Steve Brown invited Mike Horton to join his program to discuss his new book, Ordinary.
Thanks to Key Life and Steve Brown for the conversation!
Steve Brown invited Mike Horton to join his program to discuss his new book, Ordinary.
Thanks to Key Life and Steve Brown for the conversation!
According to media and technology writer Douglas Rushkoff, “Our society has reoriented itself to the present moment. Everything is live, real time, and always on. It’s not a mere speeding up; however, much in our lifestyles and technologies have accelerated the rate at which we attempt to do things. It’s more of a diminishment of anything that isn’t happening right now.” Michael Horton speaks with Rushkoff about his new book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, and discusses how his thesis applies to the world of contemporary Christianity while it emphasizes having your best life now.
During the first half of this program, Michael Horton will speak with Reverend Tim Blackmon about the practice of hospitality in his own church context in The Netherlands. Hospitality, he argues, is the appropriate response to a proper understanding of who God is and what he has done to save and rescue us. In the second half of the program, Michael Horton talks with Christopher Wright about his book, The Mission of God.
The entire Christian story can be understood through the lens of gift-giving. The history of redemption is the story of God’s gracious and sacrificial giving of himself in order to rescue his fallen and rebellious creation. As he rescues us, he also invites us to live with hospitality and generosity so that, like him, we live to serve our neighbors in love. Michael Horton will be discussing this topic with Covenant College professor Kelly Kapic, author of God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity.
Friends of the Inn and contributors to Modern Reformation magazine, Carl Trueman and Harry Reeder, will be speaking at the second annual Charleston Christmas Conference on Reformed Theology, December 5-7, 2014. Drs. Trueman and Reeder will join Dr. Jon Payne, the pastor of Christ Church Presbyterian in Charleston and the host of the conference, in taking up the theme of The Nativity and the Cross.
For more information and registration click here.
For Further Reading and Listening:
Next week my book, Ordinary, is being released. I’m grateful that there’s interest in the message that I tried to communicate in these few chapters.
Already, though, there are a lot of people speculating about my intended “target” in this book. A number of folks point out the similarity between my cover and David Platt’s Radical. In the interest of full disclosure, let me be clear: I’m not going after Radical.
For anyone who reads the first chapter, the target will become crystal-clear: I am the target. I’m terrified of boredom; I’m scared of being mediocre; I’m not eager to be “there” for others when I could be “making a difference.” I point out even in the opening paragraphs that what I have in mind is pervasive and that I’m actually in favor of a lot of things that defenders of “radical discipleship” have in mind: such as being committed to others to the point of stepping outside of our comfort zone.
It never occurred to me when I saw the picture of the cover that it was similar to Radical’s. Those who think I am going after the book admit that they haven’t read mine yet, but they suspect that Radical is the target. It’s not. In fact, the review of Ordinary in the current issue of Christianity Today observes, “Seeing the cover, I expected a few juicy remarks about megachurch pastors like Platt. My expectations were disappointed, which is a good thing.”
I do call into question “radical this-and-that,” but this is a long and broad theme in all of our circles, even my own Reformed and Presbyterian camp. It’s both the strength and weakness of evangelicalism. To whatever extent some things that I say have relevance to emphases in Radical or any other book, I hope it generates conversation rather than acrimony.
So, again, thanks for starting a conversation about what we should all see as a big issue. I hope you’ll join me in agreeing that the target is “we,” not “they,” and that it’s time for all of us to rediscover the extraordinary grace that God dispenses to us—and through us—in ordinary ways.
The current issue of Christianity Today includes a review Michael Horton’s new book Ordinary.
by Philip Cary
“Sometimes you can tell quite a bit about a book from its cover. On the outside, Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan) looks a lot like David Platt’s bestsellerRadical, and that’s no accident. Horton, editor of Modern Reformation magazine, a founding figure behind the White Horse Inn’s teaching ministry, and host of its radio show, aims to provide an alternative to trendy calls for radical living. He thinks such calls serve mainly to make ordinary Christians anxious about whether they’re really Christian enough, and pastors anxious about ensuring that their ministries are radically transformative.” Full article at CT
On this program, Michael Horton, Kim Riddlebarger, Justin Holcomb, Steve Parks wrap up their discussion of the feasting themes of the New Testament and begin a discussion of the ways in which we are called to share in God’s hospitality by giving of ourselves to our neighbors. Do our churches display kindness to strangers and outsiders? Or are they just a bunch of social clubs for clean living types of a particular political persuasion? How can we begin to show kindness and grace to outsiders in view of God’s own grace to us? That’s the focus of this edition of White Horse Inn.
