D A Carson – Going Beyond Cliches: Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil

d a carsonSee an in depth article below video, with link to the full article on the Gospel Coalition website:

Lecture – Dr D.A. Carson – given Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, TX. Topic:Going Beyond Cliches: Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil.

Dr. D. A. Carson is a Research Professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. He came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he served for two years as academic dean. He also taught at Northwest Baptist Theological College, Richmond College, and Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto.

Dr. Carson’s areas of expertise include biblical theology, the historical Jesus, postmodernism, pluralism, Greek grammar, Johannine theology, Pauline theology, and questions of suffering and evil.

He is a member of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Evangelical Theological Society, the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, and the Institute for Biblical Research. Dr. Carson was founding chair of the GRAMCORD Institute, a research and educational institution designed to develop and promote computer-related tools for research into the Bible, focusing especially on the original languages. He is also a founding council member of The Gospel Coalition.

Carson was born in Montreal, Quebec, but grew up in Drummondville, Quebec. He earned his B.S. (1967) in chemistry and mathematics from McGill University, his M.Div. from Central Baptist Seminary (Toronto), and his Ph.D. (1975) in the New Testament from the University of Cambridge. Carson married his wife Joy in 1975. They reside in Libertyville, Illinois, and have two children.

Carson is the author or coauthor of over 50 books, including the award-winning book The Gagging of God (2010) and An Introduction to the New Testament (2005). He is general editor of Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmodern’s (2002) and Worship by the Book (2002). His other books include, Exegetical Fallacies (1996), Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon (2005), and also The Intolerance of Tolerance (2012). He has served as a pastor and is an active guest lecturer in church and academic settings around the world.

Six Pillars to Support a Christian Worldview for Stability Through Suffering

  1. Insights from the beginning of the Bible’s storyline
  2. Insights from the end of the Bible’s storyline
  3. Insights from the place of innocent suffering
  4. Insights from the mystery of providence
  5. Insights from the centrality of the incarnation and the cross
  6. Insights from taking up our cross (insights from the persecuted global church)

VIDEO by fleetwd1 for more information http://www.laniertheologicallibrary.org/

Going Beyond Cliches:

Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil

Here is a very helpful article that outlines Carson’s 6 pillars of a Christian view of suffering – http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs In the blog post, Matt Smethurst, of the Gospel Coalition lists the 6 pillars:

After differentiating „natural” evil (e.g., tornados), „malicious” evil (e.g., sexual assault), and „accidental” evil (e.g., a bridge collapse)—and observing that this isn’t a uniquely Christian challenge („No matter your worldview, you must face the reality of suffering and evil”)—Carson proceeds to reveal the six pillars.

  1. Insights from the beginning of the Bible’s storyline. Carson observes: „What Jesus seems to presuppose is that all the sufferings of the world—whether caused by malice [as in Luke 13:1-3] or by accident [as in Luke 13:4-5]—are not peculiar examples of judgment falling on the distinctively evil, but rather examples of the bare, stark fact that we are all under sentence of death.”
  2.  Insights from the end of the Bible’s storyline. The believer’s ultimate hope is that the created order—now so disordered by the effects of sin—will one day be set right (Rom. 8:18-25)
  3. Insights from the place of innocent suffering. „Job 42 is to the rest of Job what Revelation 21-22 is to the rest of Revelation,” Carson observes. „Not only is justice done, it’s also seen to be done.”
  4. Insights from the mystery of providence. Here Carson sketches a brief defense of compatibilism in which he demonstrates two scriptural tensions: (1) God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions to mitigate human responsibility, and (2) men and women are morally responsible creatures, but their moral responsibility never makes God absolutely contingent.
  5. Insights from the centrality of the incarnation and the cross. God was not blindsided by Calvary (Acts 2:234:27-28).
  6. Insights from taking up our cross (learning from the persecuted global church). Though we often think of suffering primarily in terms of „cancer or old age or poverty or war,” Carson notes, the New Testament texts that most commonly speak of suffering have to do with Christian suffering—”and they are remarkable” (see, for example, Acts 5:40-42;Rom. 8:17Phil. 1:293:101 Pet. 2:20-23). As he observes, „There have been more Christian conversions since 1800 than in the previous 1,800 years combined, and there have been more Christain martyrs since 1800 than in the previous 1,800 years combined. And to this you have been called [1 Pet. 2:21].”A robust theology of suffering is necessary but not sufficient, Carson insists, for at least two additional attitudes characterize mature Christians: (1) they admit their guilt before God and cry to him for renewal and revival (see, for example, Neh. 8-9), and (2) they are quick to talk about the sheer goodness of God.

How Could A Good God Allow Suffering?

