Thursday, September 24, 2015

Five Questions I'd Ask Pope Francis


With even many evangelical leaders seemingly drawn to the magnetic star power of the visiting Pope Francis, if I had just a few minutes with him, I'd ask him five questions. 

1. Sir, if you are interested in helping the poor, as seen in the fact that you take the bus to work, then why not do something more than symbolic and melt down some of that gold in St. Peters? That way you can feed tens of thousands for several years.

2. You are an outspoken critic of capitalism. Let’s see now. Italy’s labor-market rules have remained largely unchanged since the modern Italian state was established. When last year Prime Minister Matteo Renzi attempted modest efforts to reform Italy’s notoriously matrixed labor laws, Italy’s largest union, the Italian General Confederation of Labor, led many thousands of people in a revolt. They insist on guaranteed jobs for all. Indeed, sir, under the Cassa Integrazione Guadagni (income-assistance scheme), businesses that need to downsize can put some workers on standby, and the government will cover a significant share of the normal salary until the company can hire back the worker. I’m wondering how Italy’s “soft socialism” is going for you guys, seeing that the income-assistance scheme strains the state’s budget, discourages workers from seeking other jobs, and curtails struggling companies from downsizing to stay competitive. 

3. On homosexuality, you said "Who am I to judge?" Yet when it comes to Protestant thought you said in a 1985 lecture (translated into Italian in 2014) that Luther is a "heretic" and Calvin is a "heretic and schismatic." According to that lecture, you went to say that Protestantism lies at the root of all evils in the church and in man's heart. So why are you able to "judge" two men who believe the Bible to be true, but not two men who lie with one another, an act that God calls an "abomination?" 

4. My wife has a relative by the name of Rowland Taylor. His short biography is in The Foxes Book of Martyrs. He was burned at the stake for not following the command of Bloody Mary to switch from the biblical administration of the Table to the Mass. Now in Washington D.C., a Pentecostal evangelist gave you “high-five.” I wonder if you’d like to swing by and give my wife a “high-five” as a humble gesture on your behalf to say, “Sorry for killing your relative over so small a matter.”

5. Here’s my final question. You had a few days with the American people and you spoke numerous times. But the one thing I never heard you proclaim. The simple gospel. You had the greatest opportunity to do so, yet you turned it down. So many hearts could have been transformed. Why, why, why, did you not preach the gospel?  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tullian Tchividjian Bounces Back?


It is unfortunate but every so often a Christian, including a pastor, wanders away from the sheepfold and finds himself perilously ensnared by sin and in grave danger. In keeping with the duty of the church, especially its elders, it becomes necessary to vigorously seek the full repentance and restoration of the lost sheep. As in the case of the prodigal son (Luke 15:3-8) the contrite heart is one both heaven and the faithful saints celebrate. 

In the case of Tullian Tchividjian we have an example of a lost under-shepherd. Having admitted to adultery, the South Florida Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) deposed Tchividjian on August 11, 2015, ruling him unfit for Christian ministry.

Tchividjian followed his removal from the pastoral office by filing for divorce from his wife, Kim, on August 27th. They were married in 1994 and together have three children.

Deposition from office is a serious infliction of church discipline. The goal of all church discipline is the repentance and restoration of the sinner, the peace and purity of the church, and the honor of Christ.

One wonders, then, at the wisdom behind the decision on the part of the Willow Creek Church, in Winter Springs, Florida (a congregation of the PCA) to add Tchividjian to its pastoral staff recently as Director of Ministry Development. Tchividjian’s bio on the church’s website describes him as a

best-selling author, having written seven books on the gospel of Jesus Christ and its liberating implications. Most recently, Tullian served as the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and founded Liberate, a ministry devoted to connecting God's inexhaustible grace to an exhausted world.

Note there is no mention here of his deposition from office, his adultery and lies, or that Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church had removed any reference to Liberate from its church website. It’s as if none of it ever happened.

The questions that arise from this hire are glaring.

