Thinking Out Loud

March 7, 2014

Scandal Tracking: Prominent Christian Authors

Some of you know that for the last [oh my, has it been that long?] years I have done the buying for a chain of Christian bookstores that has now been reduced to a single location. Cutbacks in the industry necessitate very careful buying and frankly, I don’t need a lot of excuses to cut back on any given author’s quantity commitments, or even skip a title altogether.

So all the recent discussion that is taking up a lot of space on Christian news pages and in the Christian blogosphere certainly tempers my buying for these writers, and saves me some money in the process. Maybe I should thank them.

Anyway, if you’ve not been keeping up with some of the latest ones, here the current top five — Pat Robertson and Jack VanImpe are assumed — and if you can think of others I’ll add them.  And we’ll give Joyce Meyer a pass on the private jet for today; maybe it is more efficient than booking commercial flights.

Mark Driscoll

  • allegations (proven) of widespread plagiarism over several years involving many titles and three different publishers
  • allegation that he manipulated the system by which books appear on the New York Times bestseller list for the title Real Marriage
  • suggestions that church funds were used to facilitate the NYT list placement
  • question of ethics over distributing copies of a book on the grounds outside the Strange Fire conference (may or may not have been escorted off the grounds by security staff, depending on version of story)
  • requires church leadership to sign non-disclosure agreements preventing any discussion of church policies or revelation of insider information
  • various questions about church discipline and shunning and dis-fellowship of members who voice dissent
  • various concerns about ultra-conservative views on the role of women, to the point where spouses of staff members may not work outside the home

James MacDonald

  • allegations of various types of financial improprieties and secrecy concerning compensation and benefits and/or concerns over lavish lifestyle, resulting in many staff and leadership departures and the creation of a watchdog blog containing a variety of other revelations concerning the authoritarian style of church government
  • linked to at least one gambling venture with Jerry Jenkins (see below)

Jerry Jenkins

  • concerns over Jenkins’ “hobby” as a “recreational gambler” in Las Vegas and timing/relationship of relaxed standards for Moody Bible Institute faculty and staff (but not students) for which Jenkins is board chair

John McArthur

  • concern that the Strange Fire book and conference has now polarized the Pentecostal/Charismatic community and non-Pentecostals; that his rant goes too far and is dividing Evangelicals

Steven Furtick

  • concern over $1.75M home he is building and statements that the home is paid for from book royalties
  • allegations that he used the same New York Times Bestseller sales strategy as Mark Driscoll to plant his new title, Crash the Chatterbox on the list. (Driscoll and Furtick are friends.)
  • possible implication of involvement of church funds in so doing
  • concerns that strategic placement of volunteers throughout the Elevation Church auditoriums manipulate the response to baptism altar calls
  • questions as to whether Furtick’s contemporary and creative preaching style may leave new Christians confused as to the fundamental application of popular scriptures and themes

It should also be noted that several of the megachurch pastors have a ‘council of reference’ that includes other megachurch pastors, and it is these, not the local church boards or directorates, that advise on salary issues. Many of these pastors are also compensated for appearing at each others’ conferences; the whole conference subject being an issue for another discussion entirely.

March 1, 2014

Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids?

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:42 am

Earlier this week, a package turned up in the mail containing the book Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids: How Moralism Suffocates Grace by Samuel C. Williamson (Beliefs of the Heart Press, 2013). The book is a quick read at around 86 digest-sized pages so I was able to complete it in a single morning.

Samuel C. WIlliamson

Samuel C. Williamson

The author’s background is compelling. I’ll let him tell it in his own words:

  • My father was born in China to Pentecostal missionaries. My mother was born in a farming family in Kalispell, Montana.
  • Though sympathetic to the work of the Holy Spirit, my father disagreed with aspects of AOG theology. He became a Presbyterian and was a PCA pastor until his retirement in 1995…
  • I studied European Intellectual History, Philosophy, and Hebrew at the University of Michigan.
  • I served in missions overseas for three years and felt God say “not now.” So I moved back to Ann Arbor, Michigan and got a job at a software company. (There weren’t many jobs in 17th Century, European Intellectual history.)
  • With two partners, I bought the software company and worked there as an executive and Chief Product Manager for 25 years.
  • In 2007 I heard God call me to writing and speaking. I left the business world and began Beliefs of the Heart.

