Book Review – David and Goliath

David and Goliath is not just a story in the Bible – it’s a recent book by New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell, the author of five books and a staff writer for The New Yorker, is well-known for his creative insights into life using academic research as a basis for his ideas. An English-born journalist, author, and public speaker, he now resides in Canada and was appointed to the Order of Canada in June 2011.

Gladwell approaches the story of David and Goliath from a different perspective than one to which most people are accustomed. To most, the story is a classic example of an underdog (David) overcoming a huge warrior-giant (Goliath). And that is what happened – David defeated Goliath with the help of God.

But Gladwell points out that another perspective on the battle between the two of them shows that David’s victory, in some respects, should not have been unexpected. Goliath was a huge, lumbering heavy infantryman who needed an armor-bearer to help him with all of his weaponry and armor. David, on the other hand, was a nimble slinger who, based on historical information, could likely sling a stone with incredible accuracy at great distances, at a speed close to the speed of a bullet fired from a .45 pistol!

In other words, Goliath was looking for another heavy infantryman to fight in close, hand-to-hand combat; but instead, he encounters a fast-moving, accurate slinger who can attack from a distance and who hits him with stone before he can even thrust his spear at David.

Gladwell uses this perspective to point out that what we often perceive as strengths which can never be undermined – Goliath’s strength – can actually be weaknesses at some point. And that which we often perceive as weakness – David’s youth and experience and lack of armor – can actually be a strength, if applied strategically.

In other words, perceived advantages can often be disadvantages. And perceived disadvantages can often be advantages.

Gladwell goes on to demonstrate this from several different perspectives. A few examples:

⁃ Vivek Ranadivé, who knew nothing about basketball, but coached his daughter’s basketball team all the way to Nationals by teaching them to use the full-court press all the time – a completely unorthodox strategy that helped them defeat teams that should have easily defeated them.

⁃ The advantage of being a Little Fish in Big Pond, which can sometimes draw attention to your uniqueness and create unexpected opportunities.

⁃ Dyslexia – while dyslexia is classified as a learning disability, it seems that an inordinate amount of successful entrepreneurs have overcome dyslexia.

⁃ How Wyatt Walker, one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s lieutenants, used the media to help shift perspectives and empower the Civil Rights movement when it appeared to be facing irrelevance.

⁃ A group of “powerless” Irish mothers, who stood up against the might of the British Army during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and broke the control the British Army had established in Lower Falls.

These and several other examples drive home Gladwell’s major theme – your greatest disadvantage, your greatest weakness, can become a great advantage and strength if you are strategic about it. I would add to that if you can trust on God for wisdom and strength in that pursuit. (It’s a hopeful word for churches in today’s stagnant church conditions in America.)

But it is also a word of warning – beware of trusting in your strengths and advantages. There can come a point where they become weaknesses and disadvantages. (I believe that is part of what happened to evangelical churches in the last decade).

If you want a challenging and thought-provoking read, or if you are a leader who is willing to think outside of the box, I would recommend David and Goliath. You can purchase it on Kindle here.

Wednesday Book Review – Noah Primeval

Chronicles of the Nephilim Series

Noah Primeval is the first book in an 8-book fiction series called “Chronicles of the Nephilim.”  The series spans several millennia, from the days of Noah through the time of Christ.

Brian Godawa, the author, has written a number of books and is also a screenwriter whose credits include Frank Peretti’s The Visitation and To End All Wars, which starred Kiefer Sutherland.  He has won numerous awards for his screenwriting and is active in the arts as well as in teaching the importance of Christians being involved in the arts.  He is also a member of the Studio Task Force at Biola University.

The Chronicles of the Nephilim is historical Christian fiction with a Frank Peretti This Present Darkness feel to it.  Drawing heavily from the extra-biblical Book of Enoch, Godawa posits that a group of fallen angels, The Watchers, are actively involved in human affairs, posing as pagan gods and working to corrupt humanity and thus disrupt God’s prophetic plan to redeem mankind through the Chosen Seed, Noah’s descendant – Jesus Christ, who will one day be born.