Has Tchividjian had ample time to come to full repentance such that he is now ready to reenter ministry, albeit as a layman?  One would think that even Tchividjian should want a longer period of cooling off and getting his act together before jumping back into a position of church leadership. Well-meaning people who treat Tchividjian in his new role as though his adultery and deposition from office were but a blip on a radar screen may not aid him toward full repentance but may only enable him.

The PCA Book of Church Order 34-8 is clear that

A minister under indefinite suspension from his office or deposed for scandalous conduct shall not be restored, even on the deepest sorrow for his sin, until he shall exhibit for a considerable time such an eminently exemplary, humble and edifying life and testimony as shall heals the wound made by his scandal.

Second, how is the biblical standard of the peace and purity of the church upheld and strengthened by this move? How can the staff and people of Willow Creek work with Tchividjian in an air of normalcy without turning a deaf ear to his history? And how will this ministerial culture affect people’s attention to the “peace and purity of the church?”

Lastly, how is the honor of Christ upheld?  Did Jesus die for sins so we can treat those who have practiced them in such a light handed manner?

It has been argued that Tchividjian is only serving Willow Creek as a layman and not as an ordained minister. But that is a difference without a distinction. BCO 36-7 is clear that until restored to ministry, the deposed officer is prohibited “from exercising any of the functions” of the ministry.

Time will tell what comes of the new Willow Creek relation. But one thing is clear. God will not be mocked.

NOTE: BEGINNING 9/7, IF YOU CHOOSE TO ENTER A COMMENT, PLEASE GIVE YOUR FULL NAME. IDENTITIES LIKE "ANONYMOUS", "UNKNOWN," ETC., MAY BE REMOVED ACCORDING TO THE DISCRETION OF THE BLOG MASTER . THANK-YOU. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

John Barber August 2015 Mission Newsletter

COVENANT GROWS

Covenant College of Theological Studies and Leadership in Kenya continues to grow. The student body is now at 36 and the school maintains 50% self-support through tuition and fees. The story of Covenant is one of faithfulness: God’s faithfulness to a small group of leaders who believed the Lord desired rigorous biblical and theological training for those already in ministry, and also for those yet to enter pastoral ministry. I feel very blessed to have played a role in starting this school in 2010. This coming November, eleven more men will graduate with B.A. in Theology in conjunction with New Geneva Theological Seminary.

Students Covenant College of Kenya August 2015

PROPOSED NEED

Currently the school is still meeting in Nakuru Kenya, but for practical reasons must return to Nairobi. That will require the purchase of land and the erection of buildings to house classrooms and other facilities. Please pray how you might lend a hand toward this end. A positive is that the U.S. dollar is very strong in Kenya and a little goes a very long way. Any offering of support to the school will greatly help Covenant’s future plans.


IMMEDIATE NEED

The graduation ceremony in November will incure costs the school cannot raise through student fees. If you can send a small donation (as low as $10) to EPI in the name of Covenant, that will help ensure the graduation.

VISION FOR NEW BIBLE COLLEGE IN THE DRC

In May of 2014, I was blessed to travel to the DRC. Bukava, Congo is situated on Lake Kivu and provides a splendid setting for Bible classes. Much more than this however, the conference with about70 pastors and area leaders, sparked overwhelming interest in core biblical doctrines that many of us take for granted.


I still vividly recall the mini-revival that broke out over my simple explanation of the “indicative-imperative” of Scripture. After the room settled, participants literally demanded my return for the purpose of exploring the possibility of establishing a Bible College in Congo, one similar to Covenant College of Theological Studies in Kenya. 

Congo conference 2014

My plan is to teach a course on Christianity and culture in Uganda this coming Fall, and after that, to travel to the DRC to conduct another conference, but this time one that will also function as an experimental college class. Students will be given written assignments, etc. Progress will be tracked and evaluated. Based upon my evaluation of class performance the feasibility of a college will be sustained.

Frankly, I believe that this formal step will indeed lead to the birth of a school. Of course, the future of such an educational institution in Congo is up to the Lord. 

