In Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong, Brad Gray walks us through the life of the strong man who lived a life of weakness and failure. But it’s more than a cautionary tale.
The book employs a surprising blend of history, geography, archaeology, linguistics, and culture—what most folks might consider dull and dry—and explains how Samson’s struggles often mirror our own.
- Learning from the pride and lust and unforgiveness (and faith) of this weak judge allows us to get right what Samson got wrong.
- I enjoyed learning about how the author of the book of Judges used the theme of Samson eyes as an example of what “everyone in those days” did—what was right in their own eyes.
Brad Gray combines many personal illustrations along with his explanation of Samson’s life to produce a potentially life changing resource for all of us who have failed (that’s all of us). Samson’s presence in Hebrews 11 reveals that God can still use us—even when we fail Him.
God doesn’t want our failures to remain failures. He wants our failures to become investments in learning to get things right. He want us to learn from our mistakes and to keep moving forward. —Brad Gray
Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong has pulled Samson from the Sunday School flannel graphs and revealed him as the flesh-and-blood Hebrew he was. Human, frail, desperate, alone, failing—and yet, believing.
Just like us.
You’ll enjoy the book. You can grab it here.
Most leadership books focus on methods, tactics, strategic planning, and vision. This book hubs on a more essential part of leadership.
Joe Stowell redefines leadership from the perspective of a shepherd rather than a CEO. From a person driven by character as opposed to a manager driven by results. From one who leads by serving rather than one who keeps score of outcomes.
Redefining Leadership comes in three parts:
When I began the book, I didn’t realize the author is blind. As I read and understood, my eyes were opened to how much her blindness has allowed Jennifer to see clearly.
With a shift in emphasis, book’s title, God is Just Not Fair, gives away the answer to the problem it poses. God is JUST—Not Fair, that is, His actions are based on justice as God defines it and have nothing to do with what we deem as fair. “Perhaps the real question you and I should ask,” Jennifer Rothschild writes, “is not ‘Is the master fair?’ but ‘Is the master just?’ In other words, Did the master do as he said he would?”
Total paradigm shift. We tend view God as a slightly better version of us. Instead, He is completely wise, sovereign, and just. If He were fair, we’d all be condemned—because we all fall short of His holiness.
I chose to read this book because I love the grace of God and good books about God’s grace. The book’s title intrigued me: The One Jesus Loves: Grace is Unconditionally Given, Intimacy Must Be Relentlessly Pursued.
I love the title. The book, however, seems to take portions of the Bible and make application without careful attention to the larger context in which the passage rests. Two examples are enough to illustrate:
Travel guides about journeying to the Holy Land are a dime a dozen. I have read many of them. But the newly revised and updated edition of The Christian Traveler’s Guide to the Holy Land represents the best general volume for the Evangelical.
I have recommended this book to many people, and I know of a number of ministries that regularly go to Israel who distribute this volume to each traveler. Written by veteran Israel travelers, Charles H. Dyer and Greg A. Hatteberg, this volume will enable you to:
- Gain a general overview of all the major sites of Israel with a brief introduction for each site, including primary scripture passages, maps, charts, and photos.
- Know what to do with regard to practical needs such as packing, safety, weather, and photography.
- Get the skinny on what to see, where to go, and what not to miss.
The authors have extensively revised the first part of the book on “Preparing for the Trip,” updating all the content–from applying for a passport, to using online resources, to traveling to Israel for the mobility impaired. Parts 3-6 of the book offers a similar overview of key sites in Egypt, Greece, Jordan, and Turkey.
Unique to this guidebook—I’ve never seen it anywhere else—are sections outlining a 4-week schedule for Bible reading, prayer, and Bible study.
Whether you’re looking for a book for yourself or one to recommend to someone else traveling to the Holy Land, The Christian Traveler’s Guide to the Holy Land will serve you well.
Forgiveness is something we all struggle with. For many of us, the struggle began early.
Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers does an excellent job of connecting with someone whose parents have blown it (which, on some level, is all of us). But more importantly, this helpful volume walks readers through the morass of pain, shows them how to process it through a scriptural filter, and releases them into the freedom of their future made possible by God’s grace in Christ.
I was eager to read Claire Diaz-Ortiz’s new book, Greater Expectations, because I had enjoyed her self-published e-book, The PRESENT Principle. Come to find out, this new book IS her self-pub volume revised under the Barna Group’s series, “Frames.”