This video is from the Gospel Coalition LA Regional Conference on November 6, 2010. D. A. Carson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has written or edited more than forty-five books, including An Introduction to the New Testament, The Gagging of God, and The Gospel according to John. VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

Reclame

The kind of preaching that encourages you to sin

This post by Jared C. Wilson, over at the Gospel Coalition is meant to be read by pastors/preachers. But, I always like to read articles like this from the listener’s perspective- myself. So, please read on, even if you are not a preacher/pastor. I have included each of Jared’s points, but you will have to click on the post to see the explanation for each one:

  1. Preaching even a “positive” practical message with no gospel-centrality amounts to preaching the law.
  2. The message of the law unaccompanied by and untethered from the central message of the gospel condemns us.
  3. Therefore, a steady dose of gospel-deficient practical preaching doesn’t make Christians more empowered, more effective, but more discouraged, less empowered.
  4. The Bible goes further to suggest, actually, that without the gospel of Christ’s finished work, the preaching of the law of works serves to exacerbate disobedience.
  5.  The law brings death
  6. The preaching of Christless, gospel-deficient practical sermons increases self-righteousness.

Read the entire article over at the Gospel Coalition (Photo credit thegospelcoalition.org)

New (and free online) Themelios Edition 38.2 feat. D. A. Carson: Kingdom, Ethics, and Individual Salvation

Themelios May 2011The Gospel Coalition has just published the latest issue of Themelios. It is available as a 158-page PDF and in HTML. We’ve also partnered with Logos Bible Software to make it available as a free mobile-friendly Logos digital edition for use on all major platforms with one of their free apps.

  1. D. A. Carson | Kingdom, Ethics, and Individual Salvation
  2. Michael J. Ovey | From Moral Majority to Evil Disbelievers: Coming Clean about Christian Atheism
  3. Peter Orr | Abounding in the Work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58): Everything We Do as Christians or Specific Gospel Work?
  4. Owen Strachan | Carl F. H. Henry’s Doctrine of the Atonement: A Synthesis and Brief Analysis
  5. Gerald R. McDermott | Will All Be Saved?
  6. Book Reviews
    1. Old Testament | 3 reviews
    2. New Testament | 20 reviews
    3. History and Historical Theology | 12 reviews
    4. Systematic Theology and Bioethics | 4 reviews
    5. Ethics and Pastoralia | 10 reviews
    6. Missions and Culture | 8 reviews

What is the ‘unforgivable sin’?

Photo credit www.propheciesofrevelation.org

Mark 3:28-29

Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.

The Gospel Coalition on ‘What is the unforgiveable sin’? The question was posed to Jonathan Pennington, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary in Louisville, and author of Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew (Baker Academic, 2009) and Reading the Gospels Wisely (Baker Academic, 2012).

In short, here is his answer:

So what does the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit really mean, and how does it apply to us today? In short, I suggest it’s a specific, active, and final choice to declare the person and work of Jesus as being demonic in origin. The specificity of this charge is clearest in the most detailed version of the event we have, retold by Matthew (12:22-37). There it’s clear that, after a contracted series of interactions with Jesus, the Pharisees have made a final, declarative decision that Jesus is not from God and must be killed (12:14 is the turning point of Matthew’s narrative on this score). As a result, they have no choice but to openly interpret Jesus’ good works of healing and teaching as Satanic in origin. Jesus, in a showing of his incredible wisdom, reveals the terrible inconsistency of their logic (12:25-29). Instead, he argues, these godly works come from God’s Spirit. Therefore, to call the Spirit’s work through Jesus demonic is the greatest, unforgivable sin (12:31-32).

Augustine’s view that the unforgivable sin is a state of unrepentant enmity toward God isn’t wrong, but it doesn’t deal with the specificity to which the Gospel texts speak. It’s certainly a truism and a valid reading/application of these texts to argue that a state of unbelieving enmity toward Christ results in no forgiveness. But the first reading of the blasphemy of the Spirit in the Gospel texts is much more specific: it’s a hardened evaluation of Jesus’ work as being demonic in origin.

Read the entire article here-
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/08/14/you-asked-what-is-the-unforgivable-sin/

 

Here is the full text relating to the answer above:

Matthew 12:22-32

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

How can you tell if your child has become a Christian?

Photo credit www.readingkingdom.com

Brian Croft, over at the Gospel Coalition has a good article here- http://thegospelcoalition.org/ giving us 5 evidences that can ‘help us discern the legitimacy of child or teenager’s profession of faith’.  They are:

1. Growing affection and need for Jesus and the gospel.

2. Heightened understanding of the truths of Scripture.

3. Increased kindness and selflessness toward siblings.

4. Greater awareness of and distaste for sin.

5. Noticeable desire to obey parents.

Croft also advises that ‘it’s generally wise to look for these evidences in an age-appropriate manner,’ with teenagers having the ability to articulate the Gospel better than the younger kids. And he discourages parents ‘from affirming a child’s conversion without some kind of tangible evidence apart from a verbal profession. On the flip side, though, I’d caution parents and pastors from falling into the trap of demanding more from a child than can be reasonably expected and observed.’