Godawa’s series is, in his own words, probably a PG-13 read, not intended for young children.  There are at times graphic violence and other material that some may find objectionable, but which is in many ways an accurate portrayal of the horrific results of the enemy and his allies at work in our world.

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For those who enjoy history and fiction, I would recommend the series.  It’s an interesting and entertaining creative take on the history of redemption.  But be warned – this is no Christian Bookseller’s Association Christian romance type of book.  It’s a gritty, sometimes disturbing but epic story of God’s enemies at work in this world, God’s people responding to God’s call, and the angels of God working to help God’s people fulfill their destiny against the twisted plans of the enemy.

If you’re curious, you can read the first book, Noah Primeval, for free as an ebook by clicking through here.  If you enjoy speculative fiction, historical and Biblical fiction, and light horror, you may find this series is an excellent read.  However, be warned that if you don’t like any of those, you would hate this series and you really should probably look elsewhere for a good fiction read.  (Jan Karon’s Mitford series is a great series for those who love more positive, less earthy fiction.  I’ll do a review on that series soon.)

Rather than try to summarize the whole series, here is Godawa’s own book-by-book summary from his website:

Chronicles of the Nephilim is a saga that charts the rise and fall of the Nephilim and just what their place is in the evil plans of the fallen Sons of God called, “The Watchers.” These rogue members of God’s divine council will stop at nothing to win their war as the Seed of the Serpent against the Seed of Eve.

  • Book 1, Noah Primeval, reveals the hero’s journey of Noah that leads to God’s second act of judgment against this diabolical plan of the Watchers: The Deluge.
  • The Lost Book 2, Enoch Primordial, is a prequel to Noah Primeval that tells the forgotten story of the original descent of the Watchers on Mount Hermon and their introduction of the Nephilim into the created order. Enoch, is God’s man to call down judgment on the Watchers and their giant progeny, the Nephilim.
  • Book 3, Gilgamesh Immortal, is about the giant king Gilgamesh of Uruk in Mesopotamia after the Flood. Two thirds god and one third man, this mighty warrior embarks on an epic journey to find immortality with his friend and Right Hand, Enkidu, the “wild-born” of the steppe. His quest leads him to Noah in a faraway land, but what he discovers will change history forever.
  • Book 4, Abraham Allegiant, tells the story of the Watchers inheriting the nations and the rebirth of the Nephilim and their next battle in the war of the seed of the Serpent against the seed of Eve. Be on the lookout for Nimrod, the builder of the Tower of Babel and his diabolical minions. Sodom and Gomorrah will burn.
  • Books 5 & 6, Joshua Valiant, and Caleb Vigiliant are the tales of Joshua’s campaign to eradicate the Nephilim from their infestation of ancient Canaan. Can the mighty Og of Bashan, the last of the giant Rephaim, be defeated? What about the Anakim giants who fill the land, and their goal to destroy the Seedline of Abraham?
  • Book 7, David Ascendant, tells the story of how David and his Mighty Men overcame the last of the Rephaim giants left in Gaza, Ashdod, and Gath, home of the monstrous Goliath and the elite squad of giant assassins, the Sons of Rapha, who are now hunting David.
  • Book 8, Jesus Triumphant is about Christ’s victory over the principalities and powers of darkness that rule the earth. But he has to go into the bowels of hell and kick some demon butt. Suffice it to say, when it comes to spiritual warfare, Jesus was no pacifist.

If you’re looking for a Ted Dekker-like epic series, this is the one for you.  If Ted Dekker’s kind of fiction isn’t your thing…best to skip this series.

Wednesday Book Review – The Last Arrow

So far, I’ve posted only positive books reviews.  That’s partly because if a book doesn’t quickly capture my attention, I drop it.  There are just too many books to read, so why waste my time on something that doesn’t hold my interest, and why tell you about a book in which I’m not interested????

Once in a very great while, though, among all the great books I read, I come across a book that stands head and shoulders above the rest – a book that is just life-changing.  The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus is one of those books.

Erwin Raphael McManus describes himself as an author, futurist, filmmaker, and designer.  His author profile says that he is known as “an iconoclast, artist, and cultural thought leader who is recognized for his integration of creativity and spirituality.  He is the founder and Lead Pastor of Mosaic, a Los Angeles based church of faith recognized as one of America’s most influential and innovative churches.”