The benefit of this new edition is its additional content on surviving in our “always-on” digital age.
As with any book done with the Barna Group, it comes front-loaded with stats that sober the reader into understanding the need and also some proposed solutions.
- Engaging info-graphics and an intro chapter put proof to what we all feel. Because most Americans are perpetually connected to their devices—and social media specifically—the quality of life has nosedived.
- Technology, which was supposed to give more margin and quality to life, has done just the opposite. Margin is squeezed out and quality seldom enters the scene.
The bulk of the book centers on Diaz’s PRESENT Principle.
- I like her idea of the importance of scheduling a daily time to take care of yourself. I don’t mean a time of selfishness, but a time of responsible self-maintenance that includes good input and honest evaluation.
- For me (like Claire Diaz-Ortiz), that time occurs by reading the Bible and praying in order to realign my priorities with God’s. That takes a daily renewal of the mind.
Greater Expectations gives excellent, general advice that works well for singles or marrieds without children. I guess it could work for parents, given days of exception. That is, once you throw kids in the mix, the expectation of a consistent morning routine is pretty well shot.
If you want a good, quick read on how to organize your ideal morning, Claire has given it to you. Just do it before your kids wake up.
The RE/FRAME chapter by Diane Paddison is as helpful as it is brief. Her challenge to create realistic boundaries is really a call to establish priorities that promise a life of no regrets. I especially appreciated the permission to care for yourself, a priority that often gets misunderstood as selfishness but is nothing more than godly stewardship.
The battle of the sexes today is the battle to find them at all.
In a culture that blurs males and females into a blob of humanity, it’s helpful to ask: “What distinguishes a man as a man—without being sexist or patriarchal?” If we toss aside Webster, the definition of masculinity falls to a matter of opinion.
Or does it?
Stephen Mansfield’s book, Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men, explains the author’s purpose up front.
I want to identify what a genuine man does—the virtues, the habits, the disciplines, the duties, the actions of true manhood—and then call men to do it. I mean exactly these words. This book is about doing.
At first, this book felt hard to read. Short sentences. Choppy phrases. At times, random-sounding thoughts strung together like Pascal’s Pensees. Profound but disjointed. Like reading poetry. Not an easy speed-read.
The book has more periods per square inch than most books I’ve read. As a person in a hurry, the many periods of punctuation came like speed bumps, forcing me to slow down. When I did, I found a gift.
Writers do their best thinking with a pen, and One Thousand Gifts reveals Ann Voskamp as a deep thinker. She writes her book around the theme gleaned from Greek verb, euchartiseo, a term that means “to give thanks.” She introduces the theme early and repeats it in every chapter—so much so that you can open the book anywhere and be blessed. The book could be half as long and still as profound.
Every breath’s a battle between grudgery and gratitude and we must keep thanks on the lips so we can sip from the holy grail of joy. —Ann Voskamp
One Thousand Gifts reminds us that contentment begins and continues by giving thanks for the blessings right in front of you. Ann did this by writing a list of 1000 “gifts” from daily life for which she is thankful.
Writing the list is a wonderful idea because it causes you to constantly look for new additions for the list. This daily assignment shapes a renewed mind, habitually searching life for reasons to thank God instead of for excuses to complain.
From the everyday context of mothering, Ann gives us the simple principle that the life we’re looking for is right in front of us—right where we are.
There are thousands of gifts from God if we will only insert many more periods in the sentences of each day.
“America is not Rome—yet.”
The highly original book, Humility, elevates a quality of American character that few pursue and yet everyone admires. David Bobb introduces readers to what made America great by providing, as its subtitle states, An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue.
True to the wishes of America’s founding fathers, the young country prospered through understanding that greatness and humility weren’t mutually exclusive—something ancient Rome missed. Bobb traces the thread of humility in a select individuals:
- George Washington—who twice declined the opportunity to have ultimate power
- James Madison—who pushed for a realistic—not idealistic—view of human nature in politics
- Abigail Adams—who chose devotion to home and husband rather than to socialites and helped shape America
- Abraham Lincoln—who could have abandoned the constitution and become a dictator
- Fredrick Douglas—who remained appropriately humble of his accomplishments
The book’s premise, of course, is outstanding and convincing.
However, the volume reads as simple history and philosophy—and honestly, pretty dry. With personalities as colorful as Fredrick Douglas and Abigail Adams in the mix, Humility would have been a more inspiring read if it included humility’s companion characteristics of joy or humor.