Nakedness, Shame, and When Christian Leaders Fail

Shame

Noah is one of those Bible characters that we love to tell our children about. We sing songs about the arky, we remake movies based on his life, and we lift him up as one of the early heroes of the faith. And in many ways, he is a hero. But there’s also a part of the story that we tend to leave out.

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.” – Genesis 9:20-27

Imagine what that must have been like.

Noah was the man that God chose to start over with and moments after the flood, we witness one of the first moral failures from a leader of God’s people. Noah, who was the only righteous person left, gets off the boat and ends up drunk and naked with the door to his tent flapping around in the wind.

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Abuse Doesn’t Get the Last Word

abuse

Renee Alston, in the book Stumbling Toward Faith, begins her story with these disturbing words:

“I grew up in an abusive household. Much of my abuse was spiritual—and when I say spiritual, I don’t mean new age, esoteric, random mumblings from half-Wiccan, hippie parents…I mean that my father raped me while reciting the Lord’s Prayer. I mean that my father molested me while singing Christian hymns.”

What do you say to someone who experienced this?

Abuse like this is far too common. One treatment provider suggested that offenders are all too good at keeping this hidden, especially in our churches, “If children can be silenced and the average person is easy to fool, many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Abuse, lying, and systems hiding abuse, make talking about grace with the abused incredibly difficult. Love gets tainted by manipulation and power; grace gets covered by oppression. And regularly occurring stories from victims of abuse, repeatedly remind us of the pain that exists in our world. We may not even realize it, but we all know someone who has been impacted by the trauma of abuse.

How in the world are we supposed to find words to speak, when somebody’s experience of Christianity comes from a manipulative, abusive father?

How are we supposed to talk about grace to somebody who thinks they need to be forgiven for their own abuse?

To read the rest of the post, visit Liberate.

An Alternative to Accountability Partners

Accountability

One of the most frequent recommendations within Christian traditions when dealing with habitual sin is to have an accountability partner. If you’re unfamiliar with the jargon, an accountability partner is a friend, preferably of the same gender, who struggles with a similar sin who will routinely check in with you to see whether or not you are having success in your battle against sin.

Accountability is a good thing.Having relationships with people who are willing to not ignore your sin but ask about it and call you out on it is necessary.  But there’s one problem that tends to be present in these accountability relationships.  They are heavy on the law and light on grace.

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4 Spheres of Calling

Four spheres

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” – 1 Corinthians 7:17

In Luther’s day, he traditionally taught, three primary spheres of calling, usually combining family and work into the same sphere and with the same purpose. Because our culture is one that does not see one’s job as necessarily being only about providing for one’s family but also has a sense of personal fulfillment and significance of its own, I’m use four spheres to think about our callings in this world. [Read more…]

Would Peter Have Been Killed by ISIS?

Isis

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” – Matthew 16:19

Who would have ever imagined that when Jesus makes this statement to Peter, that he would later be a coward the moment when Jesus, who he is confessing his faith in, would be hung on a cross. Consider the significance of the reality of Peter’s weak and wavering faith in the Messiah.

After three years of walking with Jesus, hearing the messages of Jesus, and witnessing the miracles of Jesus, things for Jesus take a turn for the worse. Peter has assured Jesus that he will be strong and is willing to stand by Jesus even to the point of death, but all of the sudden when crap hits the fan, we realize that Peter is all talk.  Luke records Peter’s timid, weak faith as Jesus is about die:

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Adopted into the Family

Drop Box Official Image

Lee Jong-rak is a pastor in South Korea. In South Korea, every year, hundreds of babies are left for dead on the sides of streets. Pastor Lee had an overwhelming sense that he needed to do something to save these dying babies. 

So Pastor Lee decided he would create a drop box – like you do. He decided he would put a box on the side of his house – a door on the outside, a door on the inside with a sign right by the door saying, ”Place to leave babies.”

