White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Incarnational Ministry

J. Todd Billings, who wrote an appreciative critique of the idea of incarnational ministry for our March/April 2009 issue, has recently given a lecture on the same at Fuller Seminary and Westmont College.

For more, see this article and podcast from Fuller and this video and podcast (number 23) from Westmont.

Update – 10.25.11: Prof. Billings discusses his assessment of incarnational ministry further in the September/October 2011 issue of Modern Reformation.

Biting The Hand That Feeds Us?

Comedic web blog, Cracked.com, posted an interesting piece on the limitations of web for religion.

It’s safe to say that God doesn’t live on the Internet. Where cathedrals, temples, and houses of worship succeed in providing the sensation that God might feasibly hang out there, websites fail miserably. The translation from stone and stained glass to ones and zeros is clumsy at best, partially because so many of the websites are built by volunteer designers and partially because those designers insist on building websites as though no website has ever existed in the history of the Internet. To their credit, most of them seem to grasp importance of holding on to the short attention spans of accidental visitors, but they don’t have a really solid plan for applying that information.

At a time when some evangelical leaders are talking about ditching the local church altogether in favor of on-line spirituality, it’s refreshing.  Ironically, it’s people like Sherry Turkle, a professor at no less than MIT, who warn about how the Internet is changing the way we exist as human beings—even throwing out the term “Gnostic.”  By contrast, in The New Christians, Emergent leader Tony Jones relates how his best friend is an “uber-blogger” he’s never actually met in person.

Some Christians surf the net not only for vitamin supplements but for their meals.  All of this makes sense in an evangelicalism that is already disposed toward treating the physical aspects of reality as merely “external” (like a coat you can put on or take off) in contrast to the inner realm of the Spirit.  But as Christians we believe that the Word became flesh.  We aren’t looking for out-of-body experiences, but for the God who still descends to us, binding us to his Son through such mundane matter as preaching, water, bread and wine. And like these means of grace, the communion of saints is also a tangible, earthly, embodied reality.  They are my brothers and sisters: not ideas, resources, or bloggers. It’s a family dinner, not a drive-thru meal.

But does that mean that there’s no place for the web?  Not at all, as long as we know its limits.  I’m glad there are highways when I want to get downtown, but I don’t take Sunday strolls along it.

Imagine concentric circles.  At the widest, you have the rapid exchange of ideas and information.  Of course, there’s nothing better than the Internet for that one.  I often go to Wikipedia for quick data on a person or date in history, but I’d never allow my students to cite Wikipedia as a source in their research papers.  That’s because a research paper is more than information.  The next ring in on my concentric circles is for informal get-togethers with brothers and sisters in Christ, including conferences.  But the bulls-eye is the Lord’s Day gathering of the covenant family, beneath the pulpit, at the font, and at the table.

All of this reminds me of that stanza in T. S. Eliot’s “The Rock”: “Where is all the wisdom we have lost in knowledge and all the knowledge we have lost in information?”  Information is good.  Resources can set us on a wonderfully new track.  But what we’ll always need most—in spiritual as well as domestic terms—is a good bath, a good meal, and a good word from our Father, in his Son, by his Spirit.  Nothing beats that.

[Correction: the title of Tony Jones' book in this post was corrected at 11:30 a.m. on March 9th]

WHI-1039 | Discipleship in an Age of Mission Creep

Take a visit to your local Christian bookstore and you’ll likely find numerous books on discipleship that encourage spiritual disciplines such as journaling, solitude, silence, or fasting. You’re also likely to find books that focus on discipleship at home, or work, in financial decision making, or in the area of personal relationships. But you will probably be hard-pressed to find books on becoming a disciple through learning the Christian faith in all of its dramatic and doctrinal splendor. What are the keys of effective disciple making? That’s the focus of this edition of White Horse Inn.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Life Together
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Pearl of Christian Comfort
Petrus Dathenus
Communion with God
John Owen
The Gospel Sonnets
Ralph Erskine

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

David Hlebo

The Bandwagon of My Own Uncertainty

Continuing on with the preaching theme this week, here is a great YouTube clip featuring Taylor Mali from Def Poetry Season 2 on our being “the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along since, you know, a long time ago!”

Sadly, the “tragically cool and totally hip interogative tone” that he mocks here occupies too many of our pulpits and public speech about God.

(ht Jason Stellman’s Creed, Code, Cult)

The Sermon and the Academy Award

UPDATE: Another great meditation on the connection between The King’s Speech and the act of preaching from our friend William Willimon over at The Christian Century. What a gift Willimon is!

An interesting reflection from the Lutheran Church of Canada (ht Gene Veith’s Cranach Blog) on how the Academy Award winning motion picture The King’s Speech parallels the Ministry of the Word.