ADDITIONAL PLANS

I hope to return with Dr. Dominic Aquila and Rev. Jim Fitzgerald to teach at the New Geneva Theological Seminary extensions in Tunisia and Egypt. I was privileged to teach Presuppositional Apologetics to many pastors and students in March of 2014.

On a personal note, since October of 2014, I have suffered some rather intense back issues. Those problems have curtailed some travel, although I was able to conduct a conference in South Africa last May. I can only ask for your prayer that God will give strength where I have none. Each day I learn that his grace is sufficient.

BOOK RELEASE

Whitefield Media is about to release a book I have written on the world-renowned theologian, John M. Frame. It is titled, One Kingdom: The Practical Theology of John M. Frame. It is a bit academic, still, I hope you will check it out on Amazon when it is released early September. You can expect an email notifying you of the book’s release.

Thanks for your continued prayer and financial support which can be sent to the address below. Make your check to EPI and note it “John Barber.” If your check is for Covenant College please make it to EPI but note it for “Covenant College.” In His fields!

EPI, 8007 Waterglow Court, Orlando, FL., 32817. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Little More Chutzpah Please

Since the Court's decision on same-sex marriage, I’ve read numerous writings by pastors about how the church should respond. In general, they say we should be clear that the gay lifestyle is wrong, but as well we should be compassionate, loving, gracious, fence-builders, and ready to offer a defense of the faith. 

All of these qualities are certainly Christian. But what is lacking is a sense of urgency. That is, a perception of the serious, alarming, and destructive impact the current institutionalization of immorality poses to the health of this nation and to churches. Pastors may as well be counseling us on “How to engage non-Christians at the community yard sale.” 

But there’s a world of difference between how one engages unbelievers at a social gathering and Jim Elliot’s posture before the Auca Indians. Our public posturing on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and soon transgender-ism, can say all the right things. But unless the church responds with a bit more chutzpah to the normalization of sexual perversion, plan on our aloof, theological propriety being overrun by a sweeping and zealous anarchy. 

I recall the day of 9/11. As soon as I heard word of the attack, I ran around the North building of Campus Crusade for Christ, as if in a panic. As I moved down the hall, I noticed a lady from HR interviewing a young lady as both sat comfortably on a couch. They seemed indifferent to the most violent and shocking attack on this nation since Pearl Harbor. 

Perhaps they hadn’t heard. So I interrupted their discussion, and asked with great earnestness, "Did you hear what happened?" As if perturbed by my interruption, the HR rep responded, "Yes, we know!" I'm sure she could have told me how to be "compassionate, loving, gracious, a fence-builder, and ready to offer a defense of the faith." But it was her dispassionate quietism that spoke loudest. As she turned back to speak with the young lady, literally before Tower 2 had fallen, you would have thought 9/11 to be the equivalent of a tree falling in the Central Florida scrub. 

So, I'm asking, pleading, for a little more “chutzpah.” Of course, the same plea has been made by others regarding the war to save the unborn, and a host of other things. We always have the right response. But do we join right words with right action? If not, what’s missing? Passion. Remember this: Only the passionate are risk takers. And only risk takers are world-changers. 



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The End To Marriage!


If you think that the Homosexual community's only interest in marriage is equal rights, you're wrong. Listen to this leader in the lesbian community, Masha Gessen, admit, to full applause, the real agenda: the compelte elimination of marriage as an institution.




video

My Facebook Exchange With a Homosexual

I recently had this exchange with a homosexual on FB. I think this should be our direct answer to anyone in, or who supports, this sin. It's the gospel. The homoexual is replying to someone else when I chimmed in. Let this be our most central and loving response to all who oppose God's creation ordinance of marriage between a man and woman. 

Gay man: “Making it to where gays can get married (Like myself) isn’t a privilege. It is EQUAL RIGHTS. A privilege would be 'Gay people don’t have to pay taxes.' You know, like Churches.
You are allowed to have your beliefs all you want too, but when it comes down to equality, if your religion doesn’t support it, shut your mouth. There are about 1500 Gods out there in this world, and you believe in 1 of them. You are about as atheist as everyone else."