You can read the entire article here – http://thegospelcoalition.org/

Interesting facts about the Bible

Bible worn pic

A great feature on the Gospel Coalition blogs is their regular column titles „9 things you should know”. In their latest post, Joe Carter writes about „9 Things You Should Know about the Bible. Here’s just 3, numbers 1, 6, and 9:

1. The English word Bible is derived from the Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία (ta biblia – „the books”). While Christian use of the term can be traced to around A.D. 223, the late biblical scholar F.F. Bruce noted that Chrysostom in his Homilies on Matthew (between A.D. 386 and 388) appears to be the first writer to use the Greek phrase ta biblia to describe both the Old and New Testaments together.

6. The Bible is not only the best-selling book of all-time, it is consistently the best-selling book of the the year, every year. (Even in 1907, the New York Times noted that the „daily sales of the Bible, 40,000 copies, exceed the annual sales of most popular novels.”) Currently, an estimated 25 million copies are sold or distributed in the U.S. every year, approximately one new Bible for every 12 Americans.

9. All the books of the Old Testament except Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon are quoted or referenced in the New Testament. Jesus quoted or made references from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, 1 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Read the entire article here – http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/06/22/9-things-you-should-know-about-the-bible/

Calvinism and the puppet and robot analogies

Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition, on the puppet and robot analogies, and why they don’t work:

It’s true that Calvin, like Augustine before him, believed the will of God to be the necessity of all things. But the Church’s leading theologians have always carefully distinguished between different kinds of necessity. Calvin, for example, though he held to the highest view of God’s sovereignty vehemently rejected any notion of necessity which entailed external coercion or compulsion. In this matter he was simply following Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and the entire tradition of Christian orthodoxy.

This is why the puppet and robot analogies don’t work, and no Calvinist should own them. While we believe that God’s grace is irresistible and flows from his electing love, we must be clear that this grace renews us from within. It does not coerce us from without. God is not a puppet master pulling on our strings so that we do what he wants apart from our own willing or doing. His will precedes our will, but it does not eradicate it.

Anyone familiar with the Canons of Dort should know that Calvinists do not believe that God works on his people by means of forcible coercion. Instead, we believe that God supernaturally, sovereignly, and irresistibly renews our hearts so that we can feel and choose and do what we ought.

……….

In short, Calvinists have no problem affirming that God does not coerce the love of his human creatures. Where we may differ with others is in our joyous affirmation that our love for God is only possible when God—by mercy alone, through sovereign grace, and by his eternal decree—chooses to love us first.

Read the entire article here – http://thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung

A Systematic Look at the Connection Between Emotions and Singing for Christians

MusicIf you are involved in the music ministry print and read this article carefully and give it serious, prayerful thought. If you are not, print it anyways and share it with your music director and pastor. This is a valuable and thoughtful analysis for us all to consider.

This excellent article was just published in the Themelios Journal over at the Gospel Coalition titled- Music, Singing and Emotions- Exploring the Connections written by Rob Smith.  Rob Smith lectures in Systematic Theology and Music Ministry at Sydney Missionary & Bible College in Sydney, Australia.

First, a sample of a couple of gems from the article:

…singing not only helps us to engage the emotional dimensions of our humanity, but that singing truth helps us to engage with the emotional dimensions of reality, thus helping to bridge the gap between cognitive knowledge and experiential knowledge. (From point 2.2 Singing and emotions)

In terms of the implications for church life, it should be clear that music and singing whilst not of the esse(i.e., essence or being) of the church are vital for the beneesse (i.e., the health or well-being) of the church. So we would be foolish to neglect them-particularly when Scripture commends them so strongly. At the same time we must also be careful to protect them-for there is always the possibility of misusing music and song. As Jeremy Begbie astutely observes: ‘If the orientation is askew, or the emotion inappropriate, then manipulation, sentimentality, and emotional self-indulgence are among the ever-present dangers.’ (from point 5.2 Implications for Church life)

Smith points out that the Old Testament

reveals a profound link between the joy that results from experiencing God’s salvation and the making of music and the singing of songs. We see this first in Exodus 15 where after the LORD has rescued the people of Israel from the Egyptian army, Miriam takes a tambourine in hand (v. 20) and as all the women follow her with tambourines and dancing...

where there is salvation there is joy and where there is joy there is singing. They follow one another as night follows day and day follows night. For as people are taken from an experience of slavery to an experience of redemption, from an experience of God’s anger to an experience of his comfort, from a place of fear to a place of trust, they have every reason to rejoice. And out of their joy they sing and make music.