As is often the case, Martin Luther explains it best: “If we hold the Word of God in high regard, then we would be glad to go to church, to listen to the sermon and to pay attention. But if you look more at the pastor than at God; if you do not see God’s person but merely gape to see whether the pastor is learned and skilled, whether the pastor has good diction, then you do not have eyes to see the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb…. For a poor speaker may speak the Word of God just as well as he who is endowed with eloquence.” Of course, this recognition does not excuse pastors from their duty to become better preachers, trained in the art of rhetoric and public speaking. But Luther does well to remind us where a congregation’s focus should be in the midst of preaching: on God and not the pastor.

God speaks to us through pastors. “Would to God,” Luther writes, “that we could gradually train our hearts to believe that the preacher’s words are God’s Word and that the man addressing us is a scholar and a king.” For it truly is the “King’s speech” a pastor is trying to communicate. And we, clergy and laypeople alike, must listen attentively to hear what He says.

Read more.

Keller on Hell

In light of the recent controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s recent book on hell, The Gospel Coalition has posted a nice article from Tim Keller on the importance of hell. The conclusion is outstanding:

The doctrine of hell is crucial-without it we can’t understand our complete dependence on God, the character and danger of even the smallest sins, and the true scope of the costly love of Jesus. Nevertheless, it is possible to stress the doctrine of hell in unwise ways. Many, for fear of doctrinal compromise, want to put all the emphasis on God’s active judgment, and none on the self-chosen character of hell. Ironically, as we have seen, this unBiblical imbalance often makes it less of a deterrent to non-believers rather than more of one. And some can preach hell in such a way that people reform their lives only out of a self-interested fear of avoiding consequences, not out of love and loyalty to the one who embraced and experienced hell in our place. The distinction between those two motives is all-important. The first creates a moralist, the second a born-again believer.

We must come to grips with the fact that Jesus said more about hell than Daniel, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter put together. Before we dismiss this, we have to realize we are saying to Jesus, the pre-eminent teacher of love and grace in history, “I am less barbaric than you, Jesus–I am more compassionate and wiser than you.” Surely that should give us pause! Indeed, upon reflection, it is because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus’ proclamations of grace and love are so astounding.

Read the rest here.

New Video From Ken Jones

Did you miss Ken at the CrossLife Conference with Steve Camp in south Florida? The video of his session, “Who do men say that I am?” is now online!

Video streaming by Ustream

WHI-1038 | Lost Tools of Discipleship

Jesus tells his followers to “make disciples of all nations.” But what does it mean to become a disciple, and what are today’s churches doing to fulfill this mission? Is this something for new converts only, or is it something we all participate in and pass on to our children? On this edition of White Horse Inn, the hosts will interact with these question and more as they discuss “The Lost Tools of discipleship.”

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Gospel Commission
Michael Horton
Letters to a Diminished Church
Dorothy Sayers
Creed or Chaos
Dorothy Sayers

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

David Hlebo

Sacrificing the Sacred Cows of Evangelicalism

Our friend, Tullian Tchividjian, has a follow-up post to his great article last week, “Why I Hate Accountability Groups.” In it he quotes Mike Horton’s article, “Does Justification Still Matter?” (Modern Reformation Sep/Oct 2007). As you read both Tullian’s post and Mike’s article, ask yourself when was the last time that “doctrine” played a significant role in understanding your life in Christ? When was the last time your sanctification was grounded in the work of Christ for you rather than your work for Jesus? People often ask me exactly how Reformational theology is different from what they might hear in a run of the mill evangelical church. The difference is clearly displayed whenever we consider who we are in Christ as the foundation for what we do, how we behave, and how we deal with the sin that still remains within us.

Not Lost in Translation–Amen!

This year the White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation are going through “The Great Commission” and its implications for the church’s mission in the world. The upcoming March / April 2011 issue is titled “For You, Your Children… and All Who are Far Off.” Throughout the past few centuries there have been missionaries going to many remote places in the world bringing the Gospel to every “tribe, tongue, and people.” Quite often these men and women take the time to learn the language of the peoples and do the hard work of translating the Old and/or New Testament into their own language.

Lest we forget, all of our modern translations were at one time handed over to our forefathers in the faith and I am sure there was much praise and rejoicing. With the passing of time and the availability of the Bible to Western Christians we take for granted the blessing it is to have God’s Word in our own language.

As a reminder of this blessing take a look at this video that documents the delivery of the New Testament to the Kimyal people of Indonesia. To God be the glory for the good things he has done!

“’I will keep you and make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.’ Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands” (Isaiah 42:7, 12).

The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament from UFM Worldwide on Vimeo.

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