Pastor Lee’s home has become a makeshift orphanage dedicated to rescuing unwanted babies off the street. The LA Times described his work when it wrote: “In a country that prizes physical perfection, Pastor Lee Jong-rak, his eyes opened after caring for his own disabled son, has been taking in unwanted infants, who if not for his drop box would be left in the street.”

[Read more…]

Galatians: Now in Print

Now in print

In the beginning of April, I released an abridged version of Luther’s Commentary on Galatians entitled Galatians: Selections from Martin Luther’s Commentary. The goal with this version of the commentary was simple, I wanted average, everyday people who would normally be intimidated by the work of Luther to have an easy way to dive into the work of Martin Luther.

Galatians is one of Luther’s most significant works and is foundational in understanding the distinction between Law and Gospel. In my original post, here’s how I described what I was attempting to do:

First, it’s shortened significantly. The entire commentary is great, but it can be a bit intimidating for the average person.

Second, it’s divided up with headings, chapters, and scripture references that make it easy to read and more devotional in format.

Third, art accompanies the text. As you’re reading, I want you to be able to stop and pause as certain phrases are called out with art.

Fourth, it’s truly Luther. I’m not changing Luther’s words. So when you read the commentary, it is truly the words of Luther as translated by Theodore Graebner. I’ve taken parts out but I didn’t change the style of his language itself.

So how would I describe this book? It’s Luther, but for everyday life. It brings a work that was written hundreds of years ago and remains relevant in our day and puts it in a package that is accessible for the average person.

Today, I’ve got exciting news. Galatians: Selections from Martin Luther’s Commentary is now available in print. When I put together the free eBook (which is still free for subscribers), I couldn’t help but look at the copy and the images and think how great it would look in print.

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Grace for the Failing Parent

Grace for failing

Any talks of parenting will inevitably lead to a couple of feelings. It will leave us with a greater sense of responsibility and significance in the things we should be doing as parents. Or we will feel an overwhelming sense of guilt by what we fail to do. Countless blogs, books, preachers, and researchers will tell us what steps we should be taking to be a better parent, and many of these are actually valuable steps that might help our parenting.

But what do we do when we understand the significance of our role as a parent, yet are overwhelmed by our inability to do for our children what they need the most?

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How Does Jesus Make Spider-man Costumes?

The other night in the midst of our bedtime routine my son asked a simple, yet profound theological question. Now, perhaps he already has my wife and I figured out, calling for mama to “cuddle me, five minutes” and calling me to ask theological question (with some cuddling too).

The question:

How does Jesus make spider-man costumes?

But what better for bed time conversation with a three-year-old than a brief, yet deep conversation on the doctrine of vocation. Obviously it wasn’t in academic language but instead in the language of a three-year-old, super-hero obsessed boy. We began by looking at his spider-man costume, which he conveniently had half on, despite it being bed time.

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To Those Beaten Up By the Church

Beaten up

Bloody, bruised, and burnt out—our friends, family members, and coworkers are walking out of churches, giving up on God’s family, and at the same time giving up on the message that the Church has been entrusted with. This is the same old story that we’ve been hearing Christians sound alarms over for decades. But what do we do? And what words of comfort might we share for the people we love who’ve been victims of an abusive, graceless system?

Rod Rosenbladt described the kind of people that many of us have met (and many of us are recovering from):

Many of us have met and talked with the sad alumni of Christianity. And many of us have also met and talked with some of the mad alumni of Christianity. The venue may vary, but most of us know or have met men and women who tell us that Christianity was a part of their life in years past, but that they no longer consciously identify with Jesus Christ in His claim to be God and Savior.

How many people are becoming alumni of Christianity because they can never measure up to the demands of Christianity? How often are people walking out on the Church because they aren’t good enough to be a part of one? The problem for those leaving the Church is that when they were beaten up and broken by their sin, many of them weren’t given help; they were kicked while they were down. Instead of the grace that heals the wounds, every ounce of life was taken from them.

To read the rest of this post visit Liberate.org.  You can also read several other posts that I have written for Liberate