Why Don’t We See Miracles Like the Apostles Did?

Why Don’t We See Miracles Like the Apostles Did?

Many contemporary Christians feel disconnected from the vibrant, Spirit-filled ministries of the prophets and apostles described in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God seemingly took the people of Israel through miraculous event after miraculous event. In the New Testament, those who watched the ministry of Jesus were seized with amazement (cf. Luke 5:25) at the miracles he performed, and the apostles in the early church regularly performed signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).

Yet today, such miraculous events seem rare and, when we do hear reports of miracles, many Christians are skeptical. At the very least, Christians feel that there is something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way he works today. This raises a valid question: Why don’t we experience today the miracles we read about in the New Testament?

To answer that question, we need to understand not only how God works through providence and common grace [link to previous standalone post on miracles and providence], but we must also understand the purpose of miracles in the Bible.

 

The Purpose of Miracles in Scripture

Miracles in Scripture are acts of God that proclaim his sovereign power over creation as well as his commitment to the good of his people. Miracles are often significant because they serve a larger purpose in God’s redemptive plan, giving evidence of the authenticity of God’s messengers who bring his revelation to humanity. This is one of the primary functions of miracles in the Scriptural narratives: “When miracles occur, they give evidence that God is truly at work and so serve to advance the gospel.”[1] Miracles serve as an authentication of God’s message and his messengers.

In the Old Testament, Moses did miracles to attest to his authority as God’s spokesman (Exod. 4:1–9). Similarly, the prophets were given words to speak from God, and in order to verify their authority God granted them the ability to perform miracles (1 Kings 17:17–24, 18:36–39, 2 Kings 1:10).

Whereas “the miracles of the Old Testament age authenticated Moses and the prophets as men of God…the miracles of the New Testament age authenticated in turn Christ and his apostles.”[2] Nicodemus, for example, recognized that God was with Jesus because of the miracles he did (John 3:2). Luke records approximately 20 of Jesus’ miracles and four—all healings—are unique to only Luke. Jesus’ miracles authenticate his authoritative role in the divine plan that brings salvation (Luke 7:22). In fact, the scope of Jesus’ healings shows the breadth of his authority. He heals the sick, casts out evil spirits, and cures a variety of specific conditions: a flow of blood, a withered hand, blindness, deafness, paralysis, epilepsy, leprosy, dropsy, and fever. He resuscitates the dead and exercises power over nature.

Miracles also point to God’s kingdom and the restoration of creation. John calls the miracles of Jesus “signs” (John 4:54, 6:15), and Jesus suggests that his miraculous works verify that the kingdom of God has come (Luke 11:14-23). Jesus performed healings, exorcisms, and “nature” miracles (such as turning water into wine and multiplying food) as a sign that the kingdom of God had come to earth. As Grudem puts it, the one of the purposes of miracles was “to bear witness to the fact that the kingdom of God has come and has begun to expand its beneficial results into people’s lives.”[3] This is exactly the point of what Jesus says in Matthew 12:28: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Because of Jesus’ miraculous works, those who saw him knew that the God of Israel was once again acting in their midst.

Tim Keller points out that miracles

“lead not simply to cognitive belief, but to worship, to awe and wonder. Jesus’s miracles in particular were never magic tricks, designed only to impress and coerce…Instead, he used miraculous power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. Why? We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order.”[4]

Jesus’ miracles reveal his divine identity—an identity that calls for worship. This is the response of the disciples after Jesus walks on the water: “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt. 14:33). When asked whether he was the “one who is to come” (Luke 7:19) Jesus, instead of answering with a word testifying that he is the Messiah, points to his miracles. Luke’s portrayal of Jesus is focused on his authority and the promise he brings. Jesus’ saving work inaugurates the kingdom of God, delivers sinners, secures forgiveness of sin, and provides the Spirit.

