White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Funny Church Signs

This one courtesy of @darinmstone: “That’s an awful name for a church!”

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Funny Church Signs 2

Saw this one on Twitter today (ht @rbj_ii)

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Funny Church Signs

We’re resurrecting an old category: funny church signs!

Here are a few good ones. Send in your submissions!



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Fire on the Mountain

This past week has been eventful. On Wednesday, I was returning from a trip out of state and as my plane landed, I saw plumes of smoke across San Diego County. One fire came within a few blocks of our home and Westminster Seminary California. My family, cat, and I left as quickly as we could, checking the news for the safest route and location to evacuate. Courageous firefighters put out the threatening blaze within an hour, so we returned home and stayed alert to the news.

Our hearts go out to those who lost their homes and who are still displaced. Nevertheless, like most preachers, I saw in the event a good sermon illustration.

God’s “two words” of command and promise are evidence of his love for us. His law is like the news reports informing our family that the routes we thought first of taking were closed to us because of fires. It’s always hazardous to flee “home base” with so many fires around. You can literally leap from the frying pan into the fire.

Our first response to God’s law is to flee, but we look for safe routes apart from the gospel. Ironically, we flee to some version of the law: observant Jews to Torah and Gentiles to the law written on their conscience. Nevertheless, both fail. There is no passable route.

The righteousness of God, it turns out, is not a safe haven. That’s Paul’s argument in Romans 1-3, concluding in 3:20, “Therefore, no one will be justified by the works of the law, since by the law we become conscious of sin.” The law simply reports the dangerous news. It reveals God’s essential righteousness, by which he must condemn us all, Jew and Gentile alike.

Then the good news: “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction (Rom 3:21-22). Apart from Christ, the righteousness of God terrifies us, but the righteousness from God—the gift of justification—is the best news in the world. “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (Rom 11:32).

The law reveals God’s just sentence and the gospel reveals the same God as “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ” (Rom 3:26). God’s law sends everyone fleeing, but only his gospel announces the safe haven. As it turns out, that safe haven is home, but it is Christ who has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame.

And now the law does something else. It not only announces the threat; it guides us in safety.  There are still “dangers, toils, and snares.” After we fled our San Diego fire, we were glued to our TV set for ongoing reports of danger. We were also reminded to prepare for loss of power and to stock up on water and provisions. Instead of announcing a threat, these reports gave us important information. It was still different from good news (“The fire is out!”), but it was also different from pure threat (“Evacuate!”).

To change the illustration, we are no longer “under the law” in terms of its judgment. Our relation to the law has changed, because we’ve been relocated from Adam to Christ. And now we hear God’s law not from the mountain that burns with fire, but from Mount Zion, the safe haven where no flame can reach because Christ has extinguished it for us. In Christ, we discover a Father instead of a Judge. It’s the love of God that tells us to flee, and it’s the love of God that keeps us informed on what we need to do. Even correction is the discipline of a Father who loves us too much to leave us to ourselves.

From this safe place, we can hear the law as the good and wise commands of a Father instead of the sentence of a judge.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest…. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect…. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:18, 22-23, 28-29).

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Dropouts and Disciples

Ed Stetzer expands on his recent Modern Reformation article in Christianity Today. Here’s a preview:

LifeWay Research data shows that about 70% of young adults who indicated they attended church regularly for at least one year in high school do, in fact, drop out—but don’t miss the details. Of those who left, almost two-thirds return and currently attend church (in the timeframe of our study). Also, that dropout rate is from all Protestant churches—evangelical and mainline.

Read the rest here.

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The “Jesus’ Wife” Fragment Is a Hoax

When it comes to Jesus, the gullibility of the religious academy and its media know no bounds.

This past Easter, the U.S. media buzzed with excitement over the announcement of an ancient Coptic (Egyptian) papyrus fragment with the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife….’” One more footnote for the story of how a powerful ecclesiastical elite suppressed the diversity of Christian voices and made its own variation “orthodoxy.”

Harvard Divinity School has long been a place where “alternative Christianities”—especially Gnosticism—are defended with “fundamentalist” zeal. Karen L. King, Hollis Professor of Divinity, has been a distinguished evangelist for this “other Christianity.” Properly skeptical journalists might have paused before rushing to the keyboards and cameras. Not with this story. I saw headlines with words like “Certain,” “Confident,” and “Proved.” No question about it: the fragment is authentic and demonstrates that Jesus had a wife, the public was assured.