In the New testament he points to role and the fruit of the Spirit and it’s correlation to emotions:

When we come to the New Testament, the first thing to note is the emotional dimension of the Spirit’s fruit and the Spirit’s role, therefore, in bringing us to emotional maturity. That is, most (if not all) of the fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5, whilst clearly not being exclusively emotional in nature, and profoundly practical and relational in their outworking, nonetheless have an irreducible emotional component to them. Furthermore, learning to bear such fruit is part and parcel of the process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18) or growing up into Christ (Eph. 4:15). And this clearly involves growing up emotionally as part of the package. Jeremy Begbie puts the point well: ‘Through the Spirit, we are given the priceless opportunity of-to put it simply-growing up emotionally: having our emotions purged of sin and stretched, shaped, and reshaped.’

But does this have anything to do with music and song? Begbie certainly thinks so. In fact, he immediately follows the preceding statement with this one: ‘It is perhaps in worship and prayer, when we engage with God directly and consciously, that this will be (or ought to be) most evident.’ In a more recent essay he makes his thought even more explicit: ‘[M]usic is particularly well suited to being a vehicle of emotional renewal in worship, a potent instrument through which the Holy Spirit can begin to remake and transform us in the likeness of Christ, the one true worshipper.’

Read the entire article at the Gospel Coalition – Music, Singing and Emotions- Exploring the Connections written by Rob Smith

When Should Christians Disobey

When should Christians engage in civil disobedience? What do we do when the regime turns hostile to Christian conviction and intrudes upon Christian and religious liberty?

Tim Keller, John Yates, Albert Mohler:

 

When We Suffer, When to Disobey from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

John Piper despre vizita in Romania – John Piper talks about his trip to Romania

Pentru Galerie Foto de la eveniment click aici http://www.radiofiladelfia.ro/stiri/stiri-crestine/john-piper-la-bucuresti-galerie-foto.html

Read the English version at the bottom half of this post. Special edition „Desiring God behind the blog”.  David Mathis with John Piper via http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/behind-the-blog-with-john-piper

  1. VIDEO – Mesajul de Duminica seara – NU-TI IROSI VIATA – la Sala Palatului aici 
  2. VIDEO – Mesaul 1 Dumnezeu este Evanghelia – Dumnezeu este cel mai proslavit (preamarit) in noi atunci cand noi suntem cei mai satisfacuti in El (Predica transcrisa + video)
  3. VIDEO – Mesajul 3 – Ce fel de viata produce trairea in puterea Evangheliei? 
  4. CARTEA GRATUITA ONLINE – Dumnezeu este Evanghelia de John Piper – Cartea se poate citi online la Desiring God Romania

In Limba Romana:

English:

David Mathis: John is freshly back from a month of travels in the month of May. We are recording this on Wednesday, May 30th. He has just returned from being in Louisville at the Gospel Coalition meetings and he was in Europe for the earlier part of the month. So, John, you first went to Romania. Can you give us any highlights from that time in Romania, in Bucharest?

John Piper: Yeah, Bucharest, not Budapest. Don’t make the mistake that Michael Jackson did, when he stood up in front of thousands of people and said, „I love Budapest”, and everybody groaned,… the wrong place, so, I tried not to make that mistake. It was wonderful. Each of these stops was wonderful. To meet the friends who love God’s sovereignty. You know, I make these travels because I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things, so, to have 750 younger and older people from Baptist, Brethren and Pentecostal, that’s the Alliance of Evangelicals there; that they can get together and talk about „God is the Gospel”, made me fall in love with that glorious truth all over again and to see among them a significant percentage of younger pastors, who you would  put in this category of young, restless, reformed types, I suppose, who love the Gospel, love mission, love church planting, and love God’s supremacy in the way He saves sinners, and so they were eager to hear more about that.

The highlight probably was the last night in, I think it’s called „The Palace Hall”, where Ceausescu, the dictator, has given his speeches of deification and stood before 4,500 communists to say, „We’re great in our communism”, then have him fall precipitously in December of 1989, swept away by a crowd of people, who pushed into the place where he was giving the speech; helicopters out, the pilot conspiring landed in a place he didn’t want to land, he’s arrested five days later, they shoot him in the head and he’s dead and communism is over. And, what was so moving is that the older people there could remember seeing that hall filled with communists, clapping in their rhythmical way, to say „Yes” to this dictator and to have me stand there, in the very place where he stood and have the place filled 20 minutes early with 4,500 people. Another 500, probably standing in the aisles, standing in the halls, just to hear a Christian pastor talk about „Don’t waste your life”.

So, I got shivers standing there, thinking, „This is just emblematic of what God does. He raises up kings, He puts down kings, He advances His gospel”. We should be encouraged , I think, about what’s happening in eastern Europe and pray that God would breathe on it, that in that dominantly orthodox land, the Gospel of free grace with the exaltation of Jesus Christ in His finished work would spread mightily.

