Happy Halloween from St. Mark’s Preschool!

At St. Mark’s Preschool, we’ve spent the past week learning about Halloween. We painted with orange and black, made Jack-o-Lantern photo frames, and read lots of Halloween stories. The kids especially loved reading and singing along with the book, “There’s a Monster in the Tree.” Our Halloween unit culminated in this morning’s Halloween Party! The kids came in their fantastic costumes and we decorated pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies, made necklaces,  listened and danced to Halloween songs, and had a costume parade (all the way to Mindy’s office!). Here are some photos of our fun morning:

Be safe tonight, and Happy Halloween!

Saturday Book – One Thousand Gifts – part 2 (a little late, sorry)

Dante’s Divine Comedy starts our with the line “In the middle of life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood. The true way was lost…” Chapter 1 of One Thousand Gifts is Ann Voskamp confronting that her way was lost.

I. The most stark of these passages starts on page 9 and continues for a couple of paragraphs. From…through: “For decades, a life….snapped shut to grace”

The questions that I asked myself and the groups were: What are the possible reactions to loss? What were AV’s? What kind of paths does that set you on.

This little graphic above highlights the problem. One reaction is the reaction of the law which is curved inward. Cutting off more and more of yourself in reaction to loss. Eventually trying to save yourself, you lose yourself. The opposite reaction is grace which moves outward.

II.The next passage that digs a little more into this starts on page 13: “I keep my eyes…branded our lives”

Mull in your heads her Dad’s words. What way is her Dad spiraling? What amount of control is he attempting to exert? Who does he not trust?

Taking a step into the religious realm , does the law (the 10 commandments as a handy substitute) make sense? Even at a simple level do we grasp what they are asking? Do they sound like a good thing? Can we do them? What is the end of the law? (Or what is the end of AV’s Dad’s life of trying to control everything?)

Compare that to the cross, does the cross make sense?

The law makes sense and even sounds like a good thing, but we can’t do it. We can try. We can cut our lives down. We can curve inward ever more, but even that smaller life is uncontrollable. The end point of the law is death, a life closed to anything other than pain. When you compare that to the cross, the cross makes no sense. We don’t get the cross, but a life lived under the cross opens up. We’ve observed those. Yes there is pain, but something transcends that pain. A life lived losing it, is one that ends up saving it.

III. Passage Starting on page 15. “From all of our beginnings…all of the remaining paradise”

What is AV’s diagnosis of sin or our natural state? In grasping for the apple/in grasping for control what are we saying? Who are we turning toward? (Compare that to John 1:1 – “the word was with God” in our English has the Greek preposition to or toward. A very wooden literal translation is – “The Word was towards God”.)

I’m Lutheran so I have another reference point here – Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation (1519) Thesis 19 – “The person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as thought they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened.”

In the middle of loss what is the worst thing that we have all heard?
Per Luther #19 – a) don’t talk to me a deeper reasons. God hasn’t told me those. And he probably isn’t going to tell me. b) but like AV’s dad we want to know the invisible things. We want them to make sense.
How has sin altered us so that we no longer see? Why does that outward curve look so scary?

IV. Passage starting on page 18: “John shrugs his shoulders…remembering the story too.”

Here is Ann’s clue or her witness. Thinking of John’s witness…What is the great lie of “our” lives? What does following that path lead to? What gets “cut off” to keep the illusion going?

V. Passage starting on page 22: “They eat the mystery…To more God places?”

What does AV describe losses as? What do losses force us to confront?

Luther Heidelberg Disp #20 – “He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God see through suffering and the cross.”

In what is God most made manifest? How is the cross the start of an “emptier, fuller life”? Why is that such a scandal?

The Puzzle of Reformation Day

Scripture Text: John 8:31-36
Full Text of Sermon

Traditions tend to pile up. There is nothing inherently wrong with traditions. Most traditions are in fact healthy and good. But they tend to pile up. Just think about Christmas. How many things are there that you “have” to do? Does the holiday just stop if you miss baking the sugar cookies or you don’t get the lights hung? Have you ever said the holiday has been ruined because we didn’t get to do X (fill in with your X)?

