Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

  • By the Way Conference.The Lexington Community Church, located in central Illinois, will hold the By the Way Conference, a whole family conference and worship time, Thursday, July 6 – Saturday, July 8. I’ll be speaking on the topic of “Disciples at Work” on Thursday, July 6 at 6:15 pm.  Please stop by if you are in the area.
  • My Amazon Reviews. Check out more than 260 of my book, music and movie reviews on Amazon.

POLITICS:

  • Os Guinness: “President Trump is God’s Wrecking Ball”. In this interview with Collin Hansen, Os Guinness states “The way I put it is I think President Trump is God’s wrecking ball stopping America in its tracks [from] the direction it’s going and giving the country a chance to rethink. Now we’re not putting our hope in the president or in politics, but you have a window to regroup, to rethink. The church profoundly needs reformation in all sorts of areas. So there’s a breathing space.”
  • Your Rabbi? Probably a Democrat. Your Baptist Pastor? Probably a Republican. Your Priest? Who Knows. Kevin Quealy writes “America’s pastors – the men and women a majority of Americans look to for help in finding meaning and purpose in their lives – are even more politically divided than the rest of us, according to anew data set representing the largest compilation of American religious leaders ever assembled.”

    Courtesy of World Magazine

IN THE NEWS:

  • The Life and Times of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. OnJune 25, Tim Keller will deliver his last sermon as senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. After nearly 30 years, Redeemer voted in May to split into three distinct churches. Few churches in our day have exerted so much global influence, though Redeemer’s primary focus has always been on its immediate Manhattan context. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes about how Keller’s unlikely church plant changed the way Christians think about the city—and the way the city thinks about Christians.
  • Seattle Reboot: Life After Mars Hill. In this lengthy article, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes “In the end, Mars Hill’s final announcement wasn’t optimistic enough. Counting previous campuses and new plants, the megachurch gave way to 15 new churches, not 11. And even though the collapse of Mars Hill left hundreds hurting and soured on the idea of belonging to a church, it also sparked a wave of healthy soul-searching and a realignment of churches with the gospel.”
  • College Freshmen Are Less Religious Than Ever.Allen Downey writes “The number of college students with no religious affiliation has tripled in the last 30 years, from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent in 2016, according to data from the CIRP Freshman Survey. Over the same period, the number who attended religious services dropped from 85 percent to 69 percent. These trends provide a snapshot of the current generation of young adults; they also provide a preview of rapid secularization in the U.S. over the next 30 years.”
  • Farmer Banned From Selling Produce at Market Because of His Views on Marriage. Denny Burk writes “If you think recent concerns about religious liberty among evangelicals is much ado about nothing, here’s yet one more piece of mounting evidence that this is much ado about something–something precious that is being lost.” And here is Kevin DeYoung’s, a long-time resident of East Lansing, Michigan, take on the issue.
  • Womb with a View: Fetuses can Recognize Faces While Still Inside Mom. Doyle Rice writes “We know babies love looking at the faces of their mom or dad. Now, for the first time, researchers have discovered that this preference develops in the womb several weeks before birth, according to a study published Thursday.”
  • BreakPoint: Abortion is What Planned Parenthood Does. In this episode of theBreakpoint podcast, Eric Metaxas states “Planned Parenthood wants to be known for nicer, less horrifying, less controversial services. But ladies and gentlemen, at the end of the day, their name means one thing: abortion. And lives depend on putting this big-name brand out of business.”
  • On Saying “No” To a World-Famous Rock Star.Scott Sauls writes “Let’s take comfort in this reality. We are pursued, seen, and infinitely loved by a Star even bigger than Bono. And that’s something that even Bono is glad about.”
  • Yoga Comes to Metro Atlanta Schools, Despite Some Christians’ Concerns. Ty Tagami writes “Yoga may be controversial with some conservative Christians, but it’s slowly being accepted into metro Atlanta schools. There’s little substantial research with evidence that it helps students, but educators who have tried it say it has a calming effect.”
  • The Transgender Revolution and the Rubble of Empty Promises. Russell Moore writes “Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human.”
  • Bernie Sanders to Traditional Christians: Your Beliefs Are Indefensibly Hateful and Insulting, and Not What This Country Is Supposed to Be About. Justin Taylor shares the video of an exchange between Senator Bernie Sanders and the potential deputy White House budget director, Russell Vought, who is an evangelical Christian. Here is Denny Burk’s take on it.
  • Christ’s Exclusive Truth-Claims Make Believing “All Religions Are Basically the Same” Impossible. Randy Alcorn writes “Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If this event is historically true, it makes all other religions false, because Jesus Christ claimed to be the one and only way to God the Father.”