And he is an amazing inspirational author.

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The Last Arrow begins with a scene that unfolded in McManus’ life in December 2016 – sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing the dreaded words, “You have cancer.”  From there, the book touches on McManus’s journey, different events that are part of his life’s journey, and the testimonies of friends and acquaintances who have encountered Jesus and gone “all in” for the Kingdom of God.

The concept for the book comes from a story about Elisha near the end of his life.  King Jehoash of Israel wants Elisha’s blessing and direction.  He visits Elisha, who is on his deathbed.  Elisha orders him to shoot an arrow out of the window of the room, and then prophesies victory over the Arameans.  Next, Elisha commands him to strike the ground with the remaining arrows.  Jehoash complies, striking the ground three times, but Elisha becomes angry and tells him that he should have struck the ground five or six times – because then he would have completely defeated his enemies.  Instead, Elisha tells him, because he only struck the ground three times, he would only defeat his enemies three times.

What a bizarre story!  The king apparently didn’t know any better; but something in his actions showed a lack of faith and perseverance that were necessary to complete victory.

McManus uses this story, and others from the life of Elisha, to demonstrate the power of living our lives full-out for God – of spending every arrow we have in this life, leaving nothing for the next life.  Because, after all, we will not need arrows in heaven.  The victory will be won.

McManus focuses on some important themes in living our lives in such a way that we hold nothing back – his chapter titles demonstrate this.  They include:  Save Nothing for the Next Life; Choose the Future; Set Your Past on Fire; Act Like Your Life Depends on It; Stand Your Ground; Find Your People; and Know What You Want, among others.

The book is chock full of stories, testimonies, and challenges to get out of our comfort zones and to fully engage with both Jesus and our culture so that we can leave a legacy with our lives.  You’ll read, for example:

  • Erwin’s spur-of-the-moment trip to Brazil for the World Cup Final that resulted in him having an opportunity to share his faith with a Brazilian family;
  • How God was able to us 9/11 to increase Erwin’s opportunities to serve Him because Erwin chose to live in faith rather than in fear;
  • How God used Erwin’s wife and daughter to minister to a family who is helping free women from human trafficking; and
  • How God used a trip to Beirut to challenge Erwin out of his comfort zone.

But of everything he writes in the book, perhaps the dedication challenged me the most:

“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. – Psalm 127:4

To my arrows: Aaron Christopher McManus, who has never backed down from a fight, and to Mariah McManus Goss, who is as fearless as she is fierce.

Long after I rest my bow and have struck my last arrow, there will still be arrows flying true: their names are Aaron and Mariah. The trajectories of their lives will take them far beyond the ground I have taken. If they were once my arrows, they are now my archers. I dedicate this book to them and the future they represent.

Aaron and Mariah: You are the tip of the spear. You are the future. This is your fight. I pulled the bow back as far as I could and gave you all the strength I had to send you into flight. Fly far and true. Cross enemy lines. Hit the mark. Set captives free. Keep striking until the battle’s won. —Dad”

I want to live my life like that.  I want to be a Dad like that.  If that stirs your passion, stop reading whatever you are reading now and pick up a copy of The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus.

Book Review – Mansions of the Heart

A few years ago, one of my closest friends gave me a hardback copy of the book Mansions of the Heart by R. Thomas Ashbrook.  He told me it was a life-changing book.  I looked at it, began it, and set it aside because I had so many other books stacked up to read.  A few months later, I was dealing with some life issues that led me to pick it back up again and to read it through.  My friend had been right – it was a life-changer that helped me understand my own life’s journey, my spiritual growth, and where I needed to head on my journey.  Just a few weeks ago, I finished reading through the book for the second time after deciding late this summer that I needed a refresher.

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R. Thomas Ashbrook, the author, who also wrote the novel Presence – What if Jesus Were Really Here?, is the Director of Spiritual Formation for Church Resource Ministries, and he leads Imago Dei, which is CRM’s international spiritual formation ministry.  A Lutheran pastor with twenty-six years of experience in ministry, Tom has degrees in aeronautical engineering, management systems, pastoral ministry, and spiritual formation.  He lives in Centennial, Colorado with his wife Charlotte.