Churches are like dumping grounds of traditions. Churches hold on to traditions long after the last people who knew what they were about have been carried out the door. To make matters worse, they often add theological reasons for a tradition. Here is an example. You probably have a US flag at the front of your sanctuary. Why is it there? Are the Kingdom of God and the United States equivalent things? What would happen if it wasn’t there one day? My guess is that someone would make an argument – put it back, Jesus and Paul both said something along the lines of Caesar is the appointed authority, that flag is our recognition of that authority, so put it back. A theological fig leaf for a tradition. Not that the tradition is bad, just that it is a human tradition.

But traditions can pile up to toxic levels. To levels where the core of what we are about as Christians becomes obscured. The original creed was Jesus is Lord. If you listen to the stirring reformation hymns – especially A Mighty Fortress – that is what you will hear. The reformation was about stripping out some toxic levels of tradition and reminding people that our salvation is found only in Jesus, that Jesus is Lord. Our lives should be shaped by that very direct statement. At all times and in all places, a people willing to live like Jesus is Lord do revolutionary and remarkable things. And the best part of that is that if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. You will be part of the house forever. That is what this very personal Lord has done for you.

Religion and Truth in a Pluralistic Culture

This short write up is well worth the 3 mins on Pope Benedict’s conception of interfaith or ecumenical interaction. Its starting point in an event that just took place in Assisi. 25 years ago the previous pope was at the same place involved in prayer with “Buddhists chant[ing] to the accompaniment of gongs and drums, Zoroastrians tend[ing] a sacred fire, and an American Indian medicine man in traditional headdress smok[ing] a peace pipe and call[ing] down the blessings of the “Great Spirit.” Benedict has a different view, even if the picture nearby might not say speak that.

The great religious question of our age is inclusivity vs. exclusivity. Were all those people praying to the same God, or was it an example of syncretistic worship on the level of ancient Israel’s “high places”? (1 Kings 12:27-32) Do all roads go up the same mountain, or is Jesus Christ the way, the truth and the life? (John 14:6) Let’s make it real clear. We read it in worship a couple of Sundays ago. Isaiah 45:5 – “I am the Lord, there is no other, beside me there is no other.” If the bible counts as your scripture, you can’t hold the “all roads view”. And holding worship services with people chanting, tending and smoking to other dieties hopelessly confuses things. It is no wonder people might just assume that there is no truth in any of them. Then Cardinal Ratzinger said as much:

The cardinal later wrote that “multireligious prayer” of the kind offered there “almost inevitably leads to false interpretations, to indifference as to the content of what is believed or not believed, and thus to the dissolution of real faith.”

Such prayer should occur only rarely, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, and to “make clear that there is no such thing . . . as a common concept of God or belief in God, that difference not merely exists in the realm of changing images and concepts” but in the substance of what different religions claim.

It is the now Pope Benedict’s next step that is almost uniquely Lutheran.

As he told a European ambassador last week, social justice is based on norms accessible to all, derived not from divine revelation but from “reason and nature”—that is, from “universally applicable principles that are as real as the physical elements of the natural environment.”

He is using Catholic natural law language there. A Lutheran would appeal to two concepts: a theology of two kingdoms and the fundamental law and gospel distinction. We are able to work together in social justice areas because social justice is part of the law or part of the kingdom of the law. The law is universally written on all hearts. (Romans 2:14-15) And the law is good and wise. There is a righteousness that comes from the law – a civil righteousness. But the civil righteousness is not the saving truth of the gospel. In worship – we are separate. Because all roads don’t lead to the same place. Because we proclaim Christ crucified, risen and ascended as Lord. He is Lord, there is no other. Confusing law and gospel only leads to loss of faith.

Hymns We Sing – Reformation Day Edition

You all know the big Reformation Day Hymn – A Mighty Fortress is Our God. If you want to start a real fight, ask a Lutheran which tune is the better – the Bach setting or the original Luther. Parson and Parson’s mother disagree on this. It’s not a pretty fight.

But Ein Feste Burg is not what I want to talk about. Instead I want to talk about a more obscure yet more numerous genre of hymns that Luther loved to write. This Reformation Day the choir is going to sing a couple of verses from Lutheran Service Book #766 – Our Father, Who from Heaven Above during the offering. The congregation will echo the same hymn at the close of service with different verses. This is a great example of a catechetical hymn. By that I mean it is a hymn that is teaches to music. Like A Mighty Fortress, words and tune are by Luther.