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4 Study Bible Recommendations


I find value in the use of a Study Bible and have used several different ones over the years. A danger in using a Study Bible is that you could tend to just rely on the study notes instead of the Holy Spirit in interpreting a passage. I like what my wife does:  she first reads and prays about the meaning of a passage, and only after doing that does she consult the study notes.

There are many Study Bibles available these days. Here are four that I have used and would recommend to you:
 
Reformation Study Bible. This is the Bible that I use for my daily reading and study. Originally published in 1995 under the title of the New Geneva Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible is available in the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). R.C. Sproul served as the General Editor, and the study notes are from 75 distinguished theologians such as Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Peter Jones and Wayne Grudem. Willem A. VanGemeren who attends our church. The Reformation Study Bible was completely revised and updated in 2015. Some of the new features include over 20,000 new, revised, or expanded study notes, and historical creeds and confessions from 2,000 years of church history.

ESV Study Bible. First published in 2008, The ESV Study Bible features more than 2,750 pages of extensive, accessible Bible resources, including notes, full-color maps, illustrations, charts, timelines, and articles created by a team of 93 evangelical Christian scholars and teachers. In addition to the 757,000 words of the ESV Bible itself, the notes and resources of the ESV Study Bible comprise an additional 1.1 million words of explanation and teaching-equivalent to a 20-volume Bible resource library all contained in one volume. Wayne Grudem served as the General Editor.

Gospel Transformation Study Bible.  Bryan Chapell served as the General Editor for the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. Its contributors feature an outstanding list of more than 50 pastors and scholars, including the following that I had classes with at Covenant Seminary – Scotty Smith, Robert Yarbrough, Mary Beth McGreevy, V. Philips Long, Robert Peterson and Daniel Doriani.
The Gospel Transformation Bible was produced out of the conviction that the Bible is a unified message of God’s grace culminating in Jesus, it is a significant tool to help readers see Christ in all the Bible, and grace for all of life. The notes not only explain but also apply the text in a grace-centered way.

MacArthur Study Bible  The MacArthur Study Bible was first published in 1997. It is now available in the English Standard Version (ESV), New American Standard Version (NASV), the New International Version (NIV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). It contains nearly 25,000 explanatory notes from John MacArthur, more than 140 maps, an extensive concordance and other features.
I have seen Mac Arthur speak several times and read many of his books. One note of caution on his Study Bible notes would be his dispensationalist views on eschatology.

These are four Study Bibles that I use and can recommend; they all have a Kindle version available also.  What about you? Do you use a Study Bible, perhaps one that I didn’t mention above? Please respond and let us know your thoughts.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

The Legacy of Luther, edited by R. C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols. Reformation Trust Publishing. 303 pages. 2016
****

This is a wonderful volume to read as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses (which are included in an appendix) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, initiating the Protestant Reformation. This anthology of essays honoring Luther from some of the most respected Reformed theologians today looks at several aspects of the life, ministry and legacy of the great reformer.
This in-depth volume includes a Foreword by John MacArthur and chapters by respected pastors and theologians such as Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, David Calhoun (who I enjoyed two church history courses at Covenant Seminary with), Michael Horton, Robert Godfrey, Gene Veith, Derek Thomas and many others. These essays cover a wide variety of aspects of Luther’s life and ministry, including his life at home, his music, his doctrine of scripture, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, his doctrine of vocation, as a man of conflict, his later years, as a preacher, on the sacraments, and a final reflection from R.C. Sproul on Luther and the life of the pastor-theologian.
The legacy of Martin Luther is vast and varied, and this book offers an attempt to summarize that legacy. The book is written for, and can be enjoyed by, both those who have little knowledge of Luther, and also for those who know him well. The book is organized into three sections – Luther’s Life, Luther’s Thought and Luther’s Legacy.
I highly recommend this book as a way to get to know Luther – warts and all – as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Reading Romans with Luther by R.J. Grunewald. Concordia Publishing. 136 pages. 2017
***

I was interested in reading this short book for several reasons. First, I enjoy reading books about the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, especially during this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Second, Romans is my favorite book of the Bible, and it is also where I was in my reading through the Bible at the time this book was published. Third, I have enjoyed the author’s blog and looked forward to reading a book by him.
The author, a Lutheran pastor, states that the book is meant to introduce the reader to the work of Martin Luther, to explain his words in a way that removes some of the intimidation. He realizes that Luther’s works can be intimidating, and this book is meant to take some of that intimidation away and guide the reader into Luther’s works. The author wants you to look at this book as Luther for everyday life.
The book does not contain Luther’s entire commentary on Romans, but only pertinent paragraphs that go along with the themes outlined in the table of contents. Rather than providing a linear exploration of Luther’s commentary, the author has divided and rearranged it according to thematic teachings in Romans. Continue reading