Mansions of the Heart is patterned after St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, a picture of spiritual formation that has helped many followers of Jesus in the five plus centuries since she wrote it.  It’s a picture that helps us understand the journey that we are taking and the process that God uses to transform us throughout our lives.

The book begins by dealing with four of the dead-ends that believers have tried time and time again, to no avail – pursuing personal holiness; service to God; spiritual wholeness; and enlightened study and understanding.  Ashbrook points out that while all of these are good and important, they rely upon our effort rather than abiding in Christ, which is the only real way to experience personal transformation.  Ashbrook uses the seven interior rooms that Teresa described as a road map to help us understand our pasts, our journey with Christ, and how He takes us deeper in our walk with Him along our life’s journey.

Here is a brief summary of each mansion (or room) – each stage of our process:

  • The First Mansion – a new beginning.  This is salvation – the place where we recognize our need for salvation, believe on Jesus, and place our trust in Him and in His work on the cross for our eternal life.
  • The Second Mansion – between a rock and hard place.  This is a place where our faith is deepening, and yet we struggle with temptation and are still engaged somewhat in earthly pursuits.  There is tension between what we want and what the Holy Spirit is revealing to us as we grow.
  • The Third Mansion – following Jesus.  It may take us years to get to this place, but this is the place where we are living consistent lives as disciples.  Scripture, prayer, church attendance, fellowship, a desire to please God – these are all consistent parts of our life at this place.
  • The Fourth Mansion – discovering the love of Jesus – a place of new depth in our walk with Jesus, where we experience a growing intimacy with Him.
  • The Fifth Mansion – longing for oneness with God.  Ashbrook describes it this way:  “The fifth mansion is a time of transition where our focus moves even further from doing to being, from serving to loving. God is calling us to begin to live according to the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17, the call to union with God. Our one desire is for God, Himself.”
  • The Sixth Mansion – the passion of God’s love.  This is where we have fully “fallen in love” with God, and are experiencing deep times in God’s Presence.  When it seems that God is absent, it is deeply painful.  This is where we are learning what it means to truly and fully live “in Christ.”
  • The Seventh Mansion – a life of love in the Trinity.  Ashbrook writes, “The seventh mansion represents the ultimate degree of intimacy with God that one can experience in this life: spiritual union with the Trinity. As is true with each of the prior mansions, this is still a season of our journey, not a milestone or destination. But in this season, we come to experience a complete integration of mind, body, and spirit in the life of Christ. At its fullest, it is the realization of the apostle Paul’s statement, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me’ (cf. Gal. 2:20).”

Ashbrook also devotes a chapter to the experience that John of the Cross called “The Dark Night of the Soul” – a season of loss, of dryness, of feeling that God is absent and that His voice cannot be heard.  That chapter alone is powerful and helpful.

For each mansion/season, the author walks through several important issues for that season, including our heart’s desire, key activities, what ministry will look like to us, how our prayer lives will change, how the enemy will most often attack us, and finally, keys for growth in that time.

You can purchase the Kindle edition here.  If you are serious about spiritual formation and about your journey with Jesus, this book is a great addition to your library.

Flee, Be Silent, Pray – Book Review

Book Review – Flee, Be Silent, Pray

When I read these words in the Introduction to Flee, Be Silent, Pray, I knew I had to read the rest of the book: “Evangelical Christianity in America is an anxiety factory.  As a life-long evangelical, I’ve absorbed the notion that I can never do enough for Jesus. Words like discipleship and obedience carry connotations of trying harder, doing more, and always bumping up the commitment another notch. Evangelicals affirm grace and ‘faith alone’ in theory, but we also worry that we can never pray enough, serve enough, evangelize enough, read the Bible enough, or ‘grow’ enough to satisfy God. Too many sermons revolve around an obligation to do more things or to try harder.”

