Archive for the category “Liberate Articles”

We Are All the Duggars

Yesterday this article by me and my friend, Daniel Emery Price, was published on the Liberate website. It has since had over 10,000 shares so, needless to say, readers are interested in this subject. If you’ve been following the Duggar family, then here is a biblical approach to the scandal that has enveloped them. 

Leo Tolstoy famously wrote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The problem is that I’ve yet to meet a family that fits into Tolstoy’s tidy categories of “happy” and “unhappy.” The reality is far messier. Put tears and laughter, love and betrayal, fights and hugs into a blender and out will come a family. Even in homes where the walls are decorated with portraits of grinning moms and dads and kids, there’s usually a closet door that’s kept shut. Last week we were reminded of that, when the media flung open that door in the Duggar family home. And the skeletons came spilling out.

we-are-all-the-DuggarsJosh Duggar, now twenty seven, the oldest son in TLC’s hit show, “19 Kids and Counting,” sexually abused five underage girls—four of them his sisters—when he was in his early teens. On the family’s Facebook page, Josh, his wife, and his parents have acknowledged this, as well as described how they addressed the abuse a dozen years ago when it occurred. Josh, who had been a lobbyist in Washington D.C. for the Family Research Council, has since resigned his position. And TLC will not be airing any episodes of “19 Kids and Counting” for the foreseeable future.

What happened within this family is many things—tragic and abusive, shameful and selfish, destructive and deceptive. It is all manner of evil, no matter how you look it. But there is one thing that it is surely not: it is not surprising. Not in the least. The only ones stunned by this revelation of abuse are most likely those who assume that the Duggar family image on their reality show does, in fact, accurately reflect reality. But there is no reason why this family’s secret should be shocking, especially to the Christian. The Duggars are not the pristine, ideal family that their television show portrays them as being. They never have been, nor will they ever be. Nor is any family. They are parents, sons, and daughters who have a civil war raging within each of them. It just so happens that Josh’s particular battles, and the pain he inflicted upon others as a result, have taken center stage.

Consider these words: “I don’t understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” These are the words of Paul, the one we’ve dubbed Saint Paul. He frankly admits that he’s anything but a model of moral perfection. “I do the very thing I hate,” he admits. He’s got a civil war raging inside him, too. He’s fully sinful in himself and fully righteous in Jesus Christ, all at the same time. He is what the Reformers called simul justus et peccator (simultaneously saint and sinner). What Paul’s particular struggles were, what those things he hated were, he doesn’t say. He doesn’t have to. He’s simply upfront about his condition—the fallen, curved-in-on-itself human condition.

As it was with Paul, so it is with the Duggars, and so it is with every Christian: each of us lugs around an old corrupt nature that we won’t shed this side of the grave. Of course, that nature rears its ugly head in different ways with each person, sometimes in ways that must be addressed with spiritual as well as psychological help. With Josh, sadly, it was through sexual abuse; with others it’s through addictions and greed and hate and selfishness of every kind. But one thing is certain: not just Josh but all of us harbor our demons. And the sinful nature within us is daily clawing its way out to manifest itself in ways great and small, public and private. Only liars and fools pretend otherwise.

The sooner we as individual Christians, as Christian families, and as churches present ourselves to the world that way, the better. Believers face more than petty allurements, make more than “mistakes.” We fail and fall in mega ways.

Dear world, do you struggle with alcohol or drug abuse? So do we believers.
Dear world, has your family been wounded by infidelities? So have ours.
Dear world, have your children hurt each other through sexual abuse? Yes, ours too.
Dear world, do your families members commit crimes and end up in prison? Ours too.
Dear world, do you have a closet full of skeletons? So do we Christians.

The greatest witness that Christians can present to the world is not their own morality, their ideal family, or their dream marriage, but their weaknesses and sins and failures, all of which have been atoned for by the crucified and resurrected Jesus. Our witness is never, “Look at how well we’re doing at being good,” but always, “Look at the good Savior who died for our evils.”

