Together for Adoption: “Why is Your Mommy White?”

The Ministry of Together for Adoption 

Laura and I are so grateful for the ministry of Together for Adoption. Several years ago we attended the national conference in Franklin, TN, while waiting to adopt our son Solomon. If you have adopted, are in the process of adopting, or praying about adopting I would encourage you to attend the Together for Adoption National Conference on October 4-5 at Southern Seminary. If you do attend, prepare to be inspired and equipped for adoption, foster care and global orphan ministry. Here are the details.

Six rich general sessions. Sixty tool-gathering workshops. One breathtaking Story.

In the Bible, Adoption is a story-word. God’s work of adoption within the world is a story that encompasses all of human history, from its pre-temporal beginnings when God predestined us to “adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3-6) to the eventual renewal of all creation (Romans 8:23)—the Day when everything sad comes untrue. From the Apostle Paul’s perspective, Adoption is the redemptive Story that changes everything for us and the fatherless.

Alongside the six rich plenary sessions, our national conference will provide more than sixty tool-gathering workshops led by Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, Dr. Randy Stinson, Johnny Carr, Dr. Jon Bergeron, Gerrit Dawson, Susan Hillis, Elizabeth Styffe, and many other global leaders.

Together for Adoption National Conference Details

General Session Topics

  1. The Story Gone Wrong (Mike Reeves, author of Delighting in the Trinity)
  2. Stories of the Fatherless (Dr. Sharen Ford, Manager of Colorado State’s Permanency Services Unit)
  3. The Story Re-Written (Dan Cruver)
  4. Our Lives Re-Written (Mike Reeves)
  5. Stories of the Fatherless Re-Written (Vermon Pierre)
  6. When Everything Sad Comes Untrue (Scotty Smith)

8 Breakout Session Tracks

  1. Stories about Beginning the Adoption Journey (Pre­-Adoption)
  2. Stories from Experienced Adoptive Families (Post-Adoption)
  3. Stories from Experienced Adoptive Families with Special Needs
  4. Stories about Foster Care within Families
  5. Stories about the Orphan Crisis from Experienced Organizations
  6. Stories about Financing your Adoption Journey
  7. Stories about Developing Ministries for Adoption/Orphan Care Movement
  8. Stories about God’s Work through the Theology of Adoption

Download the PDF version of the Breakout Sessions listed according to their Story-Tracks.

See the conference schedule.

Tim Brister on “From Strangers to Missionaries”

Over the last year or so I have watched my friend Tim Brister devote a considerable amount of time to writing about missional living. Not too long ago Tim posted a summary blog of his reflections and writings on this subject. I have found his thoughts beneficial and challenging, so I wanted to share them here.

Strangers to Missionaries Overview Graphic

Brister’s Series:

Other Supplementary Articles from Brister:

Thankful for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream

I Have A Dream

It’s been fifty years since Martin Luther King Jr. shared with a divided nation his “dream” of racial equality. I am thankful for his dream, which is a reality for our family today. This is our son Solomon with his cousin Emma.

Why Do We Need Physical Rest?


This was originally posted at The Gospel Project site. To see the entire series click here.

The Need for Physical Rest

As we get older, it is inevitable that we will wear down physically. In turn, our need for rest and recuperation becomes more noticeable. At least, that’s been my experience in the last few years. When I do not get as much rest as I need, I become impatient and irritable towards my family and friends. So, the older I get, the more I cherish rest. Many nights I collapse into the bed exhausted, and sink into the mattress from the weight of the day’s activity.

Physical rest repairs and rebuilds the body and mind. When we exert ourselves physically or mentally, we long for the restoration of our energy. Researchers have shown that both the physical stress of manual labor and even the emotional stress of a desk job require subsequent rest for the body and mind to recuperate.