Then Piper continues talking about his stop in Geneva, Switzerland and Hamburg, Germany. You can listen to the audio here – http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/behind-the-blog-with-john-piper

Jason Meyer to succeed John Piper at Bethlehem Church

Jason Meyer with 2 of the 4 children he and his wife Cara adopted while teaching New Testament at Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Gospel Coalition reports that 36 year old Jason Meyer is to succeed John Piper as pastor for vision and preaching at Bethlehem Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Piper will remain at the church (after a year away) and he will serve as chancellor and teacher at Bethlehem College and Seminary, and as founder and teacher at Desiring God (John Piper was himself 34 years old when he became pastor at Bethlehem in 1980).

You can read the announcement as well as John Piper’s statement on the transition here and here.

I will however excerpt one answer John Piper gives that makes one (esp. me) look forward to his next 10 years and more than that:

What will you do?

After the overlap season with Jason, Noël and I and Talitha plan to leave town for a year or so and find a place for writing and reflection. There are several writing projects I want to make headway on. And I want some time and distance before I lock in to any pattern of ministry too quickly. I need to get some perspective and pray and think about the next 10 years.

In general I can say that, if God gives me life and health, these years will involve my role as Chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary, and my role as founder and teacher for Desiring God. I love to teach seminary students, and I love to encourage and strengthen the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated vision of pastors. And I love to write. So some configuration of those loves is what I expect to see.

My life’s calling remains the same: I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. Pray that I will spend and be spent for this till I can speak and write no more.

Can’t wait to read what will flow from the pen of this mighty man of God!

Here’s one of my favorite and most uplifting John Piper sermons, He spends the first 16 minutes quoting Bible verses from memory:

Prayer for Japan as another earthquake hits today – Rugaciune pentru Japonia

Forta unui tsunami – din 2004 Oceanul Indian

In Romanian:

La un an dupa cutremur, tsunami si dezastrul nuclear care a devastat Nordul Japoniei anul trecut in luna Martie, multi dintre cetatenii Japoniei sufera o disperare profunda. Bloomberg raporteaza ca acesta este al patrusprezecelea an in care peste 30,000 de oameni sau sinucis (anual 30,000 x 14 yrs = 420,000 morti prin sinucidere). Distrugerea care a venit peste tara Japonezilor va ramine pe veci in memoria cetatenilor.

Pastorul Joey Zarina, de la o biserica din orasul Kawasaki scrie ca se fac eforturi din partea crestinilor din toate partile lumii nu numai cu ajutor financiar, dar sa li se dea o speranta vie in puterea Crucii lui Isus Hristos. Dumnezeu sa se indure de acest popor si sa le deschida inimile spre mintuire si viata vesnica in El. Sa ii purtam in rugaciune cetatenii acestei tari.

In English via The Gospel Coalition

The Story: A year after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that devastated Northern Japan last March, many that country’s citizens are still suffering from despair. According to Bloomberg, suicides rose in April, May, June and August–the months following the natural disasters that devastated towns in northeastern Japan and triggered a nuclear crisis. For a 14th straight year, suicides in Japan have exceeded 30,000.

The Background: As Joey Zorina, a pastor at Ekklesia Christian Church in Kawasaki, Japan, writes, the images of the destruction will be etched forever in the minds of the country’s survivors:

The farmer who hanged himself, distressed about a cabbage harvest ruined by radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant; the overworked government worker near the complex who took his life; the father who killed himself after a fruitless search for his child after the tsunami- all these are but reminders of the ongoing suicide (30, 000 per year) in post-modern Japan.  Nearly 100 people a day commit suicide; one every 15 minutes.   The most common hour of death is 5: 00 am for men; and noon for women, after their families have left for work or school.  The suicide rate in Japan is tragically alarming.  Suicide is now the leading cause of death among men aged 20-44 and women aged 15-34.

Imagine the soldiers and police officers who had spent weeks on the grim search for bodies, as well as nuclear plant employees working overtime to deal with the crippled reactor!   They’re ordinary men and women like us with families, all vulnerable to the effects of the disaster.   As the nation rebuilds from the 3/11 major catastrophe, public health officials are concerned that a lingering sense of hopelessness and desperation among those affected might lead to a surge in suicides.  In a nation that’s already coping with one of the developed world’s highest rates of suicide deaths, there is a high probability that post-disaster stress could eventually lead to a higher rate.   The nation experienced a rise in suicides after the 1995 Kobe earthquake that killed more than 6,400 people.  Those who chose to die included the city’s deputy major, who doused himself with kerosene on the first anniversary of the disaster.  As Japan rebuilds, there is a fundamental question that will arise in the hearts of people who have lost homes, family and friends: „What do I have to live for?”