Continued from The Messianic Feast, Part 1
You may recall that as the people of Israel sojourned through the desert, they often failed to trust in God’s provision. They frequently grumbled, whined and complained about their situation as though God would fail to provide for the very people he just rescued. Ps 78 recounts this period, as this unbelieving generation forgot God’s wonderful works:
He divided the sea and let them pass through it…In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light. He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep…Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?…[T]hey did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power…Yet the Lord commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance…In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe…How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel (Ps. 78: 13-15, 17-19, 21-25, 32, 40-41).
Did you notice the similarities between Adam and Eve in the garden, and the people of Israel in the wilderness? Both demanded the food they craved, rather than trusting and relying on God’s provisions. But in contrast to both these events in redemptive history, our Lord, when he was tempted in the wilderness said, “Man does not live by bread alone.” As a result of their disobedience, the unbelieving generation led by Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land, which flowed with milk and honey. And this becomes a kind of living parable for us all, indicating that we cannot enter the promised land by means of obedience to the law. We’re all members of a wicked and unfaithful generation, which means that the law of Moses cannot make us holy, but merely ends up showing us all our own sin, and the extent to which we have offended an infinitely holy God. In order to enter the land of rest, we must become members of a new generation, and we must be led by a greater Joshua. “Behold,” says Isaiah, in chapter 32 of his prophecy, “A king will reign in righteousness.” This messianic king, says the prophet, will provide “a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.”
Clearly, this text is echoing events that we find described throughout the writings of Moses. In fact, in Exodus 5:1 Moses says to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, Let my people go that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.” Notice that it does not say, “let my people go that they may begin a fast in my honor.” Again, the ultimate goal of redemption is feasting, not fasting. Listen to the words of Zechariah as he unpacks this theme in chapter 7:
The word of the LORD of hosts came to me: “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?’…Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.’ But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear…and the pleasant land was made desolate” (Zech. 7:4-5, 9-13).
God’s criticism of his people was that even their own spirituality had become self- centered. Because they were fasting for themselves, as Jesus taught, they had already received their reward. Like Pharaoh in the Exodus account, their hearts had become diamond-hard. But in later chapters of Zechariah’s prophecy God completely turns things upside down by saying that he will turn their fasting into feasting as the messianic day begins to dawn. Think about how these themes come up in the New Testament. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, it’s Pharisee who trusts in his own righteousness and pats himself on the back for fasting twice a week. But the tax collector, who knew he was spiritually bankrupt, ended up “going home justified.” Similarly, at the end of the parable of the prodigal son, it’s the elder brother, who is left standing outside in the vineyard, demanding his wages, while the younger brother, whose sins have been forgiven, is reunited with his father, and is wearing the best robe at a rich and wonderful feast.
The ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist can be contrasted along these lines as well. John’s ministry was one of preparation and fasting, whereas Jesus’ ministry was all about feasting. In Mt 11:16-19, Jesus says, “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
In John chapter 7, Jesus arrives at the Jerusalem Temple in the middle of an eight-day feast, which the Jews call Sukkoth, or the feast of booths. And as we mentioned in a previous post, this very festival was designed to commemorate God’s provision for his people during the wilderness wandering. God provided not only the freedom from Egyptian bondage, miraculous rescue, and atonement for sin, but he also provided live-giving water from the rock, along with bread from heaven in order to provide for the people’s temporal needs. All this is being commemorated during this feast which took place at the end of the seventh month. In other words, it’s a kind of annual Sabbath rest which the people are called to participate and rest in. It was designed not merely to look back at god’s provision for his people throughout Israel’s past, but it was also designed to look forward to God’s future deliverance, to the great messianic feast yet to come.
So Jesus is teaching in the temple during the final days of this festival, and on the last day of this feast he calls out saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (Jn 7:37-38). According to Jewish scholar and convert to the Christian faith, Alfred Edersheim, during the feast of booths, “while the morning sacrifice was being prepared, a priest, accompanied by a joyous procession with music, went down to the Pool of Siloam, whence he drew water into a golden pitcher…and returned [through the] ‘Water- gate,’ which obtained its name from this ceremony.” The priest would then ascend altar and pour the water into two silver basins. On the last day of the feast, “after the priest had returned from Siloam with his golden pitcher, and for the last time poured its contents to the base of the altar, the people sang the Hallel,” which was a composed of a selection of verses from Psalms 113 through 118. This Jewish prayer began with the words, “Adonai, please save us! Adonai, please prosper us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Again from Edershiem: “Just when the interest of the people had been raised to its highest pitch, that, from amidst the mass of worshippers who were waving towards the altar quite a forest of leafy branches as the last words of Psalm 118 were chanted—a voice was raised which resounded through the temple, startled the multitude, and carried fear and hatred to the hearts of their leaders. It was Jesus, who ‘stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.’”
