Shalom, Shalom!

How do you say, “How are you?” in biblical Hebrew? Answer: “Shalom.”

How do you wish someone peace? Easy, “Shalom.”

Can you translate the phrase “All is well” into ancient Hebrew? Yes; “Shalom!”

What’s the ancient Hebrew word for “prosperity?” How about “safety?” Or, how did they declare victory in battle? The answers: “Shalom”, “Shalom” and “Shalom!”

We encounter this versatile word 237 times in the Old Testament. All the above uses are included and then some. Okay, one more: How did many false prophets around 600 BC lie to the people of Judah? Jeremiah tells us:

    “‘Shalom, shalom,’ [they say, when there is no] shalom.” (Jeremiah 6:14)

False security can prevent people from turning to God. Trusting a lie serves as a firewall against moral progress. Skipping repentance while whistling “peace, peace” was something Jeremiah could not tolerate.

Jeremiah was not known as an optimist. He contended bitterly with the optimists of his day, many of whom looked to cultic rituals, religious ceremony and sanctuaries as instruments of appeasement with God. Who needs repentance and moral reform if God’s “shalom” is in your pocket.

For Jeremiah, religion without repentance was a BIG lie. To challenge the abuse of “shalom,” he made use of the Hebrew word “seqer” (lie, fraud, falsehood) in his prophetic ministry. There are 37 references to “seqer’ in Jeremiah out of 113 in the Old Testament. Jeremiah often warned against trusting in “deceptive words that are worthless.” (Jeremiah 7:4 & 8 ) and nothing is more deceptive that using religion to skirt changing our ways and doing right. Jeremiah’s grave concerns in context included the shedding of innocent blood, the oppression of the fatherless and widows, theft, adultery and idolatry.

Today, as abortion, fatherlessness, greed, adultery and self-worship flourish, many turn to religion for “shalom.” They resent the “Jeremiahs” among us who refuse to sanction our peaceful silence in the face of flourishing sin. They presume God will protect and bless them regardless of their lifestyles. Strengthening a sense of security in an evil people is a theological falsehood. The same “shalom” talk today numbs our ears to the gospel of repentance and seduces us away from a Spirit-filled (morally reformed) life.

Truth told, nothing—not past promises, personal sacrifices, cultic rituals, religious symbols, political strategies, tons of weaponry, paid soothsayers, creedal confessions or anything—can protect us from God’s wrath if morality is shrugged off by smooth-talking “prophets” assuring us of God’s saving grace and everlasting “shalom.”

Salem Witch Judge: A Book Review

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The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall.
Author: Eve LaPlante, Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2007.


Eve LaPlante is the great-great-great… great-great-great-granddaughter of Samuel Sewall, a judge during the Salem witch trials. In her biography of Sewall, LePlante pictures her ancestor as a “follower of Christ” who “sought forgiveness and expiation from sin.”


In the late 1600s, it seemed easy to perceive the devil’s handiwork in colonial life. One in two children perished before age five. Colonists lived in fear of Indian raids, droughts, epidemics, fires, and other tragedies. The Puritan ideal was to live to the glory of God until God glorified you. The average life span was 40 years. A popular perception was that “Satan was on the loose.” Fear loomed large in the hearts of those who began to accuse their neighbors of witchcraft–a fear of whatever was contaminating the community. New England was a “howling wilderness” and there was much to fear.


In 1692, Judge Samuel Sewall (1652 – 1730) helped send twenty people to their deaths for witchcraft. It was a five- month ordeal that began when a few misbehaving girls found unexpected access to public power by accusing older women of “afflicting” them with the devil. Playing the victim led to bizarre fits, spasms and outbursts. The girls were pitied instead of punished. Pointing fingers of blame made sympathetic victims out of spoiled brats. Still, the more severe sins lie at the feet of community leaders who fed on the hysteria.

Coerced confessions lent public credibility to the accusations. Others got into the accusation act and a surge of suspects were named. A new governor came to office with the charge to drive out the devil. Local jails were full of accused witches, so he appointed a court of nine judges (five Harvard men).

Soon, outrage shifted to shame. Families began to move away. Local Puritan ministers began to preach against this court and made pleas for reason and restraint. Public opinion turned the tide. The Court was disbanded in October, a decision welcomed by nearly every local leader (but not by every judge).