Why It Matters: „Japan is being rebuilt by the power of the Cross,” writes Zorina. „There is an ongoing relief work and support by Christians from all over the world. And it would be very unkind and unloving if we try to liberate people from their present temporal sufferings and not offer them the whole Gospel to alleviate their eternal sufferings.”

Because of God’s grace, some Japanese are able to see the light of Christ even in the shadow of destruction. For example, Masato Kotani lost his business because of the disasters, but is grateful that it helped him to find what really matters.

Dr. D.A. Carson – Biblical Studies Symposium at Liberty University – One Focus of the Gospel: John 3

The Biblical Studies Symposium hosted Dr. D.A. Carson on February 20th, 2012. Dr. D.A. Carson addressed students and faculty in the Towns Alumni Lecture Hall at 7:30pm with „One Focus of the Gospel: John 3.

Notes from the Symposium:

What is the Gospel?

First and foremost it is news. It’s good news. The question is: What is it news about? Because it’s news, you have to remember that the first thing you do with news is you announce it. „Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words,” as if you are announcing the Gospel by living a certain way.  That’s like telling a newscaster on the 11 o clock news tonight, „Tonight, deliver the news. If necessary, use words. That’s ridiculous. What you do with news is announce it. That is why there is such a huge emphasis in the New Testament on announcing it, on preaching and declaring, on explaining. That’s what you do with news.

But what is it news about?

It is first and foremost news about our God, our Maker and Judge has done supremely in Christ Jesus and especially in Christ’s cross and resurrection, to reconcile rebels to Himself. Now you can fill that our and say, „What has He done at the cross and resurrection and what does it mean to be reconciled back to God?

  • When you start asking: What is the shade of this „bringing rebels back to God”, then you start bringing out different dimensions. For example there is what might be called a „legal dimension„- How can guilty people be declared just before this God who is perfectly holy? That brings you into some fundamental issues of what the problem is. The problem is sin. You can’t get agreement on what the good news is unless you have the bad news.
  • You don’t know what the good news is supposed to fix until you know what the bad news is in the first place. So that means you’ve got to figure out what the bad news is from Holy Scripture to see what the good news is. The Gospel is the good news by which God reconciles sinners to Himself. Now you’re into substitution. Christ dies for the ungodly. The justice of Christ becomes ours. Our sin becomes His. He expiates our sin. He propitiates God. He cancels our sin, He turns God’s wrath away by absorbing our guilt in His place. All that has to do with my standing before God.
  • But supposing salvation was just bound up with standing before God. How would that transform me? Then you realize that salvation, the good news that brings about salvation is not just about how people become just before God; it’s also how they get transformed. And now you are in new birth language. Power of the Spirit. It’s not just that God declares us just on the basis of what Christ has done; He transforms us so that we have the power of God to give differently.
  • And thus, the notion of a powerless Gospel is in the Bible incoherent. Paul says that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, unto wholeness. But, it’s not an isolated thing. The Gospel so transforms us that men and women are brought together. There is a relational component to what the Gospel does. Not the Gospel itself. The Gospel IS what God DOES.  What God does supremely in Christ Jesus to reconcile guilty sinners back to Himself but part of what He does out of this Gospel, through this Gospel, is to reconcile people to each other as well as to Himself. So there is a relational component to all of this, as well.
  • There is also an eschatological component to it. It is not only what He does for us now, but ultimately the restoration of rebels to Himself is so complete that we will have resurrection bodies in a new heaven and a new earth on the last day, all achieved on one little hill, outside of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

The Gospel of God centers on Christ. It’s the good news about Christ Jesus, about what Christ has done in Christ Jesus to reconcile sinners to HImself. And everything that flows out of this, in terms of the way we act, our concern for justice, our hopes for the future, resurrection existence, personal relationships and above all that, we ourselves have been reconciled to this God- all, all was achieved through what God did on the cross and in Jesus’ resurrection and all that flows from those great events.

There would be a lot of ways to get to biblical passages to show you the sweep of this Gospel. One way, for example is to study 1 Corinthians 15, where most of these components are built in. If you are interested in a sermon just on that passage to try to explain it, you can find it on the Gospel Coalition website. This evening I want to direct your attention on John 3 and talk about one component of this Gospel, however it is tied to a lot of other components. John 3:1-21  will talk about this new birth component.

As far as we know, this is the first time in history when the expression born again was used. I have not found it in any earlier source, greco roman, nor jewish. I think Jesus coined it. What did He mean?

Dr. Carson continues to outline what Jesus meant by born again…..(66 minutes)

Uploaded by  on Mar 8, 2012

Video of the Week – Matt Chandler „Youth”

Ecclesiastes 11:7–12:14

7 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
8 So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.
9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things tGod will bring you into judgment.
10 Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
Remember Your Creator in Your Youth
12 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is ishattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.
Fear God and Keep His Commandments
9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging omany proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.
11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 ForGo

Matt Chandler concluded the second day of The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 national conference—They Testify About Me: Preaching Jesus and the Gospel from the Old Testament—with a plenary address from Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:14 on „Youth.” For the audio link click here.