The New York Times ran with it, although with slight reserve: “…More Likely Ancient Than Fake.”  This story included the doubts of Leo Depuydt, Egyptologist at Brown University, who said that the forgery was so obvious that it “seems ripe for a Monty Python sketch.” Nevertheless, the Harvard Divinity School press team was burning the midnight oil to stir popular interest for a salacious religion story on the verge of Easter.

“Too convenient for some,” the Times article added, the fragment “also contained the words, ‘She will be able to be my disciple,’ a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests.” There wasn’t any supporting example of inflamed debate in churches over Easter weekend, but I suspect that an example wasn’t needed. For a culture—and especially a liberal academy—that is more inclined to believe ancient Gnostics and Dan Brown than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, even if there isn’t an inflamed debate in the churches, there should be.

Well, none of this matters now, because the fragment has been proved a forgery. On April 24, Coptic scholar Christian Askeland demonstrated that it was “a match for a papyrus fragment that is clearly a forgery.”
On May 2, the Wall Street Journal reported “How the ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Hoax Fell Apart.”  I’m waiting to see the media frenzy over this one—especially since it’s far more conclusive than the press releases of Harvard Divinity School. But I’m not holding my breath.

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Heavenly Days

“Heaven Is For Real,” a movie about a child’s visit to heaven, reportedly grossed $21.5 million at its opening this past Easter weekend. A spate of similar books regularly climb to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List. Judging by the continuing popularity of Jesus Calling (America’s #1 devotional), the nation—and especially evangelical publishers and readers—are craving revelation about the things that matter most. Yet it’s revelation apart from—or at least beyond—the Word of God.

How do we know that God exists and heaven is for real? The apostles answer with one voice: “We heard, saw, and touched him with our hands… and he is risen!”  It’s amazing that at the time when Christians celebrate Christ’s bodily resurrection as “the first-fruits of those who sleep,” a completely different gospel, with entirely different sources of “revelation,” is broadcast in the name of Christ.

When it comes to heaven, particularly to the presence of the Triune God who makes it “heaven” in the first place, are we playing with fire?

Remarkably, one of the best critiques of this genre I’ve come across is a post on the CNN website. It’s by Drew Dyck, editor of Leadership Journal.  “Yes, the Bible teaches that heaven is a place of ultimate comfort, with ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:4),” he notes.  “But it is also a place where the reality of God’s unbridled majesty reigns supreme and that’s scary.”  He adds, “We can’t truly appreciate God’s grace until we glimpse his greatness. We won’t be lifted by his love until we’re humbled by his holiness.” In conclusion, he states, “The affection of a cosmic buddy is one thing. But the love of the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who Isaiah says ‘dwells in unapproachable light,’ means something else entirely.”

Another very helpful resource is a video by David Platt.  After pointing to the problem in pop culture over “trips to heaven,” Pastor Platt offers wise biblical counsel for “discerning the spirits.” And isn’t the safest ground to stay close to the words of the one who said, “No one has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father… I am the bread of life” (John 6:46, 48)?

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Michael Horton at PCRT 2014

On May 2-4, 2014, Michael Horton will join Phillip Johnson, Richard Phillips, and Derek Thomas at the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology. This year, the conference will be hosted by Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Now in its 41st year, the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology played an important role in the birth of White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation. When Dr. Horton was 13 years old, he convinced his parents (then living in California) to take him to the PCRT where he met and had lunch with James Montgomery Boice. That newly formed friendship developed into a full-fledged partnership in helping the church rediscover the solas of the Reformation.

Dr. Horton will give two plenary addresses on Saturday, May 3rd. The first session is titled, The Uncorrupted Gospel. The second session is titled, Evangelism and the Holiness of God. He will also give a seminar on Saturday afternoon titled, Ordinary Holiness: Ephesians 4:1-16.

This year, the PCRT conference takes up the theme, “Profaning the Sacred: The Beauty and Holiness of the Bride of Christ.” Here’s the conference description:

In the Old Testament, we often read of the sacred vessels of the temple being taken away for the service of idolatry. The profaning of God’s sacred things symbolized the turning of Israel to false gods. Even worse were those occasions when idols were brought into God’s house, showing that Israel had forgotten the holy obligations of Scripture. The New Testament sees God’s people going out into the world with the Gospel, making holy those who were lost in sin. Yet the danger of secularizing the sacred remains. Often in the name of evangelism, worldly influences may corrupt the holy things of worship, ministry, and Christian living. When this happens, the church loses relevancy in the culture and, as the Bible so frequently shows, true spiritual power for the cause of salvation is lost, even when there may be great numbers of people and other worldly indicators of success.

