Kermit Gosnell and His Shop of Abortion Horrors


Below is the full text of a post written by my friend Trevin Wax titled 8 Reasons for the Media Blackout on Kermit Gosnell

On Twitter and FaceBook today, #Gosnellis trending. The reason for the social media buzz is the strange silence of the mainstream media regarding one of the most gruesome murder trials in American history.

To put the Kermit Gosnell trial in perspective, consider other famous cases of child-killing. From Susan Smith toAndrea Yates, and most recently the horror of Newtown, we are accustomed to 24/7 news coverage of these types of tragedies.

Not so with Dr. Gosnell.

Here are the reasons why:

1. The Gosnell case involves an abortionist.

Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the abortionist must be portrayed as a victim of hate and intolerance, not a perpetrator of violence. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps “abortionist” separate from testimony about dead women and children.

2. The Gosnell case involves an unregulated abortion clinic.

Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the clinic must be portrayed as a “refuge” for women in distress, not a “house of horrors” where women are taken advantage of. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps “abortion clinic” away from negative connotations.

3. The Gosnell case involves protestors who, for years, stood outside 3801 Lancaster and prayed, warning people about what was taking place inside.

Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the protestors must be portrayed as agitators and extremists, not peaceful people who urge mothers to treasure the miracle inside them. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps the abortion protestors from looking like heroes.

4. The Gosnell case involves gruesome details about living, viable babies having their spinal cords “snipped” outside the womb.

Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the details of an abortion procedure are to be avoided. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps people from asking why such violent killing is unjust moments after birth, yet acceptable at any other time during the pregnancy.

5. The Gosnell case raises the question of human rights.

Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the discussion must always be framed in terms of a woman’s “reproductive rights,” not a baby’s “human rights.” But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps people from asking why “reproductive rights” should trump “human rights” – or why a doctor devoted to “reproductive rights” would (without any apparent twinge of conscience) violate human rights so egregiously.

6. The Gosnell case involves the regulation of abortion clinics.

Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the clinic must be portrayed as under siege from anti-abortion extremists. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that will keep people from pushing for policy change and further regulation of Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics.

7. The Gosnell case exposes the disproportionate number of abortion clinics in inner cities and the disproportionate number of abortions among minority groups.

Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the discussion must be framed in terms of providing “access” for low-income, minority women. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps people from wondering if perhaps some abortion providers are “targeting” low-income, minority women.

8. The Gosnell case competes with recent stories about states enacting broad laws banning many abortions.

Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the choice of coverage must focus on the threat to a woman’s “right to choose.” But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that will keep Americans from joining together to enact more common-sense regulation of late-term abortions.

Lord, have mercy on us.

The Beauty, Truth, and Goodness of The Cross

Evangelical Christians prize truth and goodness. It seems like we write and talk about what is true and good often. We should. But, what ever happened to beauty? For the ancient philosophers and theologians beauty was always considered in relation to truth and goodness. If something was true, it was also good and beautiful. For something to be good, it also had to be beautiful and true.

The CrossFor many of our theological forefathers, compartmentalizing these great transcendental realities would deconstruct the majesty of the whole. Yet we rarely talk about beauty anymore. For us, beauty is no longer in concert with truth and goodness. So its always refreshing when I find a theologian who explores all three.

Drawing from the writing of Hans Urs von Balthasar, specifically The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetic, theologian Dr. Stephen Garrett makes a wonderful observation relating the transcendental realities of beauty, truth, and goodness to the work of Jesus Christ and the cross.

“[Beauty] seen through the One who is beauty, truth, and goodness, reveals an intertwined and interpenetrating triad that should not be compartmentalized.  To separate beauty, truth, and goodness results in distortion and misunderstanding not only of the triad but also of Christ himself. 

  • To see the act of Christ on the cross as merely beautiful is to turn towards sentimentality. 
  • To see the act of Christ on the cross as merely good is to understand Christ as a good moral example incapable of transforming humanity. 
  • To see the act of Christ on the cross as merely true is to reduce Christ to a brute unattractive historical fact that has no relevance for our lives. 

To keep beauty, truth, and goodness together however lifts up Christ’s act of love on the cross in order to draw humanity to himself so that they may live a virtuous life full of meaning.  Beauty understood then in concert with truth and goodness works to glorify and make God known yet when separated from them disparages Christian worship, wisdom, and witness.”

