Quite a few people I know really well are going through some dark times right now. All of them are experiencing some form of great loss. So when I stumbled upon something last night that I wrote in 2004 about a crises of faith I had when my son Daniel died in 2002, I thought I’d pass it along in hope that it would encourage someone who is going through a dark time. Click on the image below to read the pdf.
We live in a world where death continues to dominate the headlines in the major media outlets. If we’re not careful, we can become jaded, cynical, and shortsighted in our attempts to advocate for a pro-life agenda. What the world (and the church) actually needs more than a pro-life defense that’s filled with political and theological rhetoric is a vision of life in this world that is cast, framed, and informed by God’s consummated work of adoption. In my first article for Theology for Life, I attempt to do just that.
Here is what I believe is at the center of pro-life conviction:
Prior to the incarnation of the Son, you can see how people might have failed to see the inherent value and importance of the embryo. It would not have been a huge leap to conclude that abortion and infanticide were viable options to an unwanted pregnancy or child. But with the virgin conception and incarnation, that has forever changed.
As soon as Jesus was conceived by the Spirit in the virgin womb of Mary, the healing and sanctifying of our humanity began. When Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25), he was not merely referring to what he was about to do with Lazarus in the tomb, nor to what he would ultimately do in the last day, but to the entirety of his incarnate life. Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life from the moment he was conceived in the virgin womb all the way to his resurrection from the dead and forever beyond. It was from that very moment that he began to heal and sanctify our humanity—to progressively bring his resurrection life to bear upon all our inability, estrangement and disobedience—from the inside out.
” . . . when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” ~Galatians 4:4-6
I both love and hate being alone. As an introvert, I need and enjoy time alone everyday. Along with sleep, of course, it’s what I need to recover, recoup, and recharge each day (the alliteration was not premeditated).
But as an introvert, I also hate being alone . . . too much, that is. My inner voice can knock me around pretty hard. The voice inside my head can easily forget to remind me of the good news of the Gospel. Instead of encouraging me by repeatedly reminding me that I am God’s beloved son in the Beloved Son, it can discourage me by relentlessly rehearsing all the ways that I have failed to love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind, and my neighbor as myself. Rehearsing failure without remembering Jesus’ success on my behalf does not lead to confession and the pursuit of holiness. It leads to more failure.
Recently, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the word our in Galatians 4:4-6. I think it is critical that we modern-day Bible readers don’t allow our individualistic mindset to cloud our understanding of what Paul is doing in these verses. He’s writing “to the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2). Yes, these churches in Galatia were full of individuals, but Paul was not so much addressing individuals (though he was) as he was addressing the corporate bodies of believers that were living in Galatia. ”So,” you may be asking, “how should the corporate focus of Paul’s words guide how we understand and apply Galatians 4:4-6?”
My tendency is to read and understand these verses primarily with reference to myself personally. For example, when meditating on Galatians 4:6, I naturally remind myself, “Because I am a son, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into my heart, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’.” Although this truth is certainly true of me (and you), Paul is not so much addressing me as an individual as he is addressing the corporate body of believers with whom I am united (and the corporate body with whom you are united): “And because you [plural] are sons [plural], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts [plural], crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” When my focus is primarily me and not our, I lose one of the major benefits of these verses.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the downsides of my introverted tendencies is that my inner voice can relentlessly rehearse all the ways that I have failed God and my neighbor. Often, even when I realize what I’m doing and begin to remind myself that I am God’s child, it’s not enough to pull me out of my downward spiral. I need other voices speaking the truth of what Jesus has done into my head—and I suspect you do, too (whether you’re an introvert or extrovert). One reason Paul tells us that we are God’s children and that God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts is so that we realize that we need each other to remember the good news of the Gospel. As Sinclair Ferguson has written:
Despite assumptions to the contrary—the reality of the love of God for us is often the last thing in the world to dawn upon us. As we fix our eyes upon ourselves, our past failures, our present guilt, it seems impossible to us that the Father could love us. Many Christians go through much of their life with the prodigal’s suspicion. Their concentration is upon their sin and failure; all their thoughts are introspective (Children of the Living God, p 27).
It’s funny (well, not actually funny), when I’m spiraling downward, I tend not to believe the good news I’m telling myself. But I do tend to believe others when they remind me of the good news of the Gospel. That’s why, even as an introvert, I treasure being with the people of God.
Yes, I still enjoy and need my alone time. But what I have found is that I need other believers regularly reminding me of the Gospel more than I need to be alone. After all, Jesus both lived and died for me and you. For us.
Scott Crawford, longtime T4A volunteer staff member, lost his father last week to a long battle with cancer. In honor of Scott’s father, I wanted to share the beautiful eulogy that Scott wrote for his dad.