With this in mind, the 2014 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology will consider the holiness of the Christian church, together with its worship, ministry, and life. There are several reasons for this topic. First, is the perennial need of God’s people to protect God’s holy things from worldly corruption. This need is particularly great today when so many professing Christians and churches are adopting the ways of the world to do the work of God. God calls Christians, pastors, and churches to be holy, and this means that we must not allow his holy things to be profaned. This raises important questions for us to answer: how does a zeal for evangelism often mask the importing of worldly influences? What constitutes genuinely holy worship? Does zeal for holiness involve legalism or is it a true mark of God’s grace?

You can register for the conference here.

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Changes at White Horse Inn

For the past year, the senior staff and the Board of Directors at White Horse Inn have discussed how we can continue to serve the churches of Jesus Christ around the world. We have held numerous workshops and meetings over the past year.  We have solicited much input and advice as we consider the many opportunities before us. 

Many voices, including our own WHI Board of Directors, have challenged us to consider how we might more effectively encourage believers and pastors in the local church, particularly overseas.  For almost 25 years WHI has encouraged believers with biblical truth drawn from the confessional streams of the Reformation—Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian and Reformed—to help all of us know what we believe and why we believe it.  How should we steward these resources to be the most useful in the years ahead?

As we blogged earlier this year, White Horse Inn president Mark Green traveled to meet with pastors and academic leaders in South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe about how WHI could be more helpful to them and their congregations in the future.  This dream of WHI expanding overseas is happening!  Michael Horton is a respected scholar overseas and all parties are excited to explore how Dr. Horton might be able to visit and encourage those who serve the local church in both the seminary and pastorate.  We were able to leave WHI materials in six countries and promised to review future possibilities.  We are most excited about India and a few select countries in the Middle East and Africa. 

In the midst of these discussions one of our long-time hosts of White Horse Inn, Rev. Ken Jones, told us he would be resigning.  We’re so grateful for the many years he has joined Mike, Kim, and Rod.  WHI won’t be the same without him and we wish him all God’s blessings as he devotes more time to his church and his future ministry projects.  Rod Rosenbladt and Kim Riddlebarger will continue to serve with Mike Horton as the core of our White Horse Inn roundtable discussions. The White Horse Inn hosts will invite other respected voices into the studio, focusing on the following areas over the next year:

Youth Ministry:  Keeping Our Kids              May – June
Faith & Mental Illness                                     July – August
Hospitality                                                        September – October
Do We All Worship the Same God?              November – December
The Book of Hebrews                                      January – February
The Holy Spirit                                                 March – April

You may have noticed that we now align our White Horse Inn programs and our magazine, Modern Reformation, to talk about the same topic at the same time.   Our Study Kits follow the same theme and are available at the beginning of each of our series.  So now you can listen, read, and study the same topics to help you know what you believe and why you believe it!

We are also exploring new program ideas, new media platforms and new international events to expand the work of the past 25 years and build the foundation for the next 25 years.

Will you pray for us for us during these wonderful growing pains so that we can expand our service to you and others like you?  Continue to send us those letters and emails about how you have been encouraged through our work here at White Horse Inn.  We love to hear from you and we read each and every letter.  Stay tuned as we share with you some of our new plans and ideas.  Thank you for your support!

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Calvin on the Christian Life

Calvin on the Christian Life“Be warned. This looks like a book on how Calvin thought about living the Christian life. But open it and you will discover that Mike Horton is driving you on a grand Calvin tour of the whole of theology. And that, of course, is Professor Horton’s (and John Calvin’s) point: it takes the whole biblical gospel to make a whole Christian life. By employing the classical formulation of the two natures of Christ (‘distinct but not separate’), Dr. Horton provides readers with a key to help unlock Calvin’s teaching. But more than that, he shows why the Genevan Reformer’s vision of the Christian life remains unsurpassed. Thoroughly satisfying, thoroughly enjoyable, and thoroughly recommended.”Sinclair B. Ferguson

“Learned and lucid, masterfully organized, and vigorously expressed, this full, solid, and exact study of Geneva’s reforming pastor is an outstanding piece of work. In all four sections Calvin comes to vigorous life. Calvin’s reputation for godly wisdom, and Horton’s for vivid writing, will certainly be enhanced.”—J. I. Packer

Michael Horton’s newest book, Calvin on the Christian Life, is now available. But before you read the excerpt that Crossway has made available (and while you wait for the Amazon drone to drop it off at your house), take a moment to read about Dr. Horton’s very personal engagement with John Calvin’s theology of the Christian life:

Most people who think of Calvin think of him as a (grumpy?) theologian who cares more about what you think about God than how you live in relation to God. Is that wrong?