According to Garrett, the reasons for retaining an interconnected relationship between beauty, truth, and goodness are significant. The dangers of separating them are massive.

G.K. Chesterton: The Lunacy of Believing Too Much in Oneself

I revisited G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy the other day while traveling and was reminded of his splendid indictment against the lunacy of believing too much in oneself. This is still a problem in our society today. His prophetic words ring true. He wrote;


“Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made a remark which I had often heard before; it is, indeed, almost a motto of the modern world. Yet I had heard it once too often, and I saw suddenly that there was nothing in it. The publisher said of somebody, “That man will get on; he believes in himself.”…I said to him, “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Super-men. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.” He said mildly that there were a good many men after all who believed in themselves and who were not in lunatic asylums.”

Chesterton then quipped, consider the actors who cannot act and still believe in themselves. See, according to Chesterton complete self-confidence is not only a sin; complete self-confidence is also a weakness. It is a blindness. It is hysterical. In response to Chesterton’s comments his walking partner responded;

“Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?”

Why Systematic Theology Texts Do Not Explore the Beauty of God…?

In reading for my thesis over the last year I have noticed that many systematic theology texts do not deal with the beauty of God sufficiently – usually as a sub category of another attribute. In fact, some do not treat it at all. I think Patrick Sherry has given one good reason for this in his book Spirit and Beauty.

“The question becomes even more difficult when it is said not only that God is beautiful but that he is beauty itself, the source of beauty in all other things. Of course similar problems arise with other divine attributes, like wisdom, power, and love. But the ordinary believer gets some handle on these other attributes by trying to discern the relevant divine actions, for instance God’s wise governance of the universe, His power manifested in natural phenomena or holiness, and his love shown in providence and especially, Christians say, in the life of Christ. In the case of beauty, however, it is difficult to find any corresponding actions other than God’s creation of beauty in the world.”[1]

Perhaps he is on to something. Nonetheless, (as he later argues) it seems that Christian scripture teaches that God is the ultimate source of perfection and beauty and that He values and offers himself as a beautiful gift to humanity.

Continue reading “Why Systematic Theology Texts Do Not Explore the Beauty of God…?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: To the Psychologist we are Sick, but to the Christian we are Sinful

I am re-reading David Powlison’s book Seeing with New Eyes for my doctoral cohort on pastoral counseling coming up at the end of January. This book has profoundly impacted how I view pastoral ministry.  Powlison has helped transform how I approach teaching, counseling, and countless other pastoral opportunities. In the first few pages Powlison cites a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that exposes what makes for a deep understanding of human nature.

The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search mt heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearn for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

– From Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together in the chapter on “Confession and Communion”

How Do You Discern God’s Will?…

As a pastor one of the questions I receive most often is “what is God’s will for…”? This question is most often applied in personal situations and in the context of church life. How many of us have asked questions like:

  • What is God’s will for my life as it pertains to what school I will attend?
  • What is God’s will for my life as it pertains to what job I will take?
  • What is God’s will as it pertains to which mission trip I should take?
  • What is God’s will for our business as we make this big decision?
  • What is God’s will for our church as we head into the future?

The list could go on and on. So, how do you know if you are “doing God’s will?” Well, I think that we will be challenged in our conventional view of “discerning God’s will” when we take a quick look at the way Scripture talks about God’s will. Too often “God’s will” is primarily talked about in the context of secret personal plans or mystical church direction. But in the Bible we see a different context in which the language of God’s will is applied.

Continue reading “How Do You Discern God’s Will?…”

A Theology of Work

“The doctrine of vocation amounts to a comprehensive doctrine of the Christian life, having to do with faith and sanctification, grace and good works. It is a key to Christian ethics. It shows how Christians can influence culture. It transfigures ordinary, everyday life with the presence of God…The priesthood of all believers did not make everyone into church workers; rather it turner every kind of work into a sacred calling.”[1]


For most people work is a major part of their existence. More often than not, the second question one will receive after exchanging names in initial conversation is “so, what do you do?” In ancient societies one would derive their primary meaning in life from family, namely in fulfilling a subscribed social role as father, mother, brother, etc. Work was only a means to provide life’s necessities. But in our culture we define ourselves by what we do, where we work, and where we are on the corporate ladder. Because of this there is more psychological and emotional pressure tied to our work than ever before. In a society where productivity and utilitarian values reign, work is seen as one of the most important functions of our lives. Christians are no exception. With the increase of connectivity to work through mobile devices “…vocations occupy a great deal of most Christians’ lives and tends to define their existence in ways that transcend the workplace.”[2] Unlike the agricultural economies of the past, where work ceased when the sun went down, work in modern society continues day and night. Even in our leisurely hobbies many of us are drawn to activities that involve some kind of work.  It seems that having a biblical foundation to understand the role and purpose of work is of increasing importance. Yet John Hammett observes:

