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October 2008

October 31, 2008

Today is Reformation Day—the 491st anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Schlosskirke. That small act triggered a series of events that forever changed the world. It stands as one of the most important events in all of history—though an event that has been largely forgotten. Today we remember that day and express our gratitude to God for raising up men such as Martin Luther.

I have invited other bloggers to post their own reflections on this day and I am collecting them here in this symposium. If you would like to add your own, simply send me an email or add a comment and I’ll add your contribution to the list.


3:00 PM (and Final) Update

This is the last batch I’ll be posting. Feel free to keep adding new ones in the comments section.

Dave Bish reflects on the book of Genesis.

Church Ethos wishes Happy Halloween to Martin Luther.

Per Caliginem writes about sola scriptura and the Reformed confessions.

Renewing Minds covers Luther’s theology of the cross.

Monergism Books announces the release of a new five solas sweatshirt.

Nick Bogardus says, “If one wanted an image of what obedience in Christianity looked like, we might simply say, ‘A hammer and nails.’”

Ray Van Neste writes about two chapel messages delivered this week at Union University.

Word Pictures discusses “Reformation and Election … but not the kind you’re thinking.”

Stephen Lay uses that great Reformation phrase “After darkness light.”

Barry Wallace writes about reformation with a little r.

The Spyglass offers “Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei “


12:00 PM Update

Th’eternal Promise offers a three-part article on Christianity vs Calvinism.

Ron Man in his worship notes (PDF) says that Reformation Sunday is not just for Lutherans.

Gairney Bridge writes about the audacity of the pope.

Justin Pearson says that the Reformation continues, even in 2008.

James Grant looks at “The Beginnings of the Reformed Tradition: Calvin, Bucer, Vermigli, & Bullinger.”

Dispatches from the Valley of the Shadow of Death shares his Reformation Day address.

Ray Rhodes writes about Luther and prayer.

Stay, Stay at Home My Heart shares her idea for a Reformation Day party.


10:18 AM Update

Martin Downes offers a Reformation Day challenge.

Then Face to Face images a world without Luther.

Jared Wilson offers five solas for evangelicalism today.

Strengthened by Grace celebrates with a look at solus christus.

Boaly asks for ideas for celebrating Reformation Day.

Listening to the Wind reflects on what God has done for us.

Relentless Grace writes about a love for reformational theology.

The Merrie Theologian takes a light-hearted look at a few of Luther’s lesser-known resolutions.


Daniel Hames writes about “the dangerous thing about faith.”

Stephen Macasil gives “Analysis of John Knox’s Argument That the RC Mass is Idolatry Before the Bishop of Durham (1550).”

Rebecca Stark says that the Reformation was all about the gospel.

A Second Reformation writes, “Here in Québec city we are celebrating the 20th bay of the Église réformée du Québec (The Reformed Church of Québec)this year and tomorrow my little local church is hosting a big party for the entire province.”

SynerJACK writes about Roger Williams, the American Reformer and looks at one of the many social extensions of the Reformation.

Gospel Centered Musings compares Rob Bell to the Wild Boar.

D.J. Williams warns against the temptation to take our Bibles for granted.

Darryl Dash follows Luther in saying “the whole life of believers should be repentance.”

Doug Smith looks at the implications of sola scriptura in planning worship services.

Detours and Devotions thanks God for continued reformation.

Nephos takes a brief look at the story of James Guthrie, a Reformation martyr.

Boston Bible Geeks looks at the Reformation’s impact on the Bible.

Ligonier Ministries looks to some of the Reformation heroes.

Crossway Life has written a whole series on the Reformation solas.

168 Hours offers a profile of the Huguenot Marie Durand.

Writings of a Woman offers a few of her thoughts on Reformation Day.


I thought today would be a good day to make you aware of a new book designed to help you celebrate the Reformation Season. From Ray Rhodes and Solid Ground Christian Books comes Family Worship for the Reformation Season. It offers daily Scriptures, reflections and activities that can be done in the days leading up to Reformation Day (or any other time).

Ligon Duncan says, “Imagine, leading your family in daily worship in the home, reading the Scriptures, singing and praying, but simultaneously introducing them to the history, leading figures and theology of the great sixteenth-century Reformation - all this in a fresh and interesting way, in just about a quarter of an hour each day. ‘That would be great,’ you say, ‘but it would take me hours and days to put that together. I could never do it.’ Well, Ray Rhodes has done it for you in Family Worship for the Reformation Season. Use this book with joy. It will inspire, inform and instruct you and your family. The studies are simple but meaty. The Scriptures passages are helpfully chosen. And most of the lessons can be completed in fifteen minutes. Employ and be edified!”