It’s wrong.  You just have to open the Institutes to the first page to see that he thinks of our knowledge of God and of ourselves as inseparably intertwined.  His commentaries, sermons, and private letters show a man who was obsessed with God’s Word and its saving and edifying impact in every area of life.  Grumpy?  No.  Sick?  Yes, all the time.  He had several illnesses that plagued him, any one of which could have been fatal.  Yet he used his own suffering to help other sufferers.  For Calvin, “piety” was the word.  Today, piety is associated often with life as opposed to doctrine.  But for Calvin piety encompassed doctrine and life.  It was all of one piece.  You can’t live “the Christian life” without knowing the God who has revealed himself in Christ as he is clothed in his gospel.  And there’s no point in knowing the doctrine if it “merely flutters about in the brain,” as he put it himself.

You’ve studied Calvin and the Reformation for years, what surprised you most as you researched this book?

I’ve studied Calvin mainly as a student learning from a professor.  For this book, though, I pored over his letters and first-hand accounts of his friends and enemies.  I came to know him more as a fellow human being who frankly faces his sins and weaknesses because he has an all-sufficient Savior.  His warmth, humility, and love not only for God but for other people struck me again and again.  Calvin loathed talking about himself, but I think I was able to find enough material to reveal something of the man as well as his message.

Did Calvin advocate for a particular kind of spiritual life that we can emulate in our modern world?

Yes.  I think in especially two ways he stood over against a medieval piety that in many ways resembles contemporary evangelicalism.  First, he’s convinced that the arrow of activity points down, from God to us.   Like Luther, he emphasized over against the medieval model that God descends to us because we cannot rise to him.  Knowing God is really knowing God in Christ “as he is clothed in the gospel.”  That means that all good gifts come down to us from God and then out, through us, to the world.  We don’t bring our good works to God, but to our neighbor.  Therefore, the source of the Christian life is the gospel as it’s proclaimed and ratified in baptism and the Supper.  Second, and because of this first point, the Christian life moves from the public to the private rather than vice versa.  “If I can just get away from the world, family life, and my worldly job, I can finally focus on my sanctification.”  No, Calvin says, it’s precisely in marriage, family life, fellowship with believers, and engaging in daily callings that God shows us our warts and drives us to Christ for both justification and sanctification.   The public service shapes our private disciplines.  So even when we’re by ourselves, our meditation on Scripture is shaped by the church’s public confession and we pray with and for the whole church.  In short, Calvin emphasizes an extroverted piety: looking outside of ourselves to Christ in faith and to our brothers and sisters as well as our neighbors in love.  In his view, our relationship with Christ is always personal, but never private.  I might also add his emphasis on the Spirit.  His writings are suffused with Trinitarian thinking, and he had a rich understanding of and appreciation for the Spirit’s person and work.

What’s the relationship between spiritual habits or practices/disciplines and the Christian life?

It’s interesting that whenever Calvin recommends daily habits, he typically adds, “Not that this should be done superstitiously, as if to place God in our debt.”  As I said above, Calvin talks a lot more about public disciplines than private disciplines.  Yet what actually happened was that those were shaped by the common worship of the church carried Christ and his benefits with them in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces.  They sang Psalms out in the field, would stop to pray with a neighbor whose child was sick, and witnessed the gospel freely to unbelievers.  There was daily Bible reading, prayer, and catechism in the home.  In all these ways, there was a seamless transition from Sunday to Monday.

Did your understanding of or practice of the Christian life change in any way through writing this book?

Yes, especially with respect to prayer.  Calvin wrote a lot about prayer. In fact, his treatment of prayer in the Institutes is far longer than his discussion of election.  What particularly struck me was how much God’s fatherhood in Christ dominated his piety.  We crawl up into our Father’s lap when we pray and “give him knots that we cannot untie.”  There are myriad expressions like that that I draw upon, especially from his Psalms commentary.  He also talks about praying not only in Christ as our mediator, but with Christ.  He prays with us and his Spirit prays within us.  We can even “remind” God of his own promises, claiming the covenant as the basis for bold requests that accord with his revealed Word.  I keep coming back to these points and, when I do, find myself wanting to pray.

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