The Small Catechism – the short basic teachings of the Christian Faith by Luther that he thought everyone should have memorized – contain the 10 Commandments, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. It was quickly expanded to include baptism and the Lord’s Supper and Confession (or the office of the Keys). It all fits in a few page or one “poster sized” wall hanging. Printing a catechism poster was one of the first uses of the printing press at the time. The head of every household for a couple of pennies could have the catechism in his home to teach both the basics of the faith and reading.

This hymn takes up the Lord’s Prayer.  The Choir is singing 1 & 5 over the offering.  The congregation will be singing 1 & 9 at the close of service.

1) Our Father who from heaven above

Bids all of us to live in love

As members of one family

And pray to you in unity

Teach us no thoughtless words to say

But from our inmost hearts to pray

5) Give us this day our daily bread

And lets us all be clothed and fed

Save us from hardship, war and strife

In plague and famine, spare our life

That we in honest peace may live

To care and greed no entrance give

9) Amen, that is, so shall it be

Make strong our faith in You, that we

May doubt not but with trust believe

That what we ask we shall receive

Thus in your name and at your word

We say, Amen, O hear us, Lord


Observe how each stanza begins with a petition from the Lord’s prayer, and the rest of the verse answers – “What does this mean?” Luther would follow a similar format with:
Baptism – #406, To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord
10 Commandments – #581, These Are the Holy Ten Commandments
Creed – #954, We All Believe in One True God
Confession – #607, From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee

We don’t do that much anymore. In fact you could say that catechism style teaching is out of vogue. Asking a question, writing or memorizing the answer and building upon it in another Q&A seems to break our post-modern sensibility. As Steve Jobs would say – don’t just accept the dogma which is accepting someone else’s thinking. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was conflicted about that. At some level a catechism is invaluable. It gives you a starting point. Bloom’s taxonomy and all knowledge starts somewhere. Even Steve Jobs didn’t question Wozniak’s circuit board layout. I guess the synthesis I’d come to is a combination. Instead of the endpoint it too often became, the catechism is a start. We used to accept the memorization of Luther’s answers as proper catechizing. Now, its a good start, but you need to make the answers your own. That is the task of the disciple and of the Christian life – that we can truly say: Amen, so shall it be to “Make strong our Faith in You”.

Sin, death and the power of the Devil – post 2

First post in series.

Ask yourself what is the summary or shorthand for the gospel. Go ahead, think for a second, what is the gospel……
My guess is that most would answer something like: the forgiveness of sins.

That is good news. It is gospel. But is it the full gospel or even a good summary?

If forgiveness is the gospel, where does the story start and where does it end? If I think of the gospel purely in those terms it starts when I sin and it ends with a sacrifice on the cross. Can you see anything missing in that or slightly off?

Here is my list. First it starts with us – the finite driving the infinite. We sin so God reacts. That doesn’t seem right. Second, in that scenario there is absolutely no need for the resurrection. All you need is the perfect sacrifice. [The resurrection might lend credence to the sacrifice i.e. be proof that it was accepted, but it is not necessary.] Third, the story doesn’t seem to go anywhere but a repeating loop. I sin, God forgives, I feel good until I sin again. Rinse, Wash, repeat. That is one of the most boring and mocked lines ever. If you are trapped in that boring story, no wonder some Christians just want to be raptured. Is that really all the gospel is?

I did a simple search on the word forgiveness in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Take a guess as to how many times the word forgiveness is used in the gospels? Go ahead, even with having read the above take a guess…7. There are seven passages in the gospels that use the word forgiveness. Let’s widen it a little bit and include the verb forgive, not just the reception of forgiveness but the action of forgiving. That adds another 17. Total mentions in the gospels of forgiveness – 24. So it is not unimportant. And some of those passages are key understandings, but 24 mentions in four books can’t be the sum total. Ask a different question. How many times in the gospel is life mentioned? 72 verses. Three times the number of verses as forgiveness.

