God is a Gift is a new book by Doug Reed, who is the pastor of the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where he has served for twenty-seven years. Thorncrown Chapel is a world-renowned structure in the middle of an idyllic Ozark setting, and it attracts a couple hundred thousand visitors a year to witness the way the sunlight plays in and around the chapel throughout the day. Reed’s book reflects the kind of view of God that a setting like that might encourage: it is very big on grace, emphasizing the sheer gift of God himself to his people.
The book intends to inspire and to motivate, and it does that. Reed’s emphasis on grace is sometimes easy for evangelicals to lose sight of. We often feel that holy lives are not just our response to God’s grace, but are rather the ground or reason for his grace. But as Reed insists, our life with God is a gift. And God himself is a gift. He gives himself to us to be in relationship with us.
One danger of the book, though, is that he tends to play the Old Testament over against the New. He seems to believe that in the Old Testament, God dealt with people in terms of their works, and then came up with a way of grace in Jesus. But as many scholars have pointed out, this is not even a fair assessment of the view of many Jews in Jesus’ time, let alone the tenor of the whole Old Testament itself. Even in the giving of the Ten Commandments, God’s gift comes first: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…”
With that caution in mind, the book may be worthwhile as a corrective to those who worry they can’t “measure up” and don’t deserve God’s love. Well, none of us does. But God gives it freely. God is a gift.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.