Book Review: Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller

Leadership is a challenge. Growing in leadership is an investment. That’s why I loved Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller. He helped me to do just that … elevate my leadership game.

Checkers is a fast paced game with interchangeable pieces. You typically think a move or two ahead at most. Chess is a multi-piece game and learning to think multiple moves ahead is key to success.

Yet a chess not checkers approach is not just a mental skill approach to better leadership, it all begins with the heart — a love for the people you serve and lead. Maximizing their individual gifts for a common goal. For myself, Chess Not Checkers taught me how to look ahead and lead others together.

In the book, Mark lays out a business parable with a mentor teaching a new CEO along the way:

1) Bet on Leadership: Growing leaders grow organizations. Develop your pieces early for maximum strategic advantage. Leaders are learners, or you are already lagging behind. That’s why this is a great book for leaders to learn to elevate their leadership game.

2) Act as One: Alignment multiplies impact. In the past year I’ve learned the power of clarity and the need for alignment. Added to that equation is also simplicity, a focus that pulls a team together.

3) Win the Heart: Engagement energizes effort. Forced moves is forced leadership. Motivating, not manipulating, moves people with a common passion and  purpose.

4) Excel at Execution: Greatness hinges on execution. To improve execution you measure what matters most. Such a measurement builds on systems not personalities. You can get a quick burst of success perhaps with a personality, but sustainable success flows from systems that work well.

I give Chess Not Checkers 5 out of 5 stars. Some books hit  you at the right time, and this one did. I love the teaching parable form of book writing, and when it teaches great lessons along the way it maximizes the gift.

My thanks to Mark for a free advanced copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review, just an honest one. I am thankful how Chess Not Checkers has already elevated my leadership game, it’s your move to now read this book and pick up your leadership game.

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Book Review: The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny with Jerry B. Jenkins

The right thing is seldom the easy thing” affirms Mike Matheny in his new book, “The Matheny Manifesto“. That’s why I love this book, it’s about the right thing in sports and even more in life. It’s also a book I wish I had read when my kids were younger and in sports.

I was one of those parents who yelled at referees … until I embarrassed my daughter and found the power of chewing gum to keep me watching and not yelling. Too bad I didn’t know the Matheny Manifesto — “Respect the Ump — even if He’s Blind“.

Yet what I found powerful about the book that I didn’t expect was Matheny’s humility. His favorite coach hasn’t coached in 40 years and was in basketball, not baseball. The quotes he shares from John Wooden make a powerful chapter. The fact that Matheny lifts up Wooden’s coaching even over his own, show the power of humility he applies to life. He titled chapter 9, “Don’t Think Less of Yourself, Think of Yourself Less.” He demonstrated such humility already in Chapter 6 when he writes about what a great coach looks like …. and it’s John Wooden.

This book is filled with an inside look at coaching baseball on the level of children all the way through the majors. That he develops baseball skills and even more life character in his coaching philosophy is a refreshing look at what sports can be for all ages.

For little league coaches and for parents with kids in sports or thinking about sports going old school is the best school for our day and time. I give The Matheny Manifesto 5 out of 5 stars. It was a good read for getting ready for baseball, it was a good read for getting ready for life. May the manifesto become the new standard for parents and players involved in the world of sports.

My thanks to Blogging for Books and Random House for a free copy to review. I didn’t have to give a positive review just an honest one. Thanks for an inspirational read about two of my favorite subjects: faith and sports!

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Book Review: Exploring Christian Theology, Volume I

For most people theology is a dry subject. Even for pastors most books on systematic theology (the doctrines of the Christian faith systametized from the Bible) is often extra dry. And that’s unfortunate because understanding what the Bible teaches about God as triune and understanding the nature of the value of the Bible itself is essential to knowing and living the Christian faith.

That’s why I loved reading Exploring Christian Theology Volume I: Revelation, Scripture and the Triune God edited by Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel. They captured the truth of Biblical teaching in an engaging way. This book will provide a great resource to liven up my own teaching/preaching especially when it comes to the Bible and to the Trinity.

Here’s why I found this book so engaging. It’s concise. There’s much to say, but they tighten their focus to key texts but not all texts in the Bible on the topic. They use every day examples as well as brief snippets of major historical teachers. They point out distortions and their dangers along the way. Best of all they give modern day examples to illustrate Biblical truth in language every day people not just seminary professors will understand. For those who want to go deeper, there are recommendations throughout the book to build your library.

With the focus on knowing God and not just knowing about God, Exploring Christian Theology provides a primer for pastor and people to use. Memory verses along the way provide building blocks for planting theological truth in deep in one’s heart. Principles to put into practice keep the focus one very day application. I look forward to other additions to this series.

I give Exploring Christian Theology 5 out of 5 stars. This book is a great resource for teaching the faith as well as those who want to learn more of the over all themes the Bible teaches. My thanks to Bethany House for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review of the book just an honest one.

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Book Review: A Commentary on Exodus by Duane A. Garrett

Exodus is the defining event for the Jews of the Old Testament and a foreshadowing event for Christians in the New Testament. That’s why getting a handle not only on the Exodus event but the book of Exodus itself is vital to not only understanding the faith but growing in the faith.

That’s why I liked Duane A. Garrett’s addition to the Kregel Exegetical Library: A Commentary on Exodus. He digs into the book of Exodus and guides his readers to the treasure of the Exodus story.

Some of the features I especially appreciate in this commentary are:

Highlighting place in Egypt that are significant for the reader to know. Instead of simply reading the Exodus story this gave me a greater awareness of locations and events as well as the historical flow of the story.