Is Technology Neutral? via The Gospel Coalition

Mike Cosper over at The Gospel Coalition comments on the (non) neutrality of technology and the power it can hold over us:

Sometimes, Christians with a sympathetic view of culture (like myself) have a tendency to treat it all–including technology–as though it were neutral, but this isn’t the case. Like all of creation, the technological world bears witness to God’s glory and goodness with its undoubted helpfulness, its moments of beauty, and its occasional ability to inspire awe. But also like all of creation, it bears the stain and destructive power of sin, introducing us to whole new ways to destroy relationships, disrupt our lives, and distract from the glory we were created to behold. click here to read the rest of this article…

then, in looking over some old emails I came across this snippet from ‘Doghouse Diaries’ that characterizes the power technology holds over us in a light hearted way:

Siri

click image to see in full size at source

 
for those of us who have not seen a working iPhone (seeing a display model doesn’t count), Siri is an iPhone application that you can ask a question of and it will answer you back audibly. This comic strip above shows a frustrated Siri answering back  in a humorous, but threatening way. Truth be told, all technology can have a seriously negative side effect if it becomes addictive, in essence, if it becomes an ‘IDOL’.

Ex 20:3-4 (NIV) „You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”

„An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought.”
-Counterfeit Gods
Tim Keller

 A.W. Tozer: „Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster. He calls them to suffer; we call them to enjoy all the bourgeois comforts modern civilization affords. He calls them to self-abnegation and death; we call them to spread out like green bay trees or perchance even to become stars in a pitiful fifth-rate religious zodiac.”

John Piper with Tim Keller & D.A. Carson on Succession Plans and Growing Older plus his June 2011 message to the SBC on the Lord’s Prayer

John Piper is planning to transition from pastor for preaching and vision to full time writing and teaching, and mentoring at Bethlehem College and Seminary. In the video below Piper discusses succession plans and getting older with Tim Keller and D.A.Carson.

Below the video you will find the transcript of John Piper’s main message to the Pastors attending the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Arizona on June 13,2011.

You can read the entire article here – Succession Plans and Growing Older. (The Gospel Coalition)

John Piper, Tim Keller, and Don Carson talk about growing older, making transitions, and pastoral succession.

Note that Piper told the people of Bethlehem last Sunday:

My proposal to the elders—and it comes from Noël and me, not just me (we have talked a lot about this, as you can imagine)—is that I transition from pastor for preaching and vision to a fulltime writing and BCS [Bethlehem College and Seminary] teaching and mentoring and wider speaking role on June 30, 2014—three years from now. And that we be very intentional and prayerful and thoughtful about a successor in those years.

That’s not the plan yet, because the elders have to think through all the implications and come to a mind.

The Gospel Coalition looked at this issue in a profile on “Gospel Integrity and Pastoral Succession,” which includes an explanation of what Keller and Redeemer plan to do.

John Piper’s main message to the Pastors attending the Southern Baptist Conference in Phoenix, Arizona on June 13,2011.

Be a Radically God-Centered Pastor

My main message to you is very simple: Be a radically God-centered pastor. My text is the first petition of the Lord’s prayer: „Hallowed by your name.” I simply want to spend the few minutes we have together pressing the God-centered implications of this first petition of the Lord’s prayer into your minds and hearts and ministries.

Or another way to say it is that my aim is to unpack the way I understand the theme of this conference, which I love: „ASPIRE: Yearning to Join God’s Kingdom Activity.” The word aspire and the word yearning capture the emotional side of the theme. Desire this. Long for this. Ache for this. Want this. Be passionate for this. Have zeal for this. Yearn for this. Aspire to this. Plead for this.

Our First and Deepest Longing

Yes, plead! If you yearn, you plead. If you aspire, you plead, you pray! And what did Jesus tell us to pray? What did he say to aspire to first? Desire first? Yearn for first? Long for and plead for first—above all? What did he tell us to make our preeminent aspiration? Our first and deepest longing? Our all-defining, all-shaping, all-controlling, all-consuming desire?

He said, „Desire this first: Hallowed be your name.” Plead for this above all: „Father, cause your name to be hallowed!” „Do whatever you must do in me, in my family, in my church, in my denomination, in my city, in this world, so that your name is hallowed.”

Mai mult

The Restoration of All Things by Sam Storms

from the Gospel Coalition. Other books available here.