Grudem’s description of miracles in the Old and New Testaments is worth quoting:

“It seems to be a characteristic of the New Testament church that miracles occur. In the Old Testament, miracles seemed to occur primarily in connection with one prominent leader at a time, such as Moses or Elijah or Elisha. In the New Testament, there is a sudden and unprecedented increase in the miracles when Jesus begins his ministry (Luke 4:36–37, 40–41). However, contrary to the pattern of the Old Testament, the authority to work miracles and to cast out demons was not confined to Jesus himself, nor did miracles die out when Jesus returned to heaven. Even during his ministry, Jesus gave authority to heal the sick and to cast out demons not only to the Twelve, but also to seventy of his disciples (Luke 10:1, 9, 17–19; cf. Matt. 10:8; Luke 9:49–50).”[5]

The miracles of the early church, then, served an immediately relevant purpose in redemptive history: verifying the authenticity of God’s revelation and signaling the coming of the new eschatological age among God’s people.

Consider the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. One of the largest disputes in the early church concerned whether or not Gentile converts to Christianity had to keep the Old Testament Law and be circumcised. It became such an issue of dispute that Paul, Peter, and Barnabas met with the leaders of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem to debate the issue. What is interesting is that, as Acts 15:12 says, “all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.” Here the miraculous works of God served as evidence to the Jewish Christians that God was in fact working in a new and unique way among the Gentiles as well.

 

Miracles Today

How should Christians think about miracles today? First, we must realize that the sheer volume and close proximity of the countless miracles in the Old and New Testaments served significant purposes in God’s redemptive plan at the time. However, this does not mean that God does not still do miracles today. Indeed, as Wayne Grudem notes, “There is nothing inappropriate in seeking miracles for the proper purposes for which they are given by God: to confirm the truthfulness of the gospel message, to bring help to those in need, to remove hindrances to people’s ministries, and to bring glory to God.”[6] Miracles still happen, and Christians should avoid the two extremes of seeing everything as a miracle and seeing nothing as a miracle.

Second, Christians need to expand their understanding of God’s action to include both his providential sustaining in daily affairs and his miraculous works of redemption in the church. For example, in John 14:12, Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” But it is not immediately clear what Jesus means when he says that those coming after him will do “greater works.” Some may think that these “greater works” refer to more miracles and other such events. However, D. A. Carson’s insights here are helpful:

Greater works…cannot simply mean more works—i.e. the church will do more things than Jesus did, since it embraces so many people over such a long period of time—since there are perfectly good Greek ways of saying ‘more,’ and since in any case the meaning would then be unbearably trite. Nor can greater works mean ‘more spectacular’ or ‘more supernatural’ works: it is hard to imagine works that are more spectacular or supernatural than the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the multiplication of bread and the turning of water into wine.”[7]

Instead, Carson says that the “greater works” done by those coming after Jesus point primarily to the new eschatological order established by Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.

The ‘signs’ and ‘works’ Jesus performed during his ministry could not fully accomplish their true end until after Jesus had risen from the dead and been exalted. Only at that point could they be seen for what they were. By contrast, the works believers are given to do through the power of the eschatological Spirit, after Jesus’ glorification, will be set in the framework of Jesus’ death and triumph, and will therefore more immediately and truly reveal the Son. Thus greater things is constrained by salvation-historical realities.[8]

And while these works certainly included the signs and wonders done by the early church in the Spirit’s power, they are not limited to those miraculous deeds. Instead, they also included the “mystery” of Gentiles being included into the one new people of God, to which Paul referred in Ephesians and Colossians. God’s miraculous works in the church include the forgiveness of sins and the inclusion of those who were formerly far off into God’s one new people. Healings, signs, and wonders are extraordinary, but no more extraordinary than the redemption accomplished by Christ.

What this means, ultimately, is that just because we do not frequently see any extraordinary miraculous events happening around us, it does not mean that God is inactive. Rather, we should recognize (a) that God is active in the regular (natural) processes we see every day; (b) that God is miraculously calling people to himself as his church grows and expands; and (c) that people are experiencing God work in miraculous supernatural ways in their lives in other parts of the country or world. To miss this is to miss the scope and significance of God’s action described in Scripture.