Many of us need more rest; we live in a culture that forfeits rest to chronically overwork. Studies have shown that the average American doesn’t get nearly enough sleep for what their body requires to function at peak performance. This scientific information is good and all, but research can only offer observations about rest and our need for rest. The Bible, on the other hand, can actually offer the deeper reasons for unrest and lasting motivations for rest.

A Theology of Rest?

What actually drives us to unrest is rooted in our hearts, usually idolatry. For example, the workaholic sacrifices rest to the god of success, power, and productivity. This pattern can be seen in almost all areas of our life. The good news is, God is not silent about our need for rest nor has He left us without good reason or motivation for rest. The Bible is very clear that humans need rest, and interestingly enough, rest teaches us something about God.

Physical Rest is a Gift from God

God building in the need for rest in the lives of His creatures is a gift of grace. In Psalm 127, we read that God “gives to His beloved in his sleep.” The nights that I sleep well lead to mornings when I am most refreshed and days that I am most productive. Let’s face it; the anxieties of everyday life can wear us down to the point of physical and emotional fatigue. I am thankful that the infinite God granted this finite man the need for rest. In fact, it is impossible for a finite being like you and I to live well without rest.

Physical Rest Reminds us that We are not God

Again, the psalmist proclaims that God will “neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). How different from us? We need rest. If we do not rest it has massive implications for our physical, emotional, and mental health. However, God does not need rest. Not only is God all-powerful (not needing rest), He is ever-watchful (watching us while we rest). For some of us it is a scary thing to consider that we lay down all control and consciousness when we sleep. The most powerful people in all of humanity spend a third of their lives asleep, as helpless as an infant, and the world still progresses. Simply put, we are not God.

Physical Rest requires us to Relinquish Control

God handles the world quite well while on His own. God is sovereign over our world while we are awake, even more so when we are at rest.  John Piper once said, “…Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign.” We’ve all heard the hard worker wax all self-righteously about his/her early morning and late night working hours, as if they run the world. How silly. It’s better to work well and sleep well, rather than to sacrifice rest in an effort to stay in control.

Lying Down and Laying it Down

God intended sleep to be a gift, a time every day where we remind ourselves that we are not God, and that God is in control. If you are like me, you probably have trouble sleeping when you are worried about something. Well, Jesus is pretty clear on the fact that worrying accomplishes nothing (Matthew 6:27-29).

So, I’ve learned that when I lie down to sleep it helps me to say to myself, “God, I am powering down, even though there is a ton to do, and lots to worry about, You are awake, working, and in perfect control, so I trust You to handle what I can’t.” It helps me rest well knowing that everything is in His hands.

I Just Received My First Book Contract!


Last night I signed my first book contract. If you cannot tell by my picture below, I am thrilled. I will be writing a 12-week study on the book of Hebrews for Crossway‘s “Knowing The Bible” series. I am not only excited about publishing a Bible study; I am also excited about the series as a whole. Here is the vision for the Knowing the Bible:

The Knowing the Bible series is a new line of Bible studies designed to help Bible readers better understand and apply God’s Word.

Each study covers one book of the Bible over 12 weeks, making practical applications and connections between the passage and the rest of Scripture. The series is edited by theologian J. I. Packer, and includes contributions from an array of influential pastors and church leaders. Perfect for both small groups and individuals, these gospel-centered studies will help you see and cherish the message of God’s grace on each and every page of the Bible. Each study includes:

  • Reflection Questions designed to help you engage the text at a deeper level
  • Gospel Glimpses highlighting the gospel of grace throughout the book
  • Whole-Bible Connections showing how a passage connects to the Bible’s overarching story of redemption culminating in Christ
  • Theological Soundings identifying how historic orthodox doctrines are taught or reinforced throughout Scripture

I am thankful for Dane Ortlund and Crossway, who are granting me this opportunity. Pray for me, that I write well for the glory of God and the good of the church!