“…churches rarely give their members teaching on how to integrate their vocational life as part of their Christian life. As a result, most Christians think about their work as a separate compartment, something outside of their Christian life. But since we are called to be full time Christians, then our work must be part of our service to God.”[3]

Fortunately the bible is not silent about work and vocation. The biblical narrative overflows with work. From the opening lines of Genesis to the last word in Revelation work and vocation are a fixture in creation order. While work should not be the meaning of one’s life, there is a sense in which one cannot have a meaningful life without some form of productive work. So, what is the proper place of work?

Developing a Theology of Work

Human beings were created and placed in paradise and given work to do. We read in Genesis 2:15 that “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Notice that the call to work occurs before the fall of man and is included within the description that all God had made was “very good”. Hammett rightly describes work not as a necessary evil but, as God intended, part of our created nature and good.[4] In other words, work is not a curse; it is something we were designed to do. There are several theological implications that flow from the doctrine of creation that impact our work and vocation. As a foundational point, “productive work is ordained by God and inherently dignified”.[5]

  1. Work reflects the image of God in us: From creation to new creation God works. We see God’s work not only in creation but also in sustaining and providentially governing all of creation order.[6] Moreover, we look ahead to God’s recreation of the entire cosmos.[7] Therefore, in a certain sense, man reflects God in his creativity, energy, and authority in exercising dominion over and cultivating the earth.[8] Probably every one of us has tasted at some time a deep satisfaction of a job well done. In those times we can look at the work of our hands and proclaim that ‘it is good’.
  2. Work is tied to our calling in creation: Beyond the initial call to work and keep the garden, Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply.[9] The vocation of parenthood is added on to the care of creation[10] as work given to humanity. All of these activities could be categorized under the calling of humans to propagate life and develop culture. Furthermore, we are to exercise great care over what we have been given.

Again, it is important to note that work is part of God’s good will for humanity.[11] This is why Paul writes in Colossians “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord”[12]. Obviously, one must take into account the fall of humanity when discussing any particular aspect of humanity from a theological perspective. In Genesis 3:17-19 we find that immediately after the fall a curse is laid upon humanity which affects work.[13] As Richard Phillips notes, “the introduction of sin into the garden changed the nature of work.”[14] Several observations can be made on this point.[15]

  1. We encounter resistance, rather than cooperation, in our work: There is an objective change in our bodies and in physical creation as a result of human sin, therefore all work, though rewarding, is also mixed with frustration, difficulty, monotony, and sometimes requires enduring pain.[16] Underlying much of this difficulty is a deep sense in each of us that work is supposed to be meaningful and enjoyable. But, Meredith Kline notes that even with the “…curse of man it is presupposed that man’s dominion over the earth would be continued and that here too divine blessing would be granted on man’s labor to such a degree that human life would be sustained and cultural satisfactions realized.”[17]
  2. While work was created to be a blessing, post fall it becomes an occasion of temptation: Consider humanities capacity towards injustice and oppression.[18] We have all seen or experienced someone using their work for worldly glory or self-power. Furthermore, there is also the temptation of laziness in our work.[19] The Apostle Paul addresses this in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 when he writes, “…If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat”.
  3. We naturally tend to make work an idol: Work often provides us with a sense of worth and self-esteem and thus temporarily satisfies needs within our own soul.[20] “Because God is good and has chosen to be glorified through our labor, we are able to enjoy work and find a significant part of our identity in it.”[21] But work becomes an idol when one is devoted to it in an unhealthy way, not allowing any rest (Sabbath) in the quest for satisfaction or making a name for oneself. Work always fails to satisfy completely.[22] It needs to be established that our work is not salvific, nor is it the most important aspect of our lives.

Though the fall has affected our work in a significant way, the presence of sin does not change our calling to be workers. Therefore, we need some sort of salvation for our work, to put it another way, our work needs to be transformed by the gospel.