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My Review of the Movie MEGAN LEAVEY

Megan Leavey, rated PG-13
** ½

This film tells the true story of two war heroes: a young marine corporal and her military combat dog.
It is directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish) and written by Oscar nominee Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids), Pamela Gray and Tim Lovestedt. When we first meet Megan Leavey (Kate Mara, House of Cards, Captive) she is without purpose. Living at her Mom’s home, she sleeps in late, drinks a lot, and has a contentious relationship with her mother Jackie (Edie Falco, The Sopranos), and her boyfriend Jim (Will Patton). Jackie had an affair with Megan’s father Bob’s (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing) best friend, which broke up their marriage. We also hear of Megan’s best friend who died of an overdose when she and Megan drank and took drugs, which may have contributed significantly to Megan’s lack of purpose.   
After Megan is fired from a job in 2001, she decides on a whim to enroll in the Marines. Soon, she is off to Boot Camp. After getting drunk one night with two other female recruits, she is disciplined by being assigned to clean up the K-9 Unit cages.  It is there she first encounters Rex, a ferocious German Shepherd.  As she watches the handlers working with their dogs she decides she would like to be assigned that work and expresses that to her commanding officer Gunny Martin (Oscar winner Common, Selma). When Rex bites his handler, breaking multiple bones in his hand, Megan gets her chance. Andrew Dean (Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter films), is her K-9 trainer. We see Megan and Rex slowly begin to bond, and Megan finding purpose.
Megan is told that female dog handlers aren’t usually sent into combat situations, but she is soon sent to Iraq and into danger with Rex to sniff out and identify bombs, eventually serving together on more than 100 missions. Megan develops a relationship with a fellow dog handler, the likeable Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez). Matt makes it clear that he desires the relationship to become more than a friendship.
We see intense battle scenes in Iraq and Megan and Rex being injured.  As she returns from the war and ends her time in the Marines we see her struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Though she is hailed as a war hero, we see her life going back to the way it was before she enrolled in the Marines, without purpose. Although it appears she has a good relationship with her father, the only one that she truly connects to is Rex. And she misses him badly.
The film contains a significant amount of adult language and God’s and Jesus’ names are abused several times. It contains some intense war violence and an implied sexual relationship, though nothing is seen.
Although Megan’ and Rex’s true story is an inspiring one, even as a dog lover I didn’t feel that the film measured up to their story. I believe I’m in the minority here as the film is receiving strong reviews from critics and viewers; that’s the reason I went to see it. The film moves along slowly and felt just a step above a paint by the numbers Hallmark movie to me and my wife.
Mara is good in her role, but Megan is not a very likeable character, who finds it hard to connect with anyone other than Rex. The supporting cast is solid, but there is little tension in the film except the conclusion which I’m not sharing here, as to not spoil it for you.  It’s definitely a renter.


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Dream Realized: Teaching a Seminar at the PCA General Assembly 

Back in January, Tammy, my wife and biggest encourager, saw that proposals to teach a seminar were due at the end of the month.  It would be at the 2017 General Assembly, an annual gathering of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), my church’s denomination. She sent me an email and said I should submit a proposal. My first (and second, third and fourth) thoughts were to just delete the email and then be done with it. But I didn’t. Later, I looked at who had presented seminars at General Assembly the year before; a lot of the presenters were people I knew of, had read their books, etc. All the more reason for me not to submit a proposal. Eventually however, I submitted a proposal for a presentation entitled “Helping Our People to Connect Their Faith to Their Work and Callings”, hoping to bring my unique perspective of being a leader in a Fortune 50 organization, a ruling elder in my church and a seminary graduate to the growing faith and work conversation. Still, I knew that there wasn’t “a snowball’s chance…” that my proposal would be approved. But in God’s providence it was!
So last Sunday, Tammy and I (who usually fly anywhere over six hours away), started out on our adventure to Greensboro, North Carolina, which would cover us travelling through parts of seven states and more than 1,700 miles. We weren’t familiar with that part of the country, so we thought it would be fun to drive the eleven-plus hours each way. Friends and family members said it would be a beautiful drive, and it was. I especially enjoyed driving through the winding hills of West Virginia. We had a blast, breaking up the trip with a stop in Huntington, West Virginia on the way down and Cincinnati, Ohio on the way back. Once in Greensboro, we took a side trip to Boone, North Carolina where our nephew went to school and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, home of Jan Karon, author of the Mitford books. We got to travel the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, and watch a thunderstorm coming into the area.