John: "There is really good news. God loves you. He really does love you. So much so that he took the form of a man. And as a man, the man we know as Jesus Christ, he sacrificed himself so that you and I can be forgiven and be reconciled to our heavenly Father. Christ died for our sins. He bled and died, taking upon himself all the guilt and condemnation due us for living apart from him. He then rose triumphantly from the dead, thus conquering death so that we can have new life in his name.

What he did is applied to our lives by faith. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). That means that if you trust that Christ died and rose again for you personally, not just for the world, but for you personally, and that what he did is ALL you need to be forgiven of your sins, you are instantly forgiven and Christ comes to live in you.

There may be 1500 gods. But all of them call upon us to make various sacrificial acts in order to appease them. The problem is that we can never do enough. Plus they are fabrications. The living God appeased his own anger against our sins by taking all our sins upon himself whereby he died with them, once-and-for-all. Imagine. The offended party met the standard of his own justice by taking the role of the accused (you and me). That is mercy, full and free.

I don’t expect you to accept the Good News of the Gospel. It is utter foolishness to people, as it was to me. That is, until God changes our hearts to understand it. My hope for you is that He will shine His light of understanding into your heart and mind and that you will see the unparalleled love of the Father as it is demonstrated at the cross of Jesus. Be blessed." 

I did not hear back. Not yet. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

When the Pillars Are Removed

Years ago, Robert Bork wrote the book, Slouching Toward Gomorrah. In time, we starting running toward Gomorrah. Now we’re there.

But now that we’re here, a large problem faces freedom-loving people. Tyranny. Let me explain.

It’s clear that most American policymakers have rejected the “laws of nature.” The internal rationale of nature that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman is now being suppressed so severely, it’s as if “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb” can be answered any way you want. And guess what? You’re all right. There are no wrong answers. I mean, we wouldn’t want to infer that any one’s personal moral choices are wrong, would we?

Most American lawgivers also now reject the laws “of nature’s God.” Biblical morality has no place in American jurisprudence.

Then there is written law. Judges no longer “interpret” the law. The create it. That was made clear when Chief Justice John Roberts fixed Obamacare to make it work. That caused Justice Antonin Scalia to call the Court’s ruling “SCOTUScare.”

And now with the recent Court ruling on same-sex marriage, even common law is gone.

So there you have it. Natural Law, God’s Law, Written Law, and Common Law—all have been extricated from the American way of life. We are no longer a nation of laws. We are a nation of men and of tyrants. So how will we be ruled now that the pillars have been removed?

What we are left with is whoever can get to the power and force their will on us wins. May God help us!  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

We've Lost America... Unless

Many Christian people, troubled over the Supreme Court's decision to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage, have been discussing the next steps.

Here's our problem:

Most Christians in the U.S. are first and second generation believers without a legacy of suffering for the gospel. They have been fed a steady diet of entertainmement, leadership principles, dead tradition, and mollified spirituality. Most do not evangelize. They rarely pray except in the face of a crisis. And they are not schooled in spiritual warfare. They have not been tested.

That's not the sort of training that makes for warriors for Christ.

Worse yet, too many church-goers have gone on record supporting the Court's decision! Let me tell you. Our nation is weak abroad because we are weak at home. How can we stand against immoral threats to freedom abroad when we celebrate immorality at home?

To turn back the tide of institutionalized immorality and see true spiritual revival and reformation in America will require those who do know the nature of true discipleship to be what I have called a "sacrificial generation." These will lay the foundation for a new Christian era in America. Given the rabid homosexual militancy that will undoubtedly seek to silence these disciples, the new foundation will likely be laid at tremendous personal expense; perhaps even the blood of the Saints.

As a close friend wrote to me, "We must pray with tears and sweats of blood to produce another generation of Christians, and the unity of the Body must bring this to pass."

This way we can recover a nation that "once walked in the power of God and shook the world."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Did God Just Give America Over?