View this document on Scribd

Other books in the series available for purchase (entire set $17). Series is edited by D.A.Carson and Tim Keller:

Tim Keller – Three Ways with Families

From the Gospel Coalition Site

In Japan, in Western Europe, and in Russia, the birth-rate has fallen precipitously, to below replacement levels. If this does not change, the economic and cultural impact will be very great on those nations. Many have pointed out that interest in child-bearing is lowest in the most secular countries and sectors of society, while it is the highest in the most religious countries. Why is this? One explanation is that more educated people put off child-rearing until later in life and that means fewer children. However, educated religious people have more children than educated secular people, and therefore the socio-economic answer isn’t the most basic answer. I don’t think anyone can be completely sure that they have a handle on this complex phenomenon, but I think it creates an interesting backdrop for the consideration of the unique Christian view of the family.

My European friends have two theories for why their secular neighbors have lost interest in the family. First, there is the sacrifice factor. For the last 30 years, sociologists have documented that secularism fosters individualism. A 2003 Ben Gurion University study found religious communes in Israel did better across the board than secular communes. (Cited in “Darwin’s God”, New York Times Magazine, March 4, 2007.) The reason? The members of secular communes simply were more selfish, particularly the men. Men who went to synagogue regularly were much more willing to sacrifice for the family and the community than men who did not. Despite the new financial incentives to have children that European governments are now offering, many people can’t imagine a happy life with the severe loss of independence that comes with parenthood. As the studies since Robert Bellah’s Habits of the Heart have shown, secularism teaches that every individual determines his or her own purpose in life—the autonomous self is sovereign. In this world-view, family life looks like the loss of personal meaning and happiness.

There is also the hope factor. My European friends tell me that their secular neighbors are much more pessimistic about the future. They (rightly) see oceans of injustice and poverty in the world surrounding islands of democracy and prosperity. They are keenly aware of the ecological and technological disasters that are possible, perhaps inevitable. Why bring children into such a bleak world? Religious persons, however, have a profound assurance that in the future is final justice, or paradise, or union with God in some form. They have an over-arching hope that makes them more optimistic about bearing and raising children.

At this point you might think I would simply say “Yay for religion, it is the friend of the family!” It is not that simple. While secularism in the West tends to make an idol out of the individual and his or her needs, traditional religion has often made an idol out of the family. According to theologian Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University, Christianity was the very first religion or world-view that held up single adulthood as a viable way of life. Jesus himself and St. Paul were single. “One…clear difference between Christianity and Judaism [and all other traditional religions] is the former’s entertainment of the idea of singleness as the paradigm way of life for its followers.” (Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character, p.174.) Nearly all religions and cultures made an absolute value of the family and of the bearing of children. There was no honor without family honor, and there was no real lasting significance or “legacy” without leaving heirs. By contrast, the early church not only did not pressure women to marry but it institutionally supported poor widows so they were not forced to remarry as they were out in the culture at large.

Why? The Christian gospel and hope of the kingdom-future de-idolized marriage. “Singleness was legitimated, not because sex was questionable, but because the mission of the church is ‘between the times’ [the overlap of the ages]…We must remember that the ‘sacrifice’ made by singles was not [just in] ‘giving up sex’ but in giving up heirs. There could be no more radical act than that! This was a clear expression that one’s future is not guaranteed by the family but by the [kingdom of God and the] church” ( Hauerwas, p.190). “[Now, in the overlap of the ages], both singleness and marriage are necessary symbolic institutions for the constitution of the church’s life . . . that witnesses to God’s kingdom. Neither can be valid without the other. If singleness is a symbol of the church’s confidence in God’s power to effect lives for the growth of the church, marriage and procreation is the symbol of the church’s understanding that the struggle will be long and arduous. For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope . . . that God has not abandoned this world.” (Hauerwas, p.191)

The gospel-based community practices a view of family that is contrary both to the cultural idols of secular and traditional societies. The gospel frees singles from the shame of being unmarried they find in conservative cultures. Their truest identity is in Christ and their assured future hope is the kingdom of God. Even bearing children, in the Christian view, is merely nurturing more lives for the family of God. That can be done in other ways than the biological. On the other hand, the gospel gives us the hope and strength for the sacrifices of marriage and parenthood that is lacking in liberal cultures. Christians grasp that they were only brought to life because of Jesus’ radical sacrifice of his independence and power. We know that children are only brought to life and self-sufficiency if their parents sacrifice much of their independence and power. In light of the cross, it is the least we can do.

The gospel is neither religion nor irreligion, it is something else altogether. Vital gospel Christianity’s influence on a society will produce neither a liberal and secular nor a traditional and conservative culture, but something we have seldom seen before.

Editor’s Note: This is a cross-post from Tim Keller’s blog at Redeemer City to City.

Dr. Tim Keller is the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, New York. He is also co-founder and vice president of The Gospel Coalition. For more resources by Tim Keller visit Redeemer City to City.

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