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Archive for January, 2011

Gospel Healing VS. Self-Help

The prevalence of sexual assault and abuse is staggering. Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have written a timely and much needed resource for the church today called Rid of My Disgrace. One important topic they hit on is the difference between self-help (unfortunately offered to many suffering in our culture at large) and gospel healing (the message we all need to be prepared to share with friends, family, and people in our congregations).

Tragically, positive self-statements “have more impact on people with low self-esteem than on people with high self-esteem, and the impact on people with low self-esteem is negative.” The consequences are that positive self-statements are likely to backfire and cause harm for the very people they are meant to benefit—people with low self-esteem.

This rejection of simplistic self-esteem enhancement methods is not because we want you to continue in self-loathing, but because something better exists. To experience healing and freedom, your identity must be established on the work of Christ, not on the foundation of the shame and self-hate that frequently results from assault. Making a transition from a “victim” identity to an identity in Christ is offered in God’s redemptive work through Jesus. You need to know God’s statements and images about who you are, not self-produced positive statements or the lies being told to you by your experience of disgrace. Confronting your distorted self-image and having your identity reconstructed is not a chore you do but is the fruit of having faith in the person and work of Jesus.

What victims need are not self-produced positive statements, but God’s statements about his response to their pain. How can you be rid of these dysfunctional emotions and their effects? How can you be rid of your disgrace? God’s grace to you dismantles the beliefs that give disgrace life. Grace re-creates what violence destroyed. Martin Luther writes that “the love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.”One-way love is the change agent you need. Grace transforms and heals; and healing comes by hearing God’s statements to you, not speaking your own statements to yourself.

What grace offers to the victim experiencing disgrace is the gift of refuting distortions and faulty thinking and replacing their condemning, counter-factual beliefs with more accurate ones that reflect the truths about God, yourself, and God’s grace-filled response to your disgrace. This is an important point to highlight. We are all powerless to heal ourselves. Research shows that self-help statements have been found to be ineffective and even harmful by making some people with low self-esteem feel even worse about themselves in the long term. As a matter of fact, positive self-statements frequently end up reinforcing and strengthening one’s original negative self-perception they were trying to change.

As we explore the effects caused by sexual assault and how grace can heal them, it is helpful to look at the prayer of Psalm 13. It is a request for God to deal with our sorrow, distress, and disgrace with his steadfast love, in the hope that we may rejoice in salvation:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Excerpt from Rid of My Disgrace by Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb.

Download a sample chapter.

January 31, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Ministry,Life / Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life,Trials / Suffering | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 11:22 am | 0 Comments »

The Four Holy Gospels, iPad Edition

We’ve been talking a lot lately about The Four Holy Gospels, a ground-breaking illumination of Scripture featuring the works of contemporary artist Makoto Fujimura.

We recognize that the cost of this 6-color, artist quality volume—$129.99 for the cloth over board edition, and $349.99 for the genuine leather over board edition—may be prohibitive for some of our friends. And so we’ve released a $14.99 electronic version for your Apple iPad, enhanced with video and additional artist commentary. Simply open the iBooks app on your iPad, and search for “Crossway” to find it.

There’s nothing like the look and feel of real ink imprinted onto the highest quality gilt-edged art paper, something you’ll find in both print versions of The Four Holy Gospels. The print versions look great on your coffee table, and are sure to spark some meaningful conversations about Scripture and artistic engagement with God’s word.

But if you have an iPad and want to experience The Four Holy Gospels immediately,we encourage you to check out this enhanced eBook.

January 29, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,Digital News,E-Books,ESV,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 12:00 pm | 0 Comments »

Five Principles of Providence

Our faith should be strengthened as we consider God’s providence—how our loving father carefully governs our lives. As you study providence, there are five principles that you should keep in mind:

  1. The doctrine of providence reminds us that God is the sovereign Lord of history. It is important to remember that God is the creator and judge of the world, moving it toward an ultimate goal that we cannot fully grasp. For this reason we must remember not to align our faith with any particular political movement or institution.
  2. We often see the pattern of providence only in retrospect. We are often so overcome by grief or anger about our circumstances that we struggle to see how these experiences fit into God’s plan for us. Remember the story of Joseph? Surely Joseph wondered about the goodness of a God who allowed all of those things to happen to him. And yet through those trials, God raised up Joseph and saved the entire nation of Israel.
  3. God uses suffering and tragedy as occasions to display his glory. It is easy to doubt God’s love during times of tragedy. But behind the suffering, we are able to experience the love of a wise father who has promised never to leave or forsake us.
  4. God’s grace is sufficient when the answer is no. When we are denied requests or experience afflictions, like Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, we come to know more deeply the sufficiency of God’s grace.
  5. The cross is the place where grace and providence embrace. No other place can confirm the truth of Romans 8:28 like the cross of Jesus. Tortured and abandoned, Jesus experienced the ultimate betrayal and sacrifice. Yet we look back on the event as a triumph, for God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ that day. We can be sure that he will also take the broken pieces of our lives and piece them together into a beautiful, whole mosaic.