I loved his outline of Exodus as it is designed to preach and to teach. Instead of emphasizing the 10 plagues, he sees them in the context of the 12 miracles of God. Instead of getting bogged down in a wilderness journey, he frames the outline as Israel’s journey to God. These brief 2 pages provided great value as well as the more detailed structure outline for how Garret breaks Exodus down to 7 parts.

The commentary section features detailed translation, brief commentary and highlighting key theological points with the occasional excursus. The strength of this section for me was the detailed translation that is well foot noted that provides a clear view of what the text says. He not only goes verses by verse but phrase by phrase, and at times word by word. The way the translation is set up it encourages such focus and depth.

The key theological points provides the focus for preaching. Garrett ties Exodus into the overall story of salvation. The role of Exodus is highlighted in the overall Biblical story. Such theological points provide the meat for preaching and teaching the text. I did however miss the focus on a preaching outline that is prevalent in other commentaries in the Kregel Exegetical Library series. The combination of strong exegesis with a focused eye toward preaching is the unique value I have seen in other volumes in this series.

I give A Commentary on Exodus 4 out of 5 stars. The commentary provides a good dig into the text. I recommend it for pastors and teachers who want to excavate a detailed translation of Exodus I wish the homiletical focus had been more clearly presented.

My thanks to Kregel Academic Books for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.

 

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Book Review: Fairness is Overrated and 51 Other Leadership Principles by Tim Stevens

Leaders lead. Wise leaders also learn, and really wise leaders will take the time to learn from Tim Stevens latest book, Fairness is Overrated and 51 Other Leadership Principles. In bite size chapters, Tim packs powerful insight from dealing with change to staff to time management to leveraging leadership.

The chapters range from 3-4 pages, but in those pages there is great wisdom. I especially appreciated the questions at the end of the chapter for further reflection and the notes at the end of the book for going deeper. The result is a book of practical wisdom from one who has not only been in the trenches but navigated his way through.

Tim could have merely focused on his successes at Granger Community Church (and other places) but he’s transparent with his failures and his challenges. Tim does not come off as the expert but a fellow traveler on the leadership journey pointing out pit falls and opportunities along the way.

The 52 chapters are spread out over 4 parts:

1. Be a Leader Worth Following

2. Find the Right People.

3. Build a Healthy Culture

4. Lead Confidently through a Crisis

The chapters that dealt with change and leveraging meetings I found most valuable as they gave me a new perspective in dealing with next steps. One of my favorite phrases from the book is “Focus on Five”: Identifying 5 areas for the whole church to focus in the year ahead. Such a focus builds unity and banishes silos.

I made two mistakes reading this book, I read it quickly and I read it alone. The better pace for reading this book is  perhaps a chapter a day, and then journal answers to the questions and insights for personal growth. Reading this book with a leadership team on a weekly meeting basis provides intentional time for building team leadership.

I give Fairness is Overrated and 51 Other Leadership Principles 5 out of 5 stars. This was a valuable book for my own leadership development, I look forward to raising its value with the team I lead. My thanks to BookLook Bloggers for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review, just an honest one.

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Book Review: Bend Your Brain by Marbles The Brain Store

I love playing games, and now I have discovered a book that leverages game playing to brain muscle building. Bend Your Brain from Marbles The Brain Store provides 151 puzzles for 5 brain function developments: visual perception, word skills, critical thinking, coordination and memory.

My best area is Word Skills. The most challenging area was finding that the answers were in the back. At times I felt like I was playing the TV game show from my childhood of Concentration and at other times I was learning new games along the way.

Best part was that as I was playing games I was even more building brain muscles to grow in how they function and how I think. Perhaps the best area of growth for my brain was matching images with the message they sought to portray. I typically think and work in text that is typed, stretching my mind to appreciate images stretched my thinking and communicating in new ways.

I give Bend Your Brain 5 out of 5 stars. For people who love games, this is a great challenge. For those who want to leverage game time to brain building time, this is a great tool. With such a win-win, how could one not love this book?

My thanks to Blogging for Books for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one and honestly, this book was a blast!

 

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Book Review: Urban Apologetics by Christopher W. Brooks

How do we bring Jesus Christ into every day life? How does Jesus influence life in the inner city of America and beyond? Answering both of those questions it the gift that Christopher W. Brooks brings in his book,  Urban Apologetics.

Brooks identifies 2 audiences that he writes for the urban Christian seeking to evangelize and engage his community, and the apologetics student who sees the value and heeds the call to reach the inner city.

My reason for reading is more in a third group, finding a better way to articulate the Christian faith in the heart language of those who need to hear and even more experience it’s life saving message. The message of the Bible is not merely the story of long ago, but a picture of life at its best today, tomorrow and for all eternity.

Jesus goes beyond another religious philosophy but the way of living a transformed life. That’s why I appreciated Brooks approach that went beyond winning a philosophical argument, but laying out and living out the difference of the power of Jesus Christ at work in us and through us. The most powerful attraction to the difference Christ makes is that of an authentic life lived in Him.

The Holy Spirit works through the power of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit grabs the world’s attention by the neighbor who lives out his faith in authentic love.

Though Brooks succinctly tackles issues like ethics, abortion, sexuality, the family, pluralism and social justice. He even more lays out how to witness with one’s faith in such challenging issues in our day with his 3 B strategy.

Boulevard: Look for the natural inroads into a person’s life.

Beliefs: Identify a person’s unique set of beliefs by asking questions.

Barriers: Discover the points of resistance that prevent someone from coming to Christ.

I give Urban Apologetics 5 out of 5 stars. Though I would not place myself in his core audiences, I found great value in the perspective Brooks brought and the way he communicated Biblical truth in practical language. For those who find themselves teaching and conversing on such social topics this book provides a great resource.

My thanks to Kregel Publishing for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review, just an honest one.

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