Walking into the convention center to check out the room I would be speaking in, I ran into Tim Keller, one of my heroes, introduced myself and shook his hand. We then ran into our senior pastor of more than 22 years Bob Smart. Later that night, we joined our former Youth and Family Pastor, and all

around great guy, David Keithley, who is now the lead pastor  at Hanna City Presbyterian Church, and several other friends from our presbytery at Hops Burger, the top rated burger place in the country for a great meal and fellowship.
Pastor David did his best to recruit people to my seminar the next morning, even offering free Duck Donuts!

I had prayed for 15 to attend, and I was thrilled to have double that amount in attendance. Many of you told me that you were going to pray for me, and I so very much appreciate that. I felt God’s presence and peace throughout the one hour seminar. The seminar was recorded and is available for purchase here, but there was a problem with the microphone battery, so unfortunately, the first part of the seminar was not recorded.
It was an honor to speak at the PCA General Assembly, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. Thanks so much for your prayers and good wishes.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Doing What Only You Can Do. In this episode of the Andy Stanley Leadership podcast, he begins a two-part conversation about onlydoing what only you can do.
  • Far and Away, This is Always Listed as the Biggest Time Waster by Most Leaders. Dave Kraft writes “For the most part, meetings I have experienced over 49 years of Christian ministry are poorly prepared, poorly executed, with poor follow-up.”
  • The Freedom of Working to Please Jesus, Not People. Hugh Whelchel looks at what freedom at work looks like from Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert’s excellent book The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs.
  • 4 Reasons Your Work Matters Today.Michael Kelley writes “Does our work really matter? And if the answer is “yes,” then are there reasons for that answer that go beyond the scope of a particular vocation? In other words, does our work matter regardless of what our position is?”
  • Character. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell states that reputation iswho people think we are, and character is who we really are.  For years, I’ve defined character as doing the right thing when nobody was watching. How would you define character?
  • Is the Protestant Work Ethic Still Alive? Hugh Whelchel writes “As we become serious about being “salt and light” in our communities, we can have the same effect as yeast in a loaf of bread, providing a significant moral framework that positively influences those around us.”
  • How the Protestant Reformation Renewed the Church, Our Work and Society. Hugh Whelchel writes “We are called to reshape andreform our world to be the place God originally intended it to be—restoring order, loving and serving each other with integrity and honesty, meeting each other’s needs, and creating something of value from the raw materials he has supplied—all through the work of our hands.

 

GOOD AND NOT SO GOOD LEADERSHIP:

  • Isolated Leaders are Dangerous Leaders. Eric Geiger writes “The sting of criticism, the burden of the responsibilities, and the pace of leadership can nudge a leader towards isolation, but every step towards isolation is a step towards danger.”
  • 5 Warning Signs That Laziness Is Creeping into Your Leadership. Eric Geiger writes “Like all sin, laziness can slowly creep into our lives and leadership. If we fail to address the temptation to move toward laziness, we become unfaithful in our leadership.”
  • Giving Credit Where Credit is Due. Bob Chapman writes “Leaders, next time you’re ready to celebrate with your own particular touchdown dance in the end zone, think about how you got there. I would bet that it wasn’t a solo effort. Think about what a simple act can mean to those who participated in this triumph. They want to know they matter, and sometimes, just a simple high five is a way to help them know that their work is appreciated.”
  • Leading with Control Versus Leading with Influence. Ron Edmondson writes “Leaders, if you want to to have a healthy team environment, you must learn to control less and influence more. The differences are measured in the results of creating a healthy team.”
  • Why Busy Leaders Make Bad Leaders. Carey Nieuwhof writes “I’ve noticed that people who usually tell you they’re busy are often bad leaders. Or flip that. Talk to highly effective leaders and you’ll notice they rarely tell you they’re busy.”

REST:

  • Better Than Busy. Colin Noble writes “What would happen to our 24/7 switched-on world if the people who came to Jesus for rest regularly took a day of rest from distraction, work, and busyness? What would this weekly habit have to offer to the world in which we find ourselves — a world that restlessly continues to search for peace amid busyness?”
  • Trusting and Resting in God’s Work as We Do Our Work.Scotty Smith prays “Heavenly Father, we LOVE the freedom grace gives us to work without any concern for merit or deserving, personal failure or not measuring up.”
  • The Power of Deep Rest. Tim Keller writes “There is a symbiotic relationship between work and rest. Of course, we know this at one level. We get away from work in order to replenish our bodies and minds. Resting, or practicing Sabbath, is also a way to help us get perspective on our work and put it in its proper place.”

