in this book. In my experience on the Lunar Module team during Apollo 13, I felt moved in a special way by what I felt was answered prayer and the miraculous recovery of the crew.

Crossroads: The Storms of Life

I was always terrified of storms as a child. The thunder scared me the most, and my mom could never convince me that the thunder couldn’t hurt me.

Between What We Dreamed and What We Got

After all those years of stumbling around in the middle of nowhere, dealing with all the conflict and controversy of his contrary constituency, you’d like to think that Moses would get to lead the parade into the land of promise.

Connections 03.04.2018: Déjà Vu Faith

Sometimes when I experience déjà vu, it seems like it’s happened before. But seriously, folks: I’ve had many occurrences of déjà vu, which is the sensation of remembering being in a place or situation that you’ve never been in before. So you might walk into a restaurant in a city you’ve not previously visited and feel like you’ve seen it before.

Faith and Science

Every great once in a while, my father, the late great Champ Ruffin, would decide it was time to get a new used car. He had one main criterion for any vehicle he purchased: it had to have four doors. The reason was that we transported “the ladies” (as he called them) to church every Sunday.

Faith, a Prayer for Epiphany

God of life,
God of all our becoming
winding
changing
hopeful
fearful years—
we praise you
for your faithfulness.

Formations 11.19.2017: Faith and Violence

Herod Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod the Great and a nephew of Herod Antipas. The book of Acts remembers him mainly as a persecutor of the early church. Somewhat like the Apostle Paul, this king’s zeal for the law was apparently what drove him to persecute the church.

Hard Grace

It was extremely important for the church of my youth to prove that every single miracle in the Bible be proven as an historical and scientific fact. A literal seven day creation, the parting of the Red Sea, Joshua making the sun stand still, and of course, there was the story of “Jonah and the Whale.”

Connections 03.12.2017: Just Believe?

Paul spent a lot of mental energy writing about faith versus works. Having studied some of the history of his time, I understand why this was so important. The new Christian movement broke into a centuries-old religion that relied on sacrifices, rituals, and strict adherence to the laws of the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament.

An Advent Prayer

O God,
As you come to us, please come bearing faith, hope, and love.
We need to trust, hope, and love more.

Faith Postures: Noticing When We Obstruct Christ

I did something one weekend of which I am ashamed. I did something I can never take back and something for which I can never be sure of the ramifications.

Connections 10.09.2016: One Foundation

The church I attend is brand new. We became official in spring 2015. Our name is new, our sign is new, and our hymnals are new. Our bylaws are new. We’re so new that our mission is still evolving. But we have a history that stretches backward much longer than eighteen months.

Crossroads: By Faith

Tell your family’s story of faith. If your ancestors were immigrants, your family faith story may begin with something like “by faith my great-great-great grandparents left the home and land they knew and came to America in search of a better life.”

Of Spirit and Mind: A Pentecostal’s Battle Against Depression

She stopped eating and looked at me. “Are you serious?” She was more commenting than questioning. “Why would you go see a counselor? They don’t have any wisdom. They can’t help you. Are you depressed?”

An Open Letter to My Mental Illness

I suffer from a mental illness. At times, it can be crippling and debilitating. I just spent some time in the hospital dealing with my illness. One of the doctors knew I was a divinity student and Christian minister and asked me, “Have you lost your faith?”

Faith Postures: Noticing Our (God-repaired) Selves

Sometimes I mistakenly read the Bible like a Jane Austen book. Life seems so simple in Pride and Prejudice or in Sense and Sensibility; the good people are good, the bad people are bad, and everyone knows who is who.

Connections 03.06.2016: Powerful Faith

I’ve kept a prayer journal for years. Somewhere along the way, I started writing down the Jesus Prayer as the first line of my daily entry: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Satellite or Star

My eyes drew open a little after 4:30 this morning. The alarm wasn’t supposed to go off for another hour and a half, but I was awake. Though I knew I could go back to sleep, I also knew that I probably would wake up feeling more groggy than I did at that moment.

Connections is Coming!

Beginning with the January–April 2016 trimester, the Uniform Bible Study series will become Connections. You may wonder what will change besides the name. Well, not much—at least not right away.

Praying Scared

Usually when we think of persons who pray, we imagine great women and men of faith. Cue the climactic music. They sound like an elite group of believers and are known to some as “prayer warriors.”

Passing the Scroll

Some folks who teach young people wonder if their efforts are worthwhile. It can be difficult to stay focused on a scriptural text when teenagers are preoccupied with the latest gossip regarding what happened over the weekend, who likes who, and so on.

Uniform 05.03.2015: Walk in the Truth

Guiding each unit to your Sunday school classrooms has been a great privilege. I am thankful to have been part of this community that is so committed to helping people see the truth of God’s word in new, personal ways.

Crossroads: I Doubt It

When I was a child, we always played a game called “I doubt it” when we went on vacation. It was a card game and the point was to be the person who got rid of all of their cards first.

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.

Faith: Barricaded and Buried

A few weeks ago I read that doomsday shelters are making a big comeback. Now, I’ve never been in one of these safe havens, but I am told they were all the rage fifty years ago.

Uniform 12.28.2014: Faith for the Unexpected

One of my favorite movies to watch at Christmas is The Bishop’s Wife. In it, a frazzled bishop, played by David Niven, prays for God’s guidance as he struggles to raise funds for a new cathedral and maintain a healthy relationship with his wife (Loretta Young).

Lost in Maples

They wander, these children of mine. They wander and they wonder, and then boom, you take them out of their comfort zone and here comes the whining.

Formations 11.09.2014: Struggling to Believe

Jude is undoubtedly harsh against false teachers who threaten the spiritual health of his communities. This doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t have a pastoral side.

Why Did God Call Me?

I had the privilege of preaching recently on the well-known Exodus Chapter 3 passage about Moses and the burning bush. You know the one. Moses is happy in obscurity, herding his father-in-law’s sheep when—BOOM!—God appears to Moses as a burning bush in the wilderness.

Circle of Faith

A few months ago, we met a woman in her fifties from a neighboring prefecture who had come to visit Kanazawa Baptist Church, where we worship and work. We learned from our pastor that this woman’s father was a longtime church member, but had been in and out of the hospital and was nearing death.

A Guide to Four Types of Bible Study Learners – Mark Wingfield

Have you heard the story about a time long, long ago, in a faraway place, when adults gathered for Bible study and everyone in the class studied the same thing at the same time and learned the same way? Yeah, that day is gone—if it ever really existed.

What Jesus Means to Me – Daniel Vestal

Years ago I read the story from E. Stanley Jones, the esteemed Methodist evangelist, about his first sermon. He was 17 years old, and he was delivering it to his home church. Early in the sermon he fumbled with some words, and a lady on the second pew chuckled.