Modified content from Amazing Grace by Timothy George.

What Makes Evangelicals Different?

What is it that separates evangelicals from the rest of the world, even some other branches of Christianity? The fundamental dividing line is the belief in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. Why does it matter if we believe this or not?

  • It matters because what you think about the Bible directly affects what you believe and how you live. Is the Bible like an all-you-can-eat buffet where you pick and choose what to believe and obey?
  • It matters because views of the Bible set individuals and institutions on very different trajectories. Institutions that have rejected the Bible’s entire trustworthiness have often gone on to embrace beliefs incompatible with the gospel. This controversial issue is a theological line in the sand.

How is the Bible a book like no other? It is

  • A book that is God-breathed: Inspiration. God authored the Bible through humans. He did not dictate it as an executive would dictate do a secretary. If a musician plays the same tune through a variety of wind instruments, each will sound different although each is coming from the same breath. God produced the Bible through the different personalities of his “instruments.”
  • A book that is entirely true: Inerrancy. The Bible is not only inerrant in matters of theology, but in every subject it addresses. This does not mean that there are no difficulties in scripture. We do not have all the necessary data (i.e. archeological findings) to perfectly interpret the Bible. As sinful creatures we are susceptible to misinterpretation.
  • A book that is the boss of me: Authority. God is the supreme authority since he created the universe. It is the final authority for every domain of knowledge that it addresses.
  • A book that is all you need: Sufficiency. In the Bible, God has given us all we need to know in order to trust and obey him. The Bible alone is sufficient. It is not to be equated with the Koran or Book or Mormon. Some believe that God continues to reveal himself through special words or guidance. We cannot place these things on par with the Bible.
  • A book that is actually understandable: Clarity. Not everything in the Bible is clear. But the central message about God’s saving grace is easily understood. The debates that arise are not the fault of the Bible, but the faults of sinful and finite human nature.
  • A book that is essential to know God: Necessity. You must hear the message of the Bible, either by reading it or hearing it from someone else, in order to have faith in Christ. It is essential to remain immersed in it throughout our Christian walks. Spiritual endurance needs the Bible like physical endurance needs food and water.

From chapter four of Don’t Call It A Comeback.

January 28, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible Study,Church History,Evangelicalism,Life / Doctrine,Scripture,The Christian Life,Theology | Author: Crossway Staff @ 2:00 pm | (2) Comments »

Facing the Painful Side of Redemption


Which is more painful? To live without hope or to catch a glimpse of hope only to have it disappear? Often, this is our experience on the eve of redemption. Certainly, God is not a fickle redeemer. He is faithful. But if we expect redemption to be mainly about comfort, we may be disappointed when—at least for a season—it brings more pain.

Or you may have come to God with a life that was a mess with sin and were relieved to find that he accepts you in Christ, just as you are. But in time, you were confronted with the reality that some of those sins from your former life still had a powerful hold on you. Some new Christians at this point are so discouraged they question whether they were ever saved at all.

Or you may have found that after years of harboring the pain of abuse in secret, it’s time to talk about it. You may have to revisit some painful memories or confront someone who has harmed you. The battle to decide to speak out is pain unto itself, intensifying the pain of the original abuse. Maybe you’ve made your secrets known, and your confidants, rather than comforting and protecting you, have hurt you further by suggesting that you keep quiet or have even blamed you for stirring up trouble by digging up the past.

You may have developed various means of dealing with what’s been done to you—self-protection, hypersensitivity, catastrophizing to grab others’ attention, never trusting anyone or depending too much on their affirmation, getting even, withholding yourself from others, becoming the aggressor, or self-medicating with any number of substances or pleasures. In short, you may have constructed a comprehensive manner of life for surviving apart from God (Eph. 4:22).

In delivering you, God wants to show you that this manner of life, which may be all you’ve ever known, is actually death. He wants you to walk away. But walking away from the only life you’ve known can feel like death. This is all very risky. It may feel like it’s getting worse before it gets better.

The grip of sin does not loosen easily. Chances are that your sin has been some form of refuge for you, some means of comfort. But that comfort was merely bait on a hook, and now you’re being reeled in, you’re enslaved. In delivering us from sin, God breaks the chains of slavery and beckons us to freedom. But faithful obedience is very costly; he calls us to abandon everything we have clung to in our sin, and pulling out the hook of false comfort can be very painful.

We have been bound in darkness; in redemption, God calls us into his light. This can feel like coming out of a dark cave into a midday sun—our eyes may hurt at first as they adjust to the light. How can we be so sure we know what the picture of redemption should look like, when we’ve been so blind?

Excerpt from Redemption by Mike Wilkerson. Learn more or download a sample chapter.