If you start in genesis 3 with the fall you only need to read until Matthew 27. But that is a shortened gospel. The scriptures start with Genesis 1, with God creating life. They end in Revelation 22 with God re-creating the heavens and the earth and the River of Life flowing from the throne. The gospels include a resurrection and one of them the ascension. The gospel, the good news, is something more. The gospels tell a bigger story.

Two verses from the Gospel of John. John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 17:3 – “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you , the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

God created you. But the thief – Satan, our accuser – came to steal you and kill you and destroy you. Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all men (Rom 5:12). The gospel is that Jesus Christ has come to give life, life in the full. You might ask what is this life? The sent one’s answer – that you might know God. The life of the world to come is build around the throne of God and the lamb in the midst of their people (Rev 22:1-2). That life starts now. Those waters of life flowed in baptism. The church, the people of God, gathers around Christ – body and blood.

We might know God not just because Jesus has forgiven us, but also because he has won our victory over death that covered all and cast that thief into the pit. Sin, death and the power of the devil have been broken through the advent of the Kingdom of God. More on that next time.

Stewardship 4: The goal of stewardship

This is a link to post #1 in this series.
This is a link to post #2 in this series.
This is a link to post #3 in this series.

In the last post we looked at the question what does faithfulness in stewardship look like through the story of Cain and Abel. We came to the conclusion that “firstfruits” were a big part of faithfulness. What firstfruits represent is faith in God to be a God of abundance to his people. It also represents the understanding of the final source and purpose of all good gifts.

One quick geeky sidebar about that last sentence. Aristotle’s causes: material, formal, efficient, and final, can be helpful here. While the efficient cause of our having good stuff might be our labor and work, the final cause is the aim or purpose. We have good stuff so that we might recognize God’s providence. We can ignore that and turn inward and use it all for ourselves. We can claim other final causes: have fun, die with the most toys, measure who is the “better man”. But God’s purpose is to build a people, to build the Kingdom of Heaven. What we have been given not only sustains us, but directs us toward faith. Our stewardship lets us be part of the final cause. God has invited us to work with him in building the Kingdom.

Now I want to turn to Jesus’ example of how God looks at this. You can read either Mark 12:41-44 or Luke 21:1-4. These are parallel stories of the Widow’s mite. The simple summary is that all kinds of rich people were giving all kinds of money to the temple and they would probably be doing so ostentatiously. The widow quietly comes up and puts in a penny. Jesus calls out the widow as having given more. Why? That is not true on just a counting basis. But God was never after raw numbers. For all we know Cain could have been a much better farmer and his altar full of stuff. God wants faithfulness. The final cause of stuff is to produce recognition of God’s providence. He wants us to trust his providence. The widow, in giving all she had, demonstrated her complete and total reliance upon God’s providence.

One of the first crises in the church was over exactly this recognition. Read Acts 4:32 – 5:11. All the believers in that first congregation shared everything. Before you lose it about not being communist, let me say that I agree with you. This is not practical and it didn’t stay practical for long in Acts either. The church at that time consisted of: the Apostles, those who had witnessed the resurrection, and the Pentecost converts. If you had a church of pure saints – that would work. We have a church of sinner/saints. A lesson that they will learn. Even that church didn’t make that work. But God still supports the underlying theology.

The Acts 4 church shared everything. They were like the widow in expecting God to provide. Then comes a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira. They didn’t share that trust to the same extent. But they felt that they had to fake it. So, like Cain who was giving out of a sense of duty and not faithfulness – they gave a certain amount pretending to be everything, but withheld a part for themselves. Peter’s words to Ananias and Sapphira clarify – “Didn’t the land belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?…You have not lied to men by to God.” The problem wasn’t the size of the offering, but the manner in which it was given. Ananias didn’t feel comfortable with 100%. And that would have been ok. Complete trust in God’s providence is a final cause. It is where we are heading. We’ll only see glimpses here. The final purpose of stuff is to learn to trust God’s providence. We are all at different points. The larger point from Ananias and Sapphira is to be open and honest with God.

Stewardship is part of the Kingdom, it is part of the gospel. The law brings death. It brought death to Abel through Cain. It brought death to Ananias and Sapphira. The gospel brings life. Stewardship is not finally a duty but an invitation to experience abundant life.