I agree with the premise of the book as the subtitle defines it. We are teaching kids behaviors and virtues which, while they are important part of passing our values on to the next generation, are not necessarily distinct from what other religions teach. The heart of gospel is most evident when we’re not living out the fruit of the spirit; when we’re angry; when we fall into sin; etc. The heart of the gospel is the grace of God. It’s that grace that sets us apart from other belief systems.

Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids - Samuel C. WilliamsonAs such, the book is commendable, but as the author confesses in an afterword at the end, the book’s main title is mostly provocative; he’s not addressing specific Christian Education or Children’s Ministry issues here as he’s also concerned with the predominance of moralism and performance-based faith that is found equally in adult sermons and Christian books, which are often concerned with offering a “quick fix” or “ten easy steps” to meeting any challenge.

There were also some areas where the book suffered the fate of self-published titles in its overuse of bold face type (though thankfully, not capital letters) on things like the titles of other works or for emphasis where italics is the common standard. I mention that only because I think that if some of the chapters were fleshed out more, and the book went through more editorial vetting, a major publisher could pick up this title, even though Christian publishers are not spared in the sixth chapter!

All that said, there was enough of interest here to render this worthy of recommendation and the above comments notwithstanding, I think that Christian educators and Sunday School teachers should give this a look as well, especially given its pricing at only $5.99 US, and especially due to a chapter on how simply teaching moralism may be part of the reason kids exit the church as soon as they’re old enough. As John and Kim Walton showed us in a much longer work, The Bible Story Handbook (Crossway), too often we are pulling out the wrong interpretation or spinning the story incorrectly anyway.

I encourage you to check out the author’s blog BeliefsOfTheHeart.com where you’ll also find more info on the book and podcasts. The book is available from A-zon online or if you order through a bookstore, you can tell them it’s available from Ingram using ISBN 9781941024003.

Sometimes I’m very happy to write a review and move on, but this time around, my appreciation of this little book grew as I wrote this analysis. If anything here or on the author’s blog resonates with you, I hope you’ll track it down.

February 28, 2014

Kyle Idleman Returns with AHA

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

AHA Kyle IdlemanAs I’ve confessed elsewhere on this blog, since the inception of the H20 video discipleship course, I’ve been a huge fan of the preacher from Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kyle Idleman. The book Not a Fan stayed on bestseller lists over much of both 2012 and 2013, but then the sophomore book project, Gods at War didn’t seem to resonate with audiences as much.

So I’m happy to say that Kyle Idleman is back on top with AHA: Awakening Honesty Action, with a new publisher, David C. Cook. AHA covers a wide swath of Bible narrative, but at its core, it’s about the young man we know as The Prodigal Son. This in itself raises the question, is Kyle tracking Timothy Keller’s book subjects — AHA vs. The Prodigal God and Gods at War vs. Counterfeit Gods — or is this just a coincidence?

Either way, AHA firmly establishes Kyle’s firm-but-gentle style of Bible exposition that includes humorous and intimate moments.

As I’ve already blogged about the book a few weeks ago, I simply wanted to post something as the book’s official release approaches, as I think this is going to be one of the major releases of the first half of 2014. To me, AHA epitomizes what a Christian living title is all about, and whether you read it devotionally over the course of two weeks (as I did) or read it in one day, you will certainly benefit from its insights and will be aware of our common need to move from spiritual self-discovery to taking action steps.

February 25, 2014

Mark Hall: We Were Made to Thrive – Book Review

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River  in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]


Like the book The Well by Mark Hall which we reviewed here in August, 2011, Thrive is both the title of a book and a compact disc. I’ve been privileged to hear the CD several times and read several sections of the book twice. While some authors may appear to write from a theoretical standpoint, Mark Hall is in the trenches, doing youth ministry first and foremost, and then what he views as a second role, as a musician with the band Casting Crowns.

