“Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem” by Horace Vernet, circa 1844
When we think of a suffering prophet, we tend to think of Jeremiah, and not without good reason. His message was consistently rejected by the people he was trying to help. He was thrown into a cistern. (Jeremiah ch. 38) He was treated as a criminal. At one point, his manuscript was destroyed and he had to start from scratch (Jeremiah ch. 36), which any writer knows is a devastating blow. He lived to see all the dreadful things he predicted come to pass. The city of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah were destroyed. Many people were killed, and those who survived were sent into exile. Yes, if there was anything that characterized the life of Jeremiah, it was pain and suffering.
In addition to the long book that bears his name, Jeremiah is also held to be the author of the short work titled Lamentations. This is not a book to which Christians typically gravitate, for it is admittedly a downer. Yet, within those pages, there is much we can learn about suffering in the lives of God’s people, and how God Himself redeems it. Continue reading
An old Baptist Sunday School class in the 1940s. National Archive photo
As it turns out, Twitter is an excellent source of inspiration for my blog. Why, a couple weeks back, I couldn’t help but notice someone commenting that the New Testament applauds churches for many things, but children’s ministry is not one of them. I think I understand where they were coming from, but I do not like the implication of this statement.
The person in question, who I am not going to name because I have no wish to demean them, belongs to the Reformed tradition. There is a great emphasis within this sphere on the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. If I understand correctly, these means of grace are the focus of our corporate worship in church. In some quarters (though certainly not all), this can lead to a de-emphasis or even suspicion of anything that is not a part of that Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Once again, this is how I understand it: I did not grow up in a Reformed church.
I assume that this was the genesis for the comment that scripture did not applaud (i.e. institute) the other “ministries” that are commonly part of church life in this country and others. I do not fully disagree with this, but if we are using such a point of view to diminish children’s ministry or say that it is not important, then I think we have made a grave mistake. Let me explain why I believe this to be the case. Continue reading
A sixth century mosaic in the church of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy depicting the women arriving at the empty tomb and receiving a message from the angel. Photo by Flickr user Lawrence OP
If you went to church yesterday, Easter Sunday, it is quite likely that you heard a sermon that referenced 1 Corinthians chapter 15 – unless, of course, your pastor is one of those who doesn’t break from textual order for hell or high water. This is a wonderful passage of scripture, which not only establishes the truth and doctrinal centrality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also covers many of its practical implications in the life of the believer. Most people tend to focus on the first portion of the chapter, but Paul also has some great things to say at the end.
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?’”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55
What a beautiful picture this is of death being utterly defeated and the curse that lies upon humanity being broken! Those who belong to Christ no longer have to fear death, for it is not the end.
Yet, there is more to what is being said here than meets the eye. You may have noticed that Paul is actually quoting from the Old Testament. The phrase he is referencing appears in the book of Hosea. When you see it in context, you will realize that it is anything but cheery. Continue reading
Depiction of Pentecost in the Hortus Deliciarum, circa 1180
Whenever someone from a confessional Reformed denomination attempts to talk to me, a “Reformed-ish Baptist”, about the need for paedobaptism (infant baptism), they often point to a declaration that the Apostle Peter made on Pentecost: “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:39) They mention these words to a primarily Jewish audience as proof that the Abrahamic Covenant’s inclusion of entire households extends to the New Covenant instituted by Jesus Christ, and that the promises made by God are just as applicable to children as they are to adults.
I certainly agree with the second half of that assessment, though I think that we need to also remember the Apostle Paul’s teaching that Abraham’s true children are those by faith. However, my point here is not to refute the Reformed position. Rather, I wanted to share some thoughts I had with regard to this verse that affect the way I think about Covenant Theology, though not necessarily about baptism. Continue reading
I regret that I have recently slowed down with my writing due to illness. I am very hopeful that I will be feeling better soon, but until that time, if you are looking for something to read, try one or more of the essays under the “Reconciliation” tab above. Your prayers for my recovery would be much appreciated, as this has been a long-running ordeal.
“Job’s Despair” by William Blake, circa 1805
If there is any book in scripture that reads like an examination of the purpose of human suffering, it is surely Job. This may not be the only place in the Bible where the concept is considered, but due to the nature of the text – a lengthy debate between one suffering man and his friends, with an appearance at the end by God Himself – it is particularly compelling. In one of the most famous passages in this book, Job boldly proclaims, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives…” (19:25a) I would like to take a moment to examine this comment and what exactly Job meant when he referred to God as his “Redeemer”.
When I as a 21st century Christian read Job’s words, I automatically think of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. Without a doubt, His atonement has redeemed all who believe. Yet, Job lived long before Christ walked the earth; in fact, he lived long before most of the Messianic prophecies were made. Could Job have foreseen the work of Jesus Christ? Was that what he meant by the word “Redeemer”? Continue reading