Here’s what happens inside the closed doors of Christian families: sinners live together in very close proximity. And you know what that means. Husbands who are righteous in Christ, but sinful in themselves, do and say mean and hurtful things to their wives. Wives who are righteous in Christ, but sinful in themselves, do and say mean and hurtful things to their husbands. Christian children mess up big time, rebel, and yes, sometimes sexually abuse others. We do terrible things. Tempers flare, eyes lust, tongues yell. In other words, sinners act the way sinners are. We are no better than the world is. Nor should we claim to be. We are far from perfect. We are by nature sinful and unclean. And because of that, we return, again and again, to the blood Christ shed that atones for our sins—the same blood, dear world, that has atoned for yours as well.

Christians families do not live on the mountaintop of morality but at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. In his shadow is shelter from the burning sun of iniquity. Whatever repercussions Josh may experience from what he’s done, he will find at the foot of the cross a God who does not punish him, but says, “I love you. I have forgiven you. My blood has made you whiter than snow.” If this seems scandalous, then you’re beginning to understand the grace of Christ. Christ’s love is a scandalous gift. He didn’t die for the not-so-sinful portion of humanity. He was crucified for all. He died for sexual abusers, murderers, gossips, hatemongers, adulterers, pornographers, and you—whoever you are, whatever skeletons may be piled in your family closet.

But there’s still more that Jesus did. Christ took upon himself the shame that others inflict upon innocent victims. He lived and died and rose again for the girls that Josh abused. The battered wife, the rape victim, the child whose bedtime lullaby was the screams of a drunk father—these who have been physically, emotionally, and psychologically harmed by the evils of others, they too find peace and wholeness in the battle-torn, broken body of the Son of God. He didn’t just die to forgive us for the wrongs we do, but to provide us with healing from the wrongs others do to us. For in Christ, the Spirit puts us into communion with a restoring God. He gives us the peace that passes understanding. Not the evil that others have done to us, but the good Christ has done for us, is what defines who we are. We are God’s sons and daughters. We are adopted into the family of a Father whose greatest joy is loving and embracing us as the dearest things in all creation to him.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have said, “We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family.” We would echo that prayer, and add to it. I would pray that as people watch their lives—and as they watch the life of my family as well—they would see families that boast only of their weaknesses, that do not deny their flaws, and that find peace and healing only in Jesus Christ.

We are all the Duggars. We are all dysfunctional sinners living in flawed families upheld by grace. There is only one who is perfect, the one who became our sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And in his wounds, bleeding with love, all of us find healing.

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christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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Whose Bones Are Buried Beneath the Cross?

I wrote this article for Liberate as a Good Friday meditation. You can view the article by clicking on this link or read it in its entirety below. A blessed Good Friday to all of you.

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Let’s take a walk together. And as we do, I’ll tell you a mystery.

We’re heading to a cemetery; I hope you don’t mind. It’s of a different variety, this cemetery, for it consists of a single grave. But a vast grave it is. It had to be. See it there? Stretching from here all the way over there. God only knows how many people are entombed therein.

Look over to your right, at the edge of the grave, and you’ll see a headstone. Let’s walk closer. The surface is weathered from millennia of exposure to the elements. But look closely. There’s still a name barely legible, chiseled into the granite. Can you read it? What does it say? Yes, that’s right. There’s only one name there: Adam.

How can there be only one name over such a mass grave? I promised you a mystery; I will disclose part of it now. This is not only Adam’s grave. It is yours also. And mine. Here are the remains of humanity. When our father died, we perished in him and with him. The corpse of our sad race was blanketed here beneath the sands of sin and the dirt of death.

How did we get here? Turn around and walk with me backwards into a world freshly made. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, all through the week, God’s been preparing our world, down to the finest detail. And now it’s day six, a Friday, and a very good Friday it is. For today creation will reach its zenith as the children for whom the Father crafted the whole cosmos will be formed. See them standing there, bearing God’s image, alive and free and beautiful on the Friday of their creation.

I promised you a mystery; I will disclose more of it now. This king and queen, our father and mother, and we in them, stood beneath the branches of the tree of knowledge. Our hands reached up to pluck the fruit forbidden to man. We filled our mouths and Eden spat us out. We devoured fruit and digested death. The Friday of our creation was followed by the day of our decimation, and we made the grave our home. “In Adam all die,” the apostle says (1 Cor 15:22). Thus this grave, in earthen tones, paints the picture of Friday’s good work undone.