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10 Books I Plan to Read This Summer

The summer is a great time to get some reading in. I have several books on my “to be read” list (aka my “on deck circle”). Here are ten of them I hope to read this summer:

42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry

This book brings a different perspective to the well-known Jackie Robinson story. From Amazon: “Journalist and baseball lover Ed Henry reveals for the first time the backstory of faith that guided Jackie Robinson into not only the baseball record books but the annals of civil rights advancement as well. Through recently discovered sermons, interviews with Robinson’s family and friends, and even an unpublished book by the player himself, Henry details a side of Jackie’s humanity that few have taken the time to see.”

Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture by R. Paul Stevens

I recently started reading this book about work that was listed as recommended reading by Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Center for Faith and Work. From Amazon: “In Work Matters marketplace theology expert R. Paul Stevens revisits more than twenty biblical accounts — from Genesis to Revelation — exploring through them the theological meaning of every sort of work, manual or intellectual, domestic or commercial. Taken together, his short, pithy reflections on these well-known Bible passages add up to a comprehensive, Bible-based theology of work — one that will be equally useful for seminars, classes, Bible studies, and individuals seeking to grasp more fully the theological dimensions of their daily labor.”

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray

I am a regular reader of David Murray’s HeadHeartHand blog and I appreciated his book Christians Get Depressed Too. From Amazon: “Drawing on personal experiences—and time spent counseling other men in the midst of burnout—David Murray offers weary men hope for the future, helping them identify the warning signs of burnout and offering practical strategies for developing patterns that are necessary for living a grace-paced life and reaching the finish line with their joy intact.”

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

My wife Tammy and I are reading and discussing this book this summer. I first heard about it from the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. From Amazon: “In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.”

Working for Our Neighbor: A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life by Gene Veith

Gene Veith’s God at Work is one of the best books I read about integrating our faith and work. I’m looking forward to this new book from him. From Amazon: “In this elucidating work, Gene Edward Veith connects vocation to justification, good works, and Christian freedom—defining how the Lutheran contribution to economics can transfigure ordinary life, and work, with the powerful presence of God.”

Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

I’ve read several of Michael Reeves books and seen him speak at the last two Ligonier National conferences. I also enjoyed Tim Chester’s book Gospel Centered Work. With this year being the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, this is a timely book to read. From Amazon: “In this accessible primer, Michael Reeves and Tim Chester answer eleven key questions raised by the Reformers—questions that remain critically important for the church today.”

Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life by Michael Horton

Over the years I’ve read several of Michael Horton’s books, seen him speak at conferences and enjoyed his White Horse Inn radio program. From Amazon: “In Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, author, pastor, and theologian Mike Horton introduces readers to the neglected person of the Holy Spirit, showing that the work of God’s Spirit is far more ordinary and common than we realize. Horton argues that we need to take a step back every now and again to focus on the Spirit himself—his person and work—in order to recognize him as someone other than Jesus or ourselves, much less something in creation. Through this contemplation we can gain a fresh dependence on the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives.”

The Mythical Leader: The Seven Myths of Leadership by Ron Edmondson

I enjoy reading pastor Ron Edmondson’s blog on leadership and am looking forward to this new book. From Amazon: “In The Mythical Leader, Edmondson exposes some of the most common misunderstandings of leadership, shares stories from his own experiences, and will help church leaders develop healthier patterns to improve their individual leadership.”

A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin 

I’m looking forward to this new translation of Calvin’s classic book from Burk Parsons and Aaron Denlinger. From Amazon: “For centuries, disciples young and old have turned to this book for guidance in the Christian life. Today, it remains unique in its clear exposition of God’s calling for Christians to pursue holiness, endure suffering, and fulfill their callings. This is a book for every Christian to pick up, read, and apply.”

H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle by Brad Lomenick

I enjoyed reading Brad Lomenick’s book The Catalyst Leader and regularly read his blog on leadership. From Amazon: “He categorizes 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters he calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?). These powerful words describe the leader who is willing to work hard, get it done, and make sure it’s not about him or her; the leader who knows that influence is about developing the right habits for success. Lomenick provides a simple but effective guide on how to lead well in whatever capacity the reader may be in.”

These are the books I’m looking forward to reading or listening to this summer. How about you? What’s on your reading list?