  1. We work as a means to honor Christ: Any job that is undertaken should be aimed at blessing others and glorifying God.[23] Since work is an inherent part of our human nature as created in God’s image, we should work as to glorify God.
  2. We work as a testimony to others: The reality of God’s dominion over us, and Christ’s love in us should be on display in the quality of our work. If the goal of our work is to glorify God then we are enabled to value all honorable types of work, regardless of their monetary value and cultural utilitarian purposes.
  3. We work to provide for our own needs as well as the needs of others: We are not only called to provide for our families (thus our own needs)[24] but also to be generous in sharing with others and providing for those in genuine need.[25] Our work should benefit others to the glory of God. God does not need our work, but man does. Gene Edward Veith Jr. notes that “when God blesses us, He almost always does it through other people”[26].

In all of these things, we as Christians keep in mind that we await the new heavens and new earth where there will be rest from work in this fallen world[27], and work will be as it was before the fall.[28] In other words, heaven will not be an eternal vacation, but all good aspects of human culture will be continued in a pure state. It seems that Scripture teaches us that part of our reward for faithfulness in this life is a capacity for increased work alongside of Jesus in the new heavens and new earth.[29] Though for now, as we wait for that day, let us work hard to the glory of God.

Principles for Working to the Glory of God

While the New Testament provides general characteristics regarding the conduct of Christians in the world, we also find general admonitions to heed in the work environment.

  1. Christians should work hard and not be idle.[30]
  2. Christians should work hard and mind their own business.[31]
  3. Christians should respect authority structures in the workplace.[32]

In essence, the Christians work should reflect their faith in Christ and be dedicated to his glory. This dedication helps us avoid idleness, meddling in issues that are not ours, and upholding the common grace structures that God has provided in this fallen world. “In a world where sin pervades the workplace, basic things like maintaining ones integrity, using sound speech, and not stealing provide testimony to the reality of God’s grace and power of the gospel.”[33] As Tim Keller has written, “…the Bible tells us that Jesus has to be the Lord of every area of life…The gospel shapes and affects the motives, manner, and methods with which we carry out every task in life, including our vocation.”[34] Richard Phillips provides 6 questions that are helpful in sifting through our own philosophy of work and personal vocation.[35]

  1. Does my work glorify God?
  2. Does my work benefit man?
  3. Do I consider myself “right’ for this job, or can I at least do it well and find enjoyment in that?
  4. Does my work provide for material needs?
  5. Does my work permit me to lead a godly and balanced life?

Finally Ben Witherington suggests, “…we are all called to be workers and that is an essential part of our purpose and mission on earth, all the more so since we now have God’s salvation in Christ to proclaim to the world. We all have limited time on earth, whether short or long, and we all have a God-given purpose on earth, regardless of whether we realize it.”[36]

Final Theological Considerations

In Christian theology work is implicitly tied to Sabbath rest. Sabbath is patterned after God resting on the seventh day of creation.[37] It’s not that God was tired, but that God was finished. When God is finished with each work of creation he proclaims that ‘it is good.’ In essence God was declaring that he was utterly satisfied with what had been done. Sabbath means to cease from, and to enjoy the results of, your work. I believe this principle can be applied to our own work in a certain sense. To rest means that we are satisfied with what’s been done. Is this not the only way we can walk away for our work? Two implications of Sabbath rest are tied to this principle.[38]

  1. Rest from work is an act of liberation[39]: Sabbath was designed to show you that there is more to you than your work. If you cannot rest from work you are a slave to your work. Many of us are over committed and are always busy. Rest enables us to remind ourselves that our work does not define who we are.
  2. Rest from work is an act of trust: You will not take time off unless you truly believe that you are not God. Things will not fall apart if we take a time to rest. In his sovereignty God providentially holds all things together. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”[40]

Ultimately Sabbath rest is found in Christ and in Christ alone. The deeper work of the soul is satisfied in Christ’s call from the cross that “it is finished”[41]. Through Jesus and only Jesus can you get the deep rest of the soul that enables vocational rest. Remember his words, “come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…take my yoke…you will find rest for your souls.”[42] When you are in Christ God looks at you and says, ‘it is good’. The only set of eyes in the world that you have to prove yourself to has already declared, because of your union with Christ, “…you are my beloved Child in whom I am well pleased”[43]. As Tim Keller has said, “…external rest of the body, however, is impossible without inner rest from anxiety and strain. It takes the deep rest in Christ’s finished work for your salvation[44] to avoid over-work. Only then will you be able to regularly walk away and rest from your vocational work.”[45]

Continue reading “A Theology of Work”

8 Insights from Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage”

I recently finished Tim and Kathy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. While I was reading it I highlighted and took plenty of notes. As an overview I have organized those notes below as “8 Insights from the Meaning of Marriage”.