In the next post I’m going to look strictly at pragmatics. From this post you should recognize that setting specific numbers on these things is pointless. The idea of faithfulness and where each person is at in their walk differs greatly. But the law is still useful as a rule (3rd use). It is the way God intended things to work. So we will be looking at OT “tithes and offerings” and trying to see what they tell us about things like gross/net, percents and where does it go. If you have a concordance, just look up the word tithe and the word offering and scan the verses listed.

Monday quarterbacking…

First, Teeeee-bowwwww! Don’t you just love it when a guy gets beat up for 4 hours and gets told he’s basically just above a slime mold and then that slime mold has the audacity to win ugly?

Ok, now that football is out of the way. One of my favorite sarcastic sayings that has some deep insight is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Churches, both congregations and even more so larger organizations, do this all the time. And they do it amp’ed up on crack. Churches tend to give a theological polish to the way they do things. Over time that theological polish builds up and becomes God told us to do it this way. Cross reference Eve’s answer to the snake (Gen 3:3), “God said we shouldn’t eat that fruit, and not to even touch it.” God said the first, but not the second. Theological polish build up.

Here is one place where the Lutheran Confessions are incredibly useful. Augsburg Confession article 7 defines where you see the church. The church is where you hear the gospel preached and the sacraments administered. Staying at the local congregation – the kingdom of the gospel is found in the preached word and the sacraments. When the called pastor steps out of those rolls, he or she is in the kingdom of the law. That is one of the reasons that I’m a big stickler for preceding any congregational meeting presentation I give with something along the lines – “you are completely free to disagree with what I’m saying here.” And I make sure the signs of the office (stole, alb, etc.) are put away. I don’t want to add Theological Polish. But we have probably all been part of situations or congregations where there has been theological polish build up, where decisions properly in the realm of debate and governance are given sacramental importance.

Now move that to a larger grouping level. We call these synods which is a great old name and captures the true nature. It means walking together. Groups of congregations that share a confession agree by human right to organize themselves. (The confessional document Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope is all about this. The reformers were happy to have a Pope as long as it was admitted that his office was what we would call secular.) But when you get to such bodies you tend to get Theological Polish build-up of staggering proportions. Whether that is actual or de facto infallible doctrines, fancy titles and the whole mess. Or just what we all know as the arrogance of office and the hostility and closed ears to dissent. All backed up and supported with the general sense that this is how God ordained it.

So, if you dare to suggest that something isn’t working, maybe we should take a closer look at it and change something, you usually get a dumb-struck reaction. What this really is, is a deep seated personal response by the authority. What do you mean it isn’t working, this is the system that produced and promoted me?!? Here is the CEO of google Eric Schmidt showing some self knowledge and an ability to see this problem.

“Regulation prohibits real innovation, because the regulation essentially defines a path to follow,” Mr. Schmidt said. This “by definition has a bias to the current outcome, because it’s a path for the current outcome.”

Now I’m going to give you a hypothetical title, a C.V. background and ask a question. It is not a big secret that there are a number of congregations is rough shape. In response to that a larger body decides to establish a office of Congregational Turnaround to help the struggling congregations. Now the C.V.
B.A. in Liberal Arts from Synodical College (~35 years ago)
M.Div. from Synodical Seminary (~30 years ago),
S.T.M. (advanced Theological degree) from Synodical Seminary (~20 years ago)
D.Miss. (specialized professional degree) from Synodical Seminary (~15 years ago)
Parish pastor in out of region (i.e. mid-western) parishes (30 – 20 years ago, and 10 years ago)
Foreign Missionary/Seminary Professor (between parish stints)
Mission Executive in a small (in-region) district (recently)

Now the question. Would such a hypothetical CV and hire for such a hypothetical office represent doing the same thing and expecting different outcomes?

There is a reason we have Occupy Wall Street, Tea Party Candidates, candidates for president who have never held office before and a bunch of other things. Andrew Sullivan nails it in Newsweek.

The theme that connects them all is disenfranchisement, the sense that the world is shifting deeply and inexorably beyond our ability to control it through our democratic institutions. You can call this many things, but a “democratic deficit” gets to the nub of it. Democracy means rule by the people—however rough-edged, however blunted by representative government, however imperfect. But everywhere, the people feel as if someone else is now ruling them—and see no way to regain control.