Thrive - Mark HallThe book’s full title is Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out and the subtitle and the cover telegraph the book’s outline and content. Using examples from his years in student ministry, as well as a few road stories from Casting Crowns, Mark delivers something fresh in each of the book’s 30 chapters. I’m struck by how he is both forthright and yet transparent and vulnerable at the same time.

The primary audience for Thrive will be people who are familiar with the band’s music, but really, this is a contemporary Christian living title that earns a place next to popular writers such as Kyle Idleman, Pete Wilson, or even Max Lucado. Almost every chapter brings new life to familiar scriptures.

I remember once hearing, “Part one of the gospel is ‘taste and see,’ part two of the gospel is ‘go and tell.’” That’s really the focus of this book. It is suitable for both new believers and those who are spiritual veterans. It is equal parts teaching, anecdotal and autobiographical.

I read parts of Thrive out loud this past week at our family devotions. I can only say that this was the right book for us and it arrived at just the right time.

Thrive is published by Zondervan in paperback at $15.99 US. Thanks to Laura at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Toronto for a review copy. With both Zondervan and Thomas Nelson titles, you guys have the best books!

February 14, 2014

Pastrix: A Book for a Select Audience

The very first word in Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber is an expletive that cannot be printed here, and it is, I warn you, but the first of many.

PastrixThat said, Pastrix earns my highest recommendation, provided of course we’ve made clear the question, ‘recommended to who?’

Such is the nature of the contradictions in the book, and in many ways such is the nature of the contradictions that define (or undefine) the tall, tattooed, female Lutheran pastor of House for all Sinners and Saints, aka HFASS.  And yes, you’re allowed to — and they do — pronounce it half-ass.

The book is a random collection of biographic memories in a loose chronological sequence that sometimes act merely as springboards for some sermon extracts. You get the feeling that Nadia would have been more comfortable producing a book filled with some of her unique sermon insights, but the publisher no doubt felt some back-story was necessary, at least the first time around.

I have two takeaways from reading the book.

First, Nadia is a very wise person who unfortunately made some very unwise decisions early in life, but decisions that are redeemed in the unique voice her past gives to her present. Was writing this particular book using a very edgy, street vocabulary wise? A future Nadia might rethink it, but it does create a product unlike anything else that has crossed my desk before. She creates a meeting place in print where seekers and skeptics can join the sexually ambiguous in their quest for truth. She is, like other Christian writers, paving a road to the cross, but it’s a back route that few travel.

Second, it’s evident that Nadia has now, and always had, a pastor’s heart. Her calling to ministry is evident at different stages of her life — even in her darkest moments — and is perhaps more evident than dozens of other pastors I know who, granted, don’t drop the f-bomb as often. Her flock aren’t the type of sheep that would make it into an award-winning photograph, but they’re her sheep, and she is doing her best to shepherd them and truly grieves if one falls by the wayside.

Pastrix will appeal to people who match, demographic for demographic, the people who attend HFASS, or potential converts. People on drugs. People who sleep around. People who commit crimes. People who Jesus loves. People who Jesus died for. Future brothers and sisters you might find yourself sharing eternity with.

I do need to declare a conflict of interest here: My wife and I are fans. I featured her here a few years ago as her reputation started to go national. I download each new sermon as it appears on her blog, and track the printed text as we both listen to the audio. We’re not doing some ministry watchdog thing, waiting for her to trip up doctrinally, but with each sermon we’re always in awe of how theologically orthodox she is.

I begged the people at Jericho books for a pre-release copy of this book and had just about given up when I discovered a book had been delivered wedged between two 20-inch square pieces of cardboard. That never happened before. It seemed fitting, somehow. It’s a book that will certainly occupy a place on my bookshelf, but it will have to be a spot where my conservative friends won’t see it. Then again…


Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint is published in hardcover by Jericho Books an imprint of Hachette Book Group. Both Send the Light, one of the largest wholesale Christian book distributors in the U.S., and CBD, an online consumer book vendor consider this title too hot to handle.