Keller begins the book by stating that many of us come into marriage with unrealistic expectations, philosophical objections, conflicted personal emotions, and negative experiences pertaining to marriage and family life. On top of that, there seems to be a pessimism from an unrealistic idealism about marriage, born of a significant shift in our cultures understanding of the purpose of marriage. Keller makes the case that “we come into our marriages driven by all kinds of fears, desires, and needs. If I look to my marriage to fill the God-sized spiritual vacuum in my heart, I will not be in a position to serve my spouse.” (72)

Ironically, this post enlightenment (marked by gratification, satisfaction, and fulfillment of our desires) view of marriage “actually puts a crushing burden of expectation on the spouses in a way that more traditional understandings never did. And it leaves us desperately trapped between both unrealistic longings for and terrible fears about marriage.” (29) The situation seems dire. But there is hope, hope for those who learn to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ to/in their marriages. It seems that Keller writes with an aim to assist couples move from a fragile into a tested and durable marriage. It is important to note how Keller defines marriage.

“a lifelong, monogamous relationship between and man and a woman. According to the bible, God devised marriage to reflect the saving love for us in Christ,  to refine our character, to create stable human community for the birth and nurture of children, and to accomplish all this by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole life union.” (16)

I will certainly not rehearse every argument in the book. I encourage you to read it for yourself. But I would like to highlight some important insights from my own book notes.

1.      Marriage is Glorious but Hard

Marriage is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but it is hard. Coming to know your spouse is difficult and painful yet rewarding and wondrous. Keller argues that in marriage we are forced to “changes our natural instincts, rein in our passions, learn denial of one’s own desires, and to serve others.” (32) What makes this hard is that we have “two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love, and consolation – a haven in a heartless world.” (35) The Christian view of marriage does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice.

2.      Marriage Unites Neighbor/Strangers

Keller writes that “when you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know the person right away. That takes years. You actually love the idea of the person – and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken.” (94) But one quickly learns that marriage brings you into more intense proximity to another human being than any other relationship can, Beyond that, “over the years you will go through seasons in which you have to learn to love a person you didn’t marry, who is something of a stranger. You will have to make changes that you don’t want to make, and so will your spouse.” (39) Stanley Hauerwas argues that “the primary problem [in many marriages] is…learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.” (134) Marriage brings out and reveals traits in you that were there all along but were hidden from everyone including you, but now they are all seen by your spouse. In marriage you are exposed. You finally have your mask and finery stripped away, as it were. “Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself.” (140)

3.      Marriage Requires Mutual Grace

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw us.” (95) This is true, but it is hard. It requires us to face the truth about ourselves and one another. But alone with truth, we need love. “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.” (48) See, truth without love ruins oneness, and love without truth gives the illusion/ of unity but actually stops the journey, this is why marriage needs grace. Without grace truth and love cannot be combined. Spouses either stay away from the truth or attack one another. “One of the most basic skills in marriage is the ability to tell the straight, unvarnished truth about what your spouse has done – and then, completely, unself-righteously, and joyously express forgiveness without a shred of superiority.” (165)

4.      Marriage Revolves Around Service

It takes a loss of pride and self-will for a person to humbly serve others. Keller argues that only if you have learned to serve others by the power of the Holy Spirit will you be able to face the challenges of marriage. “There are three possibilities: you can offer to serve the other with joy, you can make the offer with coldness or resentment, or you can selfishly insist on your own way.” (54) When facing any problem in marriage, the first thing you look for at the base of it is, in some measure, self-centeredness and an unwillingness to serve or minister to the other. (59) The Christian principle that needs to work is Spirit-generated selflessness – “not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” (66)

5.      Marriage is a Covenant of Action

When one studies a covenant it becomes clear that love is fundamentally action rather than primarily emotion. To be united to someone through a covenant is to be bound by promise, or oath. A covenant has horizontal aspects as well as vertical. “The covenant made between a husband and a wife is done ‘before God’ and therefore with God as well as the spouse.” (83) “Love needs a framework of binding obligation to make it fully what it should be. A covenant relationship is not just intimate despite being legal. It is a relationship that is more intimate because it is legal.” (85) It gives us the assurance of commitment (it fortifies you) so wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. (87) “This enables one to grow in breadth and depth, because a covenant gives the security necessary to open ones heart and speak vulnerably and truthfully without being afraid that the partner will walk away.” (89) Our emotions are not under our control, but our actions are. This is why Keller pleads with the reader not to waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor, but act as if you did.