Now a hierarch would point out all kinds of theological problems with that. Many correct. But that response would just be adding to the feeling at large. The deeper question is can we remove enough of the polish build-up to respond as a group, or is this a new wine in old wineskins case?

What do you think about the Christ?

Sermon Text: Matthew 22:34-46
Full Text of Sermon

The text is the last in a sequence of questions that the various leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem were quizzing Jesus with. In the Synoptics (Matt, Mark and Luke) Jesus is only in Jerusalem once, and the leaders are testing him. Finding out where he falls. The first of the questions is tricky and political. The second by the Sadducees was just the sniggering expression of a cynical elite. But this last one by a representative of the Pharisees is serious. What is the summary of the law?

And Jesus treats it seriously. He doesn’t cryptically answer it or just swat it away. He gives an answer. Love God; love your neighbor as yourself. We don’t always see it, but there are three loves in there: God, others and self. The core of the law is to love them all.

We all have more or less success with that, but the law only goes so far. In the middle of the puzzlement of how do I balance those, Jesus asks a question. What do you think about the Christ? The Pharisees answer – he’s the son of David. A King. A representative of the law. But Jesus pushes them. Why does David, the highest law – the great king – admit to another Lord? And he leaves the question hanging.

I try in this sermon to put that same hanging question on the hearer. What do you think about the Christ? Does he fulfill the law? What does it mean to call him Lord? The answers are yours. I think that is the difference between a theology from above and one from below. If you are working with a theology from above, you proclaim the majesty and Lordship. (And the hymns for the day did that proclamation for us.) If you are working with a theology from below, you invite, you portray, you ask people to observe and draw conclusions. Both can bring forth faith in the hands of the Spirit. The first invites the Amen! The second challenges to thought. Look deeper. Put aside the standard answers and come up with your own. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). The church needs both. The Christian needs both – the amen and the reflection.

Saturday Book – One Thousand Gifts – Post 1

We have been reading this book – One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp – in our Thursday Bible study group. I’m going to kick off a web series for Saturdays with this book. I’m not sure exactly how to replicate the discussion of the live group. So what I’m going to do first week is suggest the book and give my quick review/preview. Then over the following Saturdays post the study questions, themes, discussion starters that I found while reading and used with the group. Maybe give some of my personal musings around those questions. Some books will take longer than other. This particular one is packed full. We seem to be taking 1 chapter a week although I expect to pick up pace after chapter 4. I can’t recommend it enough. But I can say you really should read it with somebody else to share the questions. So here is my review/preview.

There is a surface way to read this book as “one woman’s story”. It is a good book in that sense although stylistic and aesthetic questions to me would just make it a good book on par with many other memoirs produced today. But AV’s one woman’s story is actually a universal story. It is a challenge and a spotlight. As a spotlight it highlights ground that frankly many of us will never walk – the ground being too scary to walk. It gives us a mental picture and some of the emotional experience without the risk. It stands as a challenge to walk there anyway. St. Paul would write in Eph 2:10 that, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10 ESV) We don’t know where that road leads or what those forms the light shines on are for us. AV encourages or invites us to walk anyway.

In that way, in being one woman’s story that is also a universal story, this book stands in a great tradition of mystical yet practical Christian writing. You could say it starts with Augustine’s Confessions, wanders through such works as Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, John Tauler and Meister Eckhardt (the German mystic predecessors to Luther), to the more modern example of Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain or the writings of Henri Nouwen. AV has written a deep book. I’ve read it through now about three times and find stuff each time. I am coming at this from a more Lutheran/Catholic view. If this falls into someone in the Reformed Tradition I’m sure that there are other examples like maybe Oswald Chambers or an older example being the Nevin and Schaff Mercersburg Theology of the sacrament. (AV seems to have a very sacramental view of life and world. That is odd for a Zondervan published work, but hopefully a signal of good things as this is a very popular book.) The biggest accomplishment of One Thousand Gifts, is how deep its roots are in the Christian tradition and how rich the life portrayed is, and yet it is a completely modern work. In a modern world drained of meaning and grace – AV provides a spotlight and challenge for how to live that today. The themes are universal and deeply orthodox; the life is from today.