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Reflections on Fathering an Adopted Son


I recently had the privilege of sharing part of our adoption story at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website. My post was focused on “Fathering an Adopted Son”. Here is the conclusion:

I count our adoption as a great privilege and stewardship granted by God. When we celebrate birthdays, watch movies as a family, and wrestle like superheroes I am reminded of the beauty of adoption that brought us together as a family. This child who was once an orphan now loves me and calls me daddy. When I look at him I don’t see our differences, I see my son. The first time I held him as a baby in the agency house on a hillside in Africa, I fell in love with him. As we stood in front of the judge in Addis Ababa and she pronounced that we were his parents, I felt the weight of the profound task of fatherhood.  Though I am not a perfect father, here are two things I do know: God providentially arranged for Solomon to be in our family, and I am called to continue the Christian heritage passed unto me by my own father – both in gospel word, and kingdom deed.

Through our adoption I have learned many things about fatherhood, and more importantly, many things about the gospel. My prayer is that our story would encourage all who read it.

A Theology of the Beard…?

To beard, or not to beard? This has become a popular question. And it would seem that many men are choosing to let their beards grow. You might notice the style experts reporting on the dominance of beards in popular culture over the clean-shaven perfectly smooth face. Not too long ago a campaign for Gillette starred three cultural icons sporting facial hair – yes, remaining facial hair in a razor commercial. Why? Because the beard is a phenomenon. And the beard phenomenon is not only growing in popular culture but also in Christian culture.

spurgeon-said-bgmOne might argue that the recent popularity of beards in Christian circles is a demonstrative protest against the decline of gender differences in our society. Maybe the growth of beards in Christian circles is cultural or contextual mimesis of hipster trends. Perhaps the popularity of the beard is simply an appreciation for it as a masculine ornament. At least one thing is clear, beards are continuing to grow in Christian circles. Perhaps you’ve seen the website Bearded Gospel Men? In case you missed it, Leadership Journal recently ran an article titled The Beards of Ministry in which they proclaim, “the beard is back in a big way. Along with celebrities, bike messengers, and your local barista, pastors are no exception to the glories of facial hair. The ministry beard has a long and glorious history among preachers, theologians, and everyday men of the cloth.” (Don’t miss their graphic)

The beard does have a long and rich history. For the Ancient Israelites in the Old Testament a full rounded beard was an ornament signifying manhood, a source of pride.[1] The Hebrew men carefully maintained their beards. For the more affluent men beard care was ceremonial. While we don’t find too much in the Bible concerning beards, there are a few descriptive passages to read while twirling your chin hair;

  • For the Israelites in the Old Testament the beard was never to be shaved, only trimmed (Lev. 19:27; 21:5). The only time a beard was to be shaved was in the circumstance of an infectious disease (Lev. 14:9).
  • As a sign of lament, men in mourning would often shave or even pull out their beards (Ezra 9:3; Is. 15:2; Jer. 41:5, 48:37).
  • The prophet Ezekiel was instructed by God to shave his beard as a sign of desecration and shame, pointing to the coming destruction on Jerusalem (Ezek. 5:1).
  • Since the beard was a symbol of masculinity in ancient culture it was a grave insult to damage someone’s beard. Once on a mission, David’s men suffered grave humiliation when their beards were half shaved by the Ammonites. They didn’t return to Jerusalem until their beards had grown back (2 Sam. 10:4-5).
  • Isaiah depicts the pulling out of a man’s beard as emasculative and shameful (Is. 7:20, 50:6).

There is not much in the Bible concerning beards. Even so, theologians and preachers have taken up the subject of beards. Augustine once argued that “there are some details of the body which are there for simply aesthetic reasons, and for no practical purpose—for instance… the beard on [a man’s] face [which is] clearly for a masculine ornament.”[2] Similarly, Charles Spurgeon contended that growing a beard is “a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial.”[3] So, what are we supposed to do with all of this? I am not sure. This post was written for fun and theological novelty. Clearly, God does not command all men everywhere to grow their beards, nor are beards the quintessential mark of  masculinity. But maybe the thought of a beard will grow on you…

Continue reading “A Theology of the Beard…?”