February 8, 2014

How Amazon Killed Christian Bookstores

Filed under: books — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:40 am

closed sign

When the last Christian bookstore has locked the door for the final time, and the history of religious book shops is being written, the topic of online shopping will definitely be part of the last chapter, and that will undoubtedly include some commentary on how local churches and individuals decided that stewardship is the ultimate virtue, and how they allowed price discrimination to trump support of local ministry.

And that chapter might be entirely wrong.

I think the issue today has more to do with next-day delivery and how a combination of (a) last-minute planning and (b) the need for immediate gratification have dovetailed to produce a church culture that has become dependent on acquiring resources instantly.

The local Christian bookstores, even the ones part of a national chain, simply don’t have the in-stock inventory to satisfy these needs. Furthermore, we are, as the body of Christ, a very diversified lot and the product that serves one particular individual or group appears totally foreign to another. Some of these don’t even make sense, like the Pentecostal preacher who reads Catholic theology in his spare time, or the Baptist youth pastor who is going to lead his group this weekend through an ancient Orthodox prayer litany.

Add to this the number of books that are being published — in actual print, not eBooks — independently, outside the bookstore trade distribution network, and you’re left with Christian bookstores that are satisfying less than 50% of all inquiries, and getting increasingly frustrated in the process.

“I want it now.”

Despite having 1 or 2-day delivery themselves (in the U.S., not Canada from where I’m writing) from wholesale distributors, stores have to meet minimum orders to obtain the one item that their loyal (up to now), regular (soon to change) customer is demanding. With a ten book minimum, a smaller store may be padding an order with nine things they don’t really need right now to try to keep one customer happy.

It’s just not sustainable.

But then is Amazon? I’ve always believed that ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall.’ Amazon is a good model of managed growth, but is it sustainable over the long term? And what happens if it crashes and the network of Christian bookstores (not to mention Children’s bookstores, science-fiction bookstores, and retail endeavors in non-book categories) is no longer there?

I’ve written elsewhere about the politics of Amazon. Using their services is not something you’d expect from conservative Evangelical churches. Rather, this is about the impatience of Christian customers.  It’s about a new generation of church staff and volunteers that never learned to plan ahead, because nobody told them they had to.

February 3, 2014

Kids and Communion: Sacrament or Snack-Time?

This is a topic that was covered here twice before, in February of 2011 and December, 2011. I’m presenting both complete today, but including the links because the December one attracted a number of comments. You can join that old comment thread or start a new one here that might get seen by more people.  The first article is more practical, the second more doctrinal. The first article also appeared on the day after a piece about children and (immersion) baptism, which is why it begins…

Continuing where we left off yesterday…

I like the story of the little boy who wanted to take part in the communion service that followed the Sunday morning offering. When told by his mother that he was too young to take communion, the eager participant whispered loud enough to be heard five rows back, “Why not? I just paid for it, didn’t I?”

~Stan Toler in Preacher’s Magazine

Last week was Communion Sunday at our home church. We attended the 9:00 AM service so that we could actually get to a second service at 10:30 at our other home church. The 9:00 AM service is attended by families with young children who wake up early, and I was horrified to glance and see a young boy of about six or seven helping himself as the bread and wine were passed. Maybe this story describes the kind of thing I’m referencing:

At my church, we had a special Easter night service, and we took communion. My brother was in there, and he’s only 6, so he doesn’t understand the meaning of it. When he saw the “crackers” and “grape juice” being passed around, he said “mommy! Its snack time! I want a snack too!” Obviously, he’s too young to take communion. But for those of us who do take it, do we see it as “snack time”? Communion is great. I love to hear Pastors words describing the night when Jesus and his 12 apostles took upon the 1st Holy Communion. I think since we do take communion regularly in church, we overlook the importance there is in it.

~Summer, a 15-year old in Illinois

But not everyone agrees with this approach:

I have allowed my children to take communion ever since they have told me that they love Jesus. I think 3 was the age they were first able to verbalize that.

We explain it to them each time as the bread and wine come around, and while they dont get it all, they know they are considered ok to partake.

This would not have happened in the world I grew up in.