Whether or not we are privileged to witness obviously miraculous, supernatural events, Christians can be confident that God is actively at work in the world, bringing people to himself, bringing glory to Jesus, and building his church (Matt. 16:18).



[1] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 360.

[2] Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 412.

[3] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 360.

[4] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, 95–96.

[5] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 359.

[6] Grudem, 371.

[7] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991), 495.

[8] Carson, John, 496.

Making A Safety Plan

Making A Safety Plan

DOWNLOAD “MAKING A SAFETY PLAN”

If you are experiencing physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal abuse from a partner, spouse, family member, etc., you can create a personalized safety plan. If you are supporting someone in an abusive relationship, you can help them make a safety plan.

In our book, Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence, Lindsey and I include “Making a Safety Plan” as an appendix.

A personalized safety plan will help you know what to do if/when you decide to leave or find yourself (and children) in an emergency.

You can create this safety plan even if you are not ready to leave.

There are some important things that need to be considered. Evidence shows that planning before leaving is really important and is more likely to help the women stay away.

Please ensure that safety is considered when creating, printing, and/or completing this document. Considering who will have access to it and where it will be stored are extremely important.

DOWNLOAD “MAKING A SAFETY PLAN”

Is it My Fault? Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence

Is It My Fault? is a message of hope and healing to victims who know too well the depths of destruction and the overwhelming reality of domestic violence. This book addresses the abysmal issue of domestic violence with the powerful and transforming biblical message of grace and redemption. It deals with this devastating problem and sin honestly and directly without hiding its prevalence today.

Free Leader’s Guides for Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics

Free Leader’s Guides for Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics

Here are two FREE Leaders’ Guides for Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics.

 

Many Christians don’t know about the history of their faith, but they want to learn more. That is why I wrote these two books: Know the Heretics and Know the Creeds and Councils.

These accessible overviews walk readers through the most important expressions (and denials!) of the Christian tradition–not with dry focus on dates and places, but with an emphasis on the living traditions of Christian belief and why it matters for our lives today. They are ideal for group uses and study.

God & Feminine Language and Imagery

God & Feminine Language and Imagery

If you read the Bible, it is pretty clear that primarily masculine imagery is found throughout the Old Testament in reference to God (“father,” “warrior,” or “jealous husband,” for example). However as Leonard Swidler points out, we also find feminine language and images applied to God, even if to a lesser degree, as well as applied favorably to virtues such as wisdom.

Seamtress

And Yahweh God made tunics of skins for the man and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)

Swidler comments: “Already in the most ancient part of the Bible…one finds Yahweh performing a customarily female task in Hebrew society (cf. Prov 31:10-31): Yahweh God acts as a seamstress.”

Mother and Nurse

Was it I who conceived all this people, was it I who gave them birth, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, like a beloved little mother with a baby at the breast?” (Numbers 11:12)

Swidler comments: “When the Israelites in the desert complained of their problems to Moses, he in turn complained to Yahweh with rhetorical questions that by negative implication project onto Yahweh the images of a mother and a wet nurse.”

 Loving Mother

When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. . . . I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms; yet they have not understood that I was the one looking after them. I led them with reins of kindness, with leading-strings of love. I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek; stooping down to him I gave him his food. (Hos 11:1, 3, 4)

O Yahweh, . . . I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child, like a weaned child on its mother’s lap. (Psalm 131:2)

Yahweh’s Motherly Compassion

Is Ephraim my dear Son? My darling child? For the more I speak of him, the more do I remember him. Therefore, my womb [“heart” ESV] trembles for him; I will truly show motherly-compassion (rachem arachamennu) upon him. (Jeremiah 31:20)

Swidler comments: “In Hebrew, rechem means womb. The plural form, rachaim, extends this concrete meaning to signify compassion, love, mercy. The verb form, rchm, means to show mercy, and the adjective, rachum, means merciful. Thus to speak of compassion or mercy automatically calls forth maternal overtones. This motherly compassion is attributed to God in a number of places.”

