Connections 01.22.2023: Jesus’s Ministry Begins

It must be a sobering moment for Jesus. He has just spent time on his own in the wilderness, enduring and overcoming the devil’s temptations. Now he comes back to civilization to learn that his cousin John has been arrested.

Formations 01.08.2023: Jesus’s Humility

Many leaders in our world, past and present, have come with fanfare and promises, conceit and power, riches and tailored suits. They’re surrounded by bodyguards who will protect them at all costs.

Connections 01.08.2023: Who Jesus Is

The four Gospels record many similar depictions of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and each writer also includes unique parts of Jesus’s story. When we study the Bible, we remember that the similarities and differences between the Gospels are important.

Catching a Glimpse

The first Christmas comes and goes, and most people don’t notice. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and a few others catch a glimpse of what is happening, but they’re just a handful.

Formations 01.01.2023: Look Who’s Coming to Jesus

Traditionally, we call these magi “wise men.” The Greek text says “magi” (magoi), or “magus” in the singular.

Pass the Parcel Nativity Story

I wanted a simple, interactive way of telling the Nativity story, as my Sunday group can be a bit lively, so I decided that we would use some of our leftover Christmas cards.

Flame: Jesus Calms the Storm – Sensory Bottles

I’ve been doing a little bit of experimenting with sensory bottles this week as I wanted to make some to help the children under 5 years old to explore the story of Jesus calming the storm.

Crossroads: Jesus Gives Us Hope

When I was in the sixth grade, it felt like my life was falling apart. I didn’t have any friends, there was a lot of bad stuff happening at my church, and my mom and my stepdad were getting a divorce.

Formations 06.05.2022: Low-key Jesus People

I’m an introvert. I married an introvert, and we had an introverted child. Said child is serving this summer as a children and youth intern at our church.

Crossroads: Jesus Gives Us Hope

When I was in the sixth grade, it felt like my life was falling apart. I didn’t have any friends, there was a lot of bad stuff happening at my church, and my mom and my stepdad were getting a divorce.

Crossroads: The Command that Jesus Gave

Every year, our church has a service day called Beyond Our Walls. On this day, more than 300 people go out into the community to serve. Some of our families and children spend time with senior adults at assisted living facilities.

Jesus’ Use of the Psalms

For ordinary Christians who experience opposition and negative feelings, we are invited to bring the full breadth of these experiences into the realm of God.

Crossroads: Recognizing Jesus

Talk about a time when you were surprised by a friend/relative who you didn’t recognize initially, but who recognized you. Was it a time when you got lost and that person found you?

Crossroads: Seeing Is Believing

Has something ever seemed too good to be true? Was it? Talk about a time when you didn’t believe something someone said until they showed you proof. Why didn’t you believe? Did the proof change your thinking?

“Come and See”

After witnessing the weeping of Mary and her surrounding community, Jesus is greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved (v. 33). But he does not weep himself until the people entreat him to “come and see” where Lazarus’s body has been laid (v. 34).

Connections 11.21.2021: The Truth

Try to see things from Pilate’s perspective. The local religious authorities have brought a man before you. They accuse the man of being a criminal.

Crossroads: Jesus Came for Everyone

When I was a teenager, my family sometimes hosted French exchange students in our home. There were times when students from a school in France would come to the United States and stop in Georgia.

Connections 07.25.2021: Needing Jesus

When my children were small, they wanted to be near me constantly. I work from home, so this meant that almost as soon as I grabbed a few quiet minutes to edit a Bible study lesson or book chapter, a little girl’s voice would call out to me, wanting one thing or another.

Live the Stories: Jesus Gives Peter Instructions

Remind the children that many of the disciples who followed Jesus were fishermen before they left their jobs to learn from him. When Jesus died, they returned to their jobs of catching fish.

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.

Connections 07.04.2021: Finding Home

For many of us, “home” feels like the safest, most comfortable place. It’s our favorite place to be, and that’s mostly because of the people who are there with us.

Presenting Portraits of Jesus

When Mark sketched out our first Gospel account of Jesus, he was not simply writing a direct history or creating a photo account about Jesus. He was doing something far more significant than recording a Vine. He was providing a testimony about the figure he believed was the most important person who ever lived.

Crossroads: Friends

I was at school when I got the call that she was gone, and a friend of mine found me crying in the hallway. He comforted me and then we went our separate 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.

Crossroads: Good Friday, A World in Ruins

Have you ever had a week start off well, but by the end of it all hope seems lost? Terrible things happen all at once, and you just aren’t sure how you’re going to make it another hour, let alone another day.