A eulogy by son, Scott Crawford
He stayed true to his wife and best friend for nearly 50 years. A covenant “to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” breached only by his passing over into the presence of the one true King…that which we celebrate today.
He parented 3 children, watching 2 of them follow in his footsteps serving their country in the U.S. military. He, along with our mother, Pat raised and supported us through thick and thin, never begrudging…always forgiving.
As the son of Pearl and Stanley, he knew of his father’s service in the Great War and his ultimate sacrifice for liberty. What may come as a surprise to many of you, he was adopted at the hospital the day he was born, never to know anything of his biological parents.
As the much younger sibling to his older, adopted brother he became an uncle at a very young age. Walt moved to the Virginia coast near Norfolk – I can still remember the trip to visit the warships at the port and spending time with my cousins, the youngest of his multiple children.
Many of you present today knew my father, Stan as a loyal, selfless, big-hearted (and light-hearted), cheerful friend. Always the jokester, dad was the eternal optimist and knew how to brighten the conversation no matter the subject matter.
Some of you came to know him as the stalwart, devoted patriot who spent 8 years of his life serving in the Armed Forces. He loved this country, the liberty and values he defended while serving and all his years after.
Lastly, revisiting this list of adjectives, the legacy dad would want to leave behind is not one of his accomplishments or accolades. He would love to tell and retell stories of his experiences, of both failures and successes. On the contrary, he would rather tell you about how his marriage covenant was a three-way covenant between himself, Pat and God. He would want to tell of how he came to know the Father, and his love for Stan. Dad would want you to know that he became a son of the living God, co-heir with Jesus the Son…of the brotherhood of the saints through his redemption and reunification into God’s family. How he has now joined friends and fellow soldiers who have also accepted the free gift of salvation and now rejoices in heaven with his Savior. My father would want you to know that the same Father that has welcomed him home is the same Father of the lost, the fatherless, the broken-hearted, the sick, the lame, the poor, the rich and everyone in between….that he loves you as well and is waiting for you to respond to His message of mercy, grace and forgiveness.
Fun picture of Scott’s father when he was the lead singer in a band a “few years” ago. Looks like they should have rivaled The Beatles!
“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” —Proverbs 25:25
The Son, who was sent forth by the Father to redeem us (John 1:14-18), is none other than the One who eternally enjoyed communion with the Father (John 1:1, 18). Not only that, but he also fulfilled all the Father’s will with every breath he took from the moment he was conceived to the very second he died. The good news of the Gospel is that when that faithful Son became man, his communion with the Father became incarnate, and along with his incarnation perfect obedience to the Father permanently lodged itself within the human race. In the incarnate Son, thirst-quenching communion with the Father and perfect obedience to His holy will burst into the far country of our alienation from the Father (see Luke 15:13 and Proverbs 25:25).
Through the incarnation, Jesus (who is fully God and fully man in his one Person) became not merely the means but the place—the locale—where communion with and obedience to the Father happens in all its unimaginable fullness. It is only in the Person of Christ that God and man finally meet in loving communion. The understated good news of the gospel is that the humanity of Jesus has become our communion with and obedience to his Father. Only in Jesus can true radical obedience and unending loving communion be found.
The Son of God came into the far country of our estrangement, not as an outsider or a detached observer, but as a true man among men, like us in every respect yet without sin (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15). James B. Torrance explains it this way:
Christ does not heal us by standing over against us, diagnosing our sickness, prescribing medicine for us to take, and then going away, to leave us to get better by obeying his instructions—as an ordinary doctor might. No, he becomes the patient! He assumes that very humanity which is in need of redemption, and by being anointed by the Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience for us, by dying and rising again, our humanity is healed in him.
By being “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), the Son of God journeyed into the far country that he might heal us of our estrangement and conflict with God from within his own Person. Jesus wasn’t merely the means of our reconciliation. He was the Place of our reconciliation to the Father. As soon as Jesus was conceived by the Spirit in the virgin womb of Mary, the healing and sanctifying of our humanity began. When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), he was not merely referring to what he was about to do with Lazarus in the tomb, nor to what he would eventually do in his death and resurrection, but to the entirety of his incarnate life. Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life from the moment he was conceived in the virgin womb all the way to his resurrection from the dead and forever beyond. It was from that very moment that he began to heal and sanctify our humanity—to progressively bring his resurrection power to bear upon all our inability, estrangement and disobedience—from the inside out.
By being “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4), Jesus lived out a life of perfect communion with the Father in our place, as our substitute. What we did not do in the Garden of Eden—lovingly obey and commune with the Father—and what we do not do now, Jesus did for us in the far country outside the Garden in his incarnate Person that he might bring us home to the Father in himself. Jesus’ humanity has become the place of our communion with God. In his humanity, Jesus actually became Eden restored and expanded for us. By virtue of his union with us and our subsequent union with him by the Spirit, we are amazingly and wonderfully brought to participate in his very own knowing of the Father. The almost-too-good-to-be-true good news of the Gospel is that Jesus is where our live-giving, life-changing, thirst-quenching communion with the Father happens, and Jesus is the only place where it happens.