But our journey is far from over. Walk back with me to that mass grave, that headstone, and look now what has been erected over the top of that morbid mound. See it there? Look at that tree whose trunk is sunk into the soil of our tomb. Look at those two naked branches painted red with the blood of the Lamb. Look at him who is nailed as a criminal but reigns as a king. And look at your calendar and tell me what day it is. It is the sixth day, is it not? It is a Friday, the Friday we call good.

I promised you a mystery; I will disclose all of it now. That man you see on the tree—he is the re-Genesis of the world. He has come to remake us alive and free and beautiful on the Friday of his crucifixion. In this new beginning it is finished, all is finished. The mass grave beneath the cross unburies its dead. The blood of God, dripping on this earth, is the key that unlocks the chains that bind us. Adam, made on Friday, is remade on Friday, and we in him. “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men,” (Rom 5:18). Good Friday’s good work is done by him who came to undo the work of sin and death.

This place is named Golgotha, “the place of the skull.” From ancient times the church understood this not as a hill shaped like a skull but, according to legend, it was the place of Adam’s skull. That is, Golgotha is the grave of the first Adam over which the tree of the second Adam’s cross was erected. Upon the skull of Adam, and all of us in him and with him, the Spirit has placed blood and flesh and skin once more, breathed into us his breath, and placed upon our newly formed brows the crown of victory and life.

This massive Golgotha grave in which Adam and Eve, you and me, and all humanity were once buried has in fact been emptied. Dig, dig as deep as you like, and you will find no bones. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” (2 Cor 5:19). The tree of the cross, erected over the old Adam’s grave on Good Friday, was the new tree of life, upon which reigned the new Adam, to give us new fruit that makes us a new creation. The corpse of our sad race, once blanketed here beneath the sands of sin and the dirt of death, has been raised when Christ was raised. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses,” our Father “made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:5-6).

On this day all is good again, for on the sixth day, a Friday, the God who made the first Adam, recreated us all in the second Adam. Is it a good Friday? No, it is a very, very, good Friday. Welcome to the new world, a new beginning—in him who makes all things new (Rev 21:5).

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

We Need Less Goliath, and More Bathsheba

I wrote this article for Liberate.org, the website associated with the ministry of Tullian Tchividjian. If it piques your interest, please click on the link below to read the rest of the article. And check out Liberate’s website while you’re there. Loads of grace-centered resources on those pages.

five-stones-a-sling2When I was a kid, I roamed the alleys and nearby fields with a pocket full of pebbles and a slingshot in hand. My grandfather had carved me the slingshot from the fork of a mesquite tree, native to our New Mexico soil. I’d even burned my name into the wood using the sun and a magnifying glass. As you might expect, my favorite Sunday School story was David and Goliath. In my make-believe world, I was that boy from Bethlehem, and sparrows the Philistine giants. It felt good to be the hero who takes down the foe. I was but a boy. I was new to the world. I loved Bible stories about saints who conquered.

When I became a man, I roamed the highways and byways of this world with a pocketful of dreams and a degree in my hand. There were ladders to climb, and I climbed them. I carved out a place for myself in this world. I had a bright, secure future. My favorite Bible story remained David and Goliath, for I saw myself in him, conquering this, and overcoming that. I was the boy from Bethlehem, only now a man, and giants were my prey. It felt good to be on top, making my place in the world. I still loved Bible stories about saints who conquered.

You know where this story is going, don’t you? You can feel it in your gut. Who knows, maybe I’m in the middle of telling your story. Let’s make it our story, why don’t we. And let’s tell it like it is.

When I became a man, I became a man like David. Like the David who, instead of going out to war, stayed home and fell prey to lust, to fear, to lies, to murder, to cover-up, and finally to repentance and forgiveness. When I became a man, I became a man like Noah, who planted a vineyard, got wasted, and fell asleep naked as a jaybird. When I became a man, I became a man like Abraham, who lied about his wife and put her life and chastity in danger just to save his own neck. When I became a man, I became a man like Judah the prostitute-user, Aaron the idol-maker, Gideon the doubter, and the list goes on and on. “Show me a hero,” F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “and I’ll write you a tragedy.” Show me a prideful man, I would add, and I’ll write about his downfall.

To continue reading, click here

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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