October 31, 2008
Deal of the Day: Amazon’s Kindle
Just in case you missed it last weekend, you’ve got until tomorrow to get $50 off Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. Click for the details.
Give your Pastor the WORLD
WORLD magazine is offering a special to pastors. “To help your work in ministry, thoughtful donors have made it possible for us to offer you 6 full months of WORLD Magazine absolutely free.”
Richard Dawkins and Harry Potter
“Harry Potter has become the latest target for Professor Richard Dawkins who is planning to find out whether tales of witchdraft and wizardy have a negative effect on children. ”
Christian Science Monitor goes Online-Only
“In 2009, the Monitor will become the first nationally circulated newspaper to replace its daily print edition with its website.”
Northampton Press Titles for Cheap
Don Kistler’s Northampton Press is offering it’s five titles at a steep discount if purchased together. Click on Catalog and then look for the holiday package.
October 30, 2008

The Prodigal God by Tim KellerAfter the publication of The Reason for God, Newsweek hailed Tim Keller as “a C.S. Lewis for the twenty-first century.” That is a lofty comparison and one I’m sure must make Keller quite uncomfortable. Yet at some level the comparisons are becoming undeniable. Keller’s ability to communicate to believers and unbelievers alike and to do so on an intellectual level clearly parallels that of Lewis. Where Keller’s first book offered an explanation as to why we should believe in God, his second, The Prodigal God, focuses on Jesus’ best-known parable (and arguably the best-known and most-loved story of all-time) to challenge both believers and skeptics.

October 30, 2008
Deal of the Day: Reformation Heroes
Reformation Heroes Here’s a new feature for A La Carte—the deal of the day. I’ll be working with a variety of retailers to try to work out some special deals for the readers of this site. Today Reformation Heritage Books is offering the excellent illustrated children’s book Reformation Heroes for a mere $15.17.
Fireproof vs. Religulous
This blog compares the numbers for Fireproof and Religulous. “On their respective opening weekends (one week apart), the barely advertised Fireproof earned $6.8 million while the highly advertised Religulous earned only $3.4 million. As of the date of this post the numbers are $23.6MM vs $10.6MM. And let’s not even get into the profit margin side of things. Fireproof had an ROI of $46 for every dollar spent while Religulous earned $4 for every dollar (probably less, if marketing is considered).”
Pray for Liam
Our friends Kim and Jason have been a model of faith in the days leading up to their young son’s brain surgery. I’d encourage you to read through some of Kim’s blog posts and to pray for Liam next week.
Apple, Google, Gay Marriage
A strange article to find in a mainstream magazine: “Ever since the T-Mobile G1 launch, Apple and Google have gotten into bed together to bring more Google features to the iPhone. The tech titans are also collaborating on pushing for equality of same-sex marriages.”
Pastor Appreciation
Matthias Media would like to offer your pastor a free 6-month subscription to their magazine The Briefing. Click for details!
John Piper on Justification
Here is an interview with John Piper on the subject of justification.
Worldliness for Free
You can get a free copy of C.J. Mahaney’s Worldliness for your pastor.
October 30, 2008

Today we are supposed to continue with our reading of Jonathan Edwards’ The Religious Affections. Unfortunately my week was such that I did not manage to get through the whole reading. Thus I am going to defer this until Saturday. I do apologize. However, if you have read the chapter and have something to say about it, please do so in the comments. I’ll update this on Saturday.

October 29, 2008

Last week I spent an evening reading Rick Warren’s soon-to-be-published book The Purpose of Christmas. It is a mostly-original work that, while it draws heavily from The Purpose Driven Life is at least not entirely derived from it. An evangelistic gift book, it is meant to be given as a Christmas gift. I have written a review of it that I will post a little closer to the release date. For now, though, I wanted to deal with one of the statements inside it. It’s one I’ve seen Warren write in the past and one that always bothers me. Here it is. “[T]he baby born in Bethlehem did not stay a baby. Jesus grew to manhood, modeled for us the kind of life that pleases God, taught us the truth, paid for every sin we commit by dying on a cross, then proved he was God and could save us by coming back to life. This is the Good News. When the Romans nailed Jesus to a cross, they stretched his arms as wide as they could. With his arms wide open, Jesus was physically demonstrating, “I love you this much! I love you so much it hurts! I’d rather die than live without you!” The next time you see a picture or statue of Jesus with outstretched arms on the cross, remember, he is saying ‘I love you this much!’”