To read more on the life-giving, life-changing, thirst-quenching good news of communion with the Father, here are a few books you should get:
Come hear adult adoptees Angela Tucker, Nemili Johnson, and Tara VanderWoude at our November 5-7 conference at The Summit Church in Durham, NC. We’re excited that all three of them are giving main session talks, participating in a main session adult adoptee panel, and leading workshops. Click here to learn more about this year’s conference. Will you join us?
Click here to learn more about this year’s conference.
Join JD Greear (pictured above), Tony Merida, Dr. Sharen Ford, Brandon Hatmaker, Angela Tucker, John Sowers, and many more November 5-7 for Together for Adoption 2015 at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina. Click here to learn more.
Blog post written by Scott Crawford, T4A Conference Coordinator
It is our pleasure to announce that — after months of working on this — we have enlisted a team of ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters for T4A. They will be available for all the main sessions, workshops as well as serve as language facilitators in the childcare areas. Here is the statement from the director of Signs for Hope, Becky Lloyd:
After my initial contact from Scott Crawford about the possibility of securing an ASL interpreter for his deaf son, Luke, during the upcoming T4A conference in November, I began to ask about the possibility of securing additional ASL interpreters for the entire conference to give access to Deaf pastors and Deaf lay-leaders across the southeast. Scott felt this would be an awesome opportunity to give these folks the ability to benefit from some of the best teachings in this area of ministry and I set out to secure qualified ASL interpreters for this event as I have done for multiple Empowered to Connect conferences across the US and two CAFO conferences over the past 5 years. I am pleased to inform you we now have ample qualified ASL interpreters secured for T4A 2015. Be assured we are praying God will bless this event for His glory and cannot wait to see how God will work in every aspect of it.
Join us this November 5-7 for Together for Adoption Conference 2015. Visit the conference website to learn more.
As God, Jesus is himself the definitive Giver of God’s words. Only God can give God’s words. God’s words originate with God. He decides how they will be given to us or to angels.
As man, Jesus is the perfect Receiver of God’s words. Man was created to be the receiver. God gives life and breath. We receive both. God gives love and gifts. We receive them. God is the Giver; man is the receiver.
But here’s what’s unique about Jesus. Truly, he is one of a kind. There is—nor will there ever be—another Jesus. Since Jesus is both fully God and fully man, he alone Gives as God and Receives as man in his one Person.
As the God-man, Jesus is the definitive Giver and the Perfect Receiver. If Jesus is not both fully God and fully man in his one Person, there is no Gospel for us. If Jesus in only God speaking to us, we stand judged and forever sentenced to eternal condemnation. If Jesus in only man hearing and receiving God’s words to us, we will forever be prodigals, with no hope of a party in the Father’s House. For there to be Gospel for us, Jesus must be both fully God and fully man in his one Person.
This should be the paradigm through which we preach, study, interpret and apply the words of God, and listen to the preached Word as we gather as the children of God on the Lord’s Day.
If we neglect either side of the “equation” (Jesus is fully God or Jesus is fully man) or overlook the miraculous reality that Jesus is fully both in his one Person, we’ll ultimately lose hope. As Christians we are quick to affirm, “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5), but for Jesus to be mediator means much more than he stands between God and us. It means, stunningly, that he is the one and only Mediator in his one Person, since in his one Person he is fully God and fully man at the same time—all the time.
Unfortunately, and terribly so, we sometimes conjure up Jesus as mediator with this kind of image in our head: we picture God looking down on us from above (whatever “above” means) and picture ourselves desperately looking up for some serious help. Fortunately for us, we think, Jesus stands between God and us. Jesus’ right hand is holding his Father’s right hand and Jesus’ left hand is tightly grabbing our right hand (and with our left hand we’re clamping onto his left hand’s wrist just to make sure we don’t slip from his grasp).
But that’s not the way the Gospel works! If you have that image in your head, or one similar, banish and replace it with Gospel Truth.
But Jesus is Mediator in the following way or in no way:
Regardless of the words of God given to man, “[Jesus] fulfills all righteousness by being the truly obedient human being. Here at last is a human that hears the word of God and obeys it perfectly. Jesus is thus the God who speaks the creating work at the beginning. He is the God who speaks now the new-creating word. He is himself the message of that word, and he is the faithful hearer of the word…[To preach] this way [God] justifies us as we struggle to preach faithfully, and he justifies the congregation as they struggle to listen faithfully” (Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, p.43).
So how should Jesus as Mediator serve as the lens through which we read the words of God? For example, what should we do with these verses?