~Andrew Hamilton at Backyard Missionary (no longer available)

The latter view is the one currently gaining popularity among Evangelical parents. And there are often compelling reasons for it. A children’s ministry specialist in New Zealand only ever posted four things on his or her blog, but one of them was this piece which argued for including all children because:

  • The historical reason: Children would be included in Passover celebration;
  • The Passover parallel: It is a means of teaching children about Christ’s deliverance for us;
  • Salvation qualifies them: If they have prayed to receive Christ, which is not exclusive to adults, they should participate;
  • The alternative is complicated: The age at which a child would be considered “ready” would actually vary for each child, and setting a specific age adds more complication;
  • Communion is an act of worship, something children should be equally participating in.

Having read that, it might be easy to conclude that this is the side to which I personally lean.

That would be a mistake.

Despite the arguments above, I really think that Summer’s comment adequately describes the situation I saw firsthand last Sunday. As with yesterday’s piece here — Baptism: How Young is Too Young? — I think we are rushing our children to have ‘done’ certain things that perhaps we think will ‘seal’ them with God.

I thought it interesting that one of the pieces I studied in preparation for yesterday’s post suggested that the parents of children who would be strongly opposed doctrinally to infant baptism have no issues with their non-infant children being baptized very young. Another article described a boy so young they had to ‘float’ him over to the pastor, since he couldn’t touch the bottom.

I’ve often told the story of the young woman who told me that when she was confirmed in her church at age 14 — confirmation being the last ‘rite’ of spiritual passage for those churches that don’t practice believer’s baptism by immersion — she stopped attending because she ‘done’ everything there was to ‘do.’ She described it perfectly: “The day I officially joined the church was the day I left the church.”

Are we in too much of a hurry here to see our children complete these things so we can check them off a list? Are parents who would be horrified to see their daughters wearing skimpy outfits because that constitutes “growing up too fast” actually wanting their sons and daughters to “grow up spiritually too fast?”

I was eleven when my parents deemed me ready to take communion. While I question my decision to be baptized at 13, I think that this was a good age to enter into the Eucharist. I know that Catholic children receive First Communion at age seven, therefore I am fully prepared to stick to this view even if I end up part of a clear minority.

(more…)

January 31, 2014

Thomas Nelson Accused of Spiritual Deception

WND Faith

A conservative writer at WND (World Net Daily) held nothing back yesterday in an full-blown attack levied at Thomas Nelson, an imprint now part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. In an article titled Beware the Bookseller Pretending To Be Christian — more about that headline later — Jim Fletcher writes:

Back in the day, with its marketing angle that touted the company’s roots (the company began in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1798), one got the feeling that its books were trustworthy.

Guess not.

He continues,

Thomas Nelson has seemingly not cared about being too rigidly biblical in its offerings for some time, and the current list of authors/books is disturbing to anyone who would identify as a conservative Christian…

He then systematically works his way through attacks — some detailed and others off-the-cuff — at Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, Rachel Held Evans, Brad Lomenick, Richard Stearns, Ron Sider, Donald Miller, Judah Smith, Leonard Sweet, and Bob Roberts, Jr. It’s hard to imagine that there was anyone left on the author roster that Fletcher hadn’t lined up in his sights.

As the article builds to a crescendo he concludes:

…They remind me of those thoroughbred running backs in college and the NFL, the ones who feint this way and that, stopping defensive backs in their tracks.

But feinting can also mean one who intentionally deceives.

Deception.

Read the full article here.

It should be noted that whether you agree or disagree with the doctrinal state of Christian publishers in general, or Thomas Nelson in particular, WND editors committed a major blunder in creating the article’s headline. (Generally, writers do not choose their header.) The article is about the actions of a publisher, but the headline implies that booksellers — brick and mortar, or online — are complicit in spiritual deception, when perhaps they have simply trusted the Nelson brand over the years. Yes, local retailers try to practice discernment, but even in these scaled-back publishing times, they can’t be expected to read every book by every author.  

So what does an article like this accomplish, exactly? It’s certainly meant to be insightful and helpful, but it comes off like a rant. I don’t agree with every word that Rachel Held Evans or Donald Miller writes, but I do find sections of their books redemptive. To a younger generation, they represent a trend where key voices in the Christian blogosphere have graduated to print. And just as there are at least three major streams in the creation/origins debate, the fact remains that Christians hold different views on Israel/Palestine.

