France Just Dodged a Bullet…Or Did It?

France has just elected its youngest president in history by an overwhelming margin. Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen with nearly two-thirds of the vote in the presidential runoff, a margin of victory that would make most politicians exceedingly jealous. (Here I must exclude certain autocrats who would surely say, “Only 66%? I win 99% of the vote!”) This has caused many observers, including myself, to breathe a sigh of relief.

While he may be to the left of Bernie Sanders on the political spectrum, Macron is much more in the realm of normality than Le Pen, who many have branded the French version of Donald Trump. Her National Front Party is anti-immigrant, anti-EU, anti-globalization, and pretty much anti- anything that isn’t as French as a baguette wrapped in a croissant. She also seems to be opposed to people wearing religious symbols in the public square and has a worrying lack of policy know-how that became clear at times during the campaign. Continue reading

Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Poet and First Published Female

Readers of this site may be interested to head on over to the “Meet the Puritans” page from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, where they are posting a series of articles written by yours truly on the American Puritan poet, Anne Bradstreet. Her works have much to teach us not only about life in 17th century Massachusetts, but also about how the people of that time viewed God. You can find the first three articles here, here, and here. There should be one more coming in the next few weeks. I would also commend to you the anthology of Anne Bradstreet’s poetry and prose put out as part of the John Harvard Library collection. Her poetry is not that hard to understand or appreciate, and it might even make you a little bit proud to be American.

Redeemed Suffering in Lamentations

“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

Children’s Ministry and the Ministry of the Word

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

The Sting of Death and our Hope in Christ

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

“For You and for Your Children”: The Curse and the Promise

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

A Sickness Not Unto Death (I Hope)

Friends,

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.

Blessings,

Amy

Redeemed Suffering in Job

“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

The Public Acceptance Factor and Politics

The first page of UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk triggering Article 50 and her country’s exit from the EU.

About a month ago, my husband and I ditched our TV package with Time Warner Cable and changed to Playstation Vue. In the greater scheme of things, this was a thoroughly unimportant event. We are simply the latest Americans to determine that we will no longer pay obscene amounts of money for channels we don’t even like in the first place. However, this decision has come with some technical challenges.

We started out with a Roku box and an antenna. It was somewhat cumbersome having to switch inputs to get to the channel I wanted at any given time, but I adjusted. Then my husband bought something called a Kinivo, and this is where things really got complicated. In order to pause and record all of our channels, including those we were receiving over the air, and also be able to watch Blu-Rays, we now have three different inputs, five remotes, several different apps, and more boxes than we had when we began. As I sit here now and type these words, I am not entirely certain how I get the over-the-air channels to appear on our TV. I consider myself to be a halfway intelligent person, but I am at a loss.

I have warned my husband that he is hitting up against something known as the WAF: the Wife Acceptance Factor. He was the one who first introduced me to this term, which is used in a joking manner by computer nerds when they are trying to get their wife to agree to the purchase and/or implementation of some new technology. Apparently, the original line of thinking was that if you wanted the wife to like a gadget, you had to make it more aesthetically appealing (Because us silly women don’t care about what a thing actually does, I suppose…). These days, it seems to be more a matter of pushing things as far as you can before the wife throws up her hands and throws the device out of the house.

It remains to be seen whether I will commit such a violation of marital submission with the Kinivo box. It is not quite the bane of my existence, but things may well have been better before it arrived. However, all this thinking about the “Wife Acceptance Factor” has caused me to wonder if there isn’t such a thing as a “Public Acceptance Factor”, and if we have indeed been hitting up against it during the past year. Continue reading

Those Who Live By Faith Are Just

“The Sermon of the Beatitudes” by James Tissot, circa 1886-69

This is the latest in a series of essays on the topic of reconciliation. You can find links to the previous articles at the bottom of this page.

In the last essay, I discussed how Christians are meant to live as humble rebels in a hostile world, serving as ambassadors for Christ. The first and most obvious way we do this is by proclaiming the gospel message and making disciples, which is the only true hope for reconciliation. That is the end to which everything else is a means. However, there is another aspect of our mission that I have previously hinted at and would like to dive into now: a humble rebel is committed to social justice.

Oddly, the concept of social justice makes some Christians uncomfortable. I believe this is because they are typically associating it with what is known as the “Social Gospel”, a theological movement that rose to prominence in the early days of the 20th century and was associated not only with a desire to help the poor and vulnerable, but also with theological liberalism and a de-emphasis on doctrine. I can understand why people would have serious reservations about that.

Social justice, on the other hand, is a very biblical concept. Indeed, it is one of the main themes of scripture, and it is inextricably linked with doctrine. The Bible actually has far more to say about social justice than any number of issues to which we devote more attention. It is part and parcel of reconciliation, for if you are not pursuing social justice, you are not only making reconciliation more difficult, but you are actively increasing discord.

Martin Luther is often said to have had his theological breakthrough when he read the Apostle Paul’s quotation of a phrase from the prophet Habakkuk: “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17, KJV) Luther’s story is a bit more complicated than that, but the importance of this verse is clearly evident. What I am about to suggest to you is that this phrase can also be reversed: not only do the just live by faith, but those who live by faith are just.

(DISCLAIMER: I am not challenging the traditional view of justification by grace alone through faith alone.)

Continue reading