Notice the response of the people. John writes that when the crowd “heard these words, some of them said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ” (Jn 7:40-41). In other words, what Jesus said was not merely received as general uplifting religious sentiment, but his words were particularly meaningful to this 1st century Jewish audience. When this crowd heard these words at this particular setting, many began to ask the question, is this the long awaited messiah? But of course, not everyone was convinced. According to John, some said, “But is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was? So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why did you not bring him?’” (Jn 7:42-45). You might have glossed over the word “officers” as I have over the past 30 years. But these particular men are actually the guards of the temple. In verse 46 these officers tell the Pharisees why they didn’t arrest Jesus saying, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees then replied, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed” (Jn 7:47-48). Here the Jewish leaders, likely the rulers of the Jewish Sanhedrin, are at odds with the crowd, and even with the officers of the temple itself. Something Jesus said during this holy festival struck a deep and rich messianic chord. And if, when you read this text, those same chords are not resonating within you, then you’re likely reading this like a Gentile, and not like a first century Jew would have received these words.
The crowd at least understood what Jesus did and said, and this caused a great controversy as many began to question, “How can this be?” But notice that they weren’t questioning whether Jesus was able to provide secrets of a highly effective marriage. They weren’t arguing whether Jesus was a good moral instructor. They were debating whether he was the divine messiah promised throughout the Old Testament. This was the question that got to the heart of the matter. It’s the question that Jesus asked his own disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” The questions we bring to the Bible are often trivial questions and trivial pursuits. But this is the really important and fundamental issue that gets to the heart of the book, indeed, to the very heart of life itself.
In 1Cor 10 Paul writes, saying “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (2-4). Recounting the events of the Exodus, Paul explains that God was the provider and protector of his people. He had sheltered them from the desert heat under the cloud, and brought them safely through the Red Sea unharmed. He fed them with the bread of heaven and gave them water to drink from the rock in the wilderness. Again, all of this rich history is what Sukkoth was commemorating. But then Paul says, and “that rock was Christ.” When we read this as Gentiles, admittedly, it all gets a little strange and bewildering. But in light of all that Jesus said and did in John chapter 7, I believe that all this begins to make a little more sense. Jesus was the rock in the same way that he was the lamb of God. Sacrificial lambs merely pointed toward the the ultimate sacrifice yet to come, and in the same way, the temporal water in the wilderness pointed to the ultimate life-giving sustenance that Jesus would provide for his people.
David proclaimed this same message in Ps. 36 saying, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God!,” he wrote, “The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (7-9). Is it any wonder then that Jesus came proclaiming himself the light of the world, the bread of life, the fount of living water? In Isaiah chapter 25 we are told of the great messianic feast to come. “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever” (6-8). Later in his prophecy, Isaiah again invites us to this great feast at the end of the ages saying, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (Is. 55:1-3). Think about how similar these passages are to the parable of the wedding feast, which Jesus relates in Mt 22. A king is celebrating a great feast in honor of his son, and sends his servants to invite everyone he can find on the highways, whether good and bad. Come, they were told, come to the wedding feast of the son of the great king, where you may eat your fill and drink well-aged wine, come and buy wine and milk without money or price.
Even now, Christ is inviting us to participate in this great feast at the end of the ages. Whether good or bad, rich or poor, we are invited to drink from the fountain of life, and to dine with him at the richest of all feasts, full of unimaginable splendor. It’s not offensive to come without any money, for this particular host is wealthy beyond all measure. The only offensive thing is to come offering to pay for your meal, as if we really could afford to be seated at this kind of table. Here we are invited to sit with princes and kings, to eat the finest food, and to drink the rarest of wines, all without cost. Yet thought it is free to us, it was not without cost to our host. For on one particular Friday, He paid the price of our admission. We drink the cup of blessing, of wine well refined, because he first drank the cup of God’s wrath on our behalf. In the last moments of his life, our savior cried out from the cross saying, “I thirst,” and he was given a sponge full of sour wine. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.”
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? Ah my dear,! I cannot look upon thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord, but I have marred them;
Let my shame Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
Love III, by George Herbert
In Richmond, Virginia, imposing Confederate statues mark the streets of a wealthy section of the city. Stately churches from the early twentieth century still stand tall, replete with beautiful pews and a balcony for others. A trip to the James River reminds visitors that this body of water provided transportation to the largest port on the east coast for enslaved Africans between 1830-1860. Christianity Today reports, “The history [in Richmond] is as thick as the air on a summer evening.”