Author and freelance writer Ed Cyzewski, who grew up Catholic and is now an Evangelical, draws on the Catholic and early Church traditions of contemplative prayer to write this informative and challenging primer on prayer and spiritual formation. He uses Henri Nouwen’s book The Way of the Heart as a guide. He points out that while most of us understand the importance of prayer, studying Scripture, and meditating on Scripture, we often miss the vital fact that it is God’s love that is the foundation of all Christian spirituality. Making space for daily contemplative prayer, he writes, helps us learn to rest in God’s Presence.

This is a switch for many of us – we’ve been programmed to do, do, do…serve, serve, serve…but this book calls us back to abide, abide, abide.

At nine chapters long, Flee, Be Silent, Pray is not a long read, but it is one that you will want to take your time working through. Cyzewski leads us through these important topics:

• Chapter 1- Praying with Scripture – learning to abide in Christ, using Scripture to focus ourselves.

• Chapter 2 – Cheating at Prayer – avoiding repetition while learning to treasure recited prayers.

• Chapter 3 – Mindfulness for Anxious Evangelicals – how to use Ignatius’ Examen to help yourself be mindful of God’s Presence throughout your day

• Chapter 4 – Fleeing to the Freedom of Solitude – why solitude matters, and why it is so hard for us as evangelicals

• Chapter 5 – Be Silent – finding freedom from distraction and learning that silence isn’t an accident.

• Chapter 6 – Repeating Silence – learning how to do “centering prayer.”

• Chapter 7 – Expectations for Prayer – learning to pray without condemning yourself or becoming discouraged and quitting.

• Chapter 8 – Evangelicals Don’t Have Dark Nights of the Soul – yes, we do. This chapter talks about what they look like and how they help us grow.

• Chapter 9 – Do Evangelicals Actually Have Hope? – yes, we do. But our hope is in Jesus, not in correct doctrine.

In Chapter 9, Cyzewski writes these words, which stunned and challenged me: “There is no escape from the darkness, doubts, and uncertainty of life. We cannot live in perpetual victory, forever advancing toward spiritual dominance where we’ll emerge as the sole guardians of truth and biblical knowledge. That quest is a fool’s errand that generations have failed at. I have seen one evangelical friend after another run empty as they realized that their faith largely rested on affirming doctrinal statements without a structure of spiritual practices that could keep them grounded before God. One evangelical generation after another earnestly studies the scriptures in search of Jesus, trying to get past the fact that Jesus said studying the scriptures is not the same thing as pursuing him.”

Wow!

If you aren’t afraid to have your thinking about prayer and about your relationship with Jesus challenged and stretched, then I highly recommend this book. I’m still mulling over some of the things I read in this book a month ago, and I will be re-reading it because I know there’s more still for me to mine from it.

You can purchase the Kindle edition here. At $2.99, it’s well worth it!

Wednesday Book Review – Room of Marvels

One of the truths of life that we don’t like to admit or even talk about is that life is a journey of loss.

Over the years, as we grow up and then grow older, there are many things lost – lost innocence, lost friendships, lost loved ones, lost pets, lost prized possessions, lost opportunities, lost potential, lost seasons of life, lost vehicles, and so many more people, things, and experiences.

The realization that we can never return to a relationship or experience, that we will never again see a particular person, never again be able to drive that first car, and so on, can be devastating. As country artist Brad Paisley puts it, “there’s a last time for everything.”

Some losses are much more painful than others, obviously. James (Jim) Bryan Smith, an author and college professor, experienced three great personal losses in a very short period of time in his life.

First, his daughter Madeline. Before Madeline was even born, testing revealed severe birth defects and a rare chromosomal disorder. Jim and his wife were told to plan a funeral before their daughter was born. Miraculously, though, Madeline had a healthy delivery. She lived for about two and a half years, although she was constantly being medically monitored and treated. But following what was supposed to be a routine, simple surgery, Madeline coded and then died.

Six months after the loss of Madeline, Jim’s best friend, singer and songwriter Rich Mullins, was killed in an auto collision.

And then six months later, Jim’s mother, who was seventy but in excellent health, died of a sudden heart attack.