All told, 144 women and 44 men were accused of witchcraft; 59 were tried and 31 convicted. Sadly, 20 were executed (14 women and 6 men). Many documents were destroyed–evidence of shame that fell short of repentance. Among those put on trial, only those who maintained their innocence ended up on the gallows. Of the nine judges bent on evoking repentance from innocent defendants, only one ended up publicly repenting himself (five years later). That judge is the subject of LePlante’s biography.

Samuel Sewall (1652 - 1730)

By the time of the trials, Samuel and Hannah Sewall had buried five children and were about to lose a sixth and seventh. In 1696, Samuel’s son (Sam, Jr) read a passage from Matthew (12:7) that gripped his father with guilt: “If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” The preaching of Samuel Willard, Sewall’s minister, also cut into his conscience. At age 44, Sewall made the most influential decision of his life. At church, on January 14, 1697, he declared his repentance. He accepted the blame and shame of his actions on the court and pled for pardon from God and men. This was just the beginning of his lifelong repentance. LePlante wrote; “True repentance consists of more than a single act.”

New perspectives on other matters emerged. Sewall began to see a graceful place for the Indians in God’s scheme and had several Indian boys stay in his home and helped them go to Harvard. He began to advocate for the rights of African slaves, rooting his opposition to slavery in Matthew 7:12 (the Golden Rule). His pamphlet, “The Selling of Joseph,” was the first anti-slavery tract ever published in America. He took some grief for it too. His remorse gave rise to activism on behalf of the needy. He sought to, “Produce fruits in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8).


Sewall spent the last three decades of his life seeking to restore himself in the eyes of God. By age 75, he had outlived two wives and 11 of his 14 children. He also outlived all the other Salem witch judges. He served New England as a judge for over 50 years. He represents the perpetrators of one of America’s most shameful moments, and yet he rises out of the dust and ashes of repentance to demonstrate much that is great in the American spirit of the past.

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The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Insane Faith!

Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. Some attribute this saying to Albert Einstein. Others credit the ancient Chinese, or Ben Franklin or Alcoholics Anonymous. Who knows? In any case, this adage has become ubiquitous in our time.

My Mom often admonished my brothers and me, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Was she driving us insane? Sometimes I think it’s insane to do the same thing over and over expecting the same result. In any case, the jury is out. As a believer in Jesus, I know that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a new result can sometimes be called faith.

Is it really insane to…

1. …stick with the same old spouse day in and day out while expecting your lives together to yield fresh and new joys as you grow old together? If faithfulness to your family is insane, then Einstein was a very sane man.

2. …keep going to work at the same job as a reliable, punctual and responsible businessperson, working hard to be ready for new opportunities to strike that will make your business blossom anew? This may seem insane to those who live off of the toil of others, but I call it uncommon decency.

3. …raise each of six kids with the same time-tested values and still expect them all to turn out alike? Oops, now that really is crazy.

4. …pray for a child year in and year out to come to faith in Christ hoping that will happen before you graduate to heaven? Or, work with an addict for months on end with the belief that change is possible. Remember, the possibility of transformation is the essence of hope.

5. …share the gospel again after the last 30 people rejected it, fully knowing that this particular sinner might actually repent and incite rejoicing in heaven? I’ve actually seen such repentance in real life! But enough about me.

6. …stay faithful to one church family because it remains true to the gospel of Jesus (even though our culture disdains that gospel) ever expecting God to bless your long-standing faithfulness in ways that bring new spiritual health and growth to your church?

7. …vote for the same party that keeps losing simply because they are the only one you see consistently presenting decent candidates and offering a platform that respects human life, fiscal responsibility, honest work, marriage integrity, and basic liberties? Expecting to win with such candidates in today’s America may well be insane.

8. …visit day in and day out with a grouchy old complainer at the nursing home expecting to someday be surprised by a “thank you” out of the blue? Or, care for a loved one in a coma day in and day out and hoping for a squeeze of the hand?

9. …read the same Bible daily thinking that fresh new lessons that never occurred to you before will become clear?

10. …love a child unconditionally and persistently no matter how many times she says “I hate you,” while expecting her to love you with all her heart much farther down love’s long road?

Honorable Mention: …root for the Chicago Cubs every year expecting a game seven World Series victory. Okay, I had to toss a bone to the other side.