As much as we may want to diagnose our society with amnesia for this era of history, we cannot. While enslaved Africans are not walking the corridors of our plantations as they did just 150 years ago, the effects of slavery and segregation work much like the Doppler effect. As the source of the sound is more remote, the sound becomes more faint—but it is still heard. We, in this nation, still hear and feel the effects of our sinful past. It may not be as apparent in the workplace nor in the community in which you live, but it is still extremely realized in the church.
According to Dr. Michael Emerson, sociologist at Rice University, only 7% of churches in the United States are multi-racial. Despite the growing diversity in both urban and suburban settings, our churches remain largely segregated. There are both historical and present circumstances for this phenomenon, yet it appears the Bible presents a different image of the church (Gen. 17:4; Jer. 31:31-34; Matt. 28:16-20; Acts 13:1-2; Eph. 2:11-22; Rev. 5:9-10). What, then, can bring us to a biblical image, in our present circumstances, of the church?
While there are many answers to the previously mentioned question, one of the foundational issues is the supernatural means of grace. Why supernatural? The adjective that is normally associated with the phrase “means of grace” is ordinary. In the Reformed or reforming community, we believe the Lord uses ordinary means to conform us more and more into the image of the Son. The preaching of the Word, the proper administration of the Sacraments, and prayer are the means the Triune God uses to further strengthen us in Christ (WSC 88). These means are ordinary, but we sometimes forget that they are also supernatural. God is miraculously and invisibly fulfilling his purposes in the lives of his people (John 4:21-24; Matt. 28:19-20; Col. 1:21-23; 3:11; 1 Thess. 4:3). If we are going to see the kind of multi-ethnic and cross-cultural tapestry that reflects the purpose and work of God for his church, God must act supernaturally.
Mere human effort will not produce the biblical picture of the church for which many long (Rev. 5:9-10). Bible studies, conferences, and even articles may help inform us of the need to see our churches represent the demographics of our communities, but this information is often forgotten just days after we learn it. Furthermore, mere human effort is not lasting. We Christians find too many reasons to divide. How we educate our children, which type of Lord’s Day music we prefer, dating versus courting, political allegiance, and a host of other issues draw clear lines of division in God’s church. It is easier, therefore, as Cephalus said to Socrates, to remain with those who are similar (Book I of The Republic by Plato).
Despite our educational choices and the person for whom we vote, the supernatural means of grace put us all on the same playing field. “For all have sinned,” the apostle Paul wrote, “and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Regardless of the debates we have in relation to the meaning of all in other places in the Bible, Paul’s meaning here is clear. All are guilty in Adam and have correspondingly sinned against their creator. All, therefore, require the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and righteousness that are solely found in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:6-11). The preaching of the holy Bible places these conscience-piercing facts before us. However, we are also comforted by the words of Scripture, as announced by the minister, that there is “therefore now no condemnation” in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Grace, mercy, forgiveness, and righteousness are not contained by our categories of ethnicity, cultural preferences, and tax brackets. The latter items segregate; the former unites.
The same is true of the Sacraments. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith 27.1, “Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace… to represent Christ, and his benefits; and… to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the church, and the rest of the world.” The separation that the Sacraments create is not within the church but between those inside the church and those outside. One might not expect that looking at the current landscape of Protestantism; nevertheless, the Confession is accurate. The Sacraments are intended to unite God’s people.
Prayer, which is another supernatural means of grace, also unifies. When you pray, you display your dependence upon the heavenly Father, you express humility by submitting to his commandments, and you demonstrate trust in God’s promise that when we pray according to his will he hears us and answers us (1 John 5:14-15).
Each of these supernatural means of grace are grounded in Jesus’ prayer in John 17, “The glory that you [Father] have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” The Lord prayed for a holy catholic church. Just prior to this petition, Jesus admitted that his prayer is even for those who have yet to believe. It was the Lord’s desire that all his people throughout the ages would be one as he is one with the Father.
The supernatural means of grace must be the bedrock of our churches, especially if we desire them to represent the demographics in our community. The latest church growth tactics will fail. Only the supernatural work of God can meet our common need for his mercy and grace—while not flattening our distinctions—and bring a people together from various ethnicities, cultures, educational backgrounds, and socio-economic standings.
Last February, therefore, I embarked on a journey to plant a cross-cultural, multi-ethnic church—in Richmond, Virginia—whose foundation is the supernatural means of grace. To date, we have been blessed with diversity ethnically, culturally, generationally, socio-economically, and politically. Although we know this road will be difficult, we also recognize our foundation—one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. These supernatural means draw us together at the foot of the cross, seeking mercy, forgiveness, and righteousness that is only found in Christ.
Leon Brown is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Crown and Joy Presbyterian Church will celebrate its first service on October 26, 2014. For more information, please contact the church at email@example.com.