Room of Marvels is a fictional account of Jim’s struggle to reconcile what he taught and believed – that God is good, better than we understand – with the reality of the devastating losses he and his wife experienced in such a short period of time. It begins with a character who represents Jim taking a spiritual retreat at a monastery, searching for answers and feeling hopeless. He realizes that he feels like a complete hypocrite – while he writes and teaches that God is good, he no longer believes it because of his own pain and loss.

While on this retreat, Jim experiences an ongoing dream/vision in which he visits heaven and encounters a number of people. Some are friends, some are family. Some are people he knew, some are people he never met. Some were people whose lives he had impacted knowingly or unknowingly; some were people who had impacted his life, knowingly or unknowingly.

In the process of meeting these people, talking with them, discovering stories, playing checkers, remembering forgotten moments of his life, and discovering the beauty, grace, and love of heaven, Jim finds that his heart is being transformed. He discovers that he can be free to be his true self; that he no longer has to wear masks to try to impress God or others; and that God’s goodness and love for him are beyond what he ever even imagined.

2 Corinthians 4:17 (NJB) tells us that “The temporary, light burden of our hardships is earning us for ever an utterly incomparable, eternal weight of glory.” As James Bryan Smith puts it in the conclusion of this book, “heaven changes everything we suffer on this earth.”

If you have ever suffered a devastating loss, if you have ever wondered how God could be good and allow difficult things to come into our lives, if you have ever suffered and asked “why” then I highly recommend this book for you. Room of Marvels contains a message of hope and transformation that we all need to hear.

You can purchase the Kindle Edition here.

Book Review – The Story of With

The Story of With:  A Better Way to Live, Love, and Create

Have you ever had a dream for your life but been told it was impractical, that you “can’t make a living that way” and that you need to stop dreaming and just go to work and deal with the fact that life is never what you dream it will be?

That’s the story of Allen Arnold, author of this modern-day parable.  Allen has always loved a good story. The one he’s living is his favorite. He cut his teeth in the advertising world (think the HBO series Mad Men on steroids) and then spent twenty years in the publishing industry. As the founding Publisher for Thomas Nelson Fiction, he led in the development of more than five hundred novels. He now oversees content for Ransomed Heart ministries (founded by John Eldredge).

And it’s the story of Mia, his protagonist.  She dreams of being a chef, of creating masterful dishes and unique blends of tastes.  But instead, she finds herself waitressing, struggling to make ends meet, and out of desperation, tries to land a job with large food corporation.  In the interview process, she quickly discovers that there’s no room for creativity or her own uniqueness in that setting.

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The Story of With:  A Better Way to Live, Love, and Create is an entertaining tale of Mia’s journey to discover herself, to re-discover her passion for life, and to ultimately pursue her dreams.  It’s an allegory for what your journey and my journey could be…if we are willing to take the necessary risks.

When we meet Mia, she is finishing up a grueling interview process at Strava Food Group’s headquarters, hoping to find a position that will allow her to pursue her culinary dreams.  But it quickly becomes apparent that Strava is not interested in her creativity, and as she begins to realize this won’t be a solution for her, she also receives a phone call and ends up losing her job as a waitress.

Discouraged and feeling hopeless, she heads back to her apartment, only to find herself trapped in a huge traffic jam.  A decision to leave the interstate while almost of gas results in her being stranded out in the middle of nowhere.

It also presents her an opportunity to face her nightmares and to decide if it is worth the risk to move forward and pursue larger dreams rather than retreating into fear.

Each chapter of the allegory is followed by a short summary of the challenge Mia has faced, along with the author’s insights into how we, like Mia, can begin a journey to reclaiming our dreams and our identity.

As Mia journeys through this story, she learns some valuable lessons that equip her to pursue her dreams – lessons that author summarizes for us at the end of the story.  These truths can help each one of us to live above mediocrity, to dream big and pursue all that God has for us, and in the process, to help others rediscover their dreams!

Here’s a brief summary of what Mia learns:

  • When we discover and acknowledge that we cannot control life, it releases us to live in the freedom that Jesus offers us.
  • When we learn to be expectant, we begin to watch for opportunities that God brings across our paths.
  • When we allow God’s Spirit to awaken our hearts to our true identity, we can pursue our dreams out of the simple joy of the journey, rather than the need to please someone else or to earn affirmation.
  • When we discover that God can redeem our sins, mistakes, and failures, we begin to see our wounds as beautiful pictures of God’s healing grace in our lives.
  • And finally, when we hear our Father’s voice of affirmation, we realize that we are not taking this journey alone.  We are on this journey together with Him!