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you” (Proverbs 3:27-28).
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’” (Matthew 19:21).
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
“Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10).
If we do not understand Jesus as Mediator as I’ve explained above, we’re very likely to grow terribly weary in well-doing (or frightening self-righteous in our do-gooding). Who of us can measure up to the meager handful of commands I provided above? Is there any one of us who can face those commands head-on and come out the other side unscathed? Not a one of us; unless, of course, we have a Mediator who is both fully God and fully man in his own Person.
Consider the following profoundly encouraging words as you seek simply to obey the words of God to you:
“[T]he neglect of Jesus’ human response [as our Mediator] to the Father has catastrophe consequences. The reason is that a failure to give appropriate attention to the vicarious humanity of Jesus means that everything, the whole of the Christian faith, life and ministry are not cast back on to us to do. At the last moment, it turns out, we are dependent on our faith, our worship, our obedience and so on, rather than on Jesus’ response for us. While our responses of course have their valid place, they are not the axis on which the gospel turns. Rather, Jesus is the axis on which the gospel turns. The resurrection of Jesus is the assurance that Jesus not only stood in for us while he lived, but that he stands in for us still, today and tomorrow and forever, offering us — who we are and what we do — in himself to the Father. Our lives, our worship and our ministries, as well as our prayers are given to the Father ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’” (Andrew Purves, The Resurrection of Ministry: Serving in the Hope of the Risen Lord, p.101).
According to John 1:1-3, ultimate reality is not found in a single, solitary person, but in a fellowship of persons. The one who was with God and who also was God is none other than the Son of God, the Beloved of the Father. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). And this Son, who was in the beginning with the Father, became flesh (John 1:14) and lived among us, and his glory was beheld by humanity, the glory as of the only Son from the Father.
Ultimate reality, then, is not a single person God who creates in order that he might have creatures whom he may command. No, ultimate reality is the eternal love shared between the Father and the Son in the communion of the Spirit.
If the (ultimate) reality of the Father and the Son isn’t what dominates the headlines, then we would do well not to become so emotionally invested in the headlines we find on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc. Ultimately, those headlines will not make or break us. They’ll likely only encourage cynicism and an us-against-them mindset, neither of which serve humanity or us well at all. A steady headline diet of “The World Will Soon Implode” can drive us to make irrational decisions that make our world even more complex than it already is (see below).
The only headlines that can transform and enrich our lives both now and forever are those that announce something of this sort: “Our story is about what happened when the love between Father and Son was fleshed out within our world. As the Son took up our humanity, joining himself to us, our humanity was taken up in the interplay of love between the divine persons” (Gerrit Dawson, Given and Sent in One Love, p. 25).
Imagine if Fox News, CNN, and USA Today led with this headline: Our Humanity has been Taken Up into the Interplay of the Love Between the Father and the Son. Our lives would feel a whole lot simpler, wouldn’t they? We’d know what really mattered. We’d know that, ultimately, everything would be okay. As a result, we would be far less likely to experience analysis-paralysis. As Chip Heath and Dan Heath write in Made to Stick, “psychologists have found that people can be driven to irrational decisions by too much complexity and uncertainty” (p. 34).
If you want my opinion (and if you read this entire paragraph, you’re at least interested in my opinion enough to read it), these types of headlines we find on our major media outlets play into the hands of the chief enemy of God’s good creation and His image bearers. Timothy Keller nails it when he writes, ”The one thing [the evil one] does not want is that God’s words ‘You are my beloved child’ power the engine of your life and heart” (Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions).
Do you long for headlines and “talking heads” that enrich, empower, encourage, inspire, and simplify life for you (I apologize that the words “inspire” and “simplify” did not begin with the letter “e”. The alliteration part of my brain unexpectedly froze up)? Let me invite you to join us for our November 5-7 conference in Durham, NC. Our conference theme is: Simple. Solutions are closer than you think. I promise, if you join us, you’ll leave encouraged and equipped with simple solutions to complex problems.
A cesspool of wicked and deviant dehumanization of the unborn for the love of Mammon: Planned Parenthood and the Atrocity of Corpse-Selling (http://www.russellmoore.com/2015/07/14/planned-parenthood-and-the-atrocity-of-corpse-selling/).
What is at stake is the systemic eradication of the being and nature of the unborn child. Scottish theologian Thomas F. Torrance masterfully deconstructs Planned Parenthood’s hellacious attempt to dehumanize the unborn for the sake of financial profit. The quotations at the top of this post can be found in the following full PDF article: http://www.togetherforadoption.org/wp-content/media/Torrance-paper-on-the-Unborn.pdf.
You’ll find this brief article to be the most theologically robust treatment on the rights and human dignity of unborn children. It’s prophetically profound. #PlannedParenthood
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