A sampling of God Is a Gift's online presence:
God is a Gift by Doug Reed on Amazon | | God Is a Gift website | | Thorncrown Chapel, Eureka, Arkansas | | Thorncrown Chapel on Facebook | | God Is a Gift on Facebook
God Is a Gift grew on me as I read! I started out with, "yes, these are basics," but as the author continued essentially telling us it's not about our works, our strivings, our desires, achievements, or accomplishments, but about God's grace – esp as manifested in the Cross of Calvary – I realized, "this bears reading, re-reading, lending out, and remembering." Does it need all 200 pages? Yes, because every one of us needs to be reminded over and over again!
Doug Reed tells us it's about knowing God in a Johannine/Pauline sense of gnosis—familiarity to such an extent we actually participate in the life of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Yes. Instantly I thought of "Knowing You," the song Graham Kendrick based on Philippians 3:7-11:
All I once held dear, built my life upon,Although his book isn't full of his own stories and testimony, like many of us, Pastor Reed loves the intellectual, cognitive work of doing scripture study and theology, tells enough about his own attempts to create himself with diligent study, unceasing prayer, and works of service that most of us easily can identify as he rejoices in: "To possess by faith, what I could not earn."
all this world reveres and wars to own,
all I once thought gain I have counted loss,
spent and worthless now compared to this.
Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.
Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
to be found in You and known as Yours,
to possess by faith what I could not earn,
all surpassing gift of righteousness.
Oh, to know the pow'r of Your risen life,
and to know You in Your suffering,
to become like You in Your death,
My Lord, so with You to live and never die.
Obedience, grace, law, gospel? Reed solidly grounds everything he writes in both Old and New Covenant scriptures, and demonstrates considerable knowledge of Jewish ceremonial practices. In addition, without referring to it as such, he does a great job explaining what we in the Reformation Churches refer to as the first and second uses of the law. Anticipating Christmas, during a class in November or December, one of my professors exclaimed, "Exchange gifts!!! Are you talking about a gift or about an economic transaction? You cannot have it both ways!" Paul of Tarsus reminds us, "the free gift is not like the trespass, offense, sin, transgression..." but by definition, is a gift not without cost to the recipient? Ultimately, it's all about Jesus, all about God's free, unearned and unearnable gift of grace.
Author Doug Reed casually referring to the Apostle Paul as author of Ephesians and Hebrews bothers me some (esp after he explains his passion for the more formal theological enterprise); I hope that was a matter of convenience. No surprise that I hankered for references to sacraments/ordinances of baptism and holy communion, but I realize he's from a free church rather than a liturgical mainline background. Being introduced to the natural magnificence of Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka, Arkansas, and learning its history was a side benefit of this book! I also enjoyed discovering some of Pastor Reed's own theological reflections in Thorncrown Journal. Altogether this is an outstanding book I plan to keep, possibly loan out, and definitely re-read more than once.
my amazon review: simply outstanding!