Redeeming the Gift of Power
Andy Crouch

Evangelicals have gone out of their way in recent years to make the case that sex is a good gift from God. We’re not anti-sex; we stand against the destructive distortion of sexuality. Likewise, we’ve heard a lot about money, how it is a good gift that we should manage wisely. We’re not anti-money; we stand against the destructive love of money that overtakes our desires.

But what about power?

Here, we’ve not offered much positive about power. We tend to equate power and authority with the distorted exercise of power, not the good gifts they are.

Here’s where Andy Crouch’s book comes in. Playing God makes the case that power is a gift we should appreciate and cultivate, even as we guard against the idolatrous use of power that can creep into our practice, despite our best intentions.

Crouch’s book is one of the best of the year. The section on how power is channeled through institutions is particularly relevant in a day of rampant anti-institutionalism within Christian circles.

After I finished this book, I went back and read the chapter on “power” in my first book, Holy SubversionThere, I made a brief case for power’s goodness, and our need to exercise authority wisely under the ultra-authority of Jesus Christ. But I spent most of my time showing how we should “subvert” the world’s view of power and probably not enough time showing how power is a good gift.

Playing God sharpened my thinking in this area and gave me more food for thought. It also caused me to consider the way I work with and direct others at home and work. I trust it will do the same for you.

David-and-Goliath_Malcolm-GladwellDAVID AND GOLIATH
Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants
Malcolm Gladwell

I read every book Malcolm Gladwell writes. Even when his unconventional wisdom seems farfetched, he is engaging in his ability to tell a story and challenge your assumptions.

David and Goliath fits comfortably in the Gladwell canon. He uses the famous Bible story as a launching pad into an exploration of lopsided conflicts and the way we misunderstand them. The qualities that give “giants” their strengths are often the sources of their weakness. And being an underdog may actually work in your favor!

There’s not much about Gladwell’s exegesis of the David and Goliath story that will convince a Bible scholar. He makes much of small textual details and creates an elaborate scenario that doesn’t match the point of the text. Of course, one doesn’t read a Gladwell book for piercing insights into preaching biblical narrative (at least, I hope not). Besides, his take on King David isn’t what will be most controversial. More likely, he’ll take heat for implying that being dyslexic can be more of an advantage than disadvantage. Or that experiencing a traumatic loss of a parent at a young age can put you on the path to greatness.

The Christian will resonate with Gladwell’s examples because we have a deep, abiding conviction that God is using all the circumstances in our lives for our good and His glory. The firmly-committed secular reader is likely to be puzzled by this sophisticated author’s portrayal of devout Christians standing for justice against impressive displays of power and authority.

Gladwell has recently spoken openly about rediscovering his faith. This book chronicles the author’s journey into the heart of strength displayed through weakness.

dieempty-600DIE EMPTY
Unleash Your Best Work Every Day
Todd Henry

Henry’s earlier book, The Accidental Creative, helped me understand my own personality and how to be efficient and effective in channeling my creativity as a writer and editor. Die Empty has a broader focus.

Henry challenges readers to consider their contribution to the world and to live with a sense of urgency about the work they do every day. Along the way, he warns against slipping into a routine that leads to mediocrity or losing an innate sense of curiosity that keeps us from pushing ourselves to new heights.

A good “life” book, as far as it goes. Believers can benefit from many of the insights here, but you’ll want to read the book against the backdrop of an eternal perspective. As Christians, we want to “die empty” not in order to fulfill our personal mission, but to fulfill God’s mission-purpose for us.