Crossroads: Jesus Is Transformed

God has changed my life in a lot of ways. For starters, I’ve never felt totally alone because I know that God is always with me. God has helped me get through some difficult times.

Formations 06.14.2020: At Jesus’ Side

Biblical scholars debate the identity of the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). Tradition identifies him as John son of Zebedee, but the Gospel of John itself is more tight-lipped.

Formations 06.07.2020: Come and See!

Who are your favorite celebrities? What draws you to them? How do you think you would react if you got to meet them in person?

Crossroads: Jesus as a Boy

I love the Eiffel Tower. I always have. I’m not sure what it is about that Tower, but it has always fascinated me. And when I went to Paris for the first time as a teenager, I was determined to see it. In fact, I told the tour guide that if we didn’t go see it, that I would stay behind until I did!

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.

The Spiritual Significance of Star Wars

The same excitement that makes Star Wars a great entry point to the rudiments of physics, for example, also makes it a great resource for spiritual reflection and discussion.

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 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.

Formations 01.06.2019: Jesus Is Baptized

At the time of writing, forecasts indicate that the rain out my parents’ window will continue for another week. I tend to take overcast wintry weather in stride, but this is bad news, at least for my drive home to Macon. Mark, however, proclaims good news and its beginning (v. 1).

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 05.27.2018: Elite Jesus

We sometimes hear people complaining about elites trying to run the country (and maybe the world), but I think they’re really talking about elitists. Elites are well-educated, well-qualified, and well-positioned to be in charge of things.

Formations 03.04.2018: Jesus Shows Compassion

My granddad died well before I was born. What I have of him has been given secondhand—ties and desk ornaments, pictures and stories. Among the easily believed and even the photographed, some stories are harder to accept. One of these is a healing story.

Jesus Would Not Have Denied Me Communion

My husband Paul and I have been married for more than 47 years! We are as alike as jelly and jam and as different as whole wheat and rye. He grew up in the northern United States; I grew up in the South. He’s Catholic and I’m Baptist; for the most part that distinction has never been an issue.

Connections 12.31.2017: Jesus and the Elderly

I turned forty this year, and I’m grateful to be able to say that I still have one living set of grandparents. My father’s parents, known to me as Mom and Pop, are age eighty-three and ninety-three. They’ve been a huge part of my life since my birth.

Formations 04.09.2017: Jesus’ Death Foreshadowed

Jesus enters Jerusalem amid cheering crowds inspired by hope in “the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (v. 13). They came out to meet Jesus because they had heard about the raising of Lazarus (vv. 17-18). Ironically, it was this same sign that led to Jesus’ death.

Connections 10.30.2016: Job, Jesus, and Me

At some point in my young life, I began participating in my parents’ nightly prayer time. Using the denominational devotional guide, one of them would read the suggested Scripture passage and the printed meditation, and then say a short prayer.

10.02.2016: Thank God for Jesus

I think I’d believe in God even if Jesus hadn’t come. I seem to assume that God exists. That assumption appears to be a vital part of who I am, but I can’t tell if it’s the product of nature or nurture.

Reimagining “Church” and “Christians” as the “Jesus Tribe”

This may be unsettling to some, but the earliest followers of Jesus did not refer to themselves as Christians. I am rather glad about this because the word “Christian” has too much baggage attached to it.

Formations 06.26.2016: Mary Magdalene and the Gardener

Halfway through drafting this post, I realized I was guilty of oversimplification in order to find a moral in this story. I hadn’t determined if I would praise Mary for recognizing Jesus’ resurrection or chide her for missing it at first.

“Thank You, Jesus”

For years a friend of mine faithfully visited his mother in a nursing home. On each visit, en route to her room he passed a thin Alzheimer’s-ridden woman in the hallway. Red-faced and wheelchair-bound, she repeated, “I want a good deal.”

Connections 04.10.2016: A Fool for You

In my reading today, one line that Jesus says stands out to me: “Simon, I have something to say to you” (Lk 7:40). That Pharisee named Simon, who had invited Jesus into his home but showed him little hospitality, watched a woman’s extravagant love for Jesus and muttered to himself.

Crossroads: Palm Sunday

I love celebrations. In particular, I love birthdays. I love finding the perfect present and celebrating who that person is. I love my birthday as well, but it’s always a little odd to me.

Formations 03.13.2016: Learning from Failure

Is our success-oriented, results-driven culture setting us up for a life of disappointment? In a recent column in the Independent, Gerard Gilbert wonders if this might be the case.