Now clearly it is true that Jesus died as an expression of his love for his people. The Bible tells us as much and it tells us so repeatedly. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus’ death was as great an expression of love to us as he could offer and it was far greater than anything you or I could offer. I might die for a friend, but I could not suffer the Father’s wrath on his behalf. Jesus, though, died and faced the Father’s wrath so that I would not need to. There is no greater imaginable act of love than that. I would never wish to minimize the love of the Son for his people.

But when that is all there is to the Lord’s death, we miss a critical element. When we go no further and see ourselves as the ultimate object of Jesus’ love, we raise ourselves far too high. We may inadvertently make Jesus’ death a kind of idolatry.

Before he was raised on that cross, Jesus had been asked for his view on which was the most important of the commandments. He did not hesitate for a moment, but answered “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). Love for one another comes only second to love for God. If we do not first love and treasure God, we cannot properly or fully love our neighbors. If we do not first love and treasure God, we make every other kind of love into a form of idolatry—we raise them higher than God in our hearts.

So what we miss in the “I love you this much” story of the cross is that Jesus’ death was not primarily an expression of love for us, but for his Father. It had to be this way. Jesus greatest love is not for us, but for his Father. His sacrificial death was not first for us, but first for his Father, so that he might ransom those whom his Father loved. Though there is no doubt that the cross is an expression of love for us, it is first an expression of love for the Father and an expression of obedience to the Father. There is abundant proof for this in Scripture. Jesus said, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31). So that the world may know I love you? No, so that the world may know I love the Father. It was this love and obedience that sustained Jesus, even on the cross. Early in his ministry he had said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Addressing his disciples shortly before his death, Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10). The Apostle Paul says the same: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). In all these things, and especially in his obedience, Jesus expressed a heartfelt love to his Father.

Bruce Ware says “If Christ’s obedience to the Father was the truest and necessary expression of the reality of his love for the Father, then the severity of what was asked of him and his willingness to obey at a cost beyond human comprehension indicate a love that is so great, so pure, so deep, and so passionate, that we can only grasp in miniscule part what this truest of all loves really is. But this much we can know: such love would never, could never, be love were it not for costly obedience. This is the hallmark of Jesus’ love for the Father.”

So does Jesus love us “this much?” Of course he does. He loves us enough to take our sin upon himself and to face the father’s infinite wrath. Jesus could never have made his love more plain than this. But more foundational to this is Jesus’ love for the Father. The cross was Jesus’ ultimate expression of love to his Father.

Now let me ask you: do you think I am making a false distinction here and fabricating some kind of controversy? Or is it really important to us that we position the cross first and foremost as an expression of love to the Father and only secondarily as an act of love toward us?

October 29, 2008
Living on Less
Canada’s McLeans magazine looks at frugality for a new generation. “But even beyond a deep economic recession, there are signs that meaningful social change is brewing. As environmental fears push us from Hummers to hybrids, and a younger, tech-savvy generation rebels against the “Bigger is Better” boomer mantra, a long-overdue cultural shift could be in the works, say observers.”
Reformation Study Bible for Any Amount
Celebrate Reformation Week with a genuine leather Reformation Study Bible (ESV) for a donation of any amount.
Principles for Voting
Ligonier offers both audio and text of R.C. Sproul discussing principles for voting.
Fireproof Shouldn’t Be Critic-Proof
I thought this article from WORLD, even if it slightly overstates the issue, offers a fair warning. “We do the Kendrick brothers no favors when we grant them a “pass” based on good intentions. I learned this lesson as a writer many years ago. I am not the greatest writer in the world, but (I assure you) I am much better than I was last year, and I am much, much better than I was a decade ago. I improved because of tough feedback from teachers, mentors, and—sometimes—critics.”
Americans and Climate Change
This article offers some interesting facts on what Americans believe about climate change. “Only 18 percent of survey respondents strongly believe that climate change is real, human-caused and harmful.” “73 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening. But when you look at this finding by political party affiliation, only one-half (54 percent) of Republicans believe it is happening, versus 90 percent of Democrats.”
Jesus Christ is Stronger
James MacDonald offers some gospel encouragements.
October 28, 2008

Christless Christianity by Michael HortonIt is no small thing to take upon oneself the name Christian. Though it was first used as a form of derision when unbelievers mocked the “little Christs,” the name was embraced by the earliest believers. The term, even when used mockingly, nicely encapsulated what they sought to do, namely, to imitate their Lord and Savior. Sadly, in the centuries since then, the word has become far too ambiguous and now refers to any number of faiths that, in one way or another, honor or respect Christ or that have some historical connection to his teachings. Amazingly, some of those called by the name of Christ actually deny him—perhaps not his existence but at least his uniqueness and his divinity. In Christless Christianity Michael Horton argues that such denial of Christ may not be too far from home. More and more evangelical churches, he says, are now essentially Christless.