At the end of the story, the author summarizes the above and gives some practical suggestions for ways to live out these truths in the reader’s life.  The bottom line, he concludes, is this:  “God didn’t primarily create us so we would do things for Him.  Or even to learn about Him.  His primary reason for creating us is so we can be with Him.”

This book is a great read – entertaining, but also serious, challenging, and life-giving.  If you want to fill your “hope” tank, I highly recommend this book.  You can purchase the Kindle edition here.

Play The Man

Play The Man

In 2006, I read In A Pit With A Lion on A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson and I was hooked on his writing.

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.  He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books, including Chase the Lion.

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Several weeks ago, I was surprised and delighted to discover that he had a new book out called Play The Man.  I instantly purchased it (I’m telling you, that Kindle app and One-Click Purchasing is a book lover’s dream and a budgeter’s nightmare!)  This is my first book review, so I’m doing on-the-job-training and would appreciate your patience!

Play the Man is a call to something greater for men, and for discipling the next generation of men.

In the first part of the book, Batterson helps us understand what it means to be a man of God by working through what he calls the “seven virtues of manhood:

  1. Tough Love – Using the examples of Charles Lindbergh, Jesus, and others, Batterson walks us through the idea that playing the man means “loving others when they least expect it and least deserve it” – a difficult task indeed, but one for which a man is created.
  2. Childlike Wonder – Teddy Roosevelt, who lived an incredible life, is Batterson’s example for this chapter.  I love the quoted description from Edmund Morris of Roosevelt’s nightly bedtime ritual – “The president would brush his teeth, jump into bed, put his revolver beside his pillow, and read a minimum of one book per night.  Then, there being nothing further to do…Theodore Roosevelt will energetically fall asleep.”  Roosevelt was a man’s man who squeezed everything he could out of every moment of life – and we can do the same.
  3. Will Power – Louie Zamperini, the subject of the book and movie Unbroken, serves as an example here.  A former US Olympian, Zamperini survived a World War II plane crash into the Pacific Ocean, 47 days adrift at sea, and then over 2 years of torture and debasement in a Japanese POW camp.  Batterson uses the examples of Zamperini and others to show how manhood means learning to say “no” to yourself in the short run so you can say “yes” to more important choices in the future.
  4. Raw Passion – Batterson describes this as “a lust for life that doesn’t settle for status or status quo. It’s an insatiable energy that motivates you to live each day like it’s the first day and the last day of your life.”  He points out that the Holy Spirit enables this passion within us.
  5. True Grit – Men need danger in their lives.  Men need adventure.  Men need to put ourselves into positions that will push us past our previous limits and we need to do hard things.  Batterson’s story of hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim gives an exciting taste of what this can look like, and how it can empower you!
  6. Clear Vision – General and President Andrew Jackson said that he “was born for the storm.”  So were all men – we were created to handle adversity and push through, standing on God’s Promises to achieve greatness for the Kingdom of God!
  7. Moral Courage – We were created to make difficult but right choices.  Batterson quotes something God gave him for his own journal that struck me as powerful – “Don’t wash your hands like Pilate.  Wash feet like Jesus.”  One thing that will make a sorely-needed difference in our world is godly men standing up for what is right, loving as Jesus loved, and doing hard things in the service of our King.

The second part of the book is much shorter – just three chapters.  In this section, Batterson outlines how to call out a boy into manhood.  He details how he, with the help of family and friends, created a rite of passage for each one of his children.  I thought the examples of how he did this with his sons were practical and inspiring.  I wish he had spent more time talking about how he and his wife called their daughter in womanhood, but granted, it’s a book about men.

I found Play The Man to be challenging, practical, and thought-provoking.  It helped me to examine my life and consider prayerfully areas where I still need to grow and to be transformed.  I highly recommend it for all men, and for all parents of boys.  Here’s a link to the Kindle version.