In the end, you get to decide for yourself whether something is insane or faithful. I’ll give author and radio preacher Chuck Swindoll the last word and you take it from here:

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible.”


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

A Radiant Life!

“Amy Wilson Carmichael was the most Christ-like character I ever met. . . her life was the most fragrant, the most joyfully sacrificial, that I ever knew.” ~ Sherwood Eddy, missionary and statesman.

Amy Wilson Carmichael (1867-1951) was raised in Northern Ireland. Her life story is illuminated by Elizabeth Elliot in her inspiring biography, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legend of Amy Carmichael.

Living for the good of others was a notion Amy picked up from her Presbyterian parents and practiced as the eldest of seven children. She learned about poetry and heard stories of the great martyrs of Scotland and England from her governess. Those stories gave her big ideas about facing death with courageous cheer.

After Amy’s father died, her family moved to Belfast and she threw herself into serving others. The director of the Belfast City Mission took her through city streets to see the “other half.” She began teaching children in night school, initiated weekly prayer meetings and worked with the YWCA.

The call of God to missionary service fell on her ears of faith at a Bible conference when she was 24. In 1893, she went to Japan, supported by the Keswick Missions Committee. She found the language difficult and was disappointed to see disharmony among her fellow missionaries She wrote to her mother, “The devil is awfully busy.”

She set out for Ceylon but ended up in India (1895) where she lived without furlough for 55 years. In Dohnavur, she learned about a “hidden secret” in Indian life. The practice of “dedicating” children to Hindu temples had a dark underside. In some cases, children were sold as “temple prostitutes;” married to the gods, so to speak, and made available to Hindu men who visited the temples. A by-product of this clandestine practice was a number of babies in desperate need of being rescued from this cycle of sin.

Amy devoted herself to saving “temple children” from lives of degradation. With the help of some local (converted) women, she made slow and careful steps toward creating a haven for helpless babies. It was difficult to find women who would nurse out-of-caste babies. One woman who consented to breast-feed such a baby was killed by her husband for her sin against caste. By 1901, the Dohnavur Fellowship, a society for rescuing ill-treated children, was underway.

Amy’s reports for supporters back home contained the straight unromantic truth. Her radiant life did not shine so bright on paper. Her missionary society preferred rosy reports from the field, but she told it as it was. One time, the society rejected one of her reports as too discouraging and asked for a rewrite. She refused. For her, mission work offered little in the way of glamour. It offered a chance to die. Thus the title of Elizabeth Elliot’s biography.

Speaking of dying, “Calvary Love” was what inspired Amy to the core. She was willing to face any risk for these children. She was charged with criminal kidnapping and often threatened with violence. Nevertheless, twelve years after beginning this controversial ministry, there were 130 children (her little “Lotus Buds”) under her care. She was mother, doctor, and nurse; day and night. Amy became known as “Amma” (‘mother’ in the Tamil tongue).

Her children were physically cared for, fed and educated, with a special focus on their “Christian character.” One of the girls described her childhood this way: “When we were very small, we were on the wings of her love.” But Amy was strict too. Love, for Amy, meant, self-sacrifice, self-discipline and courage. When punishments were needed, Amy did it herself but it came with assurances of love, a Bible-reading and a piece of candy afterwards.

Amy craved for more time to focus on spiritual concerns but the physical needs were pressing. When criticized for not being “evangelistic enough” and for paying too much attention to physical needs, her response was; “Souls are more or less securely attached to bodies . . . and as you cannot get the souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together.” “Calvary Love” calls for concrete service in practical matters.

Amy’s struggle as a single woman found some resolution in the promise she claimed from God that. “None of them that trust in Me shall be desolate.” She carried that promise in her heart all her life. She formed the Sisters of the Common Life, an order for single Christian women committed wholly to the children. This gave them a sense of family and kept them focused. Amy only hired workers who shared her “single eye” for God’s glory.

After a fall left her partially invalid, she spent the last twenty years of her life writing and pleading the cause of her children. She prayed that her “thorn in the flesh” be removed and met with the same answer that Paul received; “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is perfected in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). She died in 1951 at the age of 83.

Amy’s story cannot be told without an example of her poetry:


From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings . . .
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay . . .
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

Post Scripts

All photos were taken from Amy Carmichael

Dohnavur Fellowship‘s Facebook page


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.