Instead, the rant reminds me so much of, “We’ll get Mikey to try it, he hates everything.” 

Or in this case, Jim.

The article’s tag line describes Fletcher as a book industry insider. With more than thirty years in the same business, I’d like to suggest that booksellers do indeed practice discernment. If you don’t like Thomas Nelson’s offerings, shop elsewhere, perhaps focusing on classic authors from past centuries. But I’ll bet the rent that there were books back then that were considered sketchy, a few of which are still around, but also bet that there are books today that just possibly could endure as long, and I think we’d all be surprised to see what’s still being read 50 or 100 years from now.

January 23, 2014

More Driscoll Plagiarism Instances Emerge

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:47 am

I will give this to Mark Driscoll, he borrows from good sources. But people keep turning up new blocks of text from his books that were either copied wholesale, or slightly altered but unmistakably lifted from other sources. There’s nothing wrong with this if you note it in a footnote or in the foreword, or afterword, or introduction, or acknowledgements, or end-notes. That’s a total of six places you can practice good scholarship. “Be sure your sins will find you out.” How long did he think he would get away with this?

Anyway, my wife said something I felt worthy of leaving on the latest Driscoll article at Warren Throckmorton’s blog which contains the latest discoveries, and then a quick reader added an appropriate supplementary suggestion.  It all reminds me of conservatives in the 1960s and ’70s buying rock ‘n roll records just so they could burn them.

I don’t usually post comments here I made elsewhere here, but since neither was my own…

Comment re Mark Driscoll Plagiarism

January 20, 2014

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

For several months, the book’s working title was Tomorrowland.

Eventually, it was ruled that ‘The Mouse’ would never stand for that, and so the title of Skye Jethani’s third book became Futureville: Discover Your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow, and while another Disney property, EPCOT, is mentioned, the major motif in Futureville is the great promise that was held out for mankind in general, and America in particular in the 1939 World’s Fair.

Futureville - Skye JethaniWhile Jethani is not entirely a household name in the Christian community, his voice is as unique as his ability to weave a subject — in The Divine Commodity it was the art and life of Vincent Van Gogh — into his writing as an ongoing talking point. The middle book of the current three takes a different approach; elsewhere I described his book With as The Preposition Proposition.  His audience is widening through friend Phil Vischer’s podcast, but he is probably best known for his work on Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal, and its highly ranked blog, Out of Ur, relaunched this past weekend as PARSE.  As I’ve said elsewhere — and in reference to other authors — I think his books are best enjoyed after you’ve had exposure to some visual media; some clips are currently available at his blog Skyebox.

The premise of Futureville is that “our vision of the future is what determines how we understand the present. In a very real sense today is defined by tomorrow… what lies ahead.” The book looks at the wide arc of Biblical history through a lens that is both somewhat philosophical and agnostic-friendly. This is a title that meets the giveaway criteria.

He also offers some fresh insights for insiders. Example: We tend to think of the Biblical narrative beginning in a garden and ending in a return to a garden (which owes more to Crosby, Stills and Nash) while in fact the story ends in a city. If you live in Philadelphia or Detroit or Gary, Indiana, the idea of city may suggest that perhaps God could do better. But Jethani uncovers the rationale behind the imagery.

Social activism, environmentalism, politics, etc. all come under the microscope as does the effect current affairs have on shaping theology. Yes, the Bible can be thought of as somewhat clear on matters, but theological thought trends in ways not unlike celebrity fixations on Twitter. We may know what the text says, but the book points out the ways in which the capital ‘C’ Church will spin it differently and slowly drift from its mission.

Much of the book’s purpose is to help refocus us by freshly acquainting ourselves with the key images of scripture and of worship, and to re-purpose us to realigning our priorities. In many respects, Futureville is prescriptive, it gives the Church a mandate for 2014 not unlike Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock did for a broader society in 1970. While parts of Futureville may leave you disturbed, overall, the book offers assurance that God has orchestrated things to lead toward a conclusion of his choosing, and one that, to borrow from Jeremiah, offers us a future and a hope.

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