6.      Marriage has a Sanctifying Mission

Being created in God’s image means that we were designed for relationships. Our intense relational capacity, created and given to us by God, is purposely not fulfilled completely by our “vertical” relationship with him. God designed us to need “horizontal” relationships with other human beings. (111) Keller argues that marriage is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creation that God will eventually make us.” (120) One must be able to say “I see your flaws, imperfections, weaknesses, dependencies. But underneath them all I see growing the person God wants you to be.” (122) This is the essence of true spiritual friendship, eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways. Sanctification is a group project, and most intense between two spouses. “On the one hand, the experience of marriage will unveil the beauty and depths of the gospel to you. It will drive you further into reliance on it. On the other hand, a greater understanding of the gospel will help you experience deeper union with each other as the years go on.” (48) This is The reason that marriage is so painful and yet so wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once.” (48)

7.      Marriage Necessitates Understanding

Everyone comes into marriage with an idea of gender roles and expectations. God originally intended men and women together, in full participation, carrying out God’s mandate to build civilization and culture. Neither sex has all the characteristics necessary to fulfill this alone, only in complementary union can mankind achieve God’s purposes. But often these differences are turned into opportunities for rebellion and oppression. The gospel calls both women and men to “play the Jesus role” in marriage, men modeling sacrificial authority and women modeling sacrificial submission. This requires a full embrace of the other. We accept and struggle with the otherness of the spouse, and in the process, we grow and flourish in ways otherwise impossible.

8.      Marriage is not the “End All Be All”

We should be neither overly elated by getting married nor overly disappointed by not being so – because Christ is the only spouse that can truly fulfill us and God’s family the only family that will truly embrace and satisfy us. The Christian hope makes it possible for singles to live fulfilled lives without a spouse or children, but it also was an impetus for people to marry and have children and not be afraid to bring them into this dark world. See, “without a deeply fulfilling love relationship with Christ now, and hope in a perfect love relationship with him in the future, people will put too much pressure on marriage to fulfill them.” (198) We need to guard from idolizing marriage but also idolizing the independence or personal fulfillment that keeps one from marrying.

You can purchase the book from Amazon here. Also, take time to explore the Meaning of Marriage web site.

“The Fullness of Time” – A Christmas Meditation

 “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.”[1]

The good news of Christmas did not begin with the birth of Jesus. As Paul says in Galatians 4, God sent his Son when the time was complete. As if God was waiting for a specific time to unveil the most important part of redemptive history. What this verse affirms is that there had always been a plan. This story, this story that culminated in the life and work of Jesus began in the begining. As the Apostle John writes in opening words of his gospel account;

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”[2]

Throughout human history we have had small tastes, small glimpses into this plan. See, In the beginning man and woman were created to live in the presence of God. To reflect his beauty and enjoy his presence and blessings. Yet, our first parents followed the lies of a serpent and turned their backs on God’s fatherly provision and tried to establish their own dominion, breaking the harmony of created order. As a result of the fall,  sin entered our world – with it came pain, suffering, disease, disaster, and death. Since then, the majority of human history has been a record of wars, conflict, and longings. But even in the hardest times, there have been small tastes of the redemption that was to come. Take a few examples from the story of humanity:

  • Immediately following the fall of mankind God covers Adam and Eve’s shame with the skin of a sacrifice. God also promises that from Eve, in her descendants, one would come to crush the head of the evil one, destroying his power.
  • Later God chooses a man by the name of Abraham, tells him to leave all he has known, and promises that he will Father a new, people, a people from many nations.
  • After Abraham, a man by the name of Moses is raised up to deliver God’s people out of slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt. Beyond this, Moses is also appointed to mediate between his people, all two million of them, and God almighty.
  • Consider the young Shepherd boy named David who stepped out against his people’s enemy Goliath in war. There he was, a young untrained boy representing his people against a fierce and decorated warrior. David won and was anointed King of Israel

Human history is a story of longing. A story of a people longing to see the end of pain, suffering, disease, disaster, and death. A story of an exiled people trying to get home in the presence and care of their loving Father. A people who have carried the burden of sin. A people who have cried out for deliverance. A people who long to have a good King who rules with perfect justice and mercy.