Romans 1:26-27 records, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

In the history of theology there have been two prominent ways to interpret these verses. One is that homosexuality is a sin that God will someday judge. But the other interpretation, which interestingly is held by both liberal and conservative scholars, is that homosexuality IS God’s judgement on people that went too far in their rebellion. Their judgment has already started. Ironically, then, when a homosexual says, “God made me this way”, they’re right! Now that doesn’t mean God approves of homosexuality. Just the opposite. It means God doesn’t approve, so much so in fact, that he has sentenced the rebel to a life of debauchery. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for.”  

What does this fact mean for Christians? While most believers responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage as an act contrary to the will of God, the passage from Romans 1 clearly infers that the Court’s decision may well be an example of God exhibiting his judgment on a country that has squandered its birthright. Did God just give up a whole nation to “degrading passions?” Did God just say to America, “Enough?!” If so, then what may be coming next may be ominous. Or glorious!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sorry, I'm not Circling the Wagons on Homosexual Marriage

Since this morning, when I first heard of the Supremes’ decision to give carte blanche to gay weddings, I've been reading a litany of Facebook posts and Internet articles about how churches can weather the storm that’s apparently coming our way. 

One article advises that the churches draft a clear statement of faith that includes “a statement on marriage, gender, and sexuality." It goes on to say “Be sure that your statement on gender identity establishes a normative connection between gender and biological sex.” Say. Didn’t we already do that? I think it’s found in Genesis 1:26-28 and elsewhere.

Now what if a same-sex couple comes and wants you to perform their marriage? Another article recommends that you just tell the couple you only marry members of your church. That way you don't have to marry them plus you avoid any legal push back. Well, I have a better idea. Just say, "I don't marry homosexual or lesbian people because homosexuality is a sin against a Holy God. What’s more, marriage is between a man and a woman. Now I would be happy to tell you how all your sins can be forgiven and you can receive the gift of eternal life.”

Another writer offers a way to handle that testy problem of saying "No" if a gay group wants to rent your facility. Just put a clause in your insurance that states in no uncertain terms that renting parties need a pricey insurance rider. That ought to dissuade them. 

Then there’s the ever-present problem of not hiring that openly gay church organist. It’s easy. Just hold an audition. Then say, “Sorry but I really didn’t like the pianissimo before the Coda. Mendelsohn wouldn’t approve.”

Finally, what do pastors do if a gay, married [titular] couple shows up to services? One author says,

This certainly means thinking afresh about what we will and will not do when, for example, a gay married couple, seeking to draw closer to God, shows up in church and wants to get involved. It nearly goes without saying that we will welcome them unconditionally as we would anyone who walks in the door. But what does love look like in this particular instance? How much participation do we encourage before we ask them to adopt the Christian sexual ethic?

Wait. A gay couple comes to my church seeking to get closer to God? Does that mean they are rethinking their homosexuality? And then he asks "How much participation do we encourage before we ask them to adopt the Christian sexual ethic?" I think we may have that backward. How about we present everything in such a way that adoption of the Christian sexual ethic [is there another one that works?] is of immediate import? Or is there something special about these sinners that requires extemporaneity? 

I guess what’s troubling me is this. Most, not all, but most of the council I’ve read aimed at assisting evangelical churches, now that the Court has approved the marriage revolution, makes it sound like the churches are nineteenth-century wagon trail settlers under assault by Cherokees. And so here’s the modern-day equivalent of “Best Steps on How to Circle the Wagons.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it. For one, I don’t plan to change a thing. If I have to start thinking of inventive ways not to be shut down and sent to a reprogramming center, then you’ve won already. Second, God is with us. That means that he is my strength and my shield (Ps. 28:7). Third, if you want our building you can have it. We have a better one in the heavens. And I’m afraid you can’t get your hands on that one. Finally, why all the hand-wringing over possible persecution? It says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29).

So thanks for the advice on how to navigate the recent Court ruling. I know your heart is in the right place. But the fact remains, they can never take the True Church. Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). They can’t take our salvation. That is “hid with Christ” (Col. 3:3). And if they really want to eliminate us, it wouldn’t be the first time Christians were called upon for such a high honor.