In Honor of Will Toburen: The Transition to Summit Church in Durham, N.C.

Today marks the end of Will Toburen’s pastoral ministry at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. However, Will’s legacy will continue at Calvary for many years to come. Will served as an Associate Pastor and Senior Associate Pastor at Calvary for well over a decade. He will now join the pastoral team at the Summit Church in Durham as the Executive Pastor for Discipleship Ministry. I’ve talked with the Summit’s pastor J.D. Greear recently and he, along with the rest of their team, is excited to welcome Will to their staff. What a great addition to an already stellar team!

photoWhen I came to Calvary as a seminary student in the Calvary School of Pastoral Leadership in 2006, Will along with Al Gilbert immediately pulled me in and began investing in my life. These two men have a very special place in my heart (and heart of hearts). They have both shaped my own life and ministry in ways they may never fully know. As for Will specifically, I view him as an older brother in the Christian life. A much wiser brother.

Will’s belief in me, his loving support, and his timely challenges have been formative and affirming – something that every Christian needs and few have the opportunity to receive. Not only has Will become a dear friend, he was part of our wedding ceremony, supported our adoption process, and always encouraged me to grow in ministry through preaching, teaching, and dozens of other ministry opportunities in the local church. Since I cannot be at Calvary for his last Sunday, or attend his going away fellowship, I would like to offer a few thoughts on Will here.

Will is a gifted preacher. I would put him up there with almost anyone. While Will is one of the best, he will never seek his own fame – he gladly points to the Father. I watched Will bring passion and humility to the pulpit for almost 7 years. First and foremost, Will always preached with Jesus as the center of his sermons. Will understands the gospel and works hard to apply the gospel through every text he preached. Will was also humbly honest from the pulpit. One of the things I valued dearly in his ministry was his willingness in admitting where he had failed and where he could work harder in his own personal life. Unlike some preachers who believe that one must always “have it together” to maintain strong leadership, he lead through repentance and humility.

While he was strong in the pulpit, he was so gentle with the people. Calvary loves Will. He grew up at Calvary. He was taught in Sunday School by many of the people who eventually sat under his preaching. I could always sense the mutual endearment when Will would visit some of those dear saints in the hospital or when he would stand by them as they slipped into eternity. I have watched Will weep with those who weep, hold congregants hands when they needed a pastors love, and celebrate the joys of life with many of the people. These are lessons I will treasure for the rest of my life. When I think of servant leadership – many of my lessons were learned under Will.

As a West Campus team we would meet once a week to pray, plan, and hold each other accountable. Each week Will would not only ask us hard questions, but he would also ask for our feedback on his life and ministry. He was always quick to go above and beyond to serve others. He rightly sought chances to grow and learn from others, even guys like me who were well under his ministry age. As I look back I can only conclude that Will wanted to be the most God honoring pastor that he could be. He wanted to preach the word with clarity and with Jesus as the hero. He also wanted to be sensitive to the Spirit when it came to his own life. And being open to allow others to speak into his sanctification process speaks volumes of his character and love for the church.

Strong in the pulpit, gentle in the hospital room. Always growing, and desiring others to grow. Like all of us Will has his faults, but he acknowledges them seeking to grow in the gospel. More importantly, Will loves Jesus, loves his family, and loves the church. I am grateful for our years of ministry together. I am also thankful for our friendship. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for this gentle giant of the faith.

I love you as a dear brother Will, and pray that God would continue to bless you as you begin this new chapter. Rock that sweater vest in your new ministry setting.

The Funniest Oil Anointing Story Ever…

In light of pastor appreciation month I wanted to share this video clip from one of Will Toburen‘s recent sermons. This story is famous around our church. I love and appreciate Will’s friendship, leadership, and gospel-centered preaching – I also appreciate his humility and sense of humor. Enjoy!… and share the joy with others.