 And God delivered.

At just the right time. In the fullness of time. When longings of humanity had reached their fullness. When God’s plan of redemption was ready for its culmination, He sent Jesus. And in the birth of Jesus we find our answer. We find in his fullness, what the heroes of the Old Testament gave us a brief taste of.

  • We find in Jesus the true and greater Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is accredited to us. Jesus is the descendant of Eve who destroys the curse of sin and death.
  • Jesus is the true and greater Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into wilderness not knowing where he went to create a new people of God gathered from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
  • Jesus is the true and greater Moses who delivers his people from slavery of sin, and from the hands of a tyrant named death. Jesus, like Moses, stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
  • Jesus is the true and greater David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves. Jesus is also the eternal king from the line of David who’s perfect rein will never end.

This is why we sing, “glory to the new born King, peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” Jesus is our long awaited answer to our deepest longings. At his birth God announced that his kingdom was here, and now we as followers of Christ wait for the day for it to be consummated.

Continue reading ““The Fullness of Time” – A Christmas Meditation”

CORE Classes – Training the Local Church in Theology and Mission

We are about to begin another semester of CORE Classes at Calvary West. I am very excited about the vision of CORE and its potential to train our people in theology and mission. Here is what we are doing.


The Apostle Paul charged the leaders in the Ephesian church to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood.” The church is to be a learning-and-teaching fellowship in which the passing on of the faith is central. These COREclasses are designed to ground and grow you in the gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight. Each course will give you a comprehensive exposition of the gospel of Jesus Christ, will explain it in the context of the whole counsel of God, and apply it to the life of the people of God.

We believe that the call to teach what is CORE to the faith in the church is a biblical imperative.Beyond that, throughout the two millennia of Christian history, the health of Christian communities has often been linked to the presence of theological training ministries.

The Five Courses

To continue in this rich history the five core classes listed below follow the catechetical structure designed by the church fathers and the reformers.These five classes will be offered continually in rotation.

  •  Gospel: The gospel in its simplicity and depth.
  • Story: The story of redemption of which the gospel is the climax.
  • Doctrine: The doctrines of the faith that conform to the gospel.
  • Community: The power in the gospel that flows from our relationship with God.
  • Mission: The manner of living that conforms to the truth of the gospel.

 Note: We will also offer occasional CORE ELECTIVES that supplement these ongoing core classes such as Church History, Apologetics and Evangelism, Marriage and the Family, Book Studies, and other courses that focus on specific theological issues or trace major themes throughout the bible.

Gospel Centrality

We hold that the gospel of Jesus Christ is central not only for conversion but also for sanctification. We believe that one never moves away from the gospel, but moves forward in the gospel. Therefore, in CORE we proclaim Christ by teaching the glorious gospeland seek to show how He is not only the center of redemptive history but is also the way, the truth, and the life for you and I now. Jesus is the great prophet who proclaims truth and gives us faith. Jesus is the perfect priest who mediates eternal life and brings us hope. Jesus is the true king who declares the way and empowers us to love God and our neighbors.

Our prayer is that as you move through CORE, you would be shaped by the truth, liberated by the life, and will find joy in walking in the way. Once you have completed these CORE courses we will come alongside of you to develop a vision for your own ministry. Again, the purpose of these courses is to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

Class Environment

Each class will last for 10 weeks and will be 1 hour and 30 minutes, from 6:30-8:00pm. The chairs will be set up like 3 sides of a square. This allows the participants to see each other and interact directly much easier. Each class will begin with fellowship, prayer requests, and guided prayer. The teacher will seek to maintain balance between clear information communication and discussion facilitator (group interaction/problem-solving).

End Goal

Each course will involve elements that contribute to the development of the participants head, hearts, and hands.

  • Head: Clear teaching that aims at forming a clear theological understanding and framework in the participants.
  • Heart: Active group discussion that will aim at the participants to applying the truths to their own lives and each other.
  • Hands: Accountability within the group to see that each participant is either actively involved or is developing personal ministry .

We take Paul’s charge to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” very seriously. Our goal is just that. In America we have too many people who come to ongoing classes at the church house as perpetual consumers. After one is finished with these five classes we feel that they have a solid foundation for personal ministry – and that is what we are going to encourage. When you have completed the five courses you have graduated from CORE. Along with Worship and Bible Fellowship Groups, we feel that CORE is essential to the spiritual development of our people.

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