God in Birth Pangs

Yahweh God goes forth. . . . “But now, I cry out as a woman in labor, gasping and panting.” (Isaiah 42:13-14)

Israel in the Womb of God the Mother

Listen to me, house of Jacob and all the remnant of the house of Israel who have been borne by me from the belly (beten), carried from the womb (racham), even until old age I am the one, and to gray hairs am I carrying you Since I have made, I will bear, carry and save. (Isaiah 46:3-4)

Nursing Mother

For Zion was saying, “Yahweh has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you. (Isaiah 49:14-15)

 Comforting Mother

For thus says Yahweh: . . . Like a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. (Isaiah 66:12-13)

Midwife

Yet you drew me out of the womb, you entrusted me to my mother’s breasts. (Psalm 22:9)

Swidler comments: “In Ps 22:9, Yahweh is depicted in an intimate female role, that of a midwife.”

Wisdom Personified as a Woman

Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks. (Prov 1:20-21)

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.  She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her  fast are called blessed. (Prov 3:13-18)

Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud. (Prov 8:1-3)  (Proverbs; Job 28)

In the book of Job, Swidler explains, “the hymn of praise to the feminine Hokmah is continued. She is not subject to the laws of the cosmos but is its mistress. She is inaccessible to humanity, being known only by God. The feminine Hokmah is again both personified and an attribute of God.”

For example, But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its [“her”] worth, and it [“she”] is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, “It [‘She’] is not in me,” and the sea says, “It [‘She’] is not with me.” (Job 28:12-14)

 

I don’t use feminine pronouns to refer to God, but reading these passages make me wonder if I’m being more conservative than the Bible. The main reason I don’t is not because of convictions about gender and roles. It is simply because Jesus didn’t use feminine language or images about God and did use male imagery, specifically “Father.” But as soon as I say that I feel the tension as if I’m pitting Jesus agains the very scriptures that are all about him.

Instead of using feminine pronouns, I prefer to the term “God’s self.” For example, “God reveals God’s self both in Jesus Christ and in the holy scriptures.” I like the awkwardness of using that term.  I  like that “Gods self” doesn’t seem to fit so well in our linguistic constructions. That seems theologically correct to me.

Of course, God being spirit is neither, strictly speaking, male or female in the embodied human sense. This sort of language is used in the Bible in order to better communicate to us in terms we can relate to. Nevertheless, it’s important to point out that Old Testament descriptions of God encompass both the masculine and feminine.

Anglican Reading Recommendations

Anglican Reading Recommendations

The Anglican Communion is the third largest body of Christians in the world, and the largest Protestant denomination. J. I. Packer writes that Anglicanism possesses “the truest, wisest and potentially richest heritage in all Christen­dom.”

Serving as Canon for Vocations for The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, I get asked lots about resources on Anglican studies.  I started keeping a list of all the books and tools I find helpful.  It is a growing list that changes frequently, so I’m not claiming these are the best or only books that should be read.

Anglican Heritage and Tradition

Anglican Theology

Book of Common Prayer

Where to start? Start with a copy of the the Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer is packed with devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations. The Book of Common Prayer (1979) is the latest, complete BCP used by the American branch of Anglicans, the Episcopal Church.

Liturgy

These books serve as guides to the use of the Book of Common Prayer that is sensitive both to its liturgical and theological backgrounds and to the practical and pastoral issues surrounding public worship.

The Episcopal Church

Anglican Spiritual Tradition

Thomas Cranmer

  • Divine Allurement: Cranmer’s Comfortable Words by Ashley Null investigates Cranmer’s gospel of divine allurement. Because justification by faith emphasized personal faith, persuasion was important to the Protestant Reformers. The verb “allure” was thus closely connected with their expression of the Gospel, and this is reflected in the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer.
  • Thomas Cranmer: A Life by Diarmaid MacCulloch is the definitive account, by an English Reformation scholar, of Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, architect of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, King Henry VIII’s guide through three divorces, and ultimately a martyr for his Protestant faith.
  • Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance: Renewing the Power to Love by Ashley Null.  Null is one of my favorite Anglican theologians.  In this book, he explores Cranmer’s cultural heritage, why he would have been attracted to Luther’s thought, and then provides convincing evidence for the Reformed Protestant Augustinianism which Cranmer enshrined in the formularies of the Church of England.
  • The Collects of Thomas Cranmer by Paul F. M Zahl and C. Frederick Barbee presents the Collects (prayers) written by Cranmer in  their original form and order.  Cranmer’s Collects are each followed by succinct commentary on their historical context and an insightful meditation crafted with contemporary Christians in mind.
  • “Thomas Cranmer’s Reading of Paul’s Letters” by Ashley Null in Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis, eds., Michael Allen and Jonathan A. Linebaugh
  • “The Texts of Paul and the Theology of Cranmer” by Jonathan A. Linebaugh in Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis, eds., Michael Allen and Jonathan A. Linebaugh

Priesthood

Thirty-nine Articles

  • The Thirty-nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today by J. I. Packer and R. T. Beckwith aims to show how the sixteenth-century Articles should be viewed in the twenty-first century. They argue that the Articles should be given a voice within the Church, not merely as an historical curiosity but an authoritative doctrinal statement.
  • “Thirty-nine Articles of Religion” in Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin S. Holcomb provides a short overview of the  historical background, content, legacy, and relevance of the Articles. As the Church of England found itself in a sort of middle ground between the papacy of Rome and the Protestant Reformers, it recognized the need to set out its general beliefs. It is this need that the Thirty-nine Articles addresses.

Welcome to the Episcopal Church

The series “Welcome to the Episcopal Church” is a helpful place to start.  It covers all the main distinctive elements of the Episcopal tradition:

Canterbury Trail

  • Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail by Robert Webber and Lester Ruth focuses on Anglicanism’s “six gifts”, as Webber puts it: mystery, Christ-centered worship, sacraments, historic identity, catholic traditions, and holistic spirituality.

Non-Anglicans on Sacraments

Here are some introductions to  the sacraments from non-Anglicans.

  • For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy by Alexander Schmemann.  As a seminary professor, I assign this book as much as possible because it is a compelling presentation of sacraments by an Orthodox priest. He discusses secularism and Christian culture from the perspective of the Church’s liturgy — “the sacrament of the world, the sacrament of the kingdom.”
  • Eucharist and Eschatology by Geoffrey Wainwright, a Methodist minister and seminary professor focuses on an eschatological understanding of the eucharist for the mission and unity of the church.

Logos Anglican Library

The Logos Anglican library is packed with amazing and helpful tools for Bible study and exploring the resources of the Anglican tradition. I use Logos for preparation for preaching and teaching, personal Bible study, and academic research. If you purchase it, use this coupon code (HOLCOMB7) to receive a 10% discount.

Release of Is it My Fault?

Release of Is it My Fault?

Lindsey and I wrote a book about domestic violence that releases today: Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence.

The number of occurrences of domestic violence in the United States is staggering: at least one in four women become victims of domestic violence in their lifetime.

Is It My Fault? was written for those suffering domestic abuse—typically women—and serves as a resource on healing from the emotional pain resulting from domestic violence by giving a clear understanding of what the Bible says about violence against women.  Combining the authors’ theological training with straightforward and practical advice, the book addresses questions like:  What does the Bible say about women?  What does the Bible say about God delivering victims?  Does the Bible say I should suffer abuse and violence?

Is It My Fault? points readers toward the consistent thread that runs throughout the Old and New Testaments emphasizing God’s love, compassion, and mercy, while opposing cruelty, violence, and abuse.  In light of this, the authors state that there is simply no justification for abuse. Importantly, the book helps women take critical next steps to identify whether they are currently in an abusive relationship, how to get help immediately and how to make a safety plan.

“Our hope is that this book will encourage you to believe that God knows and sees your suffering, and that God cares about you and hears your cries and prayers.  He cares for you so much that He wants you safe from threat and violence.  If you have children, He wants them safe, too.  But even beyond physical safety, God wants you to heal from the many ways you’ve been hurt and wounded.”

Is it My Fault? also serves as a valuable resource for pastors, ministry leaders, friends, and family, providing guidance on how to care for victims of domestic violence.

What You Believe Matters

What You Believe Matters

What you believe about God changes everything.

It affects how you love, work, live, marry, parent, evangelize, purchase, and worship. Is God an impersonal blob, distant and disinterested in the world except for figuring out who the good and bad people are? Is “god” a karma vibe making sure everyone gets what they deserve? Is God a myth that weak, stupid, or oppressive people use to console themselves or dominate other people? Is God a cosmic cheerleader who is concerned mainly with helping you achieve immediate happiness and self-actualization? Or is God someone else?

WE BELIEVE…

God reveals himself to sinners and saves them for his glory. Theology is not obscure, abstract theories about the divine. Rather, theology is the study of a personal God and how he relates to his creatures.

Some people think of theology as dry and academic, as opposed to passion and simple heartfelt love for God and people. God is a person, not just a system of ideas. But that is exactly why we should want to learn all there is to know about him and what he has told us. A husband who deeply loves his wife wants to become intimately familiar with who she is, how she thinks, and what she loves, because spouses’ knowledge of each other is an essential part of their relationship. In the same way, our knowledge of who God is, what he has done and said, and what he wants for us is essential for a relationship with him that will affect every part of our lives.

START WITH THE HEART

When God saves us, he makes us new. This means new lives, desires, motivations, thinking, and action. Learning, growing, and training should incorporate all of these. What our heart loves, our minds will ponder and our wills will pursue. Unless training gets to the heart level, it fails. Lots of training is exclusively for either practical training or filling people’s heads with information. But real change begins with our desires, so we concentrate on heart-level issues like worship and idolatry, love and hate, gospel and slavery.

Knowledge and wisdom are essential components to every leader’s training: biblical knowledge, theology, church history, apologetics, ecclesiology, and the like. While knowledge without zeal is abstract, zeal without knowledge is dangerous. What good is passion and knowledge without action? Philippians 2:13 says that God works in us to will and to do his good pleasure. Leaders need to have repentant hearts and solid theology so they can do the work God has called them to. Leaders need to be trained in a way that leads knowledge and passion into effective action.

WE ARE ALL THEOLOGIANS

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we all have ideas about who God is, what he expects, and what our place in the world is. Our theology shapes how we live. For example, the more we understand God’s grace toward us in Christ, the more we are freed and motivated to love God and others out of the abundant grace he’s shown us. Grace motivates.

We are all theologians. The question is, are our thoughts about God true?

 


 

Many Christians don’t know about the history of their faith, but they want to learn more. That is why I wrote these two books: Know the Heretics and Know the Creeds and Councils.

These accessible overviews walk readers through the most important expressions (and denials!) of the Christian tradition–not with dry focus on dates and places, but with an emphasis on the living traditions of Christian belief and why it matters for our lives today. They are ideal for group uses and study.

Are You Prepared to Minister to Those Suffering Domestic Violence?

Are You Prepared to Minister to Those Suffering Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is extremely prevalent and damaging, but frequently hidden.

Intimate partner violence is pervasive in U.S. society. One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Nearly three out of four of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

Questions

These statistics don’t begin to reveal the darkness and grief experienced by the women themselves. Those suffering domestic violence are in the midst of a whirlwind of emotions and have serious and important questions. Here are some of the most frequent questions we’ve been asked:

  • Does the grace of God apply to me?
  • What does the Bible say about women?
  • What does the Bible say about violence against women?
  • What does the Bible say about God delivering victims?
  • Does the Bible say I should suffer abuse and violence?

My wife, Lindsey, and I wrote Is It My Fault? for those suffering domestic violence to answer these questions and to offer accessible, gospel-based help, hope, and healing.

Those suffering abuse need to know that God sees their suffering and that God cares about them and hears their cries and prayers. He cares for them so much that He wants them safe and delivered from threat and violence. But even beyond physical safety, God wants them to heal from the many ways they’ve been hurt and wounded.

Healing In Community

Because the healing process is best aided in the context of community, Is It My Fault? is also for the family, friends, clergy, and ministry staff who want to love and support victims of abuse.

Many people want to help those in their family or circle of friends who are being hurt by domestic violence, but they don’t always know how. They are often overwhelmed by the seriousness of the situation and feel helpless to lend adequate support. But here, they couldn’t be more wrong. Friends, family, and ministry members can offer immense help and support to victims of abuse.

The alternate effect of this, of course, is that some “help”—if misapplied—can actually hurt. Unfortunately, many ministry leaders are woefully under-equipped to deal with domestic violence. Platitudes, prying questions, and shallow “biblical” answers, for example, do more harm than good for a victim who feels stuck in a desperate situation. In fact, many victims believe clergy have the most potential to help them, when in reality they are too often the least helpful and sometimes even harmful.

If you are a leader in ministry, statistics tell us there are people under your care 
that have suffered—or are currently suffering—from domestic violence. This is particularly tragic because part of God’s mission for the church is to proclaim God’s healing and to seek justice for everyone it encounters. And this book is to help equip you in doing just that for women in abusive situations. It is also a resource to give to women being abused as well as their support network of friends and family.

We believe that the deepest message of the ministry of Jesus and the Bible is the grace of God to all of us because we are all broken people in a broken world. Grace is most needed and best understood in the midst of sin, suffering, and brokenness.

“Your Story Does Not End With Abuse”

Those suffering domestic violence need the good news of the grace of God applied to the effects of the abuse. Our hope is that ministry leaders clearly communicate and care for them with this message:

“Jesus responds to your pain. Your story does not end with abuse and violence. Your life was intended for more than shame, guilt, fear, anger, and confusion. The abuse does not define you or have the last word on your identity. Yes, it is part of your story, but not the end of your story.”

In Jesus, the God who delivers us from evil also offers us a path to healing. And it’s time to let this truth transform the shape of our own stories and how we minister to others.

10 Practical Ways to Care

If you are a loved one, friend, or minister serving a woman suffering domestic abuse, here are some suggestions on how to best care for her.

1. Let her know the abuse was not her fault. Communicate clearly: “You do not deserve abuse. And the it is never your fault.”

2. Listen. Don’t judge or blame them for the abuse. Research has proven that victims tend to have an easier adjustment when they are believed and listened to by others.

3. Don’t minimize or deny what happened. The fact that the abuse was not physical doesn’t make it any less painful, and it doesn’t make it any less wrong. The scars of emotional abuse are very real, they can run very deep, and they are not to be minimized. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so.

4. Reassure her that she is cared for and loved.

5. Encourage her to talk about the abuse with an advocate, pastor, mental health professional, law enforcement officer, another victim, or a trusted friend.

6. Encourage her to seek medical attention if needed.

7. Fight on her behalf against the lies that the abuse was her fault, that she is to blame, that she is a failure, or that she deserved abuse because she is a bad wife, mother, girlfriend, woman, or Christian.

8. Take care of yourself. As a support person, you need to be healthy in your caregiving role.

9. Avoid placating statements as an attempt to make her feel better.

10. Take time to notice where she is in the healing process and do not rush her through it. Help her keep moving through it at a pace comfortable